Thursday, April 01, 2010

Elemental: 4X

A 4X game is described by Wikipedia as:
The four Xs were an abbreviation for explore, expand, exploit, exterminate.
  • Explore means players send scouts across a map to reveal surrounding territories.
  • Expand means players claim new territory by creating new settlements, or sometimes by extending the influence of existing settlements.
  • Exploit means players gather and use resources in areas they control, and improve the efficiency of that usage.
  • Exterminate means attacking and eliminating rival players. Since all territory is eventually claimed, eliminating a rival's presence can be the only way to achieve further expansion.
Elemental, from Stardock, will be a 4X game as well.  Lets break down each X for Elemental.

Explore

Elemental is planning to take exploration farther than other 4X games.   The traditional "fog of war" will exist and players will have to scout the map to reveal far away lands.  However, a lot of that exploration will be accomplished with the player's "sovereign" instead of scouting units.  Sovereigns are ageless heroes controlled by the player that are used to move around the map and do everything from build to fight.  In MMO terms, a sovereign is a player's avatar.

Along the way, player's will be encouraged to explore the corners of the map in search of quests and dungeons along with traditional 4X activities such as resource procurement and settlement placement.  Walking past an out of the way cave may lead the player's sovereign on a journey into the dark to save a damsel in distress.  As described by Stardock; "Yes, it’s a 4X strategy game with a little Baldur’s Gate in it."  Explorer's should expect plenty to do outside of building their empire.

Expand

The main concept of the game is that the player is rebuilding the world after a cataclysmic event.  Players will build cities and expand their empires.  Along with Exterminate, this will be the most familiar X  to players when starting Elemental. 

Exploit

Standard resource management will be part of Elemental.  Player empire's will need to track down and control mines, forests, etc.  On top of that, a couple of unique resources will be included.  At first glance, these items may not be viewed as resources by players.  First is magic and the second is family (or dynasty in the long term).

The magic system of Elemental evolves over the course of a game.  As players choose their path of either life or death magic, they will unlock and learn new spells.  These magical traits can then be passed down the family tree to children and great grand children.  Powerful magical children will become key pawns in a player's resource arsenal.  By the end of a game, players will be using the fantasy-equivalent of nuclear weapons on their enemies.

Family will also play a huge part in Elemental as player's build their dynasties.  While the player's sovereign lives "forever", their children are mere mortals.  It will take careful management to ensure children are exploited to their full potential.  Sons are future kings and need to be properly groomed for the job. Daughters are key bargaining chips across family ties and can be a foothold into an enemy's family tree.

Exterminate

Elemental will allow players to raise fantasy armies and destroy their enemies.  Along with that, players can use their units to complete quests and dungeons.  Remember, Elemental is trying to blend in some RPG with this 4X game.  Battles can be played out in real time or set to automatically resolve.
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