The original Elemental from Stardock was a bit messy at launch, but the venerable independent strategy studio’s second effort (Elemental: Fallen Enchantress) was giant leap in a much more stable and addictive 4X direction. See our review for proof. But now? Well, Stardock’s not content to rest on their laurels and they’re launching an ambitious expansion in coming months called Legendary Heroes. We caught up with Lead Designer Derek Paxton to talk about the many changes and additions coming with Legendary Heroes.
First, let’s get this out in the open. An expansion isn’t just about additions, sometimes it’s about strategic cuts and changes to make the game better too. With that in mind, LH will be cutting “Influence” from the main game as a form of resource, with the idea that this will actually make Gold matter more in the overall empire building aspect of Elemental. The second major cut is in the form of damage types. Previously, in combat players had to remember a lot of different damage types going into combat and what worked on what, an so forth. Both Stardock and its players found this confusing, and as such they’re cutting damage types from the game and replacing them with weapons that have different abilities. Axes will have Cleave, Warriors might have Crushing Blow, and so forth. This way the game’s combat will be less about figuring the numbers out, and more about having the right army for the job.
Don’t worry though, that’s as far as the “cuts” go. The big new addition coming with Legendary Heroes is going to be well... Legendary Heroes. One of the best parts of Fallen Enchantress was going out, exploring the world, and finding these heroes to join your empire and help you rule the world of Elemental. But the problem with the old system was that you’d have to get lucky and find them, you’d spend more time looking for them than building your empire, and in general they just weren’t very fully fleshed out. That changes in LH, as now every player will have a Fame statistic that grows as your empire grows. And instead of having to randomly find your champions in the world, they’ll come to you as your fame increases.
Each time you’re presented with a choice between two heroes, and you can only pick one. Maybe one will be a powerful warrior, while another might be a fantastic magic user. The idea is to place more of an emphasis on player choice and strategy and how they want to dominate the map. And by taking the champions off of the world map, you’re not relying on luck to find champions, but rather the new Fame mechanic which sets the pace and allows players to focus on the point of Elemental: 4X empire building.
And the additions don’t stop there. One of Elemental’s most distinguishing aspects is the fact that its empire building game is mixed with the facets of RPGs. To that end, Legendary Heroes will greatly expand the character building control you have over the champions. There are full skill trees for each and every uniquely built champion. New stats, spells, specializations. Instead of just picking one as they level, you’ll really be able to plan the growth of your champions out more. And there are a slew of all new champions being added in this expansion too, each crafted personally by Stardock: a heaping Troll, an Enchanted Panther that was an assassin for Lady Umber, the list goes on and Stardock will be releasing more info on them as the weeks pass.
Another focus of LH is to add more depth to the tactical battles of Elemental. And while Derek insists that their game will always be more Civ than Might & Magic, they wanted to take the combat to the next level. Aside from the change to damage types, there’s also an all new “swarm mechanic” which gives the attacker a bonus for every ally around an enemy unit. In combat this means you have to be careful as one little spider might not be a big deal, but ten will mean certain death if you let them surround you. This also ties into the mechanics of the new weapon skills (cleave hits multiple units, crossbows, and so forth do area damage). On top of this, the extreme modability of Elemental is intact as well, and all ranged attacks are fully mod-able so Derek expects players to really have a good time tweaking the game’s abilities and skills.
But wait, there’s more!
On top of all of this, Derek was happy to note that Undead are also being added to the game. You’ll be able to amass armies of skeletons, wraiths, banshees, and the whole nine yards. Banshees are immune to physical attacks, so will be a real pain in the but to fight... but also great to use in a battle on your side too. And that brings us to the renewed focus on faction differentiation. Each faction will now have racial. One example Derek gave was the Altar faction which will have a Rush ability in combat that will allow them to forego an attack for an additional move. Imagine how this could work hand in hand with the swarm mechanic.
Overall, the goal Stardock has with Legendary Heroes is to make sure that the game not only “expands” but gets deeper and deeper as well. They want it to be layered like a fine artisanal cake, and from the sound of things? They’re well on their way. Stay tuned to RTSGuru for more info on Legendary Heroes as it becomes available.