Meh ... I didn't say it needed to be "shippable" balance, merely a decent attempt at game play, with all features in place (other than the extraneous ones to be added later with patches).
I think I was largely answered on another thread ... that there will be some push in the direction of game play during Beta 2, yet true strategic balance will not probably be addressed until Beta 3, at which point there will also be all manner of searching for graphical bugs I'm sure.
During Beta4, certainly, there will be a whole new level of balance, the tactical kind. It is here that many larger parts of the strategic balance will be re-written in order to make the tactical balance make sense (most likely) .... nonetheless, its easier to get from point Bad to point Awesome if you know what you are starting with ... additionally if you already have a system in place by the time you reach the tactical beta, redrawing the strategic scene will be easier because we already have some idea of where the goals are. I suppose there is the alternative argument that the Tactical Balance should in turn build the strategic balance from scratch ... although I would rather assume that it is easier to rebuild the strategy of empire-building once the dynamic of tactical battles is discovered, rather than basing the balance of an empire builder-from the very start- on the tactical battle. Indeed, how can we know what we truly expect from our tactical battles if we do not have at least some idea as to how the empire will be built.
I also find it interesting that Death is Empire and Life is Kingdom (or good and evil). It is my assumption that in common fantasy the Kingdom is supposed to be the One sacrificing for the Many, while the Empire is the many sacrificing themselves for the good of the One. While in history and reality it might not perfectly corrolate, in fantasy it certainly seems to. Thus, if I am correct in my original assumption about fantasy Kingdoms (people-centric) vs fantasy Empires (emperor-centric) ... then Elemental seems to follow roughly the same definition of good and evil as FFH2 does ... assuming that Death is "Evil" and Life is "Good."
If the Fallen races/et al are cool enough, then I will likely be one of the first to create a custom Fallen Kingdom. Much like Pariden, in the sense of out-cast, only much, much more so in terms of hardship from fellow Kingdoms.
I was sure I had a point here ... ah yes! I believe that, from what I have heard, game play will begin an introduction in Beta 2, recieve a giant kick in the pants (with many changes) in Beta 3, be cut in half and rebuilt twice-over in Beta 4, and then by the end of Beta 4 it should be "shippable" in terms of content. Beta 5 (other than modding) should be largely just fixing bugs and adding parsnips of content here and there.
At least ... assuming I can read minds ... I'm not trying to push my own agendas, merely predict the future of what the goals of future betas will more specifically boil down to.