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Legends of Ancient Arabia

 

June 11 2012

In today's blog entry, I review the Legends of Ancient Arabia (LoAA) modpack for Civilization 4.

In summary, it's an excellent mod pack which is still a little rough around the edges.

Overview

LoAA is a great little mod. It covers the period of ancient Arabian history about a thousand years before the rise of Islam.

The atmosphere and feel of this game is superb. The music, which Gordon Farrell insisted on having with the mod, adds a very nice touch. The units are redrawn and have a very distinct Arabian flare to them. I especially like the scimitars some late game horsemen have.

I actually prefer the flavor of this mod over stock Civilization, since it is more focused and has a stronger atmosphere than Civ's "kitchen sink" approach to covering the entire history of mankind in a single game. One ends a LoAA game in roughly the same world that one begins the game in.

Game mechanics

Unlike a lot of mods, the tech tree has been completely revamped. There are some 52 different techs one can develop--the mod has even more techs which only the AI can develop in the game's scenario map. The tech tree is one for an ancient world: There is no gunpowder here, and you will never build a spaceship.

While the technology progress has been greatly altered, the feel of the techs will be very familiar to civilization players. The library, for example, may have a different name, but it benefits research the same way Civ4's library does. The "build all trade routes to win" victory condition is obviously Civ4's spaceship with different names.

Once hitting the end of the tech tree, there simply is no more technology to develop; one may as well invest all of their technology research points on wealth or culture.

Since the tech tree is cut off compared to stock Civ4, some things are possible to obtain--including, to my surprise, deep water ships--while some other techs, such as the universal suffrage civic, can not ever be researched by the player.

The mod gives the player an early strong (strength 6) archer that is not made obsolete until late in the middle game; having such a strong unit makes battles more a question of outnumbering and outmaneuvering the opponent instead of beating them with superior technology. City sieges are assisted by a catapult equivalent unit which comes early in the midgame.

The Civlopedia has been completely rewritten for the units and wonders this mod offers; it is missing entries describing the Arabian tribes one can play, but that's why there's the Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pre-Islamic_Arabia

Bugs

The game, while really fun, feels a little incomplete. The buttons have minor graphical glitches which make them not quite "fit in" with Civ4's buttons. The mod was never updated to run on Beyond the Sword instead of Warlords.

It also has some bugs. One is minor: While there is an endgame technology the supposedly allows workers to build windmills, it doesn't actually work and windmills can never be built (the tech, at least, also gives the player a free tech, so researching it isn't a complete waste) [Update: I have now fixed the windmill bug]. Another annoying bug was that random maps were broken; I had to modify an XML file to make a proper random map for this civ.

The mod's biggest bug is that it drags down and becomes dog slow by the end game. I decided to win the game on a huge (144x96) map at marathon speed peacefully by building all of the trade routes. Since the other civs and the barbarians were not threatening me, it was just a matter of hitting "turn done" about 60 times until all of the trade routes were done.

In the end game of finishing last two trade routes, each "turn done" was a 1 to 2 minute ordeal on my high speed Core i5-2430m processor (albeit with a slow HD 3000 graphics chipset). It took me about two hours to finish up the endgame, with most of the time waiting for me to be able to hit "turn done" again after dealing with choosing city improvements and negotiation with the remaining AI players.

Conclusion

LoAA is a fantastic free download with only a few incomplete rough edges (the broken windmills and random maps; the lack of optimization) stopping it from being a superlative game.

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