Over here at IncGamers Towers, we’re very, very excited by Stardock’s forthcoming 4X title Elemental: War of Magic. We understand that you might not be, and we reckon that’s a crying shame. As such, we got in touch with Brad Wardell, CEO and president of Stardock and executive producer on Elemental, to get details on the basics and to hear about some of the genuinely exciting features we can expect from Elemental later this year.IncGamers: First off, give us an overview of Elemental: War of Magic. What is it, how does it play, and how’s it coming along?Brad Wardell: Elemental is a fantasy strategy game that puts the player in the role of a Sorcerer King (or queen) of a fledgling kingdom. Players found new cities, research new technology, learn spells, build armies, build a family dynasty, go on quests, fight wars and generally try to take over the world. [Grins]As you might expect for a game with “magic” in the title, the most intriguing aspect for us is the magic system itself. How does that function, and what can we expect to see from spells? More importantly, are there spells of truly apocalyptic, world-ending power?Through the course of the game, players will encounter magical shards. Controlling these shards gives players access to powerful spells that can be used in combat, to improve their own cities, or used to further their other objectives. The Elemental game engine is deformable so spells can be very destructive in the late phases of the game.Elemental is often described as a spiritual successor to Microprose’s legendary early-90s title, Master of Magic, which featured a robust tactical combat system. What can we expect on this from Elemental?When two armies meet, the map zooms in closer and players give orders to the individual units in their armies. The concept of coverage and high ground and such are all taken into effect as well as the morale of your soldiers. The goal is to have the tactical combat be intuitive but still sophisticated enough to deliver a lot of strategic depth to the player.For that matter, how do you feel about the comparisons to Master of Magic?Elemental is definitely not a Master of Magic sequel. The comparison is probably because it’s more similar to Master of Magic than other games that have come out in the genre. The main areas they are similar is the focus on designing your own Sorcerer (Wizard in MoM), lots of different factions to choose from, randomly generated maps and city building. I think those are some of the key ingredients people are looking for.Elemental, being 15 years newer, has the benefit of a great deal of hardware improvements so we can have multiplayer, 3D accelerated spell effects, visual character customization, and just generally a lot more “stuff”.Elemental appears to have an interesting twist on diplomacy, with the addition of things like the “family” system. What can you tell us about that?
We’re big fans of both Tolkien and George R R Martin’s Game of Thrones. In both cases, the effect of familial lines (your dynasty) really matters. It matters in terms of producing powerful heirs and it matters in terms of arranging marriages and such to tie other kingdoms and empires together.One particularly striking thing about Elemental is the art style, with an almost cel-shaded look up close, while the zoomed-out world appears as a giant cloth map. How did you get this idea?
In terms of the cloth map. We figured that when you zoom out on a fantasy world, it should look like an cloth map that we have seen time and time again in the fantasy genre of books and such.In terms of the illustrative style, we wanted to have a distinctive and attractive visual style that was both nice to look at and would allow us to a lot more freedom in customizing units and having lots of different units on screen and still run on a wide range of hardware.From what I’ve seen, the beta updates so far have spent awhile playing with and changing the economy. Has the economy proof a troblem?The economy has been the central focus of the beta. It was probably my biggest objective in getting right in Elemental. I was not really satisfied with how the economic system in Galactic Civilizations worked at times and wanted to try something very different. So the beta testers and us have gone back and forth trying different systems to see what we found the most enjoyable to play.Was it important for you to include modding in there in a big way? How accessible will it be, and can we expect tutorials? Will modders be able to change *everything* in the game?Modding is a major part of our focus with the game. It helps keep the game fresh and growing long term. I don’t know at this stage what is and isn’t going to be moddable on release date but I do know that over time, I would expect pretty much everything to be moddable in the game. I plan to make a little RPG type game as a mod in my spare time.Actually, genuinely, truly finally: Are there any giant spiders? I hate giant spiders.Indeed. There are a lot of giant spiders. [Grins]Oh, hell. Thank you, Brad!Elemental: War of Magic is tentatively due out on PC around 1 September 2010, and can be pre-ordered from the official site right now.