Beta 4 definitely is more of a game than previous Betas, but it seems far from being finished. Forgive me please for comparing it to Civilization, but I've never played any Stardock games before and the reason I bought Elemental is because it claimed to be a Master of Magic style game. And Master of Magic was basically a Civ clone with magic and tactical battles.
So as I play Elemental Beta 4 I look for its Civness. I want it to inform me, lead me to a certain extent, help me to grasp the complexities of play, but it does little of that. It doesn't tell me why I should built peasants. Will they be able to defend me? Will they level up? Will they be replaced by future units? It gives me a shop where I can buy things but who are they for? Are they for my sovereign? Are they automatically equipped on particular units? Do I manually equip them?
And then there's unit management. The left hand side of the screen shows my cities and my sovereign and that unit you get at the beginning, but that's it. How do I know who else needs to move during a turn? And yes, I know Stardock games always do it this way but as someone who has been involved in non-gaming software development for twenty years, I know that's never a good reason to stick with a particular way of doing things.
I did play with the mod tools a bit and while I was completely bewildered by the map editor, the tile editor seems really powerful and is very neat. The somewhat underwhelming graphics in the game and editors don't bother me, and to be honest, I just want the game to be more gamey. I don't want to wander around aimlessly, learning the systems by scanning through FAQs, forums, and spending hours and hours playing the game. I want it to be something deep and rewarding but fun even with a modest investment of my time.