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Take a peek into the deeply layered world of Fallen Enchantress

by Han Cilliers (Lola)  Posted Monday, January 14, 2013 10:50:24 AM

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Fallen Enchantress is a game like no other: it requires a mind that feeds on intrigue, has an aptitude for strategic gameplay and the desire to explore mechanics and complexities. The game is far above my patience, intellect and adrenaline rush inclination so I have searched far and wide across the Internet in order to find a gamer who felt at home in the daunting world of Fallen Enchantress.

I found Eben Illingworth, gamer, thinker, and ‘extreme challenge junkie’, he is also busy setting up his own video games Indie studio (more about that in the coming months). His passion for multi-layered strategy games, deeply immersive storylines and the opportunity to ‘outplay the game’ led him to the enchanted door of Fallen Enchantress. Join us for a talk about this fascinating game.

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In your opinion, what sets Fallen Enchantress apart from other games?

Fallen Enchantress is largely about exploration. The game map is covered with locations that offer quests your heroes can follow, loot to be collected, magic shards that can be harnessed to multiply the power of your magic and independent armies of monsters and men that begin roaming the area if approached. As the map is cleared and the wild lands settled, research offers the opportunity of new, higher-level quests appearing to challenge the stronger heroes. This living environment and the ever-changing challenge it presents to the player as they expand their empire is an element I haven’t seen incorporated into any other game with such success.”

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Fallen Enchantress is a RPG/Strategy hybrid; explain how these two very different genres blend to form a unique gaming experience.

“At its core, Fallen Enchantress is a city-building game of expansion and conquest, a “4X” game:  exploration, expansion, exploitation and extermination. Strategy becomes tactics during army battles, when turned-based combat is resolved on a grid map.

The RPG elements are brought into play via the heroes in your arsenal. You begin each game with your leader—either chosen from a list of characters or created from scratch. They have a long list of stats, some basic initial equipment and the ability to recruit other heroes they meet on the map—usually for a price. Each of these heroes gains experience and levels up, with many different upgrades and new abilities to choose from along the way. It’s not uncommon to have armies comprised solely of two or three heroes, roaming the map and slaying with impunity. Heroes are also the only units who can trigger quests at the quest locations you find. A typical quest involves a fetch-it or kill-it scenario that leads you around the map and into combat, most often ending with a reward of treasure.

In addition, there are large areas of the map that are under the dominion of supernatural monsters or powers, each with its own back story and characters. Clearing these areas forms an extended subplot to the main goal of victory and offers significant reward.

All in all, these RPG elements provide a context and depth that help colour the more typical pursuits of any 4X game. There is no over-arching quest and branching storyline, but rather a richness of environment and activity your heroes can use to explore and grow. The effect is a deeper personal investment by the player in the heroes and a stimulation of the imagination that doesn’t exist in other strategy titles.”

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The AI in Fallen Enchantress plays the major role in enabling player immersion. Does the game succeed in holding that immersion until end game?

“In this game, the player struggles as much against the environment—the map on which they seek to expand their empire—as they do against the AI players. Diplomacy and trade is a fairly important aspect of victory and agreements such as non-aggression pacts and economic treaties last longer than most games. You may very well win a game without ever crossing a particular opponent’s border or even finding their capital city. That being said, the AI’s use of armies on the map and units in battle can probably be termed “adequate”. There are occasional behaviors that seem questionable, but in the end the immersive quality of the game and its many elements compensate for the occasional shortfall.”

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Turn based strategy battles tend to become repetitive and boring. How do Fallen Enchantress’ battles fare in this regard?

“I would call this a risk rather than a tendency and is often a matter of taste. Games like the Jagged Alliance and X-com franchises are examples of turn-based combat that never grows old, while other popular titles that may have sacrificed choice and complexity in favour of easier game-play have also suffered from repetitiveness and dull battles.

The strength of Fallen Enchantress is certainly in its strategic and RPG elements, rather than its tactical battles. Typically it’s the presence of a hero—with their options of spell-casting and other character actions—that make a particular battle engaging. For me personally, the most enjoyment comes from seeing how my carefully designed and equipped units fare on the battlefield. A few unit designs are automatically offered in your cities’ build menus as your research progresses, but the real fun comes when you design your own. Every army unit in the game has the same array of statistics and potential abilities as your heroes—though of course, not as strong. These statistics are determined by the armour, weapons and equipment you choose for them along with the abilities you specify based on a point system. The end result is a highly-personalized army you feel heavily invested in and seeing them perform on the battlefield is satisfying—or heart-breaking.”

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At first glance, Fallen Enchantress seems dauntingly complicated. What advice would you give for newcomers to this world?

“With any immersive strategy game comes a learning curve. Playing these games is a matter of taste: one doesn’t expect the same instantaneous gratification you might get playing a good first-person shooter from a strategy title whose individual games could easily run as long as 30 or 40 hours. When I completed my last game, I was shocked to see the total play time was over 90 hours.

That being said, there’s no reason why a player needs to understand how every statistic and game element relates to one another. Indeed, there are still some areas that remain a mystery to me even after my last marathon. That doesn’t stop you from having fun. In fact, knowing there is that level of complexity and thought going on under the covers is what gives you the feeling you’re playing inside a living, organic environment. You don’t need to know the math behind combat to figure out you should give your units horses to make them faster and armour to keep them alive. If your city is hungry, build a bakery; never mind how it affects the regional wheat multiplier and the adjusted food score. If you find yourself getting trounced, simply lower the difficulty.

In the end, discovering bit-by-bit how the gaming world works and coming up with new ideas for taking advantage of that knowledge is as enjoyable as exploring the world itself.”  

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Closing thoughts

I have to admit, I want to try this game. I’ve been looking for something new, a gaming experience that will challenge me on more levels than my ability to aim and shoot. I don’t like the usual run of the mill type of strategy game and Fallen Enchantress though sounds anything but ordinary.

How about you, fancy giving it a go? You can purchase the game through Steam for R349. Check out the launch trailer for a look into the mysterious world of Fallen Enchantress.

Han’s Twitter | Blog / MWEB Gamezone Twitter | Facebook

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Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not MWEB Connect (Pty) Ltd



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