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.
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.
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.
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.
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.Subscribe RSS
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