I was blessed enough to be able to get my hands on a copy of Fallen Enchantress: Ultimate Edition developed by Stardock Entertainment thanks to my colleague, Laguna, and I was reminded how great 4X strategy games have become. Fallen Enchantress: Ultimate Edition consists of the original Fallen Enchantress game, Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes, and multiple DLC packs. This article is focused on Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes. Being a fan of Sid Meier’s Civilization series I thought I knew what I was in for and prepared myself for an elongated gaming session.
The cataclysm has awakened. Welcome to the world of Elemental. Boasting a multitude of magical twists of the well-loved 4X strategy simulation, this game has a ton of content. Let’s not skip over this facet. This game, thanks to its magic system and DLC packs, has more content than I was prepared for. Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes always has some unique event going on that affects the player experience. The majority of the time I found myself doing quests, which is shockingly new to me inside a 4X game. Instead of having the world be player vs. player focused, the incorporation of quests – which are activated by sending a hero to certain tiles on the map – always gave me something to do and prevented the familiar space-bar mashing to skip turns and wait for progression. This game also integrates items and advanced skill trees for each hero/leader unit and gave the player plenty of minute customization to suit the play-style and attributes of their chosen sovereign. With these skill trees, among other things, players can unlock magic that can be used to swing the tide of battle or enchant their cities to grow, produce, or smile more.
Fallen Enchantress: Ultimate Edition contains a mechanic that turned the tides of my interest for the game. At first glance, I expected to be playing a Civilization-esque game with a magical twist; however when I first entered into the battle-engine, I was convinced that this game took a new and well-thought out direction. Instead of the armies passively exchanging damage, as is the norm for 4X games, here they always fight to the bitter end. What’s great however, is that the player has the option, and the expectation, to command the battle scene themselves and dominate the enemy. Once the player engages in battle, they are sent to a new screen (Finally Fantasy Tactics style) and then proceed to participate in turn based combat over a grid with the combatants in their army. This sets a new standard for complicated specificity for the warring aspect of 4X games. The units of the army (one leader plus four to eight more units) need to complement each other with magic, range, health and damage, and then they need to be operated
correctly by the player to win the battle. Each battle where the enemy was about as strong as my own group was fantastic and fun. Placement of soldiers becomes a matter of win or lose because of the Swarm mechanic, which alters the effectiveness of attacks based on how many other units you have surrounding that enemy. Players are also given the option to name their units, which is bittersweet for mediocre players as myself, as I would clap when Chester (magical spider) leveled up, but was then devastated when he was shot to death by archers. (Side note: playing games like Jagged Alliance 2 I knew it was a mistake to invest too much emotion in a character that would most likely meet his demise at one point or another.)
While in game, the typical lulls in gameplay are mediated by random occurrences like a plague breaking out, which obviously offsets your population, or a beggar coming from lands far away and challenging your leader in hand to hand combat (you have the option of just killing him without taking the challenge; I didn’t do it because it felt dirty). What really got me though, were the random mythical creatures that would be rumored to have begun roaming around the world. “That’s Cool!” I remember saying when the first of the many dialogue screens popped up. I didn’t play long enough for my characters to become as strong as to take on the mythical creatures, but knowing they were out there wandering Elemental added great lore to a world which already had plenty.
While the game has incredible individuality, it still plays a lot like Civilization. This isn’t an issue because if game mechanics aren’t broken, why fix ’em? Yet, I would have liked to see a stronger creative copy of the diplomatic processes and trading capabilities than what I was given. I point this out because the developers made almost all other aspects of the game with nuances and minutiae that fit properly into their world, but were familiar enough to 4X players. It is hard for me to imagine a better way of incorporating foreign policy into this 4X game as Civilization has had years of fine-tuning, but at the very least a different screen layout would have sufficed (the similarities are too strong). The game also has a big learning curve, which is normal for games that have a lot of customization of specs, but may turn away players that aren’t gripped by the potential within the first play-through, assuming they even make it through the first play-through. Like I said before, there is a score of stuff going on at once and managing more than one city becomes a big enough hassle that I set the world size to small and didn’t bother. On the flip-side of the great addition of quests and battle sequences, is the consumption of time and lack of love for the city queues. Once I got into sending my warriors on quests and into battles, I disregarded the city options entirely. It was too much for my brain to process at once and I just wanted to get into the next battle to level up my characters. While the ideas are great, it would take someone like me a few runs, which is a lot of hours, in order to appropriately learn to organize and manage my time while playing. Without a doubt, Stardock could maximize the opportunity of this trait of their product and sell it as an educational program. “Fallen Enchantress sharpens the players time management skills and ability to organize multiple entities at once towards a common goal”.
This game is worth the play. Maybe less so for players who don’t want to read and juggle a bunch of information at once (which comes in at the fire rate of a Gatling-gun). However, for those that are already great at 4X games and are looking for a world that will really test your ability to control a civilization, go pick up Fallen Enchantress: Ultimate Edition. Get the ultimate edition because it really does add a bunch of content to the game that you’ll miss out on if you don’t. I don’t get paid to market.