Rant mode still on.
Individual mana pools worked just fine. Sure, a few spell costs needed some love, but spellcasting worked just fine, and heroes were faced with the classic 'sword or sorcery' dilemma when leveling up (boosting Essence or other stats).
I've always felt that instead of creeping up on balance, that the developers have fallen into the trap of making lots of sweeping changes, and placating certain groups of posters because the game wasn't working the way THEY thought it should. The number one complaint that I remember was cities, and how 'tedious' they were.
That 'placating posters' argument also applies to people like me, but then I'm a luddite when it comes to Elemental, as I fell in love with E:WOM, even with it's flaws.
Well, just so I could make sure I wasn't just embellishing my old WOM experience in my mind, I reloaded 1.0 E:WOM, and played it a bit last night. Things that immediately stood out:
1) Cities could build units and structures at the same time. This sped up gameplay considerably, but I found myself in a gildar/resource crunch for most of the early game, so doing both at once was not always possible. Plus, saving money for heroes also limited this. In the later game, I used this more, as I finally had my economy going, but this was good as I had lots of things to fight. Again, doing both at the same time speeds up play, which I think was a good thing.
2) The initial design for the interface wasn't really bad at all. I liked having the progress bars for spells and tech at the bottom. Plus, the ovals around the cities showed time to complete for projects (left side buildings, right side units). While the city progress bars continue to this day, the ovals were a nice artistic touch, and lent themselves to the interface design.
3) Boats are still fun.
4) While I didn't play long enough for the kids to mature, I had two boys working their ways to adulthood. Which brings up some interesting discussions about having kids on the road when the two heroes are far apart from each other... And this brought back memories of the discussions about the uber kids. Again, with some tweaking, the kid's stats could have fallen more in line, but this is an area where I felt that we could have crept up on the solution instead of tossing the babies out with the bathwater. Overall, though, I loved the dynasty concept and want it back in future Elemental games.
5) Stats. Sure, some people just hate when people min-max stuff, but a lot of us love trying out various combinations to see what works, and E:WOM 1.0 had the potential for multiple combinations in spades. And it did it simply, without long skill trees. Sure, the stats needed a little tweaking r.e. cost versus effect, but overall they worked. Did you want this hero to be fast in combat, or faster on the map? Tougher offensively? Tougher defenses? More essence? Higher intelligence (more damage for spells?). Lots of choices.
6) Crashing. Yes, E:WOM 1.0 crashes a LOT. Even with my memory upgrade, the dreaded 'ping' sound still showed up. However, if I could have E:WOM 1.0 with the stability of E:LH, that'd be hella cool.
7) No incremental patches. I was looking through the old E:WOM forums for older patches, to try to pick that 'sweet spot' just before concepts were getting tossed out/coded out, so I could maximize my old school E:WOM experience, but alas you can only patch to 1.4.
8) Heroes. Lots of heroes. Yeah, these guys were cannon fodder. But everyone had them, so as long as the AI was also snagging them left and right like I was, there was balance in the world. This actually relates to one of my gripes about E:WOM, that is the lack of distinction between them. If I could have some of the new traits/path trees with large number of E:WOM heroes, and still have stats/essence (so I could actually customize 'parties' of heroes), that'd be cool.
9) Combat - initially this was side a goes, then side b goes. Each side would do all of it's actions before the other side could act. Going to initiative order was a good change, although I still like how the old speed stat worked. E:LH seems to allow more actions for higher initiatives, I think. At least I've seen my Air Elementals doing multiple attacks on slower creatures, in turn. So if I could have the old E:WOM speed stat, with the 'round robin' approach to initiative (each unit takes a single action, then the next unit, in order of initiative, takes an action, etc. until you've used all of your action points), that'd be cool. Tedius, perhaps, but that's about as close to simultaneous combat as you can get with turn based. I could elaborate more on this, but it's kind of pointless since speed, as it used to work, is gone now.
Sure, E:WOM had issues, but I found myself enjoying my jaunt back onto the old tan maps.
So, if I had to point out anything new that is bothering be about E:LH, it'd be pacing. Even on fast, in E:LH it takes a LOOOONG time to build things, develop technologies, and advance heroes. Some people like this, but I liked the pacing of the original E:WOM better.
In E:WOM, it seems like there were a lot more immediate rewards for doing stuff. Techs and spells were advancing at a good clip, cities constantly needed attention, with every building you added making an immediate if incremental impact on things, and lots of monsters and heroes to chase down. Not to mention those pesky AI players... plus the 'Adventure' tech always kept goody huts fresh, so you'd be crossing the map back and forth to get at the newly spawned huts. Overall, the game kept you very engaged. Sure some of it was tedious, but again I think that with tweaks here and there (more interesting quests and such), the original E:WOM was a good game on the cusp of being a great one.
I think E:LH is a very good game as well. I just want Brad and the other designers to stop doubting themselves about all the things they tried to do in E:WOM. Because there is gold there, that just needs some love.