While the AI is better than Elemental's brain-dead debacle, it's still not quite good enough to be taken seriously. Sometimes it attacked with a huge army, but other times I'd find one of its heroes wandering my territory with nothing but a puny group of archers. Diplomacy is hamstrung by an AI that seems consistently overestimates its position and undervalues the players', which makes for a slightly annoying bidding game as you watch it ignore generous offers. Worse, hostility makes it increasingly irrational. A beaten enemy was, in my experience, less likely to accept a settlement than one with whom I'd only had a few skirmishes. Its suicidal logic seems to be, "Now that you've taken my capital and main fortress, you're in big trouble!"
Despite that, the middle and late game come together beautifully, but at the cost of a fair and entertaining beginning. Fortunately, Fallen Enchantress is not just a strategy game. It is a fantasy strategy RPG that, by its conclusion, does feel fantastical. Magic is devastating (where it was once puny), heroes are demigods, and your forces do battle across the blasted landscape with huge armies and towering dragons. The world doesn't feel tamed or conquered by the end, but more magical and more dangerous. It takes some getting used to, but in the end, Fallen Enchantress largely fulfills the promise of its genre-blending premise.
Strategy fans should give Elemental: Fallen Enchantress, along with RPG and fantasy fans as well. This game does cross multiple genres at once and pulls off its concepts quite solidly, even if it does have some flaws. This game is one of those “time killers” that you’d play one morning and the next time you look at the clock, you’ll be shocked that it’s already sunset.
The other fantasy strategy game I’ve been playing this year, Warlock, is much more lean, but also compact and tight. Elemental is baggy and unfocused in comparison, although some people will undoubtedly laud its ambition. 1.0 probably won’t be the end of the line but rather than needing to take the few extra steps toward greatness, Elemental feels like it’s a few steps sideways from where I’d like it to be. Those same devotees who praise its reach may well be pleased with where it is now and it’s certainly not a terrible place, but the apparent complexity soon fades, like the locations on the map, to reveal a world full of options, too many of which mean so little.