The world of Elemental has come a long, long way since its initial release. Hell, with all due respect to Stardock and their hard work, I won’t mention the original game and we can just skip over this series’ history. Let’s fast forward to about a month ago, when they released the newest version of Legendary Heroes, version 1.7.
Along the way, Stardock has sold numerous DLC to continue funding improvments and patches for the base game. Some of them, like the Quests DLC, have been well done and have done a lot to add valuable content, while others, like the most recent Leaders DLC, simply added what one could do with talented modding abilities. However, they’ve obviously sold well enough for Stardock that they plan on continuing their development and in turn, plan an eventual 2.0 version of the standalone.
All of this to say that version 1.7 is brought to you nearly in full by DLC. As a result, you should probably thank DLC for this effort. 1.7 brings many improvements to the game and through its iterations from 1.1 to 1.7, Legendary Heroes has become an extremely solid fantasy 4X. With the newest patch comes the addition of class-specific weapons and items, tons of new diplomacy dialogue – which adds a great deal to the immersion factor, new crash fixes, and, perhaps most importantly, a more competent AI.
All of these improvements work to make a pretty good game even better. While some may not like the items exclusivity for the classes, most will overlook that in appreciation of the new battle ranking system that more accurately portrays a monster group’s lethality, or the fact the AI is now programmed to use the Arcane Monolith spell/skill as Pariden. I also appreciated the changes to how XP was calculated, as my heroes began to level up more quickly, thus providing a greater sense of having…legendary heroes.
While a large step forward for the series, this version still holds on to some of the same bugs that have plagued it since the beginning. Anecdotally, I still see monster groups avoiding AI players while coming straight for me. The game still has crashes and there are still weird glitches, like quests not being able to be completed and Vertrar wandering outside of his wildlands zone. However, the vast majority of annoying or gamebreaking bugs have been squashed and at this point 1.7, as it should be, is the best version of the game.
All in all, Stardock has righted itself from the disastrous release of Elemental: War of Magic. I’m still sad to see some of the great ideas from that game go, i.e. minor factions and marriages/lineage, but the end result is a cleaner, more stable, and more playable game that has finally got some teeth in it with its AI. Brad Wardell, CEO of Stardock, has already let slip that there will be another game in the Elemental Universe (currently titled Elemental 2015) and has disclosed some exciting information about it that we’ll have to touch on in a preview soon. My hopes are high that they’ve learned enough lessons with the Elemental series at this point to make a fantastic game this time around.