I ran into a totally unexpected development playing the latest patch: I had fun.
Nothing slapped me in the face and broke the experience. No crashes, no freezes, no performance slowdowns. The mechanic that I went into the game intending to test actually functioned as designed, and I got to enjoy rampaging around exploiting it. The AI, while still playing quite differently than I, didn't just fold like cheap cardboard. I feel like the battles that I've won against other factions were earned by strategically hitting timing and positional windows, and I even felt compelled (by the massive army literally on my doorstep) to pay a more powerful neighbor cash for a non-aggression pact (though the AI's price might have been a bit on the cheap side). Actually, the fact that an AI could even be competitive in power level at this stage in the game is notable - particularly since I'd already bumrushed and conquered my starting neighbor! Even the magic worked; though the balance of various spells and spellbooks is questionable (Teleport is ridiculously powerful, while stuff like Evade is... less so), none of my spells failed to function as advertised.
It's just really, really odd to play a game of Elemental without stuff going horribly wrong. This game isn't actually supposed to be fun, is it?