As you can see, my focus with this thread has always been the "vanilla" branch with EMM. I find AoE/RifE/etc to be autismo mods that suffer from a severe "too many cooks stirring the pot" issue. It's adding stuff for the sake of adding stuff. Some of it is good, but a lot is bad and the end result is a diluted experience. Master of Mana OTOH is more interesting, but woefully underdeveloped. The Wildmana subforum in pretty much dead nowadays and Xtended 5.6 is the last version. I played it, it doesn't work. AI doesn't know shit about the game, unlike EMM.
WTF IS "FALL FROM HEAVEN" AND WHY SHOULD I CARE?
Simply put FfH is the answer to the "what if we had a total conversion mod to turn this game into medieval fantasy with RPG elements™ while keeping the core of Civilization 4 gameplay?" question.
Dwarves? Check! Magic? Check! Dark Elves? Check! Stack of Doom? CHECK!!!
So all your favorite medieval fantasy tropes are there, don't worry. What makes the game great isn't its "rich lore™" but rather the mechanical implementation of the whole medieval fantasy thing. While most Civilization mods try their best to keep the same "feel" as the original game (and if that's what you're looking for then I suggest you install Realism Invictus ASAP) Fall From Heaven tried something new and, IMO succeeded.
If you think this is just a reskin of military units to look like medieval fantasy stuff then, well, you're wrong. FfH brings a lot of new CORE concepts that work alongside regular Civ 4 mechanics like culture, production, research etc. The main thing about the FfH universe is the implementation of magic and Armageddon mechanics. As you can see on the screenshot, there is a number on the top left corner of the minimap area. It starts at 0 and rises all the way up to 100 (Armageddon) according to what is happening in the world. Demon is brought into the world? Armageddon rises. City full of innocents gets razed? Armageddon rises. The Celestial civilization is brought into the world? Armageddon lowers. Big bad fallen angel is slain? Armageddon lowers. And so on.
The Armageddon counter puts a sense of urgency into the late game, thus countering classical Civ4 late game stagnancy/boredom. Late game is usually when the BIG wars between good and evil actually happen. Being "good" in FfH isn't about being a "nice" and faggy, but rather it's about avoiding the almost inevitable DOOM. In fact, good leaders like Capria are among the biggest warmongers. Good and evil are directly related to Armageddon.
And how does Armageddon affects the gameplay? Heavily. There are several scripted events that will always fire at certain thresholds. The Blight, the Horsemen of the Apocalypse and the spread of hell terrain are just some of the many nasty things that will happen to the world as you get closer to The End. Armageddon mechanics also influence rituals, the strength of demons and Marked units, the arrival of Avatar heroes and several other things. It's hard to explain (since it's a ton of stuff), but easy to understand once you get into the game.
Yes, Horsemen of the Apocalypse. There is a bit of hell terrain on the right corner, for extra effect.
Another cool mechanic is, obviously, magic. Mana works similarly to how strategic resources work in vanilla Civ 4. In order to be able to cast spells of a particular sphere you need at least one source of mana. So just as a single source of Iron allows you to make an entire army of Iron armed troops, one source of Fire Mana is enough to fuel every single one of your mages all the way up to Summon Fire Elemental.
And if we're talking about "magic", we're talking about the Amurites. Featuring in the screenshot is Govannon, an Archmage willing to teach every single one of your units how to cast magic. Sweet!
Magic is treated via "promotions". So in order to cast fireball your unit needs the "channeling II" promotion and the "fire II" promotion. Magic users come in 3 tiers: adepts -> mages -> archmages. There is a fun little twist: only adepts can be trained in your cities. You need to upgrade a 4th level adept in order to have a mage and your mage must reach level 6 before becoming an archmage. If they get assassinated before that, well...tough luck.
Mana also provides some passive (and cumulative!) benefits to your empire, according to their type. Law mana reduces your maintenance costs, Life Mana gives you extra health in your cities, Mind Mana increases your Great Person Points and so on. Another advantage to hoarding mana of the same type is that new adepts will be created with FREE promotions if you have surplus mana. Some summons also have "affinity" to a certain type of mana, meaning they become stronger the more mana of that type you acquire. Hold 3 death nodes and watch as your summoned specters stop being cannon fodder and become actual tools of DOOM.
Heroes are another fun mechanic that FfH brings. Every civilization has one or more heroes and every religion brings at least one hero. Civilization heroes are "guaranteed" while religious heroes belong to whoever recruit them first. So you're always competing with your "brothers and sisters of the faith" for the heroes said faith attracts. If they die in battle they are gone. Civ heroes can be revived if you have someone capable of casting Life III, but they will come back with ZERO xp. Religious Heroes will always abandon your cause if you change your religion, but they are not "dead". They can be recruited again by another player who still worships your original religion.
Religion mechanics are also very nice. There are seven religions in the game, each providing unique mechanics, unique civics and even changing your leader's original alignment. So if you start as a good/neutral leader but later decides that converting to the Ashen Veil religion is a good idea, well...
...here is your new friend. Don't worry, he's got your back, bro!
But Religion in FfH is not just a "moral" choice. As stated above, religions have associated heroes, they bring unique units and they allow you to use unique civics. All these things are GONE if you convert away from your chosen religion. Abandoning the Runes of Kilmorph, for instance, means you won't be able to use the Arete civic and you'll lose your dwarven heroes. Paramanders won't abandon you, tho. Oh, and speaking of unique civics:
Finally we have a worthy civic option
Every civilization has a couple of unique mechanics. The Clan of Embers can bring barbarian cities to the fold without bloodshed. Every city the Kuriotates build has a radius of workable tiles of 3 instead of the usual 2. The Illians have a ton of unique rituals to bring the world to an ICY end instead of a fiery one. The Khazad (Dwarves) have a vault mechanic (top right corner of the first screenshot) that increases happiness as you hoard gold and causes unhappiness if your vaults ever become empty. There is still adventuring, Over/Undercouncil, magical items...I could go on forever about FfH mechanics, but I hope I convinced you by now to try the game.
FINE YOU CONVINCED ME! HOLY SHIT! THERE IS SO MUCH STUFF!!!!1111 WHERE DO I EVEN START!?!?
First of all, you need the base game MOD. Don't install Blue Marble!!! LINK
Then you need Extramodmod. Read the second post if you don't know why the base game isn't enough. DOWNLOAD THREAD
Now that you're all set, pick the Bannor civilization and Monarch or Prince difficulty and start a new game. Trust me, Bannor is by far the go-to "noob civilization".
Ready to smite some evil doers! And some good-doers who happen to have easily conquerable and rich lands...
Now, as you probably already know, there are two types of economy in Civ 4: cottage based and specialist based. The Bannor leans heavily towards a cottage based economy due to their World Spell. Rally (the Bannor World Spell) gives you a free Demagog (mid-high power melee unit) for every town improvement and every city you own. You don't want to use Rally during your first or second expansion war since World Spells can only be used once per game. You want to save your Rally for that ONE war against your biggest rival. Crusade + rally = certain victory (assuming you haven't been sucking too much balls).
So back to economic strategy, you want to be doing cottage based horizontal growth which also synergizes with the Order religion and the Overcouncil. Playing with a cottage focused Civ first is a good thing because cottage based economies in FfH are almost identical to Vanilla, while specialist based economies are very different and rely on a bit of meta-game knowledge. Cottages are unlocked via the "Education" tech.
You have two objectives, technology-wise: founding the Order religion and reaching Fanaticism ASAP. The Order has great synergy with the Bannor, but you can easily replace it with Runes of Kilmorph for extra production instead of happy faces and reduced maintenance. Fanaticism OTOH is non-negotiable since it is THE biggest power spike for a Bannor player, giving you the ability to recruit Donal Lugh (your national Hero), the ability to recruit (or upgrade to) Paladins AND your unique civic Crusade.
"Crusade" is insanely good. War weariness becomes a non-issue, great generals emerge all the time, your cities train units 25% faster and everyone is happier (as long as they follow the State Religion, that is). What else do you need to conquer the world!? Well, there is one drawback (two, actually): no diplomacy with enemies and you can't create non military stuff during a Crusade. Before changing civics to Crusade, make sure you're willing to go all the way. And scream "DEUS VULT!" before declaring war, since that improves your battle RNG drastically.
Don't neglect your religion! Confessors can Bless your troops, giving everyone an additional strength point and they can also remove pesky diseases that might otherwise screw an entire stack. They also bring the Medic promotion, which is always nice. Sphener (Order hero) and Priors have the OP spell "Unyielding Order" which instantly removes all unhappiness from a city and stays that way while the unit remains inside the city. This spell can be used for insta-pacification of newly conquered cities!!! Everything about the Bannor screams "Conquest Victory".
Even if the Bannor isn't a very magic focused civ they sure as hell have no qualms about using it and magic is ALWAYS useful in FfH. The short version is this: you want to have at least one guy with Enchantment I and Body I. "Enchanted blade" gives every melee unit in the stack an additional 20% Strength. 'Nuff said. Other magic spheres with a big "bang for your buck" include Shadow (immunity to First Strikes and the ability to ignore building defenses at Shadow II), Body (Haste = 1 extra movement for the entire stack), Chaos (1 Extra First Strike for the entire stack) and Metamagic (summons a magical eye to scout the map, just like airplanes in vanilla civ).
tl; dr: pick Bannor, choose Monarch/Prince difficulty, found the Order (and recruit its heroes), play it cool until Fanaticism, build a reasonable army and start your conquering spree. Use Crusade when you're confident that you can DESTROY an enemy completely. Use Rally to win the game (by crushing your main rival). Don't forget about mages and priests, they are very useful.
Well guise, I hope this was useful/entertaining. I'm gonna need a bit more time to write the other three posts, but I'll get there eventually. Feel free to PM me with any Civ 4 related stuff OR typos/wrong information/broken links ITT.
Fall From Heaven is Dead. Long live Fall From Heaven's modmods!
As you guys probably know, Kael stopped developing Fall from Heaven in December 2008. Because the Mod was insanely popular, several modders attempted to continue its development. The modder community had to answer a simple question: HOW would they continue the development? As I stated in the OP, I'm going to review three modmods ITT: Extramodmod, Ashes of Erebus and Master of Mana. Each one of these modmods answered the aforementioned question differently.
AoE's answer is "well, FfH had civilizations and magic and alignments and stuff and was awesome. So let's add more civilizations, more alignments, more units and more magic and the game will become awesomer!". AoE is definitely not about "less is more", it is clearly about "more is more". The amount of new content is absolutely daunting even for FfH veterans. But more on that later.
Master of Mana's answer is "FfH was a great start. But when it comes to implementing medieval fantasy mechanics in Civ4 we could do so much more!". Notice that by "more" I actually mean "deeper" rather than "more units, religions, civics etc". Wildmana/Master of Mana boasts a superior magic system and stronger RPG elements. The Xtended version by esvath also features BEAUTIFUL new unit models. The difference between AoE and MoM is that AoE makes the game BIGGER, but it's more of the same while MoM created something almost entirely new.
But what about EMM? What are EMM's design goals? In my opinion, EMM is the realistic take on continuing FfH's development. Kael is a gentleman and a bro and he gave us one of the best mods in the history of mods, but one thing is obvious to anyone who ever played the final version of FfH2 for a decent amount of hours: that is NOT a finished game. It simply isn't. Three glaring issues remained: the AI doesn't know how to play the game, the numbers look really weird and the game lacks general polishing. More Naval AI addresses the AI issues while Erebus in the Balance addresses the balance and polishing issues. EMM combines both in a neat little package.
More Naval AI & Erebus in the Balance
More Naval AI is relatively well known among FfH veterans. Its development started in early 2010 and it continues to this day. Tholal (MNAI's modder) is still very active in the civfanatics forum and the latest version of his mod was released in October 2015. MNAI also brought additional polishing to the game and the additional features of B.U.G.
It owes its name to the fact that its initial goal was quite modest: make the AI use ships properly. It's been six years since MNAI started development and the mod expanded way beyond ships, with numerous AI improvements in other areas, UI improvements, tweaks and bug fixes. Sadly, I can't give you guys a full changelog, it's way too much stuff. You can look the changes up HERE. From my experience consisting of 6-7 games with EMM and god knows how many games with vanilla FfH2 I can safely state that the AI improvements are very much noticeable. To name a few:
- AI no longer spams priests. One per stack and no more.
- AI makes effective use of city buffing spells like Inspiration, Growth and Hope
- If you're allied with an AI faction with the Order religion (but you're not Order yourself), your AI ally will make sure every single one of your Stacks of Doom gets blessed. Nice of them
- Create a custom game and make sure the AI controls several leaders with the "Raider" trait. Trust me, it's going to be awesome!
Fun fact: those Nyxkin killing my adepts and capturing my workers were well inside Svartalfar territory when the turn began. 4 moves + commando = the AI will make sure you remember that cultural borders WON'T protect you.
Bottom line? MNAI was an awesome mod back in the day, it's still being developed and it's half (or more than half) the reason why you should install EMM. If you don't give a fuck about the balance changes EitB brings, you can skip EMM and install this mod instead. Latest stable version is HERE.
Erebus in the Balance was developed with multiplayer in mind. It's not a secret that vanilla FfH2 has god awful balance, not only on a faction vs faction sense but also when you look at the numbers and realize some units and buildings are a complete and utter waste of turns. Also, Pyre Zombies, LOL. Nevah4get! So the mod atempts to address this issue by bringing proper PLAYTESTED numbers to the table. Apparently EitB has its own community outside Civfanatics. EitB is also about polishing and bugfixing. If your intention is to play FfH multiplayer, installing EitB instead of EMM might be a good idea, since the EitB community seems to be larger. If you like the balance changes but want to play single player you're better off with EMM, since I haven't heard of AI improvements in EitB. In any case, HERE.
Extramodmod - the excuse you need to reinstall Fall From Heaven
Finally we get to EMM aka "the main reason why I bothered making an entire thread about a several years old mod for a decade old game in 2016". EMM is a mod that merges both MNAI and EitB and makes sure everything works together nicely. It also brings a bit of Terkhen's own contributions and works by other people Terkhen considered good enough to add to the project. As people ITT have been finding out, EMM gives a much more polished "feel" to FfH2.
I consider EMM to be the legitimate "heir to the FfH2 throne". I don't see EMM as an actual "modmod" because it doesn't really CHANGES FfH2, it IMPROVES FfH2. If FfH was a game, EMM would be its community patch. Kinda like WESP's patch to Bloodlines or the community patch to Fallout 2. Actually, skip the "kinda" part because EMM actually does install like a patch to vanilla FfH2. That's what I've been REALLY looking for all these years I've been playing RifE (and raging at some really dumb changes and derpy additions). And that's the excuse you need to reinstall Fall From Heaven 2. And before I forget: YES, EMM's modder is still very much active.
2022 UPDATE: Terkhen stopped working on the mod in 2019. However, the guy who was working on MNAI-U, a fork of MNAI picked up the slack and a new version was released on September 2021. Last Saturday lfgr, the continuation guy, promised a new EMM version "soon". Download link: HERE
If you want a cool playthrough idea try RoK powered Clan of Embers. 216 turns in (Immortal difficulty) and I already crushed three civilizations, with Civ #4 (Bannor) being almost dead.
AI and Deity Strategy
Looks like it's time to give this thread the 2022 update. Someone mentioned Civ 4 in shoutbox a couple days ago and that prompted me to reinstall my favorite game of all time. After trying out a couple of Vanilla ++ style mods I went back to Fall From Heaven. Again. Like always.
But enough about me, the update is about AI. As you already know from the OP, I strongly recommend Extramodmod for both its AI improvements and balance changes. The latest version - 0.6.0-beta7 was released on September 2021, so it's safe to assume EMM is still getting updates. Based on my dozens of games over the years, I decided to rank the AI civs in FFH2/EMM. This ranking is meant mostly for my own reference in the future, since I like to choose AI opponents in order to avoid the most egregiously incompetent ones. I'll also add my settings because why not? Anyway, before I start ranking AIs:
- starting position plays a big role, yes, but I find that certain civs consistently do well while others consistently suck due to the AI being unable to use a particular Civ's gimmicks. Rule of thumb: the more "HURR DURR, AXEMAN GOES WHOOSH" a faction plays, the better the AI does with it. That's not to say EMM is simplistic, I have seen the AI do things such as springing entire deserts, actively seeking out mana for buffs, dispelling my buffs etc. All those things have no parallel in vanilla Civ 4 and it goes to show just how far a handful of modders managed to take the AI of this almost 20 y/o game. Yet it doesn't change the fact that the AI has to cheat in order to remain competitive, it needs to scare the player with those 50+ warriors, otherwise it falls flat on its face. In other words: the AI learned quite a few tricks, but don't expect it to work well with unorthodox playstyles.
A) STRONG TIER
These AIs will give you a proper challenge. They may lose to "okay tier" AIs on occasion, but in 8 out of 10 games, these are the big boys, the ones that might threaten you. Most importantly, these factions have toolsets that the AI can use to their full potential.
Khazad - the dwarves are IMO the "best" all around AI, being equally capable of stealing your wonders, reaching key techs before you do you AND kicking your ass on the battlefield. The Khazad seems hardcoded into founding Runes of Kilmorph, recruiting its heroes, building the Mines of Gal Dur and then conquering the world. A solid strategy that a human player can easily replicate. Their only weakness is their utter predictability (shock FTW).
The Khazad decided to wipe out our fedora tipping asses. I only survived this by going Military State and drafting the maximum number of units every turn.
Luchuirp - the other dwarf faction is much more flexible in its approach and may adopt any religion. They are the best AI among Good leaders and will rarely end up at the bottom of the scoreboard. I used to call these guys the "bad dwarves", but then I saw them obliterate the Khazad in one of my games, so I reconsidered. However the Luichirp need a couple researches to get going and sometimes they will simply die to early aggressors like the Doviello.
Doviello - speaking of which, these barbarians are a real menace in any game. They get most of their perks right at the start and are widely considered the premiere axeman rush civ, a strategy the AI can execute flawlessly. AI Mahala is clearly better due to the Raider trait, something the AI understands perfectly. If the Doviello are bordering you, prepare for war. No amount of pleading will save you from their Sons of Asena (Axeman) doomstacks. Also:
I thought I was gonna have a chill game with the Ljosalfar. Turns out I had bought a front row ticket to the Mahala World Conquest Tour 2022. If you listen close enough, you can hear sad elf noises in the background.
Illians - the other snow barbarian civ is a lot more nuanced than the Doviello, but at the end of the day, they fulfill the same role. Due to being Agnostic the Illians are stuck being Evil, so there won't be any surprises regarding their diplomatic stances. Unlike the Doviello who must win before everyone else out techs them, the Illians actually have a late game plan. That means their diplomacy is less predictable. OTOH their world spell is way more annoying and their unique Ice themed magic can be a massive pain in the ass without proper counters.
Svartalfar - the emo elves tend to be very aggressive and Viconia, their main leader, has a skillset well suited for aggressive expansion. Unlike their archer-centric cousins, the Svartalfar armies have a nice mix of cavalry, archers and infantry, making it much harder to choose promotions to counter them. They also employ magic, making them an unpredictable warmongering civ. Much like the Luichirp, however, the Svartalfar are vulnerable to early aggression and end up being a very "feast or famine" faction in the hands of the AI.
Clan of Embers - never ending hordes of Orcish Axemen. Unsurprisingly, the AI can use these guys quite effectively and the Clan will usually wipe out another AI (RIP Luchuirp ). Their main weakness is their tendency to bite more than they can chew. 3 AIs fighting the Clan at the same time is not an uncommon sight and I find that to be thematically appropriate and fun.
Grigori - I lost a game to these guys recently. The Grigori AI is very well rounded and capable of progressing in both warfare and building. Their main strength lies on the fact that they are rarely hated by other AIs, so they tend to build up while others fight it out. The AI knows how to use Adventurers and if you fight AI Grigori you will run into a Lvl 20 Marksman. Good luck with that. To make matters worse, they are also quite competent with magic and...
Here we see the AI using T3 summons and magic missiles to execute low HP defenders. That's how they won, btw.
B - OKAY TIER
These AIs are...there. Factions in this category will usually be a bit "gimmicky" OR are simply all around mediocre. These AIs are functional but unlikely to impress you.
Kuriotates - the main "builder" civ on Team Good Guys™ the Kurios will usually have a friend or two, so check for Defensive Pacts before declaring war. Other than that, I find them unremarkable. Don't put them in your game if you intend to disable Cultural Victories, because that's the only thing they will ever hope to achieve. The reason why I don't consider them Strong Tier is mostly due to the civ-specific mechanic of limited number of cities, which inevitably results in an AI faction that is very, very easy to kill, no matter how far ahead on the tech tree they might be.
The AI goes dragon hunting. They did succeed. There's nothing similar in vanilla Civ 4, so it looks like the modders taught the AI how (and why) to slay Achaeron from scratch. Impressive stuff.
Malakim - a well rounded AI that can follow pretty much any path, but rarely excels at anything. Due to flavor starts, the Malakim capital is guaranteed to spawn around flood plains, which kinda explains why they are never the worst faction. Their desert gimmick is unremarkable and most people won't even take notice. Malakim AI is the very definition of "average", you can add them to any game and they will adapt to the situation.
Elohim - these guys never seem to "win" anything, but they almost never lose either. AI Elohim's main strength lies in its ability to stonewall and prevent any aggressive neighbors from expanding into their territory. Einion Logos is clearly the better leader, due to his ability to spam Disciple units with a gazillion promotions. And they are far from being peaceful hippies, AI Elohim can and will DoW your Evil ass. OTOH they never seem to attack neighbors with similar values (same Alignment / Religion / Council Membership).
Hippus - I used to think these guys were top tier, but once I started playing Deity games I noticed the Hippus became a lot more mediocre. Not sure why, tho. In any case, Tasunke is the better leader. Rule of Thumb: the AI likes Raider leaders.
Ljosalfar - the "regular" elves will always found the Fellowship of Leaves and then...leave? No, srsly, these guys never seem to do much of anything, except surviving as a minor/vassal. On the flip side, I rarely see them eliminated, mostly due to their World Spell that works as a get out of jail free card, at the cost of setting back their economy for the rest of the game.
C - CRAP TIER
Don't put these in your game. Factions in this category are just comically incompetent and will get swallowed by whoever spawns closest to them.
Bannor - the AI can't into deus vult. Around turn 100 or so I look at the scoreboard, these guys are at the top and I think "see, AI Bannor isn't shit!". Then their first war happens and it's always a fucking disaster. Don't ask me why, but AI Bannor never seems to actually get the things a human Bannor player would try to get (Fanaticism, Orders From Heaven, well developed cottages etc) before embarking on their grand crusade. Instead the AI will usually attempt to fight while being ill prepared and gets absolutely demolished.
Sidar - these guys just straight up die. Every single time. Which is funny considering the Sidar doesn't have any glaring weaknesses, it just lacks strengths aside from their shades. I guess the AI doesn't use them properly?
Sheaim - Much like their crusading arch enemies, the Sheiam also sucks balls when played by the AI. In every game they will complete the Catacomb Libralus and then kindly hand it over to whoever conquers them. In most games they won't even bother founding the Veil and you can forget about the AI using Death Magic correctly. A Sheaim player without strong necromancers is a dead Sheaim player, and that's exactly what happens to AI Sheaim.
Calabim - the AI doesn't seem to use vampires properly. Actually, it never survives to that point. Spamming hordes of Moroi is the best the AI can do and tbh that's basically a discount Doviello. Stick to the real one.
Amurites - a magic focused civ...that masses mediocre swordsmen, for some reason. Other non-mage AIs seem to use magic much more effectively, rendering the Amurites AI completely obsolete.
Balseraphs - unless you consider annoying the player with Loki being a "win", the Balseraphs are unlikely to impress you. Nobody is afraid of these clowns and they get conquered in 8 out of 10 games. The other two end in vassalage. I blame their weak melee line combined with the AI being unable to execute a proper culture flip strategy.
D - SITUATIONAL
Lanun - Their entire gimmick is centered around ships, so their performance varies according to sea levels. In mostly land maps (like I usually play) they simply suck due to their bad melee line and sea focused economy. They seem hardcoded towards founding the Octopus Overlords religion. Not very flexible, usually very dead.
Infernal - I rarely see the AI summoning them, so when I research Infernal Pact I usually do so with the intent of unleashing Hyborem onto everyone else while I chill. He is usually successful in that endeavor. I have never seen Hyborem turn on me when I have the Ashen Veil holy city. Anticlimactic af, but the Big Devil seems very loyal to whoever summons him and he will "forgive" you for kicking his ass after he steals one of your cities (Global Spell).
Mercurians - I rarely summon them because FUCK giving up a city. But they show up in my games from time to time and their performance is inherently tied to their ally. I had a fun game where the Elohim summoned them and we all ganged up on the Khazad. Can't really say much about these guys, they work as an extension of whoever summons them, unlike the fairly independent Infernals.