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Fall From Heaven

June 28th, 2006 by Troy Goodfellow · 6 Comments · Uncategorized

The great hope for Civ IV was that its open architecture would lead to a lot of creative and unusual mods, taking the basic design of the game in interesting directions. For the most part, Civ mods have still emphasized adding more historical units, people fitting in their own countries as major civilizations, or adding a little bit of chrome, like my personal favorite, the Great Person Mod. There is even a Total Realism mod, though I have no idea what realism even means in a game as abstract as Civilization.

Fall from Heaven is something special, though. It is a fantasy world adaptation with almost everything remade. New resources, new tech tree, new civs, new skills, new units…but the thing is, FFH has a driving mythology in which the whole thing works. The Civilopedia is a delight to read because the modmakers have taken this job so seriously.

It certainly has its problems. Like many user created adaptations, it errs on the side of too much. The tech tree is so made over that I had to go back to Chieftain level to find my bearings. Though the techs themselves make sense in their own hierarchy, it’s not obvious what Arcane Lore will give me. The new religions are a mixture of Tolkien tree-worship and other straight rip-offs from fantasy lit (there is a Cthulhu religion called “Octopus Overlords”).

But these adaptations never seem forced. It becomes conceivable that these fantasy societies would have different religions, religions that even shape the look of your cities. Since the modders aren’t bound to follow a particular author (though I’m sure there is a Middle Earth mod out there) or a certain established mythos, they take a bit from here and a bit from there, even creating elaborate justifications for the new wonders. Originality and creation and not necessarily the same thing.

The civics are also given some serious teeth. One religious civic offers huge benefits to your state faith, but penalizes you for every heretical religion in your city. Instead of the Civ 4 method of making each civic merely attractive in a different situation, the modders have given you the temptation to mold your civ to fit the needs of an upcoming development.

And it has dragons.

I think that this is what Firaxis had in mind when they said they wanted Civ IV to be mod friendly. This is a wonderful achievement, and I’m not one drawn to radical makeovers of my games. I have yet to finish a single Fall From Heaven game because there is so much I want to see that I get bogged down in the details. What does Mana do? How do I upgrade my Adepts? Why are Great Works worth so little in culture? Is that a hell hound?

Civilization IV was, of course, in no danger of disappearing from my hard drive. But more intriguing mods like this could mean that it never leaves.


6 Comments so far ↓

  • oldciver

    You might want to clarify that you are contrasting civ4 with civ3, as I think you are.

    I have been part of the Civ2 community, and I can say it was (and IS – its still active) far more than adding units, etc. There have been fascinating ways of taking the civ2 rules set and the triggers available, and making entirely new games. Look at “End of the Bronze Age” “The Great Game” or the series of Persian history games by Hartel. Truely fascinating and creative, adding much to the gameplay – and yes, teaching alot :)

    There was also a Microprose provided Fantasy scenario in Civ2:Test of Time.

  • Troy Goodfellow

    Civ 2 had a much better modding community than Civ 3, I think. It was obviously conducive to the whole scenario based gameplay idea, as was demonstrated in the expansion packs.

    Not that Civ 3 wasn’t. Conquests was a great expansion precisely because it showed how you could adapt the core game to do other things. But I think it took people longer to realize that because the Civ2 art work was easier to manipulate.

    But Civ 4…modding has only just taken off, in my opinion. The early stuff followed the usual pattern of people making Canadian and Albanian civs, or modding the civics just a bit. The ancient Mediterranean mod, for example, was pretty uninspired at first, but is getting better.

    I will be going to the ApolyCon next week, so I hope to talk to some of the modders there.

  • Amber

    Thanks for the review. I haven’t had a lot of incentive to try out any mods, but this one sounds intriguing. Going to download it tonight when I get home.

  • Kael

    Thanks for the review. I appreciate the good and the bad, and agree with all your points. Fall from Heaven is a work in progress and we are always looking for ways to make the game more fun without making it more complex.

    Thanks for playing!

    – Kael

  • Troy

    This was almost a year ago, Kael, so I haven’t tried it in any recent iteration. There are just too many mods to follow! Look forward to giving the latest version a spin, though.

  • JonathanStrange

    I’m playing the Fall From Heaven right now, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s more than just another mod: it is THE MOD for Civ IV. It’s reinvigorated my interest in Civ IV which I regard as a solid, refined game but mostly not as compelling to play anymore: perhaps because I’ve played it so much or because the novelty of a new unit or civilization wasn’t enough. Fall From Heaven is a new universe, familiar enough to be played “right out of the box”, original enough to be entertaining.