I was drooling over Elemental since its announcement. Fantasy 4X is a rare thing, and it was great to hear someone going to do the job. I've been following devjournal, and was all excited about following release, and was telling about the game on my forum and in communities I participate in. For a whole august I've had my finger over 'purchase' button for LE version, but sanity won ("Okay, and what are you going to do with that merchandise? Throw away as you did with other LE's? Check the game before paying!").
And I'm definitely not regretting not preordering it. I did not have the chance to play it myself, because my-unpaid-demo-version () still crashes at my PC, but I did read a lot of reviews, feedbacks at the forums, and this forum in particular. And things I read make me wish SD held release till Feb.
I, for one, don't care much about bugs, crashes, UI, graphics and lack of docs. After all, my favorite game is Dwarf Fortress, and I've donated to it more than any PC game costs.
But I DO care about overall game design (rulesets) and game mechanics. So there are _tactical_ battles with units having only 3 stats? Which stack up for groups?? And no special abilities for most of them??? So where is _tactics_ there?
I didn't like the way GalCiv2 handles this, but at least galciv didn't pretend to be fantasy 4X with RPG elements. I've thought having ATT/DMG and DEF/AC separate are de-facto standards for this genre. Plus for magic be reasonable, it definitely needs at least separate resistance value (or, better yet, one for each magic damage type, as any other fantasy game does).
And the magic... Is that something you can call magic?? In Dominions, you can empower your mage in fire magic few times, give him a handful of fire gems, and watch him wipe whole armies with single spell. It takes a hell of resources to bring someone to decent level in specific school, and you risk losing it all when battling (unless, like me, you just summon demiliches, who respawn in capital when killed), but you are rewarded with something that can actually change the tides in the battle.
One of the very first complains people were voicing in our hardcore gamers community is the lack of proper global spells. Something which takes ALOT to cast in both time, skill and resources, but is actually felt everywhere in the game world. After all, Sovs are intended to reshape this barren world. And they ought to have powers to do it.
And these things are not the 'polish' or game content like the-very-same-factions (once again, compare with Dom3. Ulm, Ermor, Rlyeh, Abyss, Japan (w/e it was called) - they all feel different, with different play styles), these are the very foundation of the game - its mechanics and rules.
I am happy that Devs go on about fixing those, but I got very creepy feeling when saw that they started changing very fundamental rules with each patch. Sorry, but this cannot be interpreted otherwise than lack of ANY overall design and its testing.
So yeah, I'm not asking for 'End Game' as OP puts it. But I'm asking for a GAME, not game engine. And GAME in essence is a ruleset.
I'm as well feel that Elemental is being treated not too fair (esp in regards to personal attacks on Brad), but how else you can call the game other than 'unfinished', when developers, after release, state that they have no idea to fix magic other than doing INT-based rolls against DEF? Because noone bothered to think about it before and bring RESistance into stats?