Elemental: War of Magic is basically Civilization with more dragons, spells and role-playing elements. The reason it's a big deal is that it's by Stardock, who made the extraordinary turn-based space strategy Galactic Civilizations II. I've been playing the beta of Elemental for about a week now, and I'm properly hooked. But one of the first things that put a dorky grin on my face is unique to the beta: the joke start-up sequence. Take a look.
Yeah, the theme - both the chiptune version and the orchestral one - get in your head pretty quickly, so I couldn't stop the recording till it got to the good bit. The 8-bit glory of the NES gets celebrated a lot on the internet, but we don't see much love for the early days of PC gaming and its precursors. Elemental's beta intro is a reference to 1983 turn-based strategy game MULE, for the Atari, Commodore 64 and IBM PCjr.
Elemental is proud to be PC. It's pretty heavily inspired by the DOS game Master of Magic, and the collector's edition comes with a giant cloth map and a pewter dragon. It has no DRM, it comes with all the mod tools used to make the game's story mode, and this beta stage has felt more like a brainstorm with the community than a corporation's QA process.
Some of you may know that I wrote up my experiences with GalCiv 2's epic maps and eerily clever AI in a pair of diaries on our old site, and with the magazine. I'd been wondering if Elemental would lend itself to that kind of thing too. This beta doesn't have much of the final game's AI in it yet, so I can't say for sure, but it's looking very, very good. There's a real sense of exploration when you send your hero out into this randomly generated fantasy landscape, and the ability to recruit roaming adventurers, get married, and even wed your offspring to other faction's royals just seems ripe for great stories. I can't wait.
We've got a preview in the new UK issue of the mag, arriving with subscribers now and in shops on Monday.