Fallen Enchantress is a 4X turn based strategy game that takes place within the fantasy world of Elemental. If you’re unfamiliar with the term 4X, it stands for explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate. While Fallen Enchantress does take place in Elemental, the setting for developer Stardock’s previous game (War of Magic), it is not a sequel to that game in the traditional sense, and no knowledge of War of Magic is required to fully experience Fallen Enchantress. The stated goal of Fallen Enchantress is to take role playing elements such as character leveling, quests, and loot and infuse them into a fairly traditional turn based strategy game; and in my opinion this goal is mostly achieved. Before I get into the review, I want to state that I am not what you’d call a strategy game aficionado. I have a casual interest in the strategy genre, and this review and recommendation should be considered with that in mind.
Because Fallen Enchantress is set within the same fiction as War of Magic, the game utilizes the lore and setting previously established in that game. There is obviously a lot of attention paid to fleshing out the world, but the focus is more on lore and flavor text as opposed to the weaving of a strong narrative. The game does have a scenario mode which features an original story, but the marquee mode of play is without a doubt the sandbox mode. The sandbox mode consists simply of individual, slightly randomized games against AI opponents, with all aspects of the game’s systems and mechanics on full display, as opposed to the story mode where things are a lot more restricted. These two modes are all the game has to offer at this point, with the lack of any sort of multiplayer especially puzzling.
This being a 4X game, there is a lot more to winning than straight up combat, and in fact there are 4 different ways to achieve victory in a standard game. You can win through pure conquest, which is achieved by defeating all NPC factions in all out war. You can also win through diplomacy by establishing peace with all NPC factions. You can win through questing as well, by completing a series of increasingly difficult quests leading up to the “Master Quest”. The final way to achieve victory is through magic, by casting the “Spell of Making”. This spell can only be cast once the appropriate upgrade path has been fully researched and you have claimed all of the elemental shrines scattered through the game world.
So now you know how to achieve victory, but how do you get there? As one would expect with this many ways to win, the game is quite complex, so it can be a bit a overwhelming getting started for those who don’t have a lot of experience with this type of game. Luckily the game does have an excellently made tutorial, with fully voiced video accompanying in-game instruction. Unfortunately, the tutorial only covers the very basics of the game and doesn’t really go into more complex elements. The tutorial basically tells you the very basic idea of how to play the game, but doesn’t go into any details about where you should start, what specific resources are used for, what the benefits of research are on a more grand scale, or even basic strategies for getting starting. There is an in-game manual that expands on some things in text only form, which is pretty much necessary to even begin to grasp some of the game’s higher level concepts. I was constantly heading back into the in-game manual during my first several games (which encompasses many hours), and while this was a big help for some things, for others you are simply going to have to experiment and pay attention in order to figure things out on your own.
Tutorial shortcomings aside, the game itself is a very interesting blend of strategy and role playing. Of course, each game begins with the selection of a faction, of which there are eight in the game. Each faction has their own unique strengths and weaknesses, as well as a named faction leader that possesses his or her own unique abilities for use in combat. In addition to the factions included in the game, you have the option to create your own with a unique leader as well. You can customize the faction’s colors, flag, strengths, weaknesses, and the leaders unique abilities to your liking. Once you’ve chosen your faction and you actually get into the game, your first order of business is to found your capital city. From there, you can begin building city improvements, training units, and researching upgrades. As you explore, you can build new cities and outposts to expand your territory. Building new cities basically gives you another production queue, so having multiple cities is a must.
There are two main elements to the game; civilization management and the more RPG-like adventures of your faction leader. The management side of the game; involving research, resource gathering, and city expansion, is all standard fare for the genre, while the RPG stuff is bit more unique for this style of game. Basically, your faction leader is your main character. He can level up, find loot and equip weapons, armor, and accessories. You can move around the world, fighting monsters, completing RPG style quests and recruiting champions. The units you train at your cities can join your party, but their abilities and weapons are governed by progress down the “Warfare” research tree. Champions however, can be found around the game world and can then be recruited for a small fee. Champions have all the same characteristics of your leader, meaning they too can level up, get new gears, and learn new abilities. The RPG elements certainly give you more incentive to seek out combat and quests, and can also really tip the scales of faction warfare. Even if you are outmatched in military strength, you can still be competitive in war with another faction if in turn you’ve recruited and leveled up several champions.
As you may have guessed from all this talk about war and leveling up, this game has its fair share of combat. The combat, while not the most unique aspect of the game, serves its purpose adequately. Battles are very similar to what you’d find in a strategy RPG, meaning turn based combat taking place on a grid. Standard units are limited to simply attacking, but champions can have a variety of special attacks and spells that are unlocked as you level up. When you are in the overworld, you can see the strength of enemies before you engage them battle, so more often than not I found myself skipping fights that were not a sure victory for my party. While this is a pragmatic approach that results in fewer deaths, this resulted in most of my battles lacking any real strategy requirement. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of difficult battles, especially if you get into a conflict with another faction, but most of the time combat seems pretty straight forward; most of the strategy comes from grand scheme management and knowing when to pick your battles, not necessarily from the fights themselves.
As for the aforementioned story mode, it certainly has some value, but it is by no means the main draw for the game. This mode severely simplifies or outright removes most of the deeper strategy elements, making this mode feel much more like a strategy RPG than a 4X game. Instead of managing a civilization with development and progress and serving as your ultimate goal, you control only one party of champions, traveling the land taking quests watching the story unfold. There is very little city or resource management, so if you’re more interested in the game’s combat, lore, and setting than the more in depth strategy elements, this may be the mode for you. Unfortunately though, I found the plot and characters rather uninteresting and the majority of the story is told via pages of text in between quests. There are occasional bits of narration over static artwork, but that’s the extent of the storytelling. There isn’t any sort of dialogue or choice system and there isn’t any reason to get attached to any of the characters, so much so that when one died in a post quest text dump, I didn’t really care.
Presentation wise, Fallen Enchantress is middle of the road in most aspects. The visuals, while by no means cutting edge technically, have a decent style and do an okay job of bringing the world of elemental to life, even if that world is mostly uninteresting from a fictional standpoint. Once again, the music and sound effects are perfectly serviceable, but I never really got that “damn this music is awesome!” feeling that I look for when playing a game. The system requirements are very low-end friendly, and the game ran perfectly fine on the antiquated PC I played it on, though those with a beefier set up may find the lack of advanced video options a bit disappointing.
Fallen Enchantress is the type of game that most people have a good idea about whether or not they’ll enjoy it before they even play it. For fans of turn based strategy and 4X games, this game sticks close enough to the common tropes of the genre while also adding in some fairly significant elements of other genres to make this an interesting game, if nothing else. In my opinion, the RPG elements are an excellent addition to the game, and really help set the game apart from others in the genre. If you’ve never tried this kind of turn based strategy game before, this is probably a good place to start, though don’t come in expecting a strategy RPG like Disgaea or Final Fantasy Tactics, this is still a strategy game at its core. If you find yourself having a good time, you can easily lose dozens of hours in the sandbox mode alone, so their is certainly value here if this type of game interests you. If you purchased War of Magic in 2010, you can get this game for free, but for everyone else Fallen Enchantress is available now on Steam for $39.99.
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- Well Made Strategy Game
- RPG Elements Work Well
- Mechanically Deep
- Tutorial Covers Only The Basics
- The Plot And Characters Are Forgettable