Right then, time for another one of these posts. At time of writing this, Elemental has been out for a few days. I did 2 of these long posts in beta, just collecting and stating various thoughts from my notes. Their focus tended to be on what was there rather than what wasn't, and how it was silly/wrong/didn't make sense/bad/awful/made me want to die. But now we are past that, and as such my expectations are higher and as such I have more thoughts than ever.
I am going to be writing this over the next week I guess, seeing what happens with the early patches until it is stable, and by then I should have a lot of feedback. To be clear up front once again, I like and respect Stardock, and if I am blunt/scathing/mean it's because I care, not because I want to troll up the place or anything. They have my loyalty.
This is probably going to take quite a few hours so please, make it worth my time - add to this list and discuss things – as happened in beta.
I am also going to begin this time with a prologue of sorts, as I could have added many points about this.
I do not like the Civ series. 1-3 bored the crap out of me. 4 was rather fun, except as soon as I finished my first long game and got into my second, it all seemed exactly the same. I got bored again, very quickly. Going back to it again, I always get bored, with a very strong “I already did this” sensation.
Sword of the Stars is a cool game. I like it. It can really shaft me over, throwing menaces and AI armed with weapons and ship configurations I am tactically unprepared for. When I try research the counters, the random tech tree screws me over again. It is fun, because at that point I have to be creative, I have to improvise. It is full of choice, of making plans, and watching them usually go horrifically wrong.
GalCiv 2 is a cool game. I like it. It can really shaft me over, always starting me in the corner of an immense galaxy with 4 habitable worlds and throwing the AI in the middle of a super-cluster with a super-event making them constantly grow in power. Quite unprepared and totally outclassed, I had to somehow gain superiority. This was a game I played just last week, without tech trading turned on, and with the victory conditions set to influence/conquest/diplomacy only. Several days later, through a mix of screwings over, good decisions, and a bit of luck well acted on by myself, I finally turned the tables on the imbaTerrans with their “5x better than everyone else” crap and hit 60% influence. I made peace, happy that I was dominant, and won.
SotS and GC2 are very, very, very different. But they both drag me back to them, because I know each time it will be different. Civ never grabbed me that way, it always felt safe. All the numbers were reliable, all the situations comfortable. Nothing unexpected ever happened – it was boring to me.
I think Elemental is currently too safe. I plan ahead, and nothing really gets in my way. All the numbers oppose each other in a very direct fashion, and everything proceeds as planned. Nothing, and I do mean nothing, has ever caused me to go “Oh crap! What do I do now!?”. This does worry me. Maybe its because its trying to be accessible to the competitive crowd, where lots of random events can undermine “skill”. Either way, I worry it will grow stale.
The reason I have put this much larger than planned bit at the front, is because it would have come up anyway, throughout many points anyway. I felt it would be better to put it together on its own.
Actually, lets consider it point 1. Even though it doesn't fit my vague definition of my points dealing with something specific in game.
There is a rough order to these, but it is not entirely logical due to the nature of this being updated as and when I discover new things. It is also possible that one of the patches may fix some of the smaller things I will probably mention, and I wont notice in time to fix.
1) I want more loot. Originally, this was a few points. Never being able to get enough Midnight Stones was one of them, and another was the lack of weapons to be found. With Elemental being entwined with the RPG genre, I really think the wandering monsters and hostile adventurers should carry the chance for something more than just gildar. It would make hunting them more fun, and clearing out all those damn forests a bit less repetitive. From a lore perspective, it would make sense that these adventurers would have loot anyway, as they went about their chosen profession. The monsters would gain the stuff from having eaten the adventurers.
2) Shop UI. I mentioned this in another, and the response was something along the lines of “We like it, not changing it.” Fair enough, but I was shopping and realised something. My good friend google images and I think that buying from this sucks. Even moreso when you are at mid to end game and the list is loaded with stuff. I actively do not research stuff, because it will clutter my shop, and going through it for all my adventurers is tedious. Even the addition of some collapsible sub menus would be fantastic, especially if any more items get added.
3) Starting equipment is silly. Another old one, repeated because I think it is important enough to. Currently padded chest armour costs 10 points. TEN. As a Kingdom, without a library nearby, I can have a full set of leather by turn 30. Why in the hells would anybody buy a single piece of the worst armour in the game, that will only last a handful of turns, at a cost equal to three full spellbooks full of powerful that will last the entire game, that will enable you top fully utilise the shards dotted about, and a point leftover to get some stats to give +10% to something for, again, the entire game. The response last time was “some people will buy it, some people won't”. Okay, however I would like to think the people that do spend points on the equipment later realise their mistake and go remake their sovereign.
4) From a gameplay point of view, I feel forced to start with no equipment, making exploring/questing/fighting in the first bunch of turns rather boring. The comparitive cost of being able to do otherwise is just way too high.
Proposal: Separate point cost for starting equipment. Anything not spent goes into the starting gold amount, however buying equipment at the start is cheaper than in-game, so that people don't just pocket the gold to buy better equipment with once they research it. Alternatively, bring the item cost waaay down. And make them better.
5) No reason to not get all spellbooks. I do not wish to get all spellbooks at the start. I want to play with different ones each game, and maybe pick others up through quests, adventuring, magical research, whatever. However, they are very cheap, and not getting them all makes me slap myself when I end up with shards I cannot use the bonus for. Not getting them all may be a personal choice, but it is not a tactical or strategic one. In a strategy game, I should have a real reason to choose carefully at sovereign creation. As it is, it feels like a “Get them all or be gimped” situation. Not sure of a fix right now, but something I am throwing out there. Choice is a cornerstone of strategy, and here there just does not seem to be one.
6) I level up, and do not gain health. My soldiers get health. I do not, nor do my champions. It could be argued that I could spent points on constitution to gain this health. However, in most games I will only level up 5-6 times, and I will need more essence, and other stats that are of greater importance. I do spend one or two on health, but the effect is minor. The result of this, on both my champions and sov, is that I am getting one-hit-killed all over the place by midgame. Even with the best armour in the game, things can luck out and I am gone. This also makes fighting the AI easy, as I can always knock out their sov in the first round of a fight.
Proposal: When soldiers level up, they gain health. Same for sovereigns and champions, please.
7) Kinda related, on level up I get 1 point, then get +2 or +3 to something from it. I often wish I could split them between, say, strength and dexterity. Why not 3 points giving different bonuses to each stat, as I believe I remember from earlier betas? Current system seems restrictive for no apparent reason.
8) Janusk. He is a man. If you play a female sovereign, you have a guaranteed potential husband, which is very useful when things go wrong and you cannot find a mate. Additionally, he is useful if you want to marry very early, to counter the AI's instant-marriage.
Proposal: Some form of Januskia for male sovereigns – basically Janusk with breasts and child bearing capabilities. It is only fair.
9) Races do not do anything for your sovereign. Simple enough really, its a purely cosmetic change right now, and could be better and more interesting. Giving stats, an ability, a bonus to something, just something to make it worth putting thought into would be nice.
10) Organised is a must. Again, about the feeling of a lack of choice at sov creation. If I do not pick organised, I feel like a fool. I want my sovereign leading the army for the XP and good spells, and my sovereign is generally well equipped and moves the fastest. Organised mixed with those two makes having an army far easier, faster, and more effective.
11) Hard to find kids among adventurers. I want to be able to find them at a glance. I believe a silver outline was present in the betas – where did it go?
Proposal: New outline for kids. They are important to me.
12) Cannot influence the kids growth. They get born, then I just abandon them and bugger off to kill wolves. Bit of a crappy parent. I want to be able to affect their development, using my technology make them better raised. Be able to give them bonuses and abilities depending on the choices I pick for them. Choose mentors from my adventurers, set-up apprentices in my capitals structures, send them out to learn things about the world. Actually raise the damn things, instead of just waiting for them to pop up with some random and often disappointing abilities, or lack thereof.
13) Peace treaties feel too easily gained at the start. If I meet someone at early game, I make sure to grab a very cheap peace treaty. Then I can wander about in their territory and steal their adventuring stuff. Later on, the price tends to rise quite a bit If they do not adore you, which tends to highlight the overly generous window which you can get in at the start – and keep using into mid-game.
Proposal: Either make peace treaties early on not last so long, or let the AI get annoyed if you steal their stuff and do their quests.
14) Not being able to afford adventurers = can't talk to them. I think it is silly and unintitive. Since writing this point, I have discovered that selecting the target adventurer, then going into actions, then mouse-over the hire button, and it'll say what they cost. While it fixes the issue for me, it took a while to find, and is still quite unintuitive, so it stays in the list.
Proposal: Let the adventurer tell you what they cost, and then have the player respond that they cannot afford.
15) Too many empty houses. I built loads of them, and then one person a turn typically trickles in. If I have all this room, I think it should affect prestige. If I have tons of food, lots of good empty houses, and safe walls, I do believe that would attract people to come live with me in a post-cataclysm world.
Proposal: Make having lots of room provides a minor bonus to prestige.
16) Materials can be hard to get. In two games now I have started with like 3 farms at the starting area. I then spread out, build 3-4 extra cities, spaced in strategic locations. And each time not a single old growth forest in sight. Being utterly stuck with minimal materials income was tough, my buildings needed it, and my military needed it. It seems so far to be a way to get very easily screwed in a rather major way. City level up thingies do not provide a bonus to it, and as far as I know no structures do – making it a difficult hole to get out of.
Proposal: Bring back ordinary lumber camps. 2 mats/turn. One per level 2 city.
17) Caravans on the same route do not seem to upgrade it any faster. Not sure if its intentional or incomplete, so just throwing it out there. If they are using the same road, that road should upgrade faster. Currently it seems to be the caravan upgrades on its own.
18) Natural improvement count towards the tile limit. I have hit this in my other threads, about how they didn't merge with the walls, and have mentioned the tile limit itself quite a bit. Cool to see them merge with the walls now. However – with the crappy arbitrary limit of 50 still in, I have decided to avoid this entirely. Now, instead of snaking my towns towards resources as in early beta, I snake them around to avoid them entirely. I can get like 8-12 tiles per town extra this way. It looks awful.
Proposal: Make them not cost tiles, even if its just until you guys do something real with the tile limit. Otherwise, that snaking thing you successfully avoided during beta is back in reverse.
19) I always have waaay too much food. I am getting it from too many food resource spots, amplified by too many improvements, adventurers, and the insane and very easily attained caravans. I have never had food issues, and never come close to having them. All my cities just wander up to level 5, I build them in places ignoring where resources are, and instead go to wall off my territory. Without food as an obstacle, I do not need to pick and choose these things – I just build wherever. I think it needs looking at in detail.
20) City defences cost a lot of time. Mentioned these before, and it still bugs me. The crappest defences taking 20 turns seems out of place for the stage of gameplay they belong to.
Proposal: 12 turns for Kingdom Hedges, 10 for Empire stick-walls. I would not mind having to pay to upgrade them upon availability of better defences.
21) I do not know which city I am levelling up. Touched on this before, however now that inns and such do not provide gildar, I can lay off just getting the gold upgrade for every single settlement. I have a reasonable choice now, and its a bit less boring. However, when I have 6-10 cities, I cannot remember which library/temple is linked to which, and as such often have no idea if the city I am upgrading needs a tech or arcane upgrade – and I am unable to find out or postpone the upgrade until I can.
I have since realised that the city is kinda selected when the pop-up occurs, and thus the stats show in the bottom left. However, I am still blind as to what upgrades the city may be influencing towards, and in addition the stats panel is not always the one selected, leaving me as blind as ever sometimes.
Proposal: Either make the level-up not immediate, or show me some relevant stats on the popup.
22) Prestige seems useless at end-game. Nothing is going to take away my people at any sort of scary rate, so I might as well get rid of the things that give me prestige to make room for other things.
Proposal: Give it other uses. Attracting heroes to come wander around nearby would be a nice one. Or a bonus to trade. Just something to make it more interesting.
23) Show stats in build queue when the queue is empty. For instance: I go to the city of Andyroosville. I want to find something to build. With the build queue empty, I click build. In wondering what to build, I go to look at the stats, and discover it is showing me an empty build queue instead. Why? There is no information I can use here.
Proposal: Show stats instead of build queue if build queue is empty.
24) What is city production? I keep hiring guys that give +10% to it, but can not see any increase in anything to the city. Bit confusing.
25) I always end up with lots of one thing, but nowhere near enough of another. For instance, I end up with tons of metal every game, with no way to use it. However, I never have enough crystal. I feel in a good game I should see all resources as strained, and when I do have a surplus it should be a blessing.
Proposal: I want resource trading. I want to be able to spend what I have way too much of, in large amounts, for what I do not have enough of, in small amounts. This is partially possible with interacting with the AI, but they usually have massive surplus of some resources too, and as such refuse my own. While I think resources need looking at in general, this would be a nice way to help balance things out.
26) I occasionally cant cast a spell due to the unit card being in the way. My target ends up behind it, and as soon as I mouse-over, the unit card pops up. It is annoying, however I should add that it has decreased in occurrence since the side view of tactical combat became default. Still, its happened once or twice since, so if its an easy thing to modify...
Proposal: Seeing as the unit card has nothing to click, if the mouse goes into that section of the screen, hide the card. That way I can click behind it.
27) Upgrading units. A biggie, it makes no sense that I can create only fixed units of men. They can be decreased in number, and refill automatically, so why exactly can I not upgrade my old sized units? I end up with smaller units that just wont cut it in a fight littered all over the place. My starting solo militiamen just sitting there, for the entire game. If I could get them 11 buddies, I would go send them out to get smooshed by ogres instead.
Proposal: Upgrade any unit up to maximum current unit limit.
28) If the AI has only moving to do, move them all at once. It is annoying, especially early to mid game, when the AI brings in a full army of single guys, who then slowly and individually wander across the map at you. It really slows things down and nothing interesting happens as they move.
Proposal: Assuming the AI is just moving that turn, move them in synch. It would be faster, less dull, and look sort of like a charge.
29) Miss is too vague. My enemy may have a shield, he may have a sword. Armour. The ability to dodge through high dexterity. Or a thick hide. Or magical protection. But all I ever do is “miss”. When my imagination fills in the gaps here, I see my guys running at the enemy then stabbing the air, or floor, or nearby tree as they never made contact with their intended target. Am I hiring morons to fight my battles?
30) Nothing gets damaged taking over cities. No people die, no buildings torched, no looting or raids or devastation. This is meant to be a hostile takeover, where does it show?
Proposal: Show how I missed. Dodged? Parried? Blocked? Absorbed? Just something more descriptive than “miss”. It gets tiresome, I want to know more about what happened. It is okay around a DnD table because you have your DM to be descriptive, but in a game without that I feel more is needed.
31) Nerf diagonal movement. I think it is silly in general, and find the squares a bit basic, however that's just personal choice. Where it is far less personal choice, however, is when I cannot tactically block an advancing unit. Guy runs at me, I put a peon in-between us. With absolutely no penalties, that guy can then sidestep my peon and just keep on coming at me. Silly.
32) Enemy sovereign keeps suiciding at me. Really makes the game less fun when it just ends before it gets interesting because the enemy are turn suicidally nuts. Kids inheriting the throne feels pretty vital, I have to avoid wars entirely just to reach end game sometimes.
33) Option to turn off auto-designed units. I do not need them, want them, or use them. For me they purely exist to be made obsolete, and that takes up my time.
Proposal: Option to turn off auto-designed units.
34) Unit cards do not show me if my target has any friends. I refer here to the campaign map card, where if I target a pile of bandits, the card just shows me one. It would be nice if it showed me more, such as a stack of cards behind it, or said “and 5 friends”, just something to show that the guy on the card is in fact multiple guys. It can be a bit misleading at first.
35) Bears not scary enough. Seriously. I punched one to death. Its a freaking bear .
36) Magic feels unreliable. Damage is all over the place, specifically. Sometimes I do 1 damage, sometimes I do 12. Later on I get my max damage up into the 40s, and yet still get a bunch of 1-3s in there. Melee and archery, they should be like this – but I think magic should be a bit more capable.
Proposal: Damage floors for some spells, as in “8-16” damage instead of “miss-16”. I do not care what armour is being worn, unless you are temping from Fallout 3's Brotherhood of Steel then when I set you and the area around you on fire you will get burned. Getting off with a “miss” or a terribly low damage is silly because its magical fire.
37) Earth starts with a utility, others do not. I refer to the land alterations. I think to make each book more interesting, each spellbooks should have something at the start like that.
Proposal: Fire could remove forests, while water perhaps grow them, or causes swampland. Air I am less sure about. Perhaps move teleport here. Just something that can be of use at the start, like with the earth altering ones. Something the community can chime in on.
38) Casting the same spell over and over is tiresome. Lots of the time I cast the same spell in combat 2-5 times, and I have to go through the whole spell book process each damn time. We had the favourites thing in beta, and it was kinda shoddy. But also kinda useful, and I think something like it is needed – especially when you get more spells.
39) Why would I pick +2 attack over a huge stone golem? I refer to the enchantment limit. Running around boosting myself and my cities does not compare to being able to summon a free slightly overpowered army of elemental golems, and the limit currently means I have to choose which to do. The result is I end up avoiding actual enchantments in favour of summons.
Proposal: Separate summoning and enchantment limits. While important to have limits, it puts two different things into direct competition with as to what to choose, and one is simply better than the other, tactically speaking.
40) Tech trees are silly. Empires get better houses and trade first, then get far better trade. Kingdoms generally have palaces and schools and great mills and walls and magical towers – and then they only just figure out how to build a damn house? Weapons lead to armour and horses are included in basic equipment. So much of the tech tree just does not make sense. I could likely do a whole post on this alone, but I currently lack the sufficient data. I just wanted to mention it. I just think it needs to be all drawn out on a wall or something, then considered at length.
41) More passive techs. I do not mean at the end, I mean before then. We go through the game with almost entirely interesting techs, ones that give us something to use. Then we reach the end and get a bunch of dull +10% things. I want more scattered off to the side of the tech tree. One shot, rare to find, different techs that provide a passive bonus. An alternative to levelling up to get something you don't really want yet. I find this happening a lot, where I research things I just will not use because there's nothing else I really want right now.
Proposal: Dead end, single techs, reaching off from existing techs. Random, and rare, not turning up in every game. It would provide some unpredictability, and they could be an interesting thing that simply adds to the moment, instead of being useful after some construction effort or recruitment drive. For instance, +1 mana regen, or a +% to a certain elements damage spells in the magic tree. The green civvy tree could have + to productivities, the military tree to stats and recruitment. More specific things in general than the existing end game endless techs, that only appear rarely, providing you with a choice in the moment.
42) Master Quest is too easy. When I think of a Master Quest, one that will bring on ultimate victory, I think of the obvious – a trip across the world to Mount Doom, through good and evil kingdoms with lots of battles. I won a few games ago by beating up a few spiders in a nearby field, then just over some hills I fought some vague assortment of enemies, then I went back and won the game. I didn't have to fight any wars to reach the next area, or bribe any kingdoms to let me pass. There were no cataclysmal events, no four corners of the world, no distant lonely isles with haunting terrors. Just spiders in a field. Felt like an effortless victory, needed “MOAR EPIC”. Or at least I think that is the internettian term for it.
43) What happened to rivers? I remember them being around in beta 1, where they could be funky due to the terrain generation. After that, they vanished. Now that maps are “not random” (according to some), and instead formed using pre-made seeded continents, due to apparently issues with the “real” random map generation, does this not also get around the issues with the rivers, as such making it possible to throw them back in?
44) I love the wilds. This ones a positive one, I wanted to include it. I was worried that Elemental would just end up with cities everywhere, however am happy to find all these resource-barren areas that end up a no mans land, with just monsters and adventurers running around. Its neat, and I like to maintain these useless areas as adventuring grounds. Don't ruin them or anything. Okay?
Alright, I think that is all for now. Some of these may seem minor, however consider that the term used for a thing that lacks even the tiniest flaws is “perfection”. If you read all almost-5000 words, well then congratulations. I am not sure I would. Thank you.
And to Stardock, it has been a rough release, but I would not define it as catastrophic as some make out, it has been playable and I have enjoyed. Do not be too hard on yourselves. However, considering you almost certainly are, good – keep it up. It's that ability to care we depend on for our shiny future patches.