So I've been thinking a long while about this, and a major missing factor in Elemental - at least in the skirmish games - is the overwhelming evil. That is, the world is based around the same formula: you build a city, you expand, you possibly conquer, you possibly make friends. The world only truly affects you insofar as it is a consistent stumbling block. Claiming territory and expanding is limited by the denizens of the wild.
Thus, I propose World Events, based around a Nemesis Faction. These are the Sauron to our Middle-Earth, the war of our third age that units the races against the dominion of Mordor. Events can be triggered by set conditions or occur at a later stage in the game, and are meant to be threats that, alone, the player cannot defeat. Stand against, perhaps, but not actually beat, and is meant to unite the factions - kingdom and empire both - against the greater threat. The Lich King to our Alliance and Horde, a third faction that pauses a war.
The mechanic's goal is simple - to give the epic quality that stories have but is generally lacking in skirmish maps. It is done through spicing the game up, and actually giving a strong reason to work together for a truly common goal. Of course, there are other benefits - while your 'allies' are busy fighting, you could be preparing to overwhelm their broken defenses and build your own nation on their weakened backs. Perhaps true alliances come forth while others dissolve. And, naturally, those who fight are rewarded with artifacts, tools, weapons, and magic of an ancient age that could be pivotal in your conquests.
World events would be toggleable when making a map. Just want a default skirmish? You can have it. Do you want a World Event to occur, but not be a victory condition in and of itself? Also an option. The power belongs to the players here.
- Positive relations build very slowly after the emergence of a Nemesis Faction, making it easier for factions to ally as the threat grows.
- To prevent factions from being curb stomped, the emergence of a Nemesis is forewarned, perhaps by mad prophets or what have you. It gives players a chance to prepare.
- To also prevent factions from being curb stomped, the Nemesis Faction always has an opposing faction of heroes. From the Azure Knights to any number of minor factions, players are not alone.
- Instead of outright crushing a Nemesis Faction, players may also follow a long, high-level quest that spans nations to banish/defeat the Nemesis.
- Nemesis Factions do not automatically declare war and instead must build their power, too.
- Factions may ally with the Nemesis, often at personal cost (resources, etc.) but in exchange for a taste of power - spells, weapons, etc.
- Nemesis units themselves are superpowered boss-level characters, akin to the Elemental Lords. Nemesis also have their own custom heroes that, once felled, do not rise again - but they are much stronger than most heroes they might face.
Some examples of world events...
1) The Fallen Enchantress. I can't speak much to this one, since we've not had much/anything to go off of. But in this World Event, somewhere in the world a great tower appears under the control of the Fallen Enchantress. From this tower, minions pour forth to do her bidding. I felt that, since the game is called Fallen Enchantress, she should probably be involved.
2) A Dread Lord. One of the still-surviving Dread Lords makes his return, and seeks to bind the races of men and fallen to his bidding. Armed with legions of demons and terrible magic, his will to dominate is stronger than many can imagine, and he will not stop until all the world is under his boot. The Dread Lord is less about having legions of his own followers, and more about turning the races against each other, often creating Fallen vs Human conflicts - those who will not bow will die.
3) The Shadow of Death. A great warlord from across the seas has landed with an army, garbed in black cloaks. With magic and steel, he will sweep away the tattered remnants of humanity and raise his banner atop the fallen. The Shadow of Death challenges everyone equally, his sole purpose the destruction of opposition.
I hope that others find this at least interesting.