Fallen Enchantress PC

Published by Stardock Entertainment
Developed by Stardock Entertainment

It's been a long time since we've had a quality high-fantasy 4X strategy title. In fact, some would argue that the last memorable game in this sub-genre is a game called Master of Magic which was released back in 1994. Experienced 4X strategy game developer Stardock Entertainment have tried their hand at such a game before with a title called Elemental: War of Magic but unfortunately the end result was slightly disappointing. Not to be deterred however, Stardock have given it another go with Fallen Enchantress and the result this time around is much more satisfactory.

In Fallen Enchantress you'll play as a Sovereign. These Sovereigns are fighting for control of their world. There are not just rival factions to battle against however. The world itself is full of creatures that are quite capable of crushing your forces. You'll develop cities, just as you would in games such as Sid Meier's Civilization, although there is less emphasis here on attempting to create as many cities as you possibly can. Cities are important however and you'll develop them in order to provide you with the necessary research, funds and resources needed to give you armies that are powerful enough to help you attain victory. As you'd expect from a 4X strategy title, there are various routes to victory. By far the most obvious route is conquest but there are other options such as diplomacy and completing epic quests.

In Fallen Enchantress, in addition to taking a tutorial, you can opt to start a New Game or jump into the Scenarios mode. The New Game mode is where you're going to spend most of your time with the game and it allows you to pick one of the factions to control, choose one of six pre-configured maps (or randomly generate a map if you prefer) and select from a range of variables including choosing victory conditions, difficulty level, resource levels and so forth. What makes this mode so satisfying is that all of the factions play very differently from each other and aren't simply slightly variations of each other. The Scenarios mode offers a different experience in that there's more focus on the storyline and less emphasis on building up an infrastructure for your faction. You are put into the shoes of Lord Relias and your mission is simply to find the lost Temple of Odenvell but there's much to be done before you'll get there and things go a little pear shaped once you do. Suffice to say that finding it is only the beginning of the story and your problems.

4X strategy games usually begin at a leisurely pace with the complexity gradually increasing as the game progresses. To use chess parlance, in the mid and end game there's typically much more to consider. Fallen Enchantress does things a little differently. The key difference here is that the opening phase of the game can be quite difficult. You can be confronted by enemies who can give you a good hiding if you're not careful. This means that you'll need to be cautious when engaging in combat during the early stages of a game. The Champions you recruit also have a good chance of being defeated in battle early on and in the process they will acquire injuries that will almost certainly hamper their future development and fighting prowess. In some respects this could be seen as punitive but in actual fact I found that it caused me to be much more alert in the early stages of a game than in other 4X titles. It also forces you to not simply attack every enemy you encounter.

Prior to the commencement of a battle you're given a breakdown of how your forces compare to those of the enemy so you can rescind your battle orders if you feel your opponents are going to overpower you. That said, the breakdown you're given doesn't always make you fully aware of the nature of the enemies you're up against. Some opponents can appear to be rather weak but still have a sting in the tail meaning you're not going to walk away from the battle without any casualties.

It’s a minor disappointment that the battles are pretty standard affairs. If you have decided to control the battle yourself you're taken to a battle screen and here you'll take it in turns moving units (the order is determined by each unit's initiative). Getting in powerful ranged attacks from distance is certainly the way to go although this isn't always an option. Hand-to-hand combat can be brutal so it's something you'll only want to engage in if you're confident that you can overcome your foes. The game doesn't appear to take terrain and elevation into consideration which is a pity and you'll see spells and projectiles fly straight through objects such as rocks, trees and stones which seems a little bizarre. However, for all of the problems the battles are fairly enjoyable and the AI does a good job of handling the combat should you choose to auto-resolve a battle. You can even hand over control to the AI during the course of a battle if you wish.

Some aspects of the game will feel familiar to you if you're used to such games as Sid Meier's Civilization. You could argue that the various enemies that you'll find in the game world are comparable to the barbarians you'd find in a Civ game but as I've already mentioned they can actually be much more brutal than that. Notable locations are essentially the same things as the Goodie Huts you find in the Civ games and in fact in the game's built-in encyclopaedia they are referred to as Goodie Huts. You'll also need to conduct research and attempt to make your faction more technologically advanced. There are three technology trees in the game for civilisation, warfare and magic. There's also a similar focus on the scramble for valuable resources here too although this can be a little more difficult than in the Civ games, particularly in the more punishing early part of the game.

Fallen Enchantress is also an RPG too and one of the key differences between it and other 4X games are the quests that you'll find scattered around the game world (indicated by the use of scroll icons). I found the quests really added to the experience and helped to give some added purpose to the map exploration, incidentally the game comes with a collection of maps and a random map generator. Completing quests allows you to find useful items that can be equipped to your Sovereign or Champions. Not all of the quests feel like they tie in with the game's storyline but that's not really much of a problem. Speaking of which, the game tells the story of the aftermath of a cataclysm in the world of Elemental. The fallout of the cataclysm left a collection of factions that have designs on establishing dominion over the world. The factions, and indeed even the Champions you'll encounter in the game, are aligned with either the Kingdoms of Men or the Empires of the Fallen. On a basic level, those who are aligned with either the Kingdoms or the Empire are sworn enemies of the other but differences do run deeper than that. The storyline on the whole is decent and mostly good enough for a game of this nature although, as I'll point out later in the review, it's not as accessible as it could have been. You could argue that some of the quest dialogue isn't so hot but nevertheless I felt that it was good enough so as not to detract from the experience.

On a basic level all of your units will gain experience from a victorious battle and level-up making them more powerful and more capable of tackling stronger enemies. Sovereigns and Champions can be equipped with various items such as robes, armour, weapons, scrolls, potions and weapons. They will also acquire their own collection of spells and skills during the course of the game. On levelling-up, Champions and Sovereigns will also gain traits and you'll get to choose which trait they attain allowing you a further degree of customisation. You can also choose a particular path for your Sovereign or Champion to follow during their development. While standard unit types can be lost in battle, Champions and Sovereigns are simply knocked unconscious and will need time to recover after the battle. Whilst Sovereigns aren't penalised for being defeated, apart from not earning any experience from the battle, defeated Champions will acquire injuries that will hamper their fighting prowess as the game progresses. There are items which can remove some of these 'permanent' injuries however. It should also be noted that if your Sovereign falls in battle and you don't have control over a city, it will be game over.

Sovereigns, Champions and trained units and not the only things in the game that will level-up. Your cities too will acquire levels when certain population targets are met. On reaching level two you'll have a choice to make. You must choose one of three specialisation paths for your city: they can become either a conclave, fortress or town. The conclave is a city which specialises in research, magic and other studious pursuits. You'll have a boosted research output when nothing is being built and you'll gain access to structures that earn you extra research, influence and mana when your city attains higher levels. As you'd expect, fortresses are preferable for militaristic aims. They essentially allow your city to specialise in defence and military might and are useful if you intend to wage war on your opponents. They will help you to create stronger military units and these will be at a cheaper cost. Finally there's the town. Towns are cities which focus on infrastructure and their economy. Town improvements can enlarge your borders and boost resource supplies. The improvements a town offers can improve the health of your faction as a whole rather than just the individual city so you'll want to make sure you have a few of them if you want to truly develop your faction.

One of Stardock's real strengths is their ability to give the user the power to customise and there are plenty of customisation options in Fallen Enchantress. On starting a new game you have the option of choosing one of the available Sovereigns, each of whom have their own faction to control. Should you not like the look of these Sovereigns you can create your own, male or female, and align them to the faction of your choice. The factions all play differently and all have their advantages and disadvantages so you'll want to choose wisely when deciding which faction to align with. If that's not enough customisation for you, you can go the whole hog and create your own faction too. You'll have the ability to choose the faction's race, strengths and weaknesses, appearance, ideology and even write their story to fully set the background for them.

The customisation options don't end their however. You have the ability to design your own custom units in-game and even post them to Facebook if you’re so inclined. The game also comes with a collection of tools that allow you to create custom content. The Builder's Forge allows you to design tiles which can be linked to Goodie Huts, Improvements and Resources. The Cartographer's Table is a powerful editor that allows you to create your own maps with minimal effort. The Particle Cauldron allows you to design spells and their visual effects. Finally, as we've already mentioned, there's a Faction Creator which gives you full control over creating your very own faction. The real beauty of these tools will be seen over time of course but at least the potential is there for quality user-made content to appear over the coming months and give added value to the game.

Graphically Fallen Enchantress is no slouch although it's not quite as impressive as some games in the genre. The look of the game certainly has its plus points however. I had no problems at all with the interface and it all felt natural which is actually impressive for a 4X game as they are usually more complex in nature than other strategy games. The colourful look of the game world and its characters felt appropriate and it was pleasing to see the frame rate hold up well even on the larger maps. If you zoom out far enough the game will switch to a cloth map view which essentially gives you both a more basic and clearer view of the game world. In this view your forces and enemies are represented as table-top miniatures and cities, resources and other important information is viewed as a drawing on the cloth map. I really appreciated this view when I wanted a clearer view of things and I really like that you can set the zoom level at which the graphics switch to the cloth map view. In fact you can play just from this view if you prefer.

Whilst I have enjoyed, and indeed am continuing to enjoy Fallen Enchantress, the game isn't as accessible as it could have been. The main problem is that the game's cut scenes are not subtitled. Neither the opening movie nor, more disappointingly, the cut scenes that are shown between the chapters in the game's Scenarios mode are subtitled. The main problem with the absence of subtitles is that you're missing out on some of the storyline which is unfortunate and it detracts a little from the Scenarios mode. The game does come with a tutorial and this tutorial does make use of videos to help you get to grips with the game's concepts. None of these videos are subtitled. There are two important points to make here however. First of all the tutorial is actually pretty lacklustre and can easily be skipped without any real problems. Secondly the game comes with its own built-in encyclopaedia called the Hiergamenon which includes text information for each of the game's concepts and reading this is much more useful than playing through the game's tutorial. There are some videos to be found in the Hiergamenon and these aren't subtitled but at least you have text information for each of them which helps to compensate for this.

For the most part Fallen Enchantress is a game that's easy to recommend to fans of 4X strategy games. For a 4X game the opening phase can seem more challenging than usual but this is compensated for by entertaining mid and end game phases that don't ever get too bogged down like some other games in the genre. The role playing elements have been implemented surprisingly well and serve to make an even more addictive experience than it would otherwise be. The customisation creator tools that have been included with the game should guarantee a healthy supply of user-generated content too which will only help to add longevity to the game. Stardock Entertainment already has a superb 4X series on its hands with the Galactic Civilization series and Fallen Enchantress shows enough to suggest they may have another one, particularly if future games can build on everything that's impressive about this one. 

In our opinion this game is: Impressive

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Deaf Gamers Classification


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