First game I played was on challenging using Tarth - it was not interesting and easy I posted my opinions here and got flamed(by some) because I was playing Tarth on the default settings. I then started a new game with a custom sovereign - I dont remember what perks I went with exactly but it was mediocre - I did not pick any of the stronger traits because I did not want to abuse the game too much.
I don't review games but have a background in professional RTS gaming back when few people did that and have played many turn based strategy games even though I wouldn't call myself very good at TBS - simply because I never spent too much time on any one TBS game (other than Homm3/Homm2 a long time ago).
The short version:
I think that unfortunately Fallen Enchantress fails at the greater picture of being a fun game to play. After my first play through I thought that most of this can be remedied by balance but unfortunately, after the 2nd game, I think the game design simply does not work - it strays from the conventional tried and true ways of TBS in many aspects but fails to provide anything better and as silly as it might sound, for a game of this scope, it fails to delivery variety and uniqueness.
The long version.
Main problems with game design -
1)City management -
Why are cities even in this game - in most TBS games, you start with a wimpy outpost that can barely produce a chair given a whole season, and end up with something that can build a submarine in a couple of days - this is cool!
Not so in FE, you start with a normal kind of city, and you end up with a better version of the same city some 130-250 turns later. The only thing that has any effect on how nice it is are the starting stats - thats it, it doesn’t matter what you do to that city because everything works off of the starting stats or and adjacent resources. There can be many cities and they all look the same and can function in the same way - they might produce more gold or mana or whatever else but who cares about those things - which brings me to my next point....
2)Resources are just numbers -
Sure, for the few people that like this game and will play it hardcore on some very high difficulties they are very useful, but on Expert you hardly really need any resources - sure, you use them, but really, you almost always have a choice to do something else - dont have enough gold to get that hero - its ok, it can wait anyway, and you do have so many other things you can do. Dont have mana to cast spells - thats ok because you almost always have the option not to, or just wait till you can.
Your heroes always have stuff they can be doing, so even if you cant do something right now, you have something else to do - so in essence you don't really NEED all those resources. - This of course will not apply to the people that play the game on hard settings, but for us mere mortals this argument stands.
What about crystals, Metals and all that other stuff - well I have 130 turns into the game ending with a victory on a medium map with 3 other AIs and I havent used either, yet they are there from the very start of the game. And YES, I realize there are strategies that would really require you to invest in those early on, but you can do just fine without them for a long while.
GOLD - This is the only useful resource - the main reason to do anything with your cities and will allow you to do everything. In fact gold is paramount to your success in higher difficulties, this is fine, but boring. Its somewhat sad that half the game spent dealing with cities mostly amounts just to this one resource.
What? The name Fallen Enchantress is very accurate - you do feel like a fallen mage that can maybe enchant some stuff - mainly big items like cities, but you can also do champions and yourself.
Wait, what about real magic? Its really easy to slow and haste and do a couple of other minor things, but since everyone gets the same spells and most starting heroes have a couple its just becomes part of the strategic interface. Your slow never gets better, and your fire spells do +2 damage per fire shard - How many fire shards will you have in your empire is anyone guess. In short, magic is not very magical and often times even on a mage kind of hero you are much better off using weapons especially if you have nice equipment to go with it.
Again, yes I do realize you can play a very customized empire and hero build that would allow for some magic potency - but really, its not easy, requires extreme min maxing to be competitive and also luck.
Spells also cost a FORTUNE, so you can hardly afford to cast them all the time until later in the game and only if you have been carefully cultivating your citizens, got lucky with essence, etc. Its not very fun to play a magic based sov only to find out you cant get any mana.
Most are boring, some are cool, a lot of the boring items quickly become useless and the cool ones are far in between.
Now I know this was done to balance stuff out but you literaly get the same "magical" item 10 times in one game. but wait, once you look more carelly its not so magical its just another stat here and there. You can buy some items. You need gold to do that, and how do you get gold? Well one of the easiest ways is just selling stuff - in fact instead of using most of the stuff you get from fighting - you just sell it, because its useless anyway and spend that money on a new champion or rush something or get some items - like a horse.
Why not just give more gold in spoils and make the useless items disappear. Do I really need 10 venom sacks? 20 wolf pelts? 10 spider webs?
All of this has a big effect on heroes - for example, in my current game I really wanted my hero to wield a bow with double shot, picked all the right perks for that - I wanted a hero with a bow and some magic,.
In the end I never found a bow to wield, wasted abilities on that and had to pick other ones that would compliment a sword.
Why the hell do my warrior heroes get all those magic perks and the other way around - you can have a very strong hero by level 8 if you get luck with a few abilities and a fairly shitty hero by level 15.
Skills like double strike, dodge, some others are very good, but a lot of skills are idiotic. Also, while you are able to pick certain paths, that absolutely does not mean that you aren’t stuck with what are often useless choices for skills.
All of this makes Heroes feel bland and you just end up with a bunch of similar heroes running around.
Add to this that most of the time, at least on Expert the AI heroes are a worthless bunch of idiots and the amount of heroes you get varies ALOT you start to wonder why you have them in the first place. I think it would be much cooler to have only units that could level up with new abilities and maybe your Sov for all those items, maybe +1 hero when you get certain tech.
The monsters are good for the most part, and are somewhat varied, which is nice. BUT, boy do they start to annoy the shit out of me when around turn 100 all these wimpy monsters start to roam the land and you have to micro manage stuff to fight them in case one of the packs actually presents any danger – I realize this might be a way to get extra experience for new armies... but its annoying.
Why are some good and some are useless and again its completely random which ones and how many you get?! Some are stronger than they are led to believe while some are weaker and there is no way of knowing which is which without knowing every quest in the game. Its frustrating to find out that a “medium” strength quest has 8 Ogres guarding it killing the army you worked so hard for early in the game, while some other medium strength quests are easy. And all those Epic quests the game is full of? I was way too busy killing the AI to be doing anything on that side, not to mention my army was probably way too weak and I wasnt gonna fall into the guessing-how-strong-the-quest is again. I could of course save and reload but that gets old really fast and besides there seems to be a lot of hating “cheaters” on these boards so I did not resort to that despicable tactic.
NOW TO THE REALLY BAD STUFF!
Unfortunately the worst part of this game stems from its poor AI. Without resorting to an insane amount of bonuses and just plain AI “cheating” of the kind that was prevalent 20 years ago in computer games, given the complexity of the game the AI cannot present any challenge, and unfortunately the game designers did not design the game keeping in mind the limitations of said AI.
One AI in my expert game was building Juggernauts by turn 70 I think with fully built up cities(and of cource rushing some without paying) . Another AI had just 2 cities and fell relatively quickly. Both had very poor heroes and it is evident that the AI does not know how to play the game – it only knows how to build units and attack you.
Given the amount of cheating help the AI gets to provide for a challenge to the player it becomes obvious just how limited it is.
A lot of this may come from the RPG and neutral stack fighting part of the game – its just a game the AI does not know or care to play, yet THAT is a major part of the game.
In short -the AI sucks at this game, and probably not because Frogboy does not know how to code AI. There is a reason why the majority of games that combine a lot of RPG with strategy are single player campaign mode only – its pretty hard to code a good AI for those games without resorting to a lot of bonuses and free units, etc.
I dont know much about that aspect of the game because I played the 2 of my games without building almost any units, and I was still able to win. Its not that I didn’t want to build units – I just never had the need to, and it didn’t seem like the right thing to do.
So I guess I missed on a big part of the game but that’s hardly my fault.
The game lacks any balance. Which brings me to my next point.
Some are good, some are bad, some are worst, but the custom creation traits lack any balance whatsoever, and needs to be redone. Of course that in itself does not hinder the player from enjoying the game but certainly some Ais are far better than others. Juggernauts being one example.
Where it goes totally wrong
The biggest problem of them all I think though is this – despite the fact that the game features many races, customized units and other stuff, the game feels like a Mod made by someone off of a different game.
In other words, the tools are there to make it a good game but the wrong design choices were made.
Example: Custom units – these would be great in mutli player but really, whats the point for a handicapped AI? The AI obviously cant do a good job designing them, And does not understand how to use the units it designs, it in turn that handicaps the AI. And the player can surely take advantage of the AI by designing certain overpowered combinations of traits – thus the AI would need more cheating to beat the player.
But even more than that, the game shies away from diversity when it comes to how the player can play the game – the races are all similar, the units are the same for these races, there are no Trolls, Dwarfs, Gnomes, Orcs. Elves or whatever else you can come up with in a game like this to make things more diverse.
The point here is having units in the game that are more than just some stats attached to them – units that have special abilities and require strategies to play against. Mix of different kind of units requiring the player to think how to beat a certain combination.
Instead what you have is just stacks of spearmen, or swordmen or whatever else that the AI pumps out. And the Neutrals on the map are very much the same way, save for a few exceptions.
Let me finish by saying something I am sure I will get flamed for – Both games I played I did not finish. For a simple reason – it was not fun to play anymore. I killed 2 Ais in both of these games while not even encountering the 3rd AI – while in the second game I have revealed almost the entire map.
I just stopped playing the Expert/Expert game when for the 10th time the pitiful lord Verga used the last of his mana and escaped yet to another city that I have absolutely no idea where it might be and I am too tired to gather a search party. Lord Verga will NOT surrender though his score is now a mere 20 to mine 200 (was 120(him) to 70(me after killing first AI) when he declared war), furthermore, he wont even accept PEACE, even though it says the value of peace is -720 gold?!
I have 16 or so cities that I dont know what to do with. Ahead of me is a tech tree that I need to research with countless techs that I surely wont need to finish the other AI .
Now I really wanted to like this game, its sounds very fund and it is the kind of game I enjoy the most. However everything about this game is poorly designed.
Much may be fixed with balancing and tweaking – it does seem like this is a VERY modder friendly game.
But right now the game is broken at the core and is not very fun to replay. The AI is either too easy or frustrating when you see that its pumping units that you could not possibly hope for and that it cheats on every level from unit creation to buildings to scouting to founding cities, its relationship Neutral monsters and the list goes on – the game design makes the odds stack against the AI so its only hope to win is massively cheating.
There ARE good things about this game but in its core its broken, at least in my opinion - if you enjoy the game please continue playing and enjoying, do not flame me or the post for posting my opinion with something like "this game is so good you dont know how to play or enjoy it, why do you make posts about how the game sucks -just dont play it" - I took the time to make the post so that the community can benefit
To be clear, while I may not be playing much for this game for a while my hope in making this post is that some of these problems are addressed in the future by either Stardock or the Modding community, as well as promoting meaningful discussions of this game.
Thanks for reading.