Elemental now works, old savegames now don't
Elemental: War of Magic was updated to version 1.06 this morning (UK time), and I'm happy to say the game is finally stable. I haven't encountered any crashes to desktop since the patch Tuesday night, and the last major issue with the game on our systems is finally fixed. But finish your current game before patching. Unlike the other patches thus far, this one invalidates your existing savegames, including all your progress through the campaign.
Stardock do actually mention this on their developer journal about the patch, but not very clearly. Here's how they put it:
Gamers who don't read the Elemental dev journal don't get any warning when they're notified the update is available. One of the key differences between Stardock's digital distribution system and Steam is that updates aren't compulsory - it seems strange not to also use it to provide players with vital information about what'll happen when they update.
The incompatibility was added intentionally, shortly after the main patch, when users reported 'oddities' when loading old saves. It's not clear from Stardock's post whether they're going to try and resolve this, or if there's any way to revert to the older version to carry on with a game. It's particularly nasty with a game that lends itself to such epic matches: players are mourning their lost games on the Elemental forums, and one poster says he was over 300 turns into a game when the patch invalidated it (though impressively, he says he's not complaining).
I'm glad Stardock are patching Elemental so quickly after its disastrous early launch, and I'm relieved to finally have the game in a playable state. But this is a nasty thing to spring on gamers without adequate warning. I was looking forward to writing an entirely positive post about the stable state of the game today, until I actually tried to load one.
We'll ask Stardock whether future patches will also break savegames, and if so how soon we should expect them. It's hard to know whether to get stuck in now or wait, so we'll let you know what they say.
Since our last post, Brad has responded to us with a journal post apologising for his comment that "anyone... saying the game is like an 'early beta'" should stay away from Stardock games in the future. He says "They were words spoken out of frustration and sleep deprivation" and that's "not how I honestly feel".
Update: Brad says, "We were still getting support tickets from people playing with beta saves (yes, even v1.05 was compatible with saves all the way back to beta 4 of the game). So I made the decision to reset it. It's unlikely we'll need to do so again."