As long time readers might remember, I have been a fan of the Total War series of comp games since the release of 'Medieval' a few years ago. Since then, there has been Rome, Medieval II (using the new engine from 'Rome' on the medieval theme), Empire (18th cent?) and Napoleonic. I haven't played the last two, and most enjoyed the original 'medieval'. Although I put many hours into Rome, and some into Medieval II, that was mainly due the wow factor as the game evolved and the fact that the system itself is pretty good. But they lacked the magic of the 'medieval' experience, at least to me they did.
It's hard to pin down exactly what the 'magic' is, that thing that draws us back to our old favorites time and again. In the world of flight sims, there was an old Amiga game from twenty years ago called 'Wings', but you could 'smell the avgas', until 1942 Pacific War (mid nineties) there was nothing like it. Ilyushin filled the void, but not quite the same.
In WWII tactical games, the Talonsoft classic East Front seems to 'catch the essence' of this type of gaming, and has warranted various continuations of its existence from different 'publishers' in an almost unchanged format. Not bad for a game that itself seems to take off from where the orginal Avalon Hill boardgame Squad Leader left off. Not that surprising, perhaps, considering that several of the team from Avalon Hill were involved in the project.
Anyway, Medieval II didn't to me catch the edge of seat feel of its predecessor.
So, I was pretty pleased to find in one of my random surfs on the web this link to a series of mod's (modifications) to download and patch onto the original game program to make it a recreation of the War of the Ring. It looked pretty good. So I went out and got the necessary expansion to my copy of Medieval II ($7 for the upgrade, the game itself cost $12, both from the local second hand game trader) and then downloaded about 2GB of mods, spent an afternoon installing them (a couple hours) and was well surprised.
It's great. I'll write more of it later as this post is long enough, but suffice to say that Third Age: Total War has all the flash graphics and smart engine capacity of this leading edge game, and has managed through cunning use of graphic and audio reference to the shared reality we all share from book and film to create a 'believable' environment, and that the design of the game itself leaves a lot of excitement to be discovered. To me, the mix is right and one can smell mirkwood in the morning.
1 hour ago