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Content One Degree Removed: Fall From Heaven Interview

January 9th, 2009 by Troy Goodfellow · 7 Comments · Firaxis, Interview, Modding

I really feel like crap today, so I’ll take the easy blogging way out and link to Soren Johnson’s three part (I & II & III)interview with Derek Paxton, the lead modder on the total Civ IV conversion Fall From Heaven II. Paxton goes into what it takes to make a mod of this size.

FFH2 is one of those things that I respect more than I enjoy. I really dig the fantasy setting and how the team is very happy to break sacred cows about balance and equality among the civs. However, I can never shake the feeling that the AI just has no clue what is going on. This might not sound like such a bad thing since even I can’t always tell what is happening in a specific turn. But so many rules are turned on their heads that FFH2 still has a bit of the juggernaut thing. I don’t mind being a juggernaut if I think that I am simply playing intelligently. It’s when the juggernaut moves without me doing much that I feel a little let down.

None of this is meant to imply that FFH2 isn’t an amazing accomplishment, even with all the cribbed art assets. The computer opponents are much better than they were, but this is a mod that is clearly designed for a multiplayer action. There are a lot of subtleties here that I think only a human can really get.


7 Comments so far ↓

  • Soren Johnson

    Part III just went up, btw…

  • Troy

    Edited. Thanks.

  • JonathanStrange

    I play a lot of FFH2 and have for years – mostly single player at that – and it’s an enjoyable experience and the AI is virtually as capable or lame as the regular Civ IV AI. Human players do make considerably more challenging opponents – as they do in every strategy game around.

    I suspect if the AI really were up to creative use of all the magic and civics and strategies available then the dramatic difference between how it plays now and how it could play would be enormous.

    However, coming from a gamer who’s played all the Civs and Fall From Heaven 2 for years, I can say this mod can be enjoyed single – player without a problem. I’ve had challenging and entertaining campaigns against a myriad of AI opponents. I’m not an apologist or dread fanboy of FFH2; it definitely could use the magic more effectively and better employ its huge armies. However, I’ve not seen it dramatically worse than any of the many strategy games I’ve played over the years.

  • Troy

    Yeah, but the magic is key. If the AI can’t use magic effectively and the player is only halfway competent then its hard to conceive of how challenging the game would be.

    Its general military AI is certainly as good as the vanilla Civ. But with magic and heroes and all…not so good.

  • JonathanStrange

    I must be incompetent then as I find FFH2 challenging. Despite years of playing Civ and FFH2, studying the strategy and tactics hints at the forums, analyzing the religions, civics, resources, technologies, spells, promotions and specific empire abilities: I’m frequently running third or fourth in a seven civilization race. I do, at times, manage to pull ahead six or seven hundred turns into the game – if I survive that long – but it’s a struggle.

    The A.I.’s incompetence – which I think is certainly no worse than most strategy games (hardly an endorsement but why single out this mod’s AI and not every other game’s AI mentioned on this site?) – is hard to see: you’ll find mobs of Beastmasters, dwarven axemen, Elvish archers, dragons, zombies, mages, assassins, giants, etc. These armies will have the promotions and spell protections you’d cast yourself too. You’ll see the AI logically expand and research; if you’re facing an Elven nation, you can be certain they’ll found their signature forest religion unless their hated cousins do it first.

    However, what I don’t see is a combined-arms use: no mage fireballs to soften up an enemy garrison, no entanglement spells to stop your stack o’ doom, no summoned tigers for a last minute attack. I’ve seen that in multiplayer but not by the AI.. It’s as if they have a whole toolkit of clever weapons, but choose only the hammer.

    Anyways, if you don’t think it’s challenging, I could use some hints.

  • Bruce

    If this all sounds really interesting to me but I don’t ever even download it, does that make me a looser? Or just not a gamer anymore?

  • Wes

    I could not agree more, the AI is horrible in regards to the tech tree and applying it to its game play. Never fought an enemy mage in 10 games.