Sometimes I feel like the only reason I keep this blog going is to provide an outlet for my raging love of all things Civilization IV.
I'd previously reported my glee at learning that Fall from Heaven would be included in the upcoming Beyond the Sword expansion. As we get closer to the July release date, more details are seeping out, including this stunner: unlike, say, Civilization II: Conflicts in Civilization's "Best of the Net", they didn't just copy a zip file off the Civ Fanatics site to bulk up their expansion (though even if they had, the expansion is awesome enough that I would still cheer them). No, they actually got Kael and his merry band of misfits to craft an entirely new scenario that is based on the Fall from Heaven concept, but contains entirely different gameplay and uses unique features from the Beyond the Sword expansion. Heck, more than that: as this interview at IGN reveals, they even got Firaxis to add some features to the game engine to support what they wanted to do in the scenario!
If you're at all interested in Civ IV, that IGN article is well worth reading. I've gone from interested to excited; this information alone is now prompting me to pre-order this game. Once again, they've totally upended the existing Civilization engine to provide a new experience. The player controls one of three heroes at the start of the game, as he re-unites the scattered remnants of the tribe. There's a focused dramatic arc to the game: "Mulcarn, the God of Winter, reigns and the world is little more than a frozen wasteland ravaged by blizzards... the pieces of a legendary sword, the Godslayer, have to be found and numerous threats have to be overcome. These threats could be creatures that roam the wilderness, enemy civilizations or the power of Mulcarn himself. If the player reforges the Godslayer and takes it into battle against Mulcarn he can win the scenario and end the Age of Ice." In other words, it's an abrupt shift from the generalism of classic Civilization into an extremely pointed and goal-oriented game. More so than most scenarios, which use existing Civilization features to achieve unusual goals, this one looks primed to alter existing gameplay dramatically.
So what else is exciting? Blizzards sound cool. This is the Age of Ice, after all, and the God of Winter must make his presence felt. Blizzards will blow across the map, damaging units and changing terrain - for example, freezing a lake so your foot soldiers can cross it. They have retained magic from the existing Civilization game, but it works a little differently in the Third Age than the Fourth. The "Fire" release (which you can get for free from Civ Fanatics) is set in the Fourth Age, when magic is better understood and can be studied, allowing you to "build" adepts who can train to be mages or summoners. Ice's Third Age, by contrast, comes after a long dark age when much human knowledge has been lost, and so magic comes into the world unexpectedly as the rare child with power is born.
Perhaps the most encouraging thought is that this mod has gone through Firaxis's playtesting and QA process. Again, the public mod is really solid, but this sort of professional polish should make a great game even more amazing. If we're really lucky, we might even see some new video and other nice flashy media. All I can say is, sign me up, I'm ready for Ice!