Tom Chick's "review"

By on August 28, 2010 3:49:12 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

thebigJ_A

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I put "review" in quotations because it's not, really. Mr. Chick explains as much himself. What it is, though, is a fascinating look at the game from a game reviewer who apparently has a working history with Mr. Wardell. I think it's a good read.

 

I wonder if Frogboy has seen it, and if he'd weigh in.

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August 28, 2010 4:32:10 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

link plz?

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August 28, 2010 4:36:00 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums
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August 28, 2010 4:46:15 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

He seems to have the right of it, both as a fan of the genre and Stardock's previous offerings.

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August 28, 2010 4:54:00 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

It's a sad day when games are proclaimed unfocused mish-mashes because they don't play or function like every other game in the genre. When a game that introduced zero innovation to the genre (SC2) gets praised and a game that is trying to shake up the genre (4X) is criticized for lack of "focus", how will game developers react? More innovation or more cookie-cutter crap? Game innovation is like stand up comedy, you gotta take risks and sometimes you just bomb. Sometimes you get heckled and you lash out. I don't want a world where all comics are like Jay Leno and all game developers are like Blizzard.

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August 28, 2010 4:56:35 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting katalist,
link plz?

Thanks dude!

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August 28, 2010 5:00:41 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

You're not listening to what people are saying if that's what you are getting out of it.

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August 28, 2010 5:24:40 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Surlybob, the problem is truly that there is nearly zero innovation in this game.  Lots of great high level concepts but few if any are realized.

The magic system is highly derivative of it's predecessors, which in itself isn't a bad thing.  Where it went wrong was not having actual variety of spells (at least up to level 10 magic research which is where I stopped out of frustration).  Do we really need dozens of single target spells that have no real differences other than mana cost and range?

Diplomacy of this type has been done to death.  Again, not a knock against Elemental... except for the fact that it's braindead in the extreme.

I will grant that the city building had the most potential but in the end is just a headache of trying to have enough tiles to do everything or attempt to truly specialize your cities if you happen to have decent luck insofar as resources.  And once you get a dozen or two buildings planted it's just a bland mass of rooftops with no real personality.

Unit design?  Awesome idea!  Too bad it has no real effect on gameplay and ends up being a confusing mess insofar as costs.  You're better off just pumping out run of the mill squads of peasants or archers and just calling it a day.

So while there has been some small innovation, much of the game is going down a heavily trafficked path.

And another dig at Starcraft 2...  why all the bitterness?  Granted I'd have far preferred that it was more than a pretty retexture of Brood Wars with achievements slapped on top (damn you and your achievements Blizzard), but that doesn't negate the fun factor of the game.  If someone were to make a carbon copy of Master of Magic or X-COM with updated graphics, I'd be all over it despite wanting more.

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August 28, 2010 5:33:01 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

That was an excellent review - well written and a great read.  I agree with it the same way I agree with detailed criticims.  A very interesting and different approach to reviewing, but pretty much spot on because to really review Elemental now, knowing how Stardock works, would be to make a monster list of problems with the game, like we see here daily, but knowing that Stardock will finish the game over time.

What is irritating is that Brad claims the company has the luxury of not being in financial binds or a rush, yet the routinely put out games that are not ready.  :/

You would not see "reviews" like this if the game had been polished for a good 3 more months.

Quoting surlybob,
It's a sad day when games are proclaimed unfocused mish-mashes because they don't play or function like every other game in the genre. When a game that introduced zero innovation to the genre (SC2) gets praised and a game that is trying to shake up the genre (4X) is criticized for lack of "focus", how will game developers react? More innovation or more cookie-cutter crap? Game innovation is like stand up comedy, you gotta take risks and sometimes you just bomb. Sometimes you get heckled and you lash out. I don't want a world where all comics are like Jay Leno and all game developers are like Blizzard.

There is not a whole lot about Elemental that isn't derivative and the whole idea was to be a spiritual successor to MoM, for goodness sakes.  WTF are you talking about?

Critics love SC2 because it's an incredibly good game.  Games don't need to be original to be amazing - they need to be well done, polished, have clean releases, and most of all, be FUN.  People are digging SC2 because they are having a blast playing it.  Period.  Exclamation Point!  (I've yet to try it, I just don't like RTS, and even with all the hoopla, I still can't see paying $60 to play some of the campaign that I'd most likely never finish since I suck at classic/twitch RTS).

Even if Elemental was the most innovative game ever, that doesn't mean it deserves praise when it's released in an unfinished, unbalanced, and buggy state.  People need to stop making excuses for this mess.  Yeah, the mess will get cleaned up and so far the patching has helped a lot, but c'mon.

I *am* having fun playing Elemental despite shite performance on my monster gaming rig that obliterates all other games AND despite a lot of issues/flaws/whatever with the game.  But nobody objective and paying full attention could ever play Elemental now without having some criticism.  Inconceivable!

I had beta access but never really provided feedback because, I dunno, beta was never what I expected.  It was very contained and artificial.  What beta testers really needed was months with builds like these - real representations of the whole game.  Including criticism I answer people questions here and I make thought out suggestions or bug reports because I want to help Stardock improve this game, because it has so much potential.  (I do refuse to go thru the hassle of posting for crash dumps though, this game crashes so much I'd spend a large chunk of time with that :/ )

 

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August 28, 2010 6:06:44 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Surlybob, the problem is truly that there is nearly zero innovation in this game.

Actually there are many innovations in this game. City building is innovating compared to other fantasy strategy games. No other has this feature. The implementation of spell magic is innovating because it eleminates all those worthless spells and spell trees that nobody used anyways. The tile resource surprises are innovating. No other game ever gave those kinds of surprises mid and end game. The cloth map is innovating and different style looking. The ability to cosmetically design units and features along with adding our own ideas about what gear they should have and wear is innovating for a fantasy strategy game. Also the group/team research is innovating as I've never seen this in a research tree before.

The problem with YOU and many others is you want this game to be like MOM or AOW or HOMM etc. etc. You want it to have that feel and play value, but, it wouldn't be INNOVATING if it did it would just be a CARBON COPY. Just can't get it through peoples heads this ISN'T MOM or AOW or the others and isn't intended to be. Therefore it has plenty of innovation and is already a great game that of course will get better over time just like MOM and AOW (though the ai stil sucks in this one) and HOMM etc. etc. This is a classic in the making already. It has plenty of innovation and just needs some polishing up to get the bugs and ridiculous things out like the 4 million atk shrill etc. like that.

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August 28, 2010 6:08:37 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Critics love SC2 because it's an incredibly good game.  Games don't need to be original to be amazing - they need to be well done, polished, have clean releases, and most of all, be FUN.  People are digging SC2 because they are having a blast playing it.  Period.  Exclamation Point!  (I've yet to try it, I just don't like RTS, and even with all the hoopla, I still can't see paying $60 to play some of the campaign that I'd most likely never finish since I suck at classic/twitch RTS).
If you've never played it, how do you know that it's "an incredibly good game"? Because some gaming rags that get 30% of their ad revenue from Blizzard say its the best thing ever? Please. It's a gussied up Brood War with fewer units and no chat. Also, its unbalanced as crap and Terrans rule the universe.

This is also a reply to that other Blizzard fanboy. Keep it up, you guys, because in 5 years PC gaming will be strictly an adjunct to console gaming if everyone keeps piling on to small developers like they've done for Elemental.

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August 28, 2010 6:20:41 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting surlybob,

Critics love SC2 because it's an incredibly good game.  Games don't need to be original to be amazing - they need to be well done, polished, have clean releases, and most of all, be FUN.  People are digging SC2 because they are having a blast playing it.  Period.  Exclamation Point!  (I've yet to try it, I just don't like RTS, and even with all the hoopla, I still can't see paying $60 to play some of the campaign that I'd most likely never finish since I suck at classic/twitch RTS).If you've never played it, how do you know that it's "an incredibly good game"? Because some gaming rags that get 30% of their ad revenue from Blizzard say its the best thing ever? Please. It's a gussied up Brood War with fewer units and no chat. Also, its unbalanced as crap and Terrans rule the universe.

This is also a reply to that other Blizzard fanboy. Keep it up, you guys, because in 5 years PC gaming will be strictly an adjunct to console gaming if everyone keeps piling on to small developers like they've done for Elemental.

 

I have played SC2, and the positive view of SC2 exists for precisely the reasons that Voqar posted: polish.  Yeah, Terran is relatively imbalanced right now... but compare that level of "imbalance" with what passes for balance in elemental.  I play Zerg, so I have plenty of rage stored up for the moderately-skilled Terrans who can happily turtle until they steamroll me at 200/200, but there is effectively no balance at all in Elemental compared to SC2.  And that's just in game balance; consider how damned good the SC2 interface is: smooth, intuitive, familiar - easy to use and highly transparent in information flow.  SC2 may do very little, but it really does do it exceptionally well.

Elemental, on the other hand, doesn't.  It very much could, and I'm almost certain that it eventually will, but right now it's not even past the point of getting core mechanics to function much less getting into serious polishing and balancing.  The games aren't even comparable in production quality, even though there's plenty of good reason why I'm posting on these forums instead of playing SC2.  Genre preferences don't magically obviate evaluations of craftsmanship.

Also, consider that there are two ways that games further the fun of exploration.  One is by trying radically new things that require growth on the part of the player.  That can be fun and exciting.  The other is to demand extreme levels of mastery from the player on a specific specialization, and it's the focused struggle for continual refinement that forces growth and discovery.  Again, that can be fun and exciting.  Games like SC2 firmly belong to the latter camp, and there's nothing wrong with that.  Just like there's nothing wrong with innovation (though, again, there's not a whole lot of that in Elemental as a game - it's the engine that has the most potential).

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August 28, 2010 6:34:31 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

What I realized with Galactic Civilization II and what has been reinforced with Elemental is that Stardock doesn't work their way up from a basic design. They craft parts and piece them together and create something not unlike a Frankenstein monster. It evolves and changes and reacts and morphs and mutates and lurches and sometimes spits up on itself or farts noisily. It can be scary and ugly. It can be awesome.

[/quote]

He does have a valid point here.  Don't get me wrong - I'm enjoying the game, and have no remorse about spending my money on it.  I pre-ordered in time for Beta 2, because of what I'd read on the game, and I bought GalCiv2 when it was new as well.  But I did have some misgivings when completely new concepts were being introduced in Beta 3 based on player feedback.  I honestly wondered if there was an overal vision of what the devs wanted to make, other than 'a new RTS game'.

 

[quote who="rossanderson48" reply="9" id="2740480"]
The problem with YOU and many others is you want this game to be like MOM or AOW or HOMM etc. etc. You want it to have that feel and play value, but, it wouldn't be INNOVATING if it did it would just be a CARBON COPY. Just can't get it through peoples heads this ISN'T MOM or AOW or the others and isn't intended to be. Therefore it has plenty of innovation and is already a great game that of course will get better over time just like MOM and AOW (though the ai stil sucks in this one) and HOMM etc. etc. This is a classic in the making already. It has plenty of innovation and just needs some polishing up to get the bugs and ridiculous things out like the 4 million atk shrill etc. like that.

And this is pretty valid for me too.  I loved MoM.  I still play it from time to time (gotta love DosBox), and would love to see someone do MoM 2.  But the criticism about magic is valid, in my opinion.  MoM only had 6 schools of magic (1 generic, 5 specific), and only had about 50 spells for each of the 5 specialty schools.  In Elemental, there doesn't seem to be that feeling of 'specialization' about having a school of magic.  There is no difference other than visual between some of the spells.

However, the mod-friendliness of the game has a huge amount of potential, and I look forward to seeing what will come from that - no matter if it's from the devs or the players.

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August 28, 2010 6:38:14 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I have played SC2, and the positive view of SC2 exists for precisely the reasons that Voqar posted: polish.  Yeah, Terran is relatively imbalanced right now... but compare that level of "imbalance" with what passes for balance in elemental.

Polish costs money. Blizzard has huge budgets and masses of developers to throw at their projects. When they make a release, they can do so in confidence, because they know that the bought-and-paid-for gaming press will lavish anything they make with praise and it'll sell a bajillion copies. Indies like Stardock, however, do not have unlimited budgets, have little to no influence in the gaming press and can't even get retailers to honor street dates. Their games are ignored when they are good or mediocre and relentlessly attacked whenever they have bugs/imbalances. It's a cycle that secures the dominance of the crapware peddlers.

Elemental is not a perfect game, but I promise that if it were being published by Valve or Blizzard, the mags would be falling over each other to praise it.

EDIT: Also, if you play Zerg, cheer up! When they release the Zerg expansion, they will become the overpowered faction to play to entice you to buy the expansion! Imbalance is so much better when it's done on purpose, don't you agree?

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August 28, 2010 6:42:49 AM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

Quoting surlybob,
It's a sad day when games are proclaimed unfocused mish-mashes because they don't play or function like every other game in the genre. When a game that introduced zero innovation to the genre (SC2) gets praised and a game that is trying to shake up the genre (4X) is criticized for lack of "focus", how will game developers react? More innovation or more cookie-cutter crap? Game innovation is like stand up comedy, you gotta take risks and sometimes you just bomb. Sometimes you get heckled and you lash out. I don't want a world where all comics are like Jay Leno and all game developers are like Blizzard.

Disagree here.

SC2 was very good at what it did.  Innovate?  Not much room for it.  RTS(And FPS) are one-trick ponies.  They're pretty much fully exploited because they're very simplistic and because by nature,  there's little room for innovation.  The speed at which they play inherently prevents complex systems from being introduced.  SC2 was very fun as long as you didn't expect anything deep.  It's the Bud-light of strategy gaming,  but it's finely distilled so that is just simple fun.  RTS is wargaming for people who hate wargaming.  Just like most "RPGs" today are RPGs for people who hate RPGs(Mass Effect 2,  Oblivion,  Fallout 3,  Final Fantasy).

Elemental is a deep game,  but it does suffer a bit from focus on alot of nonintegrated systems.  Such as marriage and children,  which makes little sense in it's current implementation,  as it's the remenants of a much larger system that was excised.  Or the severe imbalances between Might & Magic,  which imply that the dev's tried to go in a bunch of different directions but never really settled on a single direction.  There is criticism to be leveled here,  because it looks like focus was lost at some point.  Too many systems look like they wanted to go in a couple different directions but never settled on any one.  A little bit of Blizzard would've done well here,  someone to say "Look,  this is what we're doing,  let's do this".

Elemental's not a bad game,  but it does demonstrate a need for focus,  and likely the Dev's learned a lesson in here,  what I'm seeing is that they had a hard time pulling it together.  This happens to pretty much every studio once,  they come up with a great idea,  some of it doesn't work in practice,  and then things start getting discombobulated.  Bioware did it with Jade Empire,  SSI did it with Starship General,  New World did it with Heroes of Might & Magic 3,  Stardock got theirs in now too (Except Stardock's apparently alot better at fixing their problems,  thankfully) 

Blizzard's not a bad studio,  they just make fringe RPG/Strategy games that are easily accessible and distilled down to simple fun over complex fun.

We need Stardocks and Blizzards,  just like we need James Cameron's and Michael Bay's in movies. 

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August 28, 2010 6:47:01 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting surlybob,

Polish costs money. Blizzard has huge budgets and masses of developers to throw at their projects. When they make a release, they can do so in confidence, because they know that the bought-and-paid-for gaming press will lavish anything they make with praise and it'll sell a bajillion copies. Indies like Stardock, however, do not have unlimited budgets, have little to no influence in the gaming press and can't even get retailers to honor street dates. Their games are ignored when they are good or mediocre and relentlessly attacked whenever they have bugs/imbalances. It's a cycle that secures the dominance of the crapware peddlers.

Elemental is not a perfect game, but I promise that if it were being published by Valve or Blizzard, the mags would be falling over each other to praise it.

Call me strange, but I don't think that games lacking polish should be excused due to lack of developer resources.  It's called designing within your constraints, a lesson that any strategy gamer is forced to learn.  Elemental lacks polish.  Period.  You can't get around that fact.  It's not some massive conspiracy to say that Elemental is less polished than SC2.  That's just how it is right now.

Attacking the strawman of the gaming press isn't a compelling argument; we can all sit down, play the game, and see the state that Elemental is in.  I'm not talking about why the press expresses their opinions; I'm talking about how we, as gamers, evaluate the games we play.  We can see that Elemental flat out isn't a finished product at this time, regardless of the reasons for that state of affairs or the reasons why the press echoes that claim.

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August 28, 2010 6:51:01 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I agree with the reviewer.

We need much more information on how the game works, the mechanics, and the implications of decisions. Right now this is a great game. If I understood how to play it better, it could be an amazing game!

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August 28, 2010 6:57:03 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Call me strange, but I don't think that games lacking polish should be excused due to lack of developer resources.  It's called designing within your constraints, a lesson that any strategy gamer is forced to learn.  And Elemental lacks polish.  Period.  You can't get around that fact.  It's not some massive conspiracy to say that Elemental is less polished than SC2.  That's just how it is right now.

Attacking the strawman of the gaming press isn't a compelling argument when we can all sit down, play the game, and see the state that Elemental is in.  I'm not talking about why the press expresses their opinions; I'm talking about why players develop their preferences.

I'm playing Elemental, and I am quite satisfied with it's "state". Any software product takes time, effort and resources to bring to its full potential. I find it unreasonable for you to expect a small company to produce a game that starts out with as much "polish" as a massive company.

Furthermore, the issue of bias in the gaming press can't be dismissed when we have someone in this very thread praising SC2 sight-unseen because some game mags are blabbing about how awesome it is. The fact is, virtually all PC games have to be patched before they are optimal for play, and everyone who is in this hobby knows this. The only time it's "a big deal" is when the mags start a svitstorm about it, as in the case of Elemental.

It's not a "conspiracy". It's just business.

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August 28, 2010 7:04:01 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Maybe it is just me, but I don't like to read reviews that are constantly comparing X to Y.  I mean review the game.  I also detected a bit of "friction" due to the past relationship between Brad and Tom, a sort of creative difference.  This is not GalCiv, SC2, MoM..etc.  Yes Elemental is strat game and falls in the same category of games, however it is different from the rest.

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August 28, 2010 7:06:20 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting surlybob,

I'm playing Elemental, and I am quite satisfied with it's "state". Any software product takes time, effort and resources to bring to its full potential. I find it unreasonable for you to expect a small company to produce a game that starts out with as much "polish" as a massive company.

I don't know why you're satisfied with a game in which, demonstrably, a sizable chunk of the mechanics flat out don't function.  I'm not.  Heck, I've seen one-man dev teams churn out more solid, stable, and polished work than this (Cliffski, for example).  Y'know why?  Because they designed within their constraints, making the innovations that mattered and discarding the fluff that didn't.  Elemental will eventually reach that same state of awesome, but that doesn't mean that Elemental is currently a great, or even good, game.  When the time comes, I'll happily call Elemental a fantastic game.  That time has not yet come.

And no, not all games are this big of a mess at release.  I'm hard pressed to recall a game that was actually released in this rough a state, though I admit that I completely avoided Empire: Total War.  I suppose the Myth III release came somewhat close, but that also got slammed for good reason.

I do agree that the gaming press is, generally, useless.  I just don't believe that issue bears on the merits of Elemental as a game.

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August 28, 2010 7:07:24 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

That was a pretty fair review, really. It's pretty clear after playing for a while that there's a great game locked in here struggling to get out. Given more time, it'll get there.

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August 28, 2010 8:21:27 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I think Chick's review is fair even if I don't agree with everything he said.  I think the game is worth a purchase even at this early stage with the understanding that it's still a work-in-progress and probably will be for the next several months. But despite all that, I'm finding it a blast to play.

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August 28, 2010 8:35:53 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Mtn_Man,
I think Chick's review is fair even if I don't agree with everything he said.  I think the game is worth a purchase even at this early stage with the understanding that it's still a work-in-progress and probably will be for the next several months. But despite all that, I'm finding it a blast to play.

 

This.

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August 28, 2010 8:46:25 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I totally meant to post the link. Sorry!

 

Anyway, my take: Mr. Chick is completely right. The game will be great. It is not now. Attacking people who like Starcraft will not change that. I can say Starcraft is very good at what it does, without having read a single review (not my type of game) just from its sheer success among pc gamers.

 

This game lacks focus and polish. Plenty of small developers are able to get their games out in much better states than this one is. Just because SD is a great dev who have done good in the past is no reason to exempt them from criticism now. Luckily, Stardock is a great dev who are doing their utmost to get the game in the shape it deserves to be. If someone is happy with how the game is today, they are selling themselves, and Stardock, short. It should've been better, it can be better, it will be better.

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August 28, 2010 8:47:17 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Id say this review sums up my opinions pretty well.

 

I do think its worth a purchase now if you're a fan of the genre (which I am).

 

I really like the game as it is now, but if stardock supports it like other games of the past i suspect we will call it a masterpiece in time.

 

 

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August 28, 2010 9:03:52 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

"Elemental is not a game I recommend you buy. It's a game I recommend you watch."

 

This sums up my point of view as well, I bought the game however, but only because I know how StarDock handled GalCivII. I know the team will be patching Elemental into something awesome within 3 months, that combined with mods, neato game... just need to wait three months

Had I never purchased GalCiv, and if Elemental was my first Stardock game, I'd be pretty upset at my purchase, but I'm not, again only based on Frogboy's dedication to their games long term that I experienced with GCII. 

 

Just ... uh ... next game can you push back release a few more months to finish all the polishing? 

 

 

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