I played the Elven Legacy demo yesterday, and it seems pretty solid, good turn based fun. The only feature that stood out as bad was the terrible tutorial. You're going to have me watch a video instead of walk me through it in the actual interface? Really? Besides having the cliched fantasy voice yell at me while I'm watching it, the voiceover kept clipping, the next sentence running over the end of the last one. The pacing was too slow - a veteran of the genre would be bored to tears and a brand new gamer would be confused and unsure, since all they have to go off of is a blurry video, then they're dropped into the interface. Why couldn't they just highlight buttons and walk me through it with tool tips? The interface is fairly simple, so there wouldn't be a whole lot lost if they just dropped it all together. Maybe have a little pop-up explaining camera controls at the first.
The ability to zoom in and see individual units was nice visual candy, but it doesn't do anything gameplay wise. What I liked was how archers could defend any friendly unit they're near, firing back at the enemy if the adjacent unit was attacked. Fairly simple, but it added a nice element of strategy. The semi-random upgrade options were also nice. Every time a unit levels up, three upgrade options are given at random, which adds a little variety as opposed to a pure tech-tree approach. What might be an even better improvement is getting benefits based on what the unit had done - if they've been fighting in the woods, they get a bonus to woodland combat, or bonuses against spearmen if they've been fighting an army's worth of them.
That's something I though was a little off in Civilization 4, how you could assign points to any specialty you wanted. That gives the player more control, so there might be a very good reason they went that way. I sort of feel like prototyping something up to test if bonuses based on actual unit experiences would be fun.
The Flare Path: Maghrebian Musings
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