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Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes – The Dead World Impressions

By on November 19th, 2013 9:44 am

Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes - Morrigan looks more impressive than she is

A couple of weeks ago, we announced that Stardock had released a new piece of DLC for Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes called The Dead World. I was intrigued by the idea of a new undead faction along with the mechanic changes they brought with them. I’ve now spent a few hours with the faction and am ready to share some impressions.

Frustrations with Stability

I wish I could comment solely on the DLC content, but unfortunately I need to mention some circumstances that have made my experience with this content less enjoyable than it should have been. Aside from some bugs with the new DLC content, which I’ll get to shortly, Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes seems to be in a constant state of near crash these days. The current live version, 1.4, has been quite unstable for me and for others, and this has caused me to lose several turns on numerous occasions due to crashes. Stardock is doing their best to gather save files and remedy the situations that are causing these crashes as quickly as possible, but as it stands now we are waiting for the official release of the 1.5 patch to hopefully come and resolve these issues (as of 11/13, 1.5 is available as a beta release opt-in on Steam). I’ve done my best to separate these issues from the DLC impressions. With that out-of-the-way, I’ll now get to details specific to the Dead World DLC.

Fallen Enchantress Legendary Heroes - 1.4 Crashes a lot unfortunately

A tad too early

The Dead World DLC was released too early. Given some of the bugs experienced by players with basic features of this DLC content right from the start, there’s no other explanation. As evidence for this, here are two example issues that had to be patched within the first week of release:

The undead faction has an enchantment spell called “Morrigan’s Call”. This spell is supposed to provide 1 growth per death shard to any city this enchantment has been cast on. Upon initial release, this worked for the 1st shard only, and additional shards did not provide additional growth as they should have. This made growing the Undead faction cities extremely difficult, as this is a critical mechanic for success with the faction. Relying on killing human units for population is unreliable and limited.

The faction leader Morrigan was unavailable for selection as an AI opponent upon initial release. Only the player could use this leader. Within the first week they patched this to allow her to be selected as an AI opponent.

While these issues were remedied quickly, and I do want to give Stardock credit for that, the question remains as to why it was released with these issues to begin with? We have to assume they were relatively easy to fix, and in fact, the community had come up with an XML fix of their own which resolved the issue with Morrigan’s Call before the official patch released. Why then were such issues, issues that aren’t specific to any particular hardware or playstyle, not caught by pre-release QA? Companies continue to ask us to trust them and pre-order or make day one purchases of their titles at full price, but how can we as consumer feel comfortable doing so when issues like this punish us for doing so? Mind you, I’m not picking specifically on Stardock here, but this DLC is just the latest example I’ve seen of this issue with the industry.

DLC Impressions

Is this DLC for you? If you’re looking for something dramatically different, I’m afraid you’re not going to find that here. The undead faction certainly has its own unique playstyle, but the mechanical changes are not groundbreaking and the differences are similar to the differences between other factions already present in the game.

The fact that they don’t require food actually reduces complexity on the strategic level, but at the same time increases the importance immensely of your starting capital’s location. If you do not spawn near a high production/essence tile, preferably with a death shard and perhaps a clay pit nearby, you’re probably going to want to press CTRL-N and re-spawn at a new location. Your cities are likely all going to be fortresses or perhaps conclaves, and high grain yield tiles are useless. Also, as your growth is going to be tied primarily to use of the Morrigan’s Call enchantment, you’re going to want at least 1 essence in every city and at least 1 death shard. Corruption, the spell which turns any shard into a death shard, seems a perfect match for Morrigan’s Call, but if you play the pre-designed faction/sovereign, sadly you have to rely on finding death/life shards specifically, which is a rather tall order. Perhaps Stardock felt this would be too imbalanced for the default faction design.

You can also grow your population by killing enemy human units (1 new population per “figure” killed), through the use of the Tower of Dominion (1 city per faction), or by razing cities. This sounds unique until you look at Magnar’s Slave Lord ability, which is almost identical except that he still has regular growth methods and only gains ½ the razed city’s population as new capital citizens. This makes the undead very hard to grow unless you are constantly on the attack, are lucky in finding death shards, or you’ve made a custom faction with both Corruption and Morrigan’s Call.

The undead have some new unit design choices, with the standouts being the Undying Curse (identical to the Cyndrum Demon’s ability), and Spirit (Female built-in trait providing ½ damage from physical attacks). All undead units have no wage cost, which means gildar (and thus tax rate) are of much less importance overall. They are also all immune to criticals and poison, but they do suffer an initiative penalty. Finally, they all have the terror ability, which uses their turn to try to make an adjacent unit afraid (lose a turn). This didn’t seem as effective as I expected during my time with them though. Overall, I found the undead units to be quite effective in combat when given the Undying Curse trait, as turning a 3 man unit into a 6 man unit through careful tactical management is a great early game advantage. There advantages are somewhat offset by the fact that keeping up with the growth of other factions at harder difficulties can be quite hard to do.

Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes - The female undead are nice units

Other features include some new spells, but nothing truly interesting aside from Morrigan’s Call. In the first screenshot you can read their descriptions if you’re interested. The only other spell I used a few times was Haunted Army, a spell which summons an army of around 4 units of skeletons onto the strategic map for 3 turns. You can summon them seemingly anywhere and they are decent early on for clearing out enemy lairs or scouts. They quickly lost effectiveness later for me, especially when their 90 mana cost is considered.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I think the faction is a nice fit, but one that is too dependent on luck. A poor starting location or starting in an area devoid of death shards and human units to kill will cause you to very far behind in growth. It took me several times to get a decent start going as the undead, and each time I had to regenerate my spawn point until I got a satisfactory one.

I’m also a bit disappointed that they didn’t take this concept further. Even if they had to charge a bit more, I feel as though it would have been beneficial to include a few additional features. As it stands now, I don’t really feel any sense of immersion or significant difference when playing the undead. While Legendary Heroes introduced some new necromancy summoning traits, which were a great addition, they sadly remain untouched in this DLC that focuses specifically on the undead. The research trees for the faction lack the addition of any exciting new elements, for instance new standout units similar to the Juggernaut and Golem. They did add an undead horse (with minimal differences from real horses, still requiring actual “horse” resources), but is that really as exciting as say a Lich necromancer unit, a wraith, or a bone dragon? This would also help separate them from Magnar’s Quendar, a faction that also has the ability to train free cheap troops and to gain new citizens through combat.

The Dead World is a good DLC if you’re looking for more of roughly the same, but don’t expect anything remarkably different, unfortunately.

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  1. hyperspeed12 says:

    Just got word from a buddy who works for a software (games also) company. Word is, management doesnt see much value in QA (meaning the cost to hire these people and the job, plus the time it takes to do the job). They care about the outcomes ONLY wihout ensuring proper processes set in place to mitgate negative outcomes or improve future outcomes.

    Reason why this is the case, NO LAWS (or enforcement thereof) to allow such company’s to be held legally liable to law-suits + damages.

    meaning: “we can do this because we can and no one can stop us”
    ****************************************************************Oh and one more thing: IMHO this also applies to many other games….(you guys know what games have come out since 2011)

    • Alien JD says:

      Software is really hard to make. If there were laws making devs liable for every crash there wouldn’t be any software.

      • Seiya says:

        I think it would need to be more along the lines of requiring them to release a product that meets the claims they make. If that put most large producers out of business, then that would say a lot about them.

        • Mark says:

          Absolutely. I don’t think that anyone expects software to be 100% perfect, just to do what it was advertised to do.

          Anything else is false advertising at best, fraud at worst and they should be liable to prosecution same as any other manufacturer who makes false claims.

    • JohnR says:

      The trend these days does seem to be companies passing on the QA function to the customers, mostly in the form of open betas and early access. Of course the irony is that customers must now pay for the ‘privilege’ of being a QA tester. Definitely a sad state of affairs.

      Concerning Fallen Enchantress, I fully expect Age of Wonders 3 to blow it out of the water.

      • Happy Corner says:

        I don’t mind if an open beta/early access game has bugs… the buyer has plenty of warning first that what they’re getting isn’t yet finished. Many such games offer a discount to early buyers, at least, so they’re getting something (however little) for their “service” to the developers.

        It’s when an actually (supposedly) finished game is a crash-fest that you should get mad. These days, it’s foolish to buy any game without seeing reviews and/or good word of mouth first.

  2. Seiya says:

    Hyperspeed is probably very correct on what he says. Too many games (especially 4x games) have come out without any real QA seemingly and in a few cases, a seemingly ignored “beta” test.

    As a side note, can you avoid using the word “grow” wrong. Growing something means you give a starting situation and wait for something to magically become more. Saying you can grow a population doesnt make sense unless you are a plant race (or into cloning I guess). Increasing your population is grammatically and stylistically much better. I seriously want to strangle the marketer who first used that word wrong to promote a way to get more for less work.

  3. Malichite says:

    Honestly this isn’t really a surprise these days though. More and more developers are starting to launch games in late Alpha or early Beta phases to their clamoring customers, but the problem is that unless the launch is very successful it seems many developer just walk away from the game to other projects once the revenue lessens (i.e. looking at you Stardrive).

    Seems like slapping Beta on it and charging a supposed discount on the final MSRP allows them to dismiss bugs as part of the development process and reduces their liability to a final non-Beta release (i.e. can always slap 1.0 on anything and call it “done”.) :)

  4. SQW says:

    Bought the DLC. My thoughts: don’t buy it.

    I’m not even gonna list my reasons as the DLC is so bland there’s nothing new or interesting to recommend the undead over existing factions; and I LOVE the undead in most settings.

  5. Lobo7922 says:

    I think it’s very funny that Stardock are the same guys that released that infamous “Gamer’s Bill of Rights” if you read section 2 of such bill:

    “2. Gamers shall have the right to demand that games be released in a finished state.”

    The irony…

    What is happening to Stardock? Let’s expect this behaviour doesn’t translate to Galactic Civilization III.

  6. Noldor says:

    Right now, I’ve been getting a few crash to desktops on this title as well. Right now, the best thing to do may be to put it aside and wait for a couple of patches until they get things sorted out.

    I think the best thing to do with these DLC is to wait until there’s a big Steam sale and buy them then.

    But yeah, at the moment, the real thing I’m looking forward to is Galactic Civilizations 3. Let’s hope it doesn’t end up being like Elemental.

  7. Mike says:

    Bought the game on Steam a while back, was never able to get it to install and run. This explains it.

  8. jamoecw says:

    i just got the DLC, given that one of the biggest issues with FE is that the factions are rather similar i thought this would help (not a bad marketing plan to release a few core races, then release fully polished races with their own special mechanics to set them apart as DLC). well if you have read this review then you know that this isn’t the case (they even need food rich areas in order for them to start a city, the mechanics that give values to tiles so that you can start a city are the same exact ones for all factions).

    though there is another way to add growth to a city, an outpost with a growth boosting building added to it (i forget the name). this adds +1 growth, which means that in 30 turns you will break even for the pop cost of the settler.

    given that the largest level the dead can get to is level 5, and i am pretty sure you can beat that with the living factions you don’t even have an advantage if you can get the ball rolling by focusing everything on your capitol (which is the one that gets all the pop for battles and such).

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