I’m not a big modder. I’ve only got a couple small, quality-of-life mods included in my Skyrim and Civilization V games. While actual devs are prone to making errors, they’re typically better than amateurs, who often overreach themselves in the attempt to prove that they’re “better than the professionals” — which, if they were, they’d be professionals themselves.
Take DayZ, then, as the pinnacle of modern-day mods. Fun as it is, the amount of bugs and other issues would make gamers scream their heads off at incompetent devs if it were released professionally. But because it was just “some guy” doing it, and not MegaHugeGameCorp, we mostly overlook it. I haven’t played DayZ yet, and don’t plan to until the full standalone game is released.
After beating the base Shogun 2: Total War campaign in the face of Realm Divide — which, after a certain point in the game hits you with a negative diplomatic rating with every other clan and keeps getting worse every turn, eventually forcing you to war with everyone — I decided to give the vaunted DarthMod a turn. It softened Realm Divide, providing a large opening penalty to diplomacy that actually decreased each turn. It did lots of other things too — the list of changes is a mile long — but I was primarily focused on the changes to Realm Divide.
I started up a Fall of the Samurai campaign, and the first thing I noticed was the insanely large unit size. Whereas most units had topped out at around 125 troops, my largest now encapsulated 375 toy soldiers. Granted, the battles in the base Shogun 2 tended to be short, so I figured this was a way to make them longer.
Unfortunately, bigger isn’t always better. Despite the presence of firearms, melee clashes are still commonplace, and when they happen, you can get up, go for a drink, and come back 10 minutes later to see your men still tangling with the enemy. Nothing actually changed about the battles, from my point of view, other than their length, and that was drawn out so as to be interminably long. Perhaps doubling, rather than tripling, unit size would have been the right way to go.
Fatigue was also broken. When your mega-units become tired, no amount of standing around and resting will bring them back from exhaustion. That’s a slight exaggeration; I did manage to get units back one level with about five-plus minutes of rest, which is about triple the normal amount of time. Maybe that’s because there are triple the soldiers? Yet another reason for a slight decrease in unit size. (That’s what she said.)
DarthMod also promised improvements to AI, but if they were there, I didn’t see them. The enemy did seem a little more aggressive on the campaign map, though maybe that was normal for RotS, seeing as how it was my first campaign. In battles, I didn’t see any sort of advanced tactics, except for the one time — over about 50 battles — that they tried to outflank me. And they were happy to stand around in castles while my cannons reduced their walls to kindling.
Finally, there was Realm Divide — which, owing to the length of the short RotS campaign, I never experienced. However, based on how amazing my diplomacy levels were — +200 or more with my allies — a 50-point drop would have been inconsequential, and even the usual -20 with -5 more each turn from vanilla RD would have probably been manageable. Again, this is almost certainly part of the RotS campaign, which offers larger diplomatic bonuses for being allied with other clans, probably in a response to complaints about RD in the base game.
That said, I’m playing a long Rise of the Samurai campaign right now and have just hit Realm Divide. I think I’m in good enough shape, with a few allies that should last me long enough (before I stab them in the back), and the potential for a marriage to shore things up later. With the DM version of RD, I’d be home free by now, easily absorbing the -50 initial hit.
My opinion of DarthMod, at least for the moment, is like that of most mods: It takes one step forward and at least two back. The changes to Realm Divide are probably useful for frustrated Shogun 2 gamers, and I might give it another shot when I want to move up a difficulty level. But I had so many men in some battles that they couldn’t all fit around the walls of a keep, and I actually grew to dread large battles for as long as they were likely to take. My next Fall of the Samurai campaign will be in vanilla, and then maybe I’ll dust off the old mod and see if I can’t wring some enjoyment out of it.