Exodus Wars: Fractured Empire – A First Look

You may remember back in June I wrote about Membraine Studios talking about the video game version of Exodus Wars, by Steel Crown Productions, called Fractured Empire.

FE logo11

Well they’ve been hard at work on Fractured Empire despite their Indiegogo campaign not being as successful as they’d hoped. Since then they’ve managed to get the game to a Pre-Alpha stage and they kindly let me have a little play.

For those that are unaware of the project, EW:FE is, in a nutshell, a video game adaptation of the table top game. Not an RTS etc, but a virtual strategy wargame animated and realised in a realistic environment. So basically gamers get to see the destruction they imagine in a more traditional setting.

So having had the access for 24 hours and played a half a dozen games it’s all looking very promising. The graphics are, obviously, not quite there yet as is any real explanation as to who is who and what’s going on. The Pre-Alpha is all about demonstrating game play which is actually pretty tight.

I could moan about layout and buttons being too big so they get in the way of the action but it’s pointless because it’s a Pre-Alpha game. It’s as pointless as complaining about unfinished animations or the odd game crash.

The important things to note is that the alternate activations flow backwards and forwards nice and fast which encourages you to think and react quickly. This will, eventually, give the game a very fluid sense of action rather than a ‘you go, I go’ turn based game. That said game set up didn’t give a proper indication of the game itself as the forces were deployed just a little bit too close together meaning I could concentrate fire on units from turn one and I actually managed to not only take the objective but wipe out my opponent without a single casualty.

The AI isn’t an issue because it’s still early days, my concern is the ease with which units take damage. Without being able to zoom in or find out what I was facing I was slightly put out when my tanks were being picked off by what seemed to be nothing more than infantry. This makes me think that the units haven’t been quite balanced yet.

One of the very cool things about EW:FE is that moving and shooting dramatically decreases the amount of damage you inflict but suppresses the enemy so they can’t shoot back. My only worry is that if one side has the advantage of range they can effectively cripple their opponents offensive capabilities, allowing the attacker to pound the enemy to dust.

Obviously it’s still early days and it there is lots left to do. The rest of the faction units for a start. And the big Titan-esque bastards. We like them. But for the niggles etc. what EW:FE has is potential. Bags of it. Bags and bags. If the screens and videos that Membraine Studios released 6 months ago are anything to go by it’s going to look the absolute tits if nothing else. The sweeping camera, the animated units, the simple but important effects of war.

I’m really excited to see the next phase for Membraine. I’d actually like them to take another swing at a Kickstarter campaign as they’ve got some real mettle to show off. But whatever happens next I’ll be front in line to have a play.

So, what’s next for Membraine and their proverbial bun in the oven? Well the guys from Membraine had this to say on their website:

Back in June and July of this year, we ran a crowd funding campaign on Indiegogo. While successful to a point (we raised almost US$7,500 of our US$35,000 minimum target and saw great critical response), we nonetheless did not reach our funding goal, and have since (unsurprisingly) struggled with financial issues.

It became clear we needed to rework our go-to-market strategy significantly or risk not delivering Exodus Wars: Fractured Empire.

You see, our crowd funding campaign failed, yes, but it nonetheless left us with the certain knowledge that gamers want to play Fractured Empire. We quickly realised we would never get to the finish line and ship the game with the funds we had, however. And so we embarked on some serious navel-gazing, asking ourselves the hard questions, like “Can we really attempt to make this game?” and “Does the market really want a turn-based strategy wargame that captures the essence of tabletop wargaming?”

We decided the answers were all obviously Yes, and so we stopped navel-gazing and instead started developing a plan of action that would enable us to make good and deliver this game to the community. The result is a new go-to-market strategy.

We recently made the first playable build available to our Alpha perk-level Indiegogo contributors and started our Alpha QA cycle, which will see us regularly releasing updated builds. In the near future, we will also be inviting our Beta perk-level Indiegogo contributors to join our QA testing team by providing them with the then-current build. In this way, we will have met our obligations to our Indiegogo Alpha perk- and Beta perk-level contributors as best we can.

The new go-to-market strategy for Fractured Empire

The decision has been made that we will adopt what we’re calling a “Minecraftian” pre-order model for Fractured Empire.

For those not familiar with Minecraft, what we’re talking about here is a go-to-market strategy of releasing playable builds for sale well before the game is in a Release state, where earlier adopters receive distinctly greater discounts on purchase than do later adopters. These types of pre-order models are becoming increasingly common among indie developers.

Key elements

Here are the key elements of our new go-to-market approach:

  • When it eventually reaches the Release Build state, Exodus Wars: Fractured Empire will sell for US$30.
  • Alpha Build pre-orders—currently available for purchase—are discounted by almost 66% at US$10. These purchasers will be eligible to access the then-current Fractured Empire build as soon as our QA team (which is us and our Alpha and Beta perk level Indiegogo backers) has completed an initial round of testing and we are confident of a good playing experience. This should be very soon.
  • Some time before the game reaches Beta, we will stop taking Alpha Build pre-orders and start taking Beta Build pre-orders. Beta Build pre-orders will be discounted by almost 33% at US$20. Pre-order purchasers will now be eligible to access the then-current Fractured Empire build immediately.
  • Some time before the game reaches Release, we will stop taking Beta Build pre-orders and start taking Release Build pre-orders. Release Build pre-orders will be discounted by almost 10% at US$27.
  • When the game reaches a final state and the Release Build is available, we will stop taking pre-orders and the game will no longer be discounted, selling for its full price of US$30.
  • Over time, we will expand the Release Build of Fractured Empire via a combination of free updates and, depending on demand, DLC.
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