Stardock's Brad Wardell recently treated the editors at RTSGuru to a private demonstration of Elemental: Fallen Enchantress, and as such, their new preview is probably the most informative we've seen to date. An excerpt:
Needless to say, the array of spells in Fallen Enchantress is suitably epic, and as the monarch of your faction's kingdom, you'll be able to build up your spell book by accumulating champions, each of whom has their own knowledge of spells. Your champions can level up and earn traits such as Vital Strike, which is a passive skill that increases your crit chance, and True Strike, an active skill that will ensure your next attack hits, at 75% damage. You'll be able to change your champion's equipment on the fly and marvel at their updated character models accordingly, and there will be tons of weapons to play with that are far more differentiated than those in the original game. Swords, for example, will give your units the capacity to counterattack, while axes will have the ability to backswing and do damage after missing an attack, and spears will cancel out your opponents' weapon abilities.
You can also design trained units, who can only be equipped when you initially create them, and can also be leveled up and upgraded. Unlike your champions, who simply take an injury penalty when defeated, your trained units can be wiped out in combat, but they make for some pretty neat tactical approaches based on your knowledge of enemy strengths and weaknesses. For example, if you're up against a bunch of fire mages, you can design units with fire resistance, or give your units horses to make them more mobile against archers. Alternatively, if your adversaries are made up of cavalry, you can equip your units with pikes to defend against their charge. There seems to be a lot of versatility and strategy in designing trained units, but if it's not your cup of tea, you can use the pre-designed units included with the game. Just know that if you do venture into creating your own uber-soldiers, the AI will use your units against you in succeeding campaigns!
The combat and economic systems in Fallen Enchantress have been completely redesigned to offer a more satisfying gameplay experience while streamlining unnecessary aspects from the first game. Combat is now based on the attributes of Initiative, Accuracy, Dodge, Crit Chance, Spell Resistance, and Spell Mastery, which make for a far more complex system than the relatively primitive one in War of Magic, and will allow for deeper combat and gameplay. You'll have to account for your units' encumbrance now as well, which will give them penalties if not managed appropriately. The economy is also much improved, as Stardock has tried to streamline the building process to make it more accessible and less unwieldy by integrating food tiles into housing to take up less space. They've also implemented new features like tax rates, which trade the productivity of your city for money.