But here's the thing: soon, Elemental will be 5 months old. They managed to do more with it than I though could be done, but it's still so, so far behind games like Age of Wonders 1, 2, Shadow Magic !
I dunno man, AoW2 was pretty bad.
And regarding your other complaints, I agree that it's important to have good core mechanics, but looks like I disagree on every point you've raised about what good mechanics actually entails.
And I think the guilty party is the high number of completely unsound basic mechanics. The resource system, for instance, has at its core a problem due to how bad those resource-spawning techs are. Until they change the way those techs work, there will be issues, no matter how they "balance" them by changing the distance from your cities those resources will spawn. Even if they don't, it's a no brainer that it should never, never spawn in an enemy territory. Same thing for diplomacy recruiting techs.
Eh, a lot of people don't care for that stuff, but I'm personally quite pleased to have an element of randomness involved.
Another example is the armor kit system. It sounds like a good idea on paper, but when looking at it in details, it's unnecessary. But not just unnecessary: it also made the game almost impossible to balance. Look at all those weapons/armor balance complain threads (I participated to a fair number of them, actually). And the real issue is: since you can't give fractional armor to armor parts, every armor tech level will result in a huge leap in power that's entirely gamebreaking, unsound (dodge is useless since armor plays the role of a total damage avoidance system a lot of the time), and basically unfun. And what does having the ability to chose what armor will cover your loin, pinky, and toes ? Nothing really necessary: it's fake customization, because in reality it doesn't add any depth or meaningful choice to the game. I have yet to see plans to ditch this entirely.
More choices are never bad. It's not quite as easy to balance, but they'll do it anyway, so as a consumer I'm not to worried about that. And it may not be necessary, but if you strip away everything that's not necessary, you'd be left with no game and would be forced to go spend your time on something constructive instead. Games are inherently not necessary things.
Ditching all those flawed mechanics that underlay the rest of the game is necessary if you wish to have a coherent end product that works well. There's a reason why D&D switched from 2nd to 3rd edition in the early 2000s, and why Mark Rosewater from Magic the Gathering ceased making these core-mechanics changing cards: because when the basics of a game are flawed, whatever you build upon it will not compensate for them, and risk making things worse.
Man, the core mechanic changing cards were fun. They were another victim of too many people wanting to be "competitive" and get rich and famous playing cards instead of just having fun.
I could list a fair number of other systems which should *not* exist in a strategy game. Reinventing the wheel is only good if you're building a plane, not if you're making your wheels square.
Elemental isn't purely strategy. It also has RPG elements, because RPGs are fun. With a bit more expansion, it could also be a city-builder. Elemental is a game that wants to be better than just strategy, and so it has things that a strategy game doesn't really need. Saying they should cut tons of features because it doesn't agree with your notion of what a strategy game should look like is not constructive advice to anyone.