This weekend when I got the regular email by Stardock I got completely caught by surprise by the anounce of a new Elemental game. The surprise was positive, as I decided to pay for the beta and try the game. After playing for two hours those are my first impressions, which of course represent only my personal opinion:
First of all, what I like most is the idea of a 4X game building towards an epic conclussion instead of a typical clean-up phase. Of course the new mechanic will need a correct fine tuning of the doomsday counter mechanic, but the idea is great. Also the apocalyptical "two minutes to the end of the world" premise is really appealing.
I have seen other posters saying that the game should have a more tight story, but for me it is ok like that, keep it a 4X for the most part, with partial objectives which are different for each player (the asymetrical part) but other than that leave it open.
What I dislike is the fact that your sovereign now is out of the board. Yes, I know that placing your sovereign in the map brings a lot of problems, but I prefer an imperfect implementation like in LH or AoW3 than leaving the sovereign out. Specially when the enemy is in the board. Yes, I know that there is the issue of what to do when the sovereign is killed, that ending the game is too extreme, but it can be made challenging without resorting to that extreme situation. For example, when the sovereign loses a battle, make him lose a level, a skill, a spell and also make 10% of the population in all cities desert (They flee in panic when they learn the news).
And talking about population and cities, I like the level up system, because it translates into a more close relationship between city population and city production than in LH. What I would add is limiting buildings depending on city level. A city of level 1 can have only 1 bulding, a city of level 2 2 buildings and so on. Also, implement moral system in the cities (and perhaps in the units too). The end of the world is close, so keeping the moral high is an important part of managing your kingdom!
More things about population: there should be some circumstances under which population could diminish instead of just increasing. Perhaps related to moral and to the doomsday counter (Maybe it is even implemented yet. I have not played the game to the end).
Last thing about population: I really feel the Pioneers should cost population. Creating a new city is about sending part of your citizens to another place, and that should be reflected in the game engine. And also units should cost population. That would not significantly alter the dynamic, but it is cool to see that your soldier really came out of the city. And when units with several people in the unit get partially killed and the population is replenished, that replenished population should come from a city.
The logistics system seems cool at first sight. Is a good way to model how kingdom resources can only do certain things. Perhaps a bit too simple, as I am not sure that the same resource that allows you to have a squad also allows you to control a shard. Oh, and the units you get at the begining of turn definitily should have a logistic upkeep just like the ones you train.
What does not feel good is the mana system. All the units getting mana from the same global pool is soo weird. Yes, I know this comes from LH, but still feels not right. What about this? Each unit has a personal mana pool, and this pool gets replenished at the begining of turn from the central mana pool (thanks to logistic points). Just like your sovereign being able to cast tactical spells anywhere. Global enchantments is ok (despite it would be even greater if domain limited where spells can be casted) but tactical spells are definitely weird.
Just like the global inventery, which is also really weird. One soldier takes the boots off and instantly another soldier far away can use the same boots. Not to mention that the same boots work for units of one or three soldiers! (?)
Well, those are my first impressions, which are of course my personal opinion.
EDIT: Forgot to say, that I completely buy the "no research" thing. It makes sense as per the situation described in the game. Anyway we have some kind of "soft research" towards the sovereign skills, and that's ok. I also buy the no gold thing, as I suppose that by the end of the world gold is no longer important, but of course resources needed to build others things are still needed.