Video Game: The Last Days Of The Third Age Of Middle Earth
The Last Days (of the Third Age of Middle Earth) is a Game Mod for Mount & Blade and now Warband, a Strategy Game with tactical action and RPG Elements. Its draws its inspiration from The Lord of the Rings, especially the books (although some clothings and city appearances come from the movies). It puts the player in the middle of the War of the Ring, with a lot of factions, units, and towns.It features three sides (Good, Sauron, Saruman - Sauron and Saruman begin as allies) divided in several smaller factions (Gondor, Rohan, Mirkwood, Harad, Rhûn, Mordor, Moria, etc). The player creates a character and begins alone near a camp / town of the mini faction that he chose, already attached to it (lowest rank), and equiped with bad quality gear and a few food. Then, like in the original Mount & Blade, the character will have to hire soldiers, buy gears, and do quests to gain fame with the factions of his side. When he reaches level 8, the War of the Ring begins.The playable factions are :
Imladris, Elves of Elrond, with a few Human troops from Arnor and Dúnedain.
Mirkwood, another kingdom of forest Elves.
Beornings, Men from the forests, neighbors of Mirkwood.
Dale, a small kingdom of the Men, neighbor to Erebor.
Moria, an Orc tribe occupying the famous Dwarf fortress.
Mt. Gundabad, another Orc faction.
Dunlendings, barbarian savages Men neighbors of Rohan.
Dol Guldur, in the lore, a Sauron fortress in the middle of Mirkwood. In the mod it is a distinct faction of Sauron.
Khand, barbarian nomads.
Rhûn, same concept as Khand.
Harad, desert people from the far south of Middle Earth.
Umbar corsairs, pirates.
The current version (3.22) have been released in December 2012.The mod can be found here.
The mod features the following tropes:
Action Girl: Elves and most Human player characters can choose to be one, although this isn't adviced because of graphical issues (see Obvious Beta below). There are also a few female commanders and hired blade among the Elven and Human NPC:
Hirable companions feature Faniul from Dale, Luevanna from Mirkwood, and Galmyne from Rohan
Female commanders are Míriel (Mirkwood), Galadriel (faction leader of Lothlórien) and the Black Númenórean Berúthiel (Mordor)
Affably Evil: Some parts of dialogs (especially all which is related to quests common to all sides) are the same for every factions. It makes some conversations sounding a bit Out of Character, when the leader of an evil faction asks the player politely to do a random quest and nearly apologizes when the player answers that he won't be able to do it.
Alien Blood: Averted. Although Orc blood is described as black in the books, all the blood in the game is red because of technical limitations.
Arbitrary Headcount Limit: Averted, like in the original game the maximal size of an army based on charisma, famenote Each faction have a hierarchy, doing quests for one or winning a battle near one of its party or settlement grants rank points, gaining enough of them makes the player climb in the hierarchy. It is possible to climb in the ranks of several armies. Each time the player climbs in the hierarchy in any faction, it increases his total Arbitrary Headcount Limit, and one the leadership skill ; to allow the formation of larger hordes for the evil factions, each Orc unit hired makes the cap a bit hight (something like "two more units for three Orcs").
Three skills of the core of Mount & Blade ("spotting": increase field of view on the world map; "tracking": studying the tracks on the ground; "path-finding": increase the speed of travel on the world map) are scout-oriented; they still can be used in the mod
There are a lot of scouting parties wandering everywhere on the map, some random quests even require to dispatch some or personnally recon a specific area
There are also some units which name implies this role ("Orc tracker of Mordor", "Ranger of Ithilien", etc)
Among the hirable companions, a few of them (the Gondor ranger Mablung, the Isengard wolf rider Durgash) have a variation of scout in their background
Back from the Dead: When the player character is knocked out during a battle, the text displayed implies this.
Beauty Equals Goodness: Mostly played straight. Elves are beautiful, Dwarves and Men of the Good side are average. Orcs looks like mutant demons, and Men of the Evil sides looks mostly diseased (Black Númenóreans, the Mouth of Sauron), chaotic savage (Dunlendings), or cruel (Khand). YMMV for the women of these factions and for the whole Umbar corsairs and Harad factions, who look rather average.
The Berserker: Isengard has a few units of this kind. There is also some berserker footmen in the Beornings faction.
Not a true civil war according to the setting and plot, but the wandering always hostile parties are independant Orcs and deserters from the various evil factions. Fighting them when playing a servant of Sauron or Saruman will looks a bit like this
It can end like this. If the Good side is defeated, the Sauron and Saruman factions will turn against each other until there is only one left standing
Color-Coded Armies: The colors don't affect the uniforms themselves, but the texts and numbers affected to each faction on the map. The number next to each party on the mapnote it indicates the number of soldiers and the number of prisoners in it and the name of towns / castles / settlements allows to identify their owner from a single sight thank to their color.
Or at least it should. Infortunatly, some different factions have very similar color. The worst are all those which have a shade of white / very light grey as official color. They are: Gondor, Erebor, Dale, all the wandering always-hostile parties, the player party (whatever side he is)
Dangerous Deserter: After the beginning of the War of the Ring, there is a lot of deserters from the armies of evil factions, which are hostile against all the sides.
Mines of Moria, the capitale city of the Moria's Orc faction
Gundabad, the capitale city the Gundabad faction
The caves under Orthanc
Erebor capitale city
Thranduil Halls (Mirkwood capitale city) is described like this in The Hobbit, but the only room that the player can reach is the throne room, which must be at surface level (the sky can be seen through a hole in the ceiling)
Henneth Annun, the hidden settlement which serves as headquarter for the Ithilien rangers of Gondor
Elves Versus Dwarves: Dialogs of the Dwarf companion Kili Goldfinger shows he does not like Elves. He especially does not like the Elve companion Luevanna (and vice-versa).
Endless Game: Averted, it is the most important change from Mount & Blade. The game ends when two of the sides have been annihilated (by siege of all the factions capital towns). The Good side wins when all the Sauron and Saruman factions are destroyed. For the evil ones, if the Good factions disappear then Sauron and Saruman will fight against each other until one crushs the other.
Escort Mission: There are two kinds. One of them consists in bringing a messenger to camp / town X, the messenger becoming part of the party during the travel. The other consists in opening the way to a caravan of supply travelling to a specific place, protecting it if attacked.
Everyone Calls Him Barkeep: Each settlement/town has at least one of this NPC (usually more, sometimes even all of them): a smith, a supply master, a manager for the barracks, and a kind of super supply master. Most of them (except the smiths, who have a real name, and a couple of the super supply masternote the one of Isengard is Gríma Wormtongue himself, the one of the Beornings town "Woodman village" is named Pierre Woodman who are refered by a job name depending on the town).
Evil Counterpart Race: Dúnedains and Black Númenóreans. According to the lore, there both descend from the Númenor peoplenote Dúnedains are descendants of Númenor survivors who remained in the Good side, Black Númenóreans descend from the Númenóreans who followed Sauron and eventually provoked the destruction of their island by the gods. In the game, Dúnedains and Black Númenóreans are both Human troops and commanders attached to a non-Human faction, the former being linked to Imladris and the latter to Mordor; same thing when a player choose to be a character from one of those races.
Evil Versus Evil: If all the Good factions are defeated, Sauron and Saruman will fight against each other until one crushs the other.
Gameplay and Story Segregation: After the crushing of a mutiny (see The Mutiny below), there is a short text saying that the soldier starting it has been executed, but the number of soldiers stays the same. The area of the fight will not be created from the place where it happened but will always be the foothills of the mountains surrounding Mordor
Global Currency: Averted. Each faction gives its own money ("resources") to the player and can only be paid with it. In fact, there is no way to convert it from a faction to another (except buying items from a faction to sell them to another), the resource is theorically not supposed to be an actual currency but an abstract value determining which things (soldiers, objects) each faction would allow you to claim; to be more explicit, the more you help a faction, the more stuff you can get from it.
I'm a Humanitarian: Dialog of Orcs make several reference to eating human flesh and prepared half-eaten bodies can be found in some castles of evil factions. There is also a food item for the evil factions named "human flesh", it is the food which gives them the highest morale bonus. A (non-working) option for the factions even allows the player to butcher himself prisoners.
Irrelevant Sidequest: Mostly averted. The sidequests (capturing enemy lords, bringing letters to allied lords, training X soldiers to a specific level, escorting supply caravan, etc) make perfect sense in the context of a huge war, although some of them (bring X number of metal scraps or food supply to Y, find and execute a fugitive) aren't very pertinent for a warlord.
Killed Off for Real: Contrary to the original Mount & Blade, NPC can be permanently killed during a battle. This can be deactivated, though. There is the same option for the player, although its default state is "Off".
Lazy Backup: Averted, contrary to the original game. If the player is knocked out, the party keep on fighting until they win, they lose or the player hits Tab (which makes them retreat).
Loading Screen: They features a random artwork, usually coming with tips about the game.
Loads and Loads of Characters: There are eighteen factions, each of them has a leader, several army commanders, and sometimes at least one potential companion which can be hired.
Loads and Loads of Loading: Fortunatly, it only shows when launching the game. This problem is even lampshaded in the progress bar, which says near the end of the loading "Texture loading (Be patient)".
Luck-Based Mission: Quests are Timed Missions, and a lot of them require to find something specific (the map is really huge) and bring it to the quest giver before expiration of the timer. It includes:
"Bring this letter to X": When the War of the Ring has begun, armies begins to move and they are usually commanded by a lord. Like in the original Mount & Blade, the player can ask another lord of the faction where is the lord searched, though
"Train X soldiers until they reach level Y": The levelling speed with the trainer skill is rather random. Training by battle is less, but it has its own risks (losing the units for the quest and having to recruit some other low-level ones, making the quest longer to achieve)
"Bring me X metal scraps of Y quality": They are found on the battlefield after a victory, but their number, their quality, and their mere presence is random (although influenced by the "looting" skill)
"Defeat X parties of [specific roles for specific faction]"
"Make X prisoners": The player need to meet an enemy party before expiration of the timer and remember to knock out some of them
"Free X prisoners from the enemy": The player must find enemy parties which are carrying prisoners and defeat them
"Capture a lord from any enemy faction": The worst among all the Luck-Based Mission. It requires to meet an enemy lord, defeat his army (they usually travel in a big party, a lot of time they travel in group formed of several lords party), and after the fight there is still the totally luck-based probability that he will manage to escape instead of being captured; like in the original game, this probability is very high
The Medic: Faniul was an healer at the court of the king of Dale when hired, and start with a few points in medical skills (and absolutly none in fighting skills). Depending on how the player makes her evolve when gaining levels, she can end as a Combat Medic.
The Mutiny: Leading an evil army will create one from time to time. Randomly, a soldier will complain very loudly against the commander (the player), going so far as questioning his autority. It ends with a fight against the contender inside a circle constitued by all the army.
There is some occasional problems of game crash and corrupt saves
The game allows to play with a female character but some armors lack a "female" model, making a female Black Númenórean chest and arms looking like a graphical mess when wearing them
Each time Saruman orders the player to capture a Troll, he gives him a wheeled-cage, not verifying if the player already has one. Note also that completing the quest does not make the item diseappear
With the evil factions, when reviewing prisoners, there is a dialog option which allows to kill, butcher, and convert to food any prisoner. It does nothing, except displaying a (false) text saying that the prisoner has been butchered
One-Gender Race: Dwarves, Orcs, Uruk, Uruk-Hai, and Dunlendings have only male player characters. The other Men factions and the Elves can be played as male or female characters, and they features a few female NPCs.
The Good factions have two sizes of clothing: Dwarf and Human-Elvish. All can wear the same helmets, but not the same boots and armors. Dwarves also can't ride horses.
The Evil factions have Uruk, Orcish, and Human. Everyone can use the same helmets and boots, but each kind of armor can only be worn by members of the race. Also, Men can't ride Wargs, Orcs can't ride horses, Uruk can't ride anything at all.
Our Goblins Are Different: Like in the books (and contrary to the movies and most of the games adaptations), "Goblin" isn't a race different from Orcs. In the game it is a rank in their armies (not the lowest).
Our Orcs Are Different: Tolkienian kind (unsurprisingly), with dark grey / black skins, pig snouts, tusks, anthropophagous habits, crude technology (true for Mordor, Dol Guldur, Moria, and Mt Gundabad, not true for Isengard), their size is smaller than a Human, and they are the weakest creatures in 1 VS 1 combat. The artificial origin is implied with the Uruk-Hai of Isengard (basically, taller and stronger Orcs), as their lowest tier is named "Newborn Uruk-Hai".
Quicksand Box: Maybe more than the unmodded game (although there is an actual long-term goal).
There is eighteen factions, up to half of them could be joined in the same game, depending on the side chosen at the creation of the character
The map is bigger than the Mount & Blade one and contains a lot more empty spaces
Rage Helm: Non-vilainous example, they are the kind of helms worn by Dwarves.
Rat Stomp: One of the first received quests is to destroy a (rather huge for a lone level 1 character) party of goblins.
Real Life Writes the Plot: The FAQ explains that the lack of Mûmakil in the armies of Harad (although a couple of them can be seen in the background of their base) and the height of Elves (the same of the Men ingame, although Tolkien's Elves are supposed to be bigger) are consequences of technical issues, both elements would require a lot more time and work to be installed and work perfectly.
The faction leaders who lead themselves armies on the battlefield are Lord Elrond (Imladris), King Thranduil (Mirkwood), King Brand (Dale), King Dáin II Ironfoot (Erebor), King Théoden (Rohan), Chief Grimbeorn the Old (Beornings), Master Burza Krual (Mt Gundabad), Master Bolg the Lesser (Moria), Jarl Elcaroth (Rhûn), Shibh Krukmahur (Khand), Admiral Tumlir (Umbar), Chief Ul-Ulcari (Harad), and Master Fuinur (Dol Guldur).
The faction leaders who stay in there capitale city are Steward Denethor (Gondor), Lady Galadriel (Lothlórien), Saruman (Isengard), and the Mouth of Sauron (Mordor)
Shout-Out: With an evil character, when travelling before the starting of War of the Ring, the player can meet a one-unit party called "lonesome rider". The unit has the same appearance as a Nazgûl from the movie and asks "The Shire? Baggins?"
Shown Their Work: The mod features a lot of factions, places, and NPC from the Middle-Earth, including very minor ones.
The Siege: Taking towns and castles by force is necessary to win. Contrary to the original game, the player cannot do it himself, he can only join sieges which have been begun by his allies.
Unusable Enemy Equipment: Opposite to the original game, Good faction characters can't use gear from the evil ones and vice-versa (Sauron and Saruman factions can share their gear). Weapons of the enemy can be picked up on the battlefied but not kept after the fight. In fact, after a battle, most of the loot consists in metallic pieces only useful for selling, food, and mounts. There are exceptions: in battles between an evil party and a deserter / wandering Orcs party, both are non-aligned Orcs or Men from evil factions, with the same weapons and armors.
Useless Useful Non-Combat Abilities: The engineer skill is still present in the mod but, because the player is himself unable to set siege to towns and manage fiefs, the skill is completly useless.
Vendor Trash: The most common loot is made of several kinds of "metal scraps", which are items totally useless apart for being sold.
Video Game Cruelty Punishment: An option allows the player to stop outside a city to review the troops and the prisoners of the party. Then, it is possible to slay prisoners, but any experience gained this way will be cancelled when exiting this mod.
You All Meet in an Inn: Averted. Contrary to the original Mount & Blade, companions are not met in taverns but stay anywhere in a city or settlement (typically, in the castle). Note that the mod does not even have taverns.
You Have Failed Me: Not actually shown, but for the evil factions, failing a quest or explaining to the quest giver that you won't be able to fulfill it will make him answering something like "not everyone who failed me lived long enough to regret it".
We Have Reserves: Implied from dialogs when recruiting soldiers in the Mordor barracks.
Warrior Prince: Théoden and Éomer for Rohan, Thranduil for Mirkwood, Elrond, Elladan and Elrohir for Imladris, Celeborn for Lothlórien, Faramir for Gondor. All of them are commanders who really lead armies to war. Théoden, Thranduil and Elrond are even faction leaders.
What If?: The mod being a wide open sandbox trying to reenact the War of the Ring, deviations from the original are impossible to avoid. They can be quite small (when the war actually start - depending on how long the player character reaches level 8) to major (commanders killed instead of surviving or the opposite, factions wiped, or even a final victory of the Evil).
When Trees Attack: There are random attacks of Ents when an evil character travels through Fangorn. Saruman gives a quest focused on this.