Natural Wonders is an eye-candy expansion mod pack for AOK. It adds hundred of new nature graphics into the editor. The Mod pack includes tons of new mountains, rocks, trees, mines, foliage, flowers and wildlife to allow your scenarios to be even more beautiful and detailed.
Almost all of the graphics have been taken from the very best of the Blacksmith, I have not made many of these graphics myself so I give credit to all of the authors whose work I have used. A list of credits can be found in the readme.
Expand your farms with New Foliage and Fruit Trees/Bushes
New Livestock for food
Additional wildlife such as wolves, horses and birds
Mine rare Gemstones, Silver and precious ores for profit
Waterfalls, whirpool and mountains
More eye-candy for the winter months too
Volcanoes and lava too
I hope you enjoy Natural Wonders and find it useful for your scenarios. Please inform me if you encounter and bugs and I will updated as quickly as possible. Feel free to comment and review.
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Natural Wonders is a compilation pack comprised of hundreds of assets created by dozens of authors;the contents are quite voluminous so an overview of the major highlights has been offered in the quality section.
The overall quality of the pack is very high, with the majority of assets being very good and usable. A smaller number of them are more mediocre but still worthwhile including while I found a tiny handful to be quite strange looking, such as one of the snowy mountain variants having extremely white snow that appears pixelated. Tree Q looks rather poor in its texture and shadow quality and trees M through S also had incorrect shadows. Besides these few blemishes I found it of a satisfactory standard throughout.
Trees are perhaps of the greatest interest to myself as a map designer, and present are a wide selection of good trees to choose from. All the trees and bushes present in HD Edition are present if under different names, which is great to see. An array of new tree types are present with autumn trees bring a bright red, with the birch trees having more muted tones of yellow and red with white bark. The big trees were looking a bit out of place, but perhaps could be used in key situations while a similarly named tall trees seemed a bit more proper in sizebut seemed comprised of pasted together normal trees that looked a bit odd at times. The curvy trees are reminiscent of Acacia but with more wild trunks and darker bark. Enchanted trees had some original trees resembling tall pines\redwoods along with some altered normal trees to have more detailing. The red trees were an even brighter shade than the autumn trees and a bit much for me at that point. Willow trees are present but I am conflicted, as they seem a bit too detailed and\or glassy in appearance. Spooky and black trees both presented some burnt looking options without leaves that could be good for a darker area or maybe mixed in once in awhile in an oak forest.
Mountains are present in copious quantity. The visual style and fidelity of each can be widely varing making usage tricky but certainly possible to get some good use out of them here. By my count 24 green mountains were added with a few having a photorealistic appearance that went over well, while some were rather fuzzy. 10 brown mountains are added, though a few are just retextures of the vanilla desert mountains;not as impressed here but a few of them were quite usable. 10 grey mountains were present, again with some retextures of vanilla mountains but actually an improvement over them I think;The three grey photorealistic mountains here looked a bit odd though. Finally there are fiften snowy mountains which includes the 3 HD snowy mountains plus some retextures of vanilla mountains and a good number of new additions;the retextures looked a bit off but the others seemed quite usable bringing a good variety of shapes and texturing.
Plenty of rocks were added, such as HD Edition tropical and beach varieties along with the rocks of ive seen Age of Chivalry having a realistic appearance. My favorite was the mossy rocks which had quite a nice appearance. One of the black rocks reminded me of a obelisk with its smooth texture;I really would have loved to see more like this fella. Sea rocks of a white and also brownish variety were present, and looked quite nice with smooth rounded textures with wet bases;these merged quite well with water. The snowy rocks were actually not looking much like snow to me, so maybe you could even use them on a beach somewhere and call them white rocks. The AoE1 stone mine and some stalagmite rocks are present here as well as rocks capable of displaying the players color, perhaps of use in marking territory.
Foliage and bushes are of great interest for detailing in addition to trees, and some good options are present. I quite like the chopped up grass patches from HD, as their sheer size was annoying to deal with at times. There is also a greenery that lies flat on the ground in appearance that looks very fine indeed under the grass patch name also. Many of the other foliage options were a bit of a mixed bag, those appearing under the name 'foliage' were comprised of retextures of vanilla flowers but the coloring on many of these was so bright and sharp its hard to imagine successfully integrating them. More subdued coloring would have been appreciated. Perhaps my favorite among them was the lavender patches. The pond listing had two objects but the larger water feature had quite some white flecks in the water which looked like a coloring error. There was also some swamp objects which were comprised of vanilla shallows with vegetation and subtle rocks;these looked pretty nice and quite usable. Undergrowth objects small and large had a large quantity of various grasses, some being a bit too bright again with some odd fuzz but there was also some really nice ferns and grasses in there. For bushes there were the cultivated grapes but also a forage bush section which had many varieties of recolored vanilla bushes to use, including the AoE1 berry bush. There were fruit trees with slightly mixed results, being mostly of modified vanilla trees with apples or other fruits added with a few new ones created.
Mordor terrain was also present, in the shape of various objects which could be placed to create lava or ashy terrain with a variety of volcanoes. The black mountains were mostly retextures of vanilla mountains with three new entries. Combined with the burnt foliage, black rocks and black trees you could pull off some pretty decent areas resembling the land of mordor.
A nice selection of wildlife has been added, starting again with most of HD Editions offerings present with rhinos, elephants, tigers, lions, camels, and water buffalo. A very wide array of horses is present of varying colors;these all looked pretty good and its a welcome changeup from the lone vanilla horse. A number of recolored vanilla animals such as deer and wolves are also to be found.
There are plenty more things in the pack that have not even been covered but the overall image of what is presented and my assessments on its quality should be adequately represented in the above text.
Present is a goodly number of graphics mods which are either present in single mods that I have not used extensively, or are adrift on the blacksmith being unused. Either way many of the eye candy objects were fairly new to me while others had been seen once while not receiving any widespread usage. Therefore the pack felt quite novel and freshened up the editor considerably. The space objects were particularly surprising, quite bizarre but I could see some usage with some fortuneteller or mystical mountains in an RPG.
The main knock on these type of datamods is the exclusivity factor. The mod by its nature conflicts with many other mods so you could only choose one at a time, and to be honest I cannot ever see myself using this in preference over a number of other mods. I myself am no modder, but it also seems like being packaged in a data file would make it hard for other modders to add this to their work;for instance if I could somehow merge this with say PortugeuseCivMod3 it could be an amazingly helpful boost to its usefulness. Perhaps the most likely practical use case is if it was a steam workshop item that could be installed\uninstalled with a single click it would also be more appealing. It is always a tough sell to convince people to play a datamod scenario and any scenario made using the pack will find itself in an uphill battle.
I would encourage prospective users to hone their map design skills to make the most out of the packs decorate aspects to justify the extra hassle;certainly there is enough here that a fabulous looking map should be the result.
[Edited on 04/09/18 @ 04:36 PM]