Mod of the Week: After the End, for Crusader Kings II
Crusader Kings II is the perfect game for creating alternate history, and full conversion mods (like those for Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones) are great for creating alternate fictional history. Are you ready for some alternate future history? After the End is a mod for CKII set in North America in the year 2666, after an unspecified cataclysmic event has shattered the planet and humankind is desperately trying to pick up the pieces, regain control, and understand its own murky past.
After the End is still very early on in its development, but there's already lot to be excited about. While the western two-thirds of the map have yet to be populated, the east coast of North America, as far north as Canada and as far south as Cuba, is playable. The "Event", whatever it was, clearly wiped out most of the population and destroyed a great deal of human knowledge and written history. The world is essentially back in medieval times, and while some ideas, borders, cultures, traditions, and religions survive, they're distorted and half-remembered through the dark lens of the cataclysm.
Take Florida, for example. Much of it is dominated by Tribe of the Mouse, which makes a lot of sense: people wandering around in the post-apocalypse of Orlando with little knowledge of history couldn't be blamed for thinking Mickey was some sort of mighty king (he did have a huge castle) or religious figure to be worshiped.
In the game I played, I had to hire mercenaries at one point, and found, fittingly, that they were named after sports teams and other ancient organizations. It makes sense—peering back through time with only fragments of evidence, future generations might assume that the Philadelphia Eagles or the Buckeyes of Ohio were mighty warriors, revered and celebrated for their combat prowess and who clashed in massive, now-decaying stadiums. Poking around some of the characters in the game can yield a few fun surprises as well.
Religions and cultures, naturally, have held on or sprung up, many based on whatever traditions survived the Event. You'll still find pockets of Catholicism and Protestantism, some Lovecraft-style Occultists and Pagans, a huge swath of Evangelicals in the south, naturally, and there are some heretical groups as well. There are Americanist groups, who worship the founding fathers, and a cult called the Consumerists, who treat materialism as a religion (The Almighty Dollar is their actual deity) and are convinced the world fell apart because people didn't worship money enough. We certainly don't seem to be in any danger of that at the present.
Just because the game takes place in North America doesn't mean there isn't an entire world out there, slowly rebuilding, expanding, and threatening to impose itself on your game. The British will get themselves together and do what they used to do best: invade and take over as much of the world as possible, so you can expect the return of the Redcoats at some point. There are also plans to add other invading hordes in the future, possibly from the remnants of Russia, China, or South America.
In terms of technology, it's just as you'd expect: there's a lot of remnants of the old world (our world) left lying around, though it's not fully understood. Future plans for the mod include adding exploration activities into old army bases, subway systems, and other forgotten tech-troves as the rising civilizations attempt to reverse engineer the secrets it once knew and use them to their advantage.
It's especially great to see a CK II mod set in North America, and it's been fun to play on my home turf (I grew up in New York). In my game I fought desperate wars over Hudson Valley, Albany, Woodstock, and one especially bloody and extended battle in Poughkeepsie. I even fabricated a claim on Long Island, where I was actually born, and marched my troops in to conquer it. In keeping with the theme of remaining reverent to the past without entirely understanding it, I named my three children Pepsi, iPhone, and DotA, figuring there would surely be some puzzling artifacts demonstrating that these things were treasured in the long-ago.
I look forward to watching this mod develop: it's packed full of interesting ideas. The modders drew some inspiration from post-apocalyptic science fiction novel The Canticle for Leibowitz (which was also an influence on the Fallout games), and they've begun to paint an interesting portrait of a shattered world trying to forge ahead while struggling to understand its own past.
Installation: The mod isn't on Steam Workshop yet, though I'm told it will be soon. In the meantime you can grab it from this Mediafire link. Once you've got it, unzip the contents to My Documents/Paradox Interactive/Crusader Kings II/mod. Then, in the game launcher, just tick the box for the mod.