If I were to keep a list of my top five favourite games of all time in a tattered black book buried in a tin box in my backyard, only one game from the post-GameCube world would be on it. Empire: Total War.
The scale, the gunsmoke, the bombast... for a strategy gamer who also loves the finer side of PC gaming visuals, it's almost the perfect game.
Emphasis on almost. The standard title ships with a number of niggling issues, most of them related to diplomacy and the enemy's strategic AI.
For a while now, salvation to these problems have been found in DarthMod, a fan-made mod for the game that fixes — or even improves — almost everything, from unit textures to AI to the way entire campaigns can be organised.
The biggest improvement yet to DarthMod — DarthMod Empire v8.0 Platinum — was released earlier this week, and it's great. The AI is smarter than ever, and the other changes and fixes it makes transform Empire into something developers Creative Assembly could only have dreamed about back when the game was first released back in 2009.
DarthMod Empire v8.0 Platinum [ModDB]