|Dev: StarDock Entertainment|
|Pub: StarDock Entertainment|
|Release: May 22, 2013|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Shelby Reiches
I have a rocky history with strategy games. There’s this tendency I have of obsessing over the little details, even if they bore me to tears. I’ll burn myself out on a strategy game so quickly that when I actually reach the point in the game where I have a sizable empire, I have such a dastardly time keeping track of it and managing its daily goings-on that I go on autopilot, spamming the “end turn” button until the one task on which I’m most fixated has run its course.
Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes actually manages to subvert my routine in the best of ways. This I attribute to the incentives it provides to explore and settle the land beyond the purview of one’s existing colonies. While the basic gameplay should be familiar to fans of Civilization and its ilk, the ways in which Fallen Enchantress avails itself of its fantasy trappings and mutates the core caveats of the 4X genre are absolutely inspired and, in turn, inspiring.
Chief among these additions is the quest system. While special events are more or less standard in this genre, they’re generally just a touch of flavor text, maybe a short video snippet, and your cities or units receive a boon of some kind, typically boosting your stats. While Fallen Enchantress has its share of such events, when a one-of-a-kind feature is constructed, or if a unit happens upon a cache of treasure, you will encounter quests. These quests will typically ask you to go somewhere specific and defeat a foe for an attractive reward.
This entices the player to explore the map, to expose what lies behind the fog of war. It forces them into conflict with new foes, reveals new resources, and generally rewards expansion and adventure over a safe and reserved playstyle. It also rewards one with experience, both for defeating enemies and for completing quests, which allows units to level up and get stronger. As units level up, they learn new skills and spells that both benefit them in combat and further facilitate the growth of your empire.
Combat is another area in which Fallen Enchantress differentiates itself. It’s a fairly simplistic, grid-based system, but there’s enough strategy involved that it remains enjoyable. It’s also quite fast-paced, with turns flying by as units flank one another, dole out damage, and cast spells in the pursuit of victory. There’s a definite Heroes of Might & Magic vibe, all told. As in that game, the spellbook is a separate thing from the characters in your battle, as though you, the player, are the caster. Spells draw from a pool of mana, which must be cultivated like most any other resource, and have either in-combat or world map applications. The contents of your spellbook, while not tied to any particular spell-casting unit, are dependent on the hero characters one has.
Hero characters are powerful, named units who can level up along distinct, class-like paths. They are also the only ones who can engage in or complete quests, and they must be present if one wishes to pick up loot from a treasure cache. This is appropriate, since they are also the only units that can use the equipment one finds. They are recruited by increasing one’s fame beyond certain thresholds, at which point the player is presented with a choice of companions.
One would think with so many different resources the game would get overly complex and collapse in on itself, but it’s good about using them for very distinct purposes; this helps to prevent an overload. It also keeps the numbers it uses fairly small, which helps with regard to keeping track. It gives a better sense of perspective, never fooling you into thinking you have more freedom to act than you actually do.
Above all, the greatest decision the developers made when designing Fallen Enchantress was to cater to both lovers of sandbox strategy titles and to those who demand a more structured experience. While there is a free-form mode that allows the player to choose a faction, tailor the size of their map and difficulty of their opponents to their liking, a separate Scenario mode is included. This comes complete with a story that is compelling enough to drive the player onward and serves as a terrific follow-up to the game’s functional, if dry, video tutorial. It ensures that the powers one faces scale in such a way that the player has time to acclimate to the title’s systems, to shore up their power before jumping into conflict with other warlords.
This is perhaps done because Fallen Enchantress is actually a sequel (to a sequel). The original Elemental: War of Magic came out in 2010, with its sequel, Elemental: Fallen Enchantress, following in 2012. Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes drops the “Elemental” title, but takes off immediately from where the previous game ended (in its scenario mode).