The Last Days of the Third Age
The Last Days of the Third Age is a module for the original Mount&Blade set in the fantasy world of author J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth, the setting of The Lord of the Rings novels. The mod lets the player participate as a soldier on either side of the War of the Ring as a man, an elf, a dwarf, an orc, an uruk, or an uruk-hai. Players can fight against the dark lord Sauron as member of one of several good-aligned factions, or they can join the forces of Sauron or the wizard Saruman as an orc or evil human.
The developers based the module upon the text of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. The appearances, the music, and the story are also based on J.R.R. Tolkien and not on Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings series of films, though they did take inspiration from the films for some aspects of the module.
The Last Days features a number of noteworthy changes to character creation and game mechanics from the standard Mount&Blade game.
Races and factions Edit
At game start, the player can choose to fight for "The Dawn of a New Era" (good) or "The Twilight of Man" (evil).
From there, the player can choose his or her race and homeland. Each of those choices brings different starting equipment as well as an alignment with one of the game's 19 factions. For instance, a player could choose to be a man from the fortress city of Minas Tirith, an orc in the service of Saruman, a dwarf from the Iron Hills, or any of several other race and homeland combinations. Also, there are unique faces and skins for every faction and you can't make an orc look like an elf or vice versa.
Each choice at character creation brings with it some benefits and drawbacks. The developers state that, by design, the factions are not balanced. According to the manual for TLD, "Some factions provide excellent soldiers, but in small numbers. Some have weak troops, but you can hire many. Smaller orcs can't wear armors designed for big guys, but can ride some beasts instead. Dwarves have exceptional gear, but can't ride mounts." These elements allow for very different playing experiences depending on a character's race and faction.
Quest givers in each faction also take their inspiration from the novels, including major characters such as Elrond of Rivendell or King Theoden of Rohan to minor characters like Gothmog the orc or the dwarven King Dain Ironfoot.
There is no monetary currency in TLD. Instead, the module uses a system called "resource points," which reflect a player's reputation and influence within a faction. Players earn resource points and influence within a faction by completing quests and winning battles within a faction's geographical region. One important difference between the economy in TLD and in the original Mount&Blade is that a player's resource points in one faction do not carry over to other factions. Thus, a player who has 5,000 resource points accumulated by doing quests for the Gondor faction may find that he only has 50 resource points to spend if he tries to purchase items from vendors in the kingdom of Rohan.
Influence points are another form of currency. These points can be used to gain special items from faction leaders.
SettingEditFans of The Lord of the Rings novels and films will appreciate the attention to detail the TLD developers put into recreating Middle-earth in Mount&Blade. The overland map is limited to areas of Middle-earth east of the Misty Mountains, but recreates the setting with unique icons for important locations such as Minas Tirith, Isengard, or Edoras.
The module also renders many famous and important locations from the novels in great detail, offering a number of unique villages and towns to explore. For instance, players can see the White Tree of Gondor in the highest level of Minas Tirith, stand in the shadow of the Black Gate of Mordor, or walk the bridges in the tree city of Caras Galadhon, to name a few. Hidden locations on the overland map (and their accompanying walkaround maps) can be made available through conversations with citizens in towns and cities.
Fighting in TLD is similar to the original Mount&Blade with a few exceptions. The first difference the player will notice is that troops are stationary at the beginning of a battle and will wait on the player's orders to attack. A second difference is that, rather than earning gear from fallen foes after a battle, players earn metal scraps of varying quality, which can then be sold to faction vendors for resource points.
A major change from the standard Mount&Blade mechanics is that players cannot initiate a siege on their own; rather, they can only participate when a faction leader decides to assault an enemy city or encampment. When players begin the module, the War of the Ring has not yet begun. Once the player is notified the war has started, however, the war looms large over each battle. The module monitors and reports when a faction grows stronger or weaker through its military encounters. This makes it possible to "win" The Last Days module. When a faction reaches its lowest status, enemy leaders can decide to storm its capital and defeat that faction completely.
TLD features a stunning orchestral soundtrack of approx 180min written by Composer Vladan (Pagan) Zivanovic. A mod achievement in its own right. The score ranges from epic to ambient in a music system which is greatly evolved over Mount&Blade's. The score will follow the player across the map as they move from one region to another, from map to town, or from map to battle. Changing as you play, in a very natural fashion. Each region and its settlements have their own music dependant on its history or inhabitants and several scenes (Erebor for example) draw the player into Middle-Earth like very few games achieve. When the beautiful score merges with lovingly crafted scenes, TLD is at its finest, and players will find themselves simply viewing the world as often as running around and fighting in it.
Items and EquipmentEdit
The Last Days features a high number of custom armors and items which further draw the player into the world of Middle-earth. Saruman's orcs will bear his symbol of the White Hand, while the soldiers of Gondor wear the icon of the White Tree. These items are typically available from faction vendors and provide distinct appearance options to each faction.
Items also draw their inspiration from Tolkien's writings, such as having orc characters begin the game with "maggoty bread" as a foodstuff. Other unique items from the novels can be obtained by earning influence within the various factions.
By default, TLD does not permit so-called "cross-dressing" to stay true to Lord of the Rings lore. In Tolkien's writings, an elven warrior would never don orcish armor or wield orcish weapons.
The Last Days has been extremely well received by the community, earning a 9.6/10 rating from respondents on Mod Database .
PC Gamer also featured a short article on The Last Days module in November 2011. PC Gamer noted the ambition and attention to detail the developers put into the mod, saying TLD "looks amazing" and features "top notch custom armour sets."