Civilization IV keeps me coming back more than a decade after its release, despite having two successors at the time of writing, because of the many hugely-enjoyable mods available for it. Fall from Heaven 2 is one of those mods. I broached this subject in Caveman 2 Cosmos – Civilization IV, my first post on the world of Civ modding; check the intro out there if you’re interested.
Fall from Heaven 2 (FfH2) is a dark fantasy Civ IV mod created by good guy and all-round gentleman Kael. Kael is known as Derek Paxton offline and was a producer for Stardock’s 2010 flop Elemental: Fallen Enchantress, a post following his outstanding success with FfH2. If you’re going to judge the ability of Kael, judge him on the mod. It’s brilliant.
Fall from Heaven 2 is the most popular mod for Civ IV, topping both the CivFanatics and ModDB download tables (more than 620,000 and 340,000 downloads, respectively, at the time of writing).
The primary intention of this article is as a primer to jumping into the complex community surround FfH2 and maybe pointing out a few of the things that draw me back to this mod time-and-again.
This is a very long post, so for your convenience, these are the headings and content summaries:
- What’s the Fuss About? – Introduction to Fall from Heaven 2
- Modn – Fall from Heaven 2 Genealogy – An explanation of how the various Fall from Heaven 2 modmods fit together
- Ashes of Erebus Features – AoE scope and features
- Conquering Erebus – AoE feature exploration with screenshots
- Future Development – An interview with black_imperator, AoE modder
- Reflection – What I think of AoE
- Installation – How to install AoE
Fall from Heaven 2? What’s the Fuss About?
Fall from Heaven 2 converts Civ IV into a medieval grimdark world and adds RPG elements and two major new mechanics: magic and the Armageddon counter.
The magic system introduces mana into the game world (as a strategic resource to be acquired) which affects your ability to construct some units and cast certain spells, and adds passive empire-wide bonuses. Spells are learned using the core promotion mechanism.
The Armageddon counter is a mechanism to encourage conflict, particularly in the late game. Some actions take the world closer to Armageddon and others pull it away. Religions play a particularly central role in this, with your adopted religion often strongly influencing your gameplay.
As the Armageddon counter ticks up, bad things start to happen, like the arrival of the Four Horsemen, the spread of Hell on Earth, and the literal summoning of Satan (called Hyborem in the game). Shit like that. You don’t like it, then you gotta fight it; this means there are big clashes between good and evil in the late game.
On top of all this is a rich lore and civilisations that play very differently from one another; their differences don’t just boil down to leader traits and unique units (although those still exist, of course). The Kuriotates have an increased city radius, for example, meaning they end up with “super cities” that are more spread out in the game world. The Khazad (dwarves to you and me) are happier if your gold reserves are high, encouraging you to have a big pot of money on hand at all times. All civilisations in Fall from Heaven 2 also have an alignment on the good-evil axis.
If you’re looking to sate your curiosity when it comes to an expansive high fantasy universe, you might want to top-off your Lord of the Rings knowledge with a browse of the The Silmarillion…
There’s much more I haven’t mentioned (explored in the Fall from Heaven 2 manual), and this is all just in the base mod…
Modn – Fall from Heaven 2 Genealogy
As massively popular as Fall from Heaven 2 was (and is), Kael ceased development in December 2008. Since then, the modmodders have reigned. A “modmod” is a modification to the base mod. FfH2 has practically become a game in its own right, with Civ IV + FfH2 considered “vanilla”.
The world of modding surrounding Fall from Heaven 2 can be a little difficult to penetrate because of the sheer number of modmods, modmodmods, …, modns. For no other mod have I seen this sort of recursive modification by the community. Given all of this variety, it can be daunting for someone to come in and decide which iteration of FfH2 is “the best” to play.
To keep things simple, you could just jump right on the base mod. Easy. However, it’s generally regarded that the final version of FfH2 (0.41 Patch O) is not finished; perhaps most damning for its longevity is that the AI doesn’t know how to play and the balance is bad. (Although I’m pretty forgiving when it comes to balance in mods.)
It took me a few evenings of reading, but I think I’ve teased apart the genealogy of FfH2 modmods. There are, in my opinion, three major “end-point” modmods you should consider:
- Master of Mana Xtended (MoM) – Expands FfH2 in two directions: the magic system and the RPG elements. If you liked Age of Wonders III, this might appeal to you. I personally prefer some of the more “civ-like” elements that some of the other modmods explore.
- Extramodmod (EMM) – Doesn’t expand FfH2, exactly, but hugely improves the AI and balance (specifically to address multiplayer gameplay).
- Ashes of Erebus (AoE) – More civs, more units, more magic – just more! AoE subscribes to the same “more is more” design philosophy as Caveman 2 Cosmos and, for that reason, is my modmod of choice and the focus of this article.
At the time of writing, all three of these modmods are still being updated regularly.
There are, of course, many more modmods that could be mentioned, but a lot of them have some relationship to the above in some way. These relationships are shown (approximately) in the diagram below (with no promises as to its completeness or accuracy).