Elements of War is the kind of game that sounds really good in theory much like many other ideas that have come out of the behemoth that is the gaming industry. The power to control the forces of nature, condensing these elements into units for warfare, and destructible kind of environments akin to that of World in Conflict? Sounds pretty sweet, and at a budget price too! What more could you ask for realistically; it's got all the right kind of ideas to make a compelling Real Time Strategy for the PC. Unfortunately though, the coolness of it ends on the drawing boards, because the actual game itself isn't quite flash.
In fact it's kind of poor in most areas, starting from the very beginning with the tutorial, which though trying to give you a basic idea of how the game is played ends up being more a giant pain and doesn't tell you half of the other things you need to know in order to play the game properly. It'll give you basic controls, camera movements and inane things like how to use your mouse, but it fails to explain the fact that you can pause the game in the middle of combat which makes things significantly easier, how its unit selections work and effectively, is pretty much completely useless.
Apart from the terrible tutorial also comes gameplay which has a lot of passion behind it but just isn't executed right. Path finding half the time breaks with units scattering and not routing to areas properly, balance is completely random and haywire and the difficulty is either really easy or ridiculously hard, regardless of the fact that you've slid the difficulty slider to your preferred area. It's a shame really, as the game really does have some nice ideas and it shows the developers really tried to make something great here. The weather-based units and abilities are interesting but feel underdeveloped and overall underwhelming. And even though the destructibility is kind of cool in a novel way, it fades fast as the oils of poor mechanics kick in again.
It's also filled with bugs and glitches; from the cut-scenes to the gameplay, you'll witness some weird things and experience random crashes. Some cut-scenes you'll see characters dashing through their run cycle animations at ridiculously high speeds and dialogue will cut into other lines for no apparent reason other than one line of dialogue has some grudge against the other and kicks in because it's a jerk. Then you have the gameplay glitches and crashes, namely the path finding bug where AI will go brain dead and not move to where you want them to go efficiently, and then random crashes to the desktop which will make you start back from your last save. It did this directly after our first run of the painful tutorial, likely out of some sadistic desire to make us want to play it again. It did not make us very happy.
And what's worse is none of this is optimised nor particularly good looking. Elements of War is very lacking in the visual department; so much that it looks a fair amount of years out of date. While some of the visual effects look pretty interesting and the destruction can be cool, most of it is fairly low resolution and not to mention, highly unoptimised. On a system that runs a HD6990, the game was going into the 40s in frame rate. How? What could possibly be so taxing to a video card that is basically rated as the fastest available right now? The mind boggles... Not to mention the animation qualities are very poor too, with random super fast run cycles and poor transitions between stances, and you've got nothing very enticing at all.
Music and sound effects are about the same too, although one positive is that some of the voice acting in the cut-scenes is actually pretty decent. Just the cut-scenes though; once you're back in the game, your units will suddenly speak a bizarre broken form of English with a Russian tone, when just seconds ago in a cut-scene they had a hardcore military American accent. Music is also completely forgettable and hardly even noticeable most of the time, so there's nothing really to yell about here.
Elements of War is definitely low budget, but that budget was focused too much on plonking down ideas and throwing them out there rather than focusing the direction of the game and polishing things up. What we have here is a game that has some nifty ideas but extremely poor and borderline broken levels of execution while the story is bland and utterly uninspired. Combined with broken mechanics, it's still not worthy of a recommendation even with its budget pricing. For good times and great classic hits with RTS, go the Dawn of War II or StarCraft II route, as you'll find nothing of particular note with Elements of War.