I'm underwhelmed. I'm sticking with the game, not because I've put money into it, but because I truly feel that it will be improved. Hell, look at the last 2 patches. But at this point, it feels like half a game:
Things more-or-less up-to-snuff:
*Cities. I think they will benefit from some greater options over time, but right now they're solid.
*Diplomacy. Again, solid, but could use some love down the line.
*Research. Works well, is fairly varied. But again, would be vastly improved with some love down the line.
*Quests. They aren't terribly balanced, but I find them worthwhile.
Things that simply aren't where they should be:
*Magic. It's in the title, but it feels like an after thought. Elemental "schools" essentially all play the same. Spell choices are extremely limited, and in the end most have an identical effect. Spell damage is far too randomized. Utility spells have such negligible bonuses I usually don't touch them. I could go on.For a game about magic, the magic is... boring. Give it some character. Give it some "Oomph."
*Champions: Early on, their bonus abilities make them an asset. Later on they're much less useful. They can achieve some potent Attack and Defense ratings with later equipment, but giving them hitpoints only when I "waste" a level on it means they don't seem to scale well past the mid-game. They also aren't very differentiated or unique. Again, there's a lot more to it than that.
*Economics. Early on this works well. Every Gildar, Material, ect is crucial. About mid-way through a map, though, I achieve such a huge surplus that they lose any value. The exceptions seem to be crystals and horses, though, which so far have been extremely rare in my games. This needs more balancing, likely by readjusting bonuses from buildings and town levels.
*Children. See champions.
*AI: Improvements are forthcoming, but at the moment, there isn't too much to the AI. They seem to have two responses to a state of war: Train the most numerous party it can, and once it is done, send it (alone) at the enemy. Over and over. Or do absolutely nothing.
*Did I mention Magic?
*The Campaign. Most people have reverted to calling it a tutorial, and that in itself shows it's weakness. Add to that that it explains almost nothing about the game or mechanics, and the even the tutorial moniker begins to wear thin.
I like Stardock, and I've enjoyed the games you put out, and I'm enjoying Elemental. But it still feels like a beta. I simply can't recommend this game, as it is, to my friends without feeling guilty. Please, please, take the criticism on these forums seriously, and work with the better suggestions proposed by your fans and customers. And really give Magic a lot of love.