After 3 or so years of waiting, Edain Mod 4.4 graduated to 4.5 this last week and the fun has been a-flowing. This patch constitutes a complete overhaul of several of the key gameplay mechanics such as economy and god powers. It adds new units and textures which are both visually pleasing. Importantly though, the patch re-invisions each faction to make them more unique, less exploitable and arguably much more fun overall. Gondor/Arnor being my favorite army, I will start the assessment with them:
Previously, individual economy buildings had to be upgraded separately in order to accelerate the flow of resources and/or expand population cap. Now, however, pop cap is an incremental research option in the citadel (so resource buildings lost won’t shrink your cap), and econ upgrades are purchased at a forge or similar research building (in Gondor’s case, the Marketplace has been repurposed to do this). All new econ buildings take the global research level instead of needing to be leveled up once built. Econ buildings don’t deteriorate revenue based on how damaged they are (thank the maker). Upgrades tier at 1200 for level 2 and 2400 for level 3 (on castles, outposts and settlements separately). Pop expansions are 200 cap for 500 resources, all the way up to 1500 – a reduction in cap from v. 4.4 by 300 I’m sad to report.
This new restructuring paces the game significantly slower than it was in the previous iteration. The resource penalties are higher, which draws out the time to collect resources and thus, things in the game take longer to unfold. I do like this change though! Games feel more deliberate, less rush rush hasty.
There’s a new mechanic for the manor houses that gifts their elite unit cost reduction to regular infantry and archers, which causes a late-game surge when all the pieces fall into place. Once researched at the marketplace. That’s a 60 resource reduction on the cost of all units, if you are at the max number of houses built. It’s stellar. That, in conjunction with the already existing reduction mechanic for cavalry through the farms, waging war with Gondor is fast and furious like I remember it being in the previous version of Edain, but even more so than before.
Signal fires were totally overhauled, which made me sad since one of my favorite strategies was a spam with signal fire units (since they’re free in v. 4.4) after the god power additional battalion upgrade. Sadly, the timer-spawned units are not happening anymore. Now, the signal fires collect a “resource” every 60 seconds called a “signal rider.” the units can be bought once you have enough currency, 2 is the starting low value and 10 is the largest sum of riders that can be spent at once. 10 brings 8 full level 2 battalions of the standard 4 types of signal fire unit (swordsman, axemen, pikes, archers). This mechanic lets you place the battalions at your discretion near the signal fire building instead of having them spawn automatically. It also is upgraded to 3 total battalions once you buy the god power upgrade. The units are the same quality, but just more deliberate about how and when they are brought to the battlefield. You must have the cap available to summon whatever you pay riders for, or you will lose the units that don’t fit under the cap to the cosmic ether… never to be seen again.
Arnor is largely unchanged with the exception of their spellbook. They still lean on swordsmen instead of the pikes of Gondor. Their allegiance with the elves gives them one of the game’s best elite multipurpose units. The spellbooks are better duplicates of each other then they were before so I really like the fact that they made Arnor just a dusty mirror of Gondor. As it should be, they’re all the same people, just split between the two kingdoms of men.
I don’t use the settlement rangers… regular archers are more than sufficient in appropriate number to thin melee units. Rangers are only an option on castle maps since then there’s a good chance of reducing their cost with the manor house mechanic. I never use Faramir. I use Pipin, Boromir and occasionally Denethor. I sprinkle Gondor knights… they add substance to any real push. Can’t win with infantry alone. Siege comes in to play every game, and trebuchets are as effective as ever.
All told, I’m pleased! I give the whole update an A. Gameplay has been very good against the hard AI. I have tried several different build orders and am starting to settle on one that keeps me in contention and paces expansion along with the necessary economic hurdles. Edain team really came through with a phenomenal update, meeting 3 years of my pent-up expectations. I continue to play and explore all the unique features they have added to the different factions. Not to mention the fact that the next major update will be coming sooner, and it will have the final faction missing from Edain: Goblins. I believe they will be known as Misty Mountains now since it won’t be just Goblins but an amalgamation of Gundabad, Moria and Mirkwood. W is a Gobs guy from way back in the day, back when vanilla Battle for Middle-Earth II hit the shelves (in 2006). He loved them, and Edain has taken them away for years and years. Now, finally, and perhaps even this spring, they will be welcomed back into the fold.