The evolutionary process has sped up a hundredfold.[/b][br] [br] Normally, a mod like this would maybe appear a couple of years after the original game came out. A third-person physics-based total conversion set in a beautifully realised fantasy world? Madness, and certainly the last thing I'd expected from the Source engine (actually, I lie. The last thing I expected was...well, that's another story). But for such a thing to materialise before even a year has passed since the game's release is cause to leap around joyfully, and then get on with downloading Eclipse, all 200 megabytes of it.[br] The story begins with you playing as Violet: lady-sorcerer separated from her father at an early age, all grown up now and returning to the ruined family home to try and track down her long-lost dad. The plot is moved along by the discovery of fragments of your father's journal, hinting at the dangers to come and giving instructions. You load up the mod. The animated menu screen is impressive enough, but then you're in the game...[br] [br] ..and it's beautiful. [br] The camera swoops in over a confusion of green growth, buzzing insects; a yellow haze hanging in the air. This is Auldhaven: the idyllic rural-fantasy tangle of vegetation where your adventures begin. The horizon is smudged by lighting effects - the full power of the Source engine in action. Even on this reviewer's less-than-stellar PC, the initial amble through a lush valley - past trickling streams and waterfalls where insects and birds flit and flutter between the trees, leading on to castle ruins crumbling under a liquid sunset - was utterly stunning. The first level is like looking at a very pretty picture through a haze of golden honey. [br] It takes a fair bit more whack to run than vanilla HL2, but hell, it's worth it. Soon you're out of Auldhaven, the land of butterflies and "tinkly" music, and into the sinister valleys of Darkmoor - a shadowy forest of dead trees and ancient ruins. Every environment is a ready-made treasure trove of splendiferous-ness. Look, it's so good I'm inventing words here. Brillsome! Superful! Beautiant![br] [br] Eclipse hinges around the employment of Violet's telekinetic powers - or magic, to the layman - for picking up and throwing bits of rock and suchlike. Clicking on an object lifts it into the air; holding down right-click charges up a storm of telekinetic energy that, when released, will propel the object in the direction of the crosshair. Objects stay in place when lifted, so tactics become a matter of careful positioning and timing, lest you end up crushing yourself under a great big rock.[br] [br] At first, you'll just use it to clear objects out of your path. But after the intro, where you're free to explore without any danger of combat, you'll need to employ your powers to fight the Keepers. Gorilla-like, slightly reptilian orc-creatures, they make fun enemies to battle, with their unearthly howls and their tendency to leap from high hiding places. With nothing more to fight them with than whatever objects you can find lying around, you'll need to keep on your toes. Physics based gameplay - utterly compelling. As you progress, the emphasis changes from exploration, to combat with multiple enemies, to puzzle solving and back to combat again for an explosive finale. All the way through, the production, and especially the music, is exceptional - in fact, the soundtrack is so good you can go to their website and download it. [br] [br] On top of the three 'story' levels (of which only Darkmoor has any real length) there's an entertaining arena mini-game, pitting you against waves of howling, screeching Keepers - with only fireball-flinging to defend yourself. Entertaining enough, but it gets boring quickly, even with the recording of times and kills that incites further play to beat your own records.[br] [br] Unfortunately, if your graphics card isn't up to scratch, you'll be paying for the experience. It's a lot choppier than Half-Life 2, and at some points, unplayable (this was with a Radeon 9600 SE - not the best of cards, for sure). There were moments where the entire game irretrievably and irrevocably plunged into a deep dark low-frame rate pit, refusing to come out until I quit, restart and reloaded. The controls can also be somewhat fiddly, occasionally unresponsive. Some of the animation is less than brilliant, but what can you expect? It's a third-person conversion of a first-person game; and the models are impressive enough. [br] But it's all over far too quickly. Much more could have been made of the plot - and quite a good plot it seemed, even though there wasn't much of it - and you could polish off the whole mod in one night. But without revealing anything, the ending seems to suggest there's more on the way...and apparently, that's exactly what the team is working on. Brilliant as this mod is already, what it needs is more plot, more levels: more content![br] [br] Criminally short as it is, Eclipse shows us what can be done with the Source engine. It's a shining example of the originality and production quality that all mods should aspire too. It's rare to find a mod displaying such levels of professionalism; rarer till for it to be as ambitious as this. And despite being a prodigious system hog, Eclipse is something all HL2 fans should experience, and I fear that it might slip under most people's radar. Go and download it right now, if you haven't already. [br] [br] Note: Some people have problems with installing Eclipse. If you get an error message like "could not find steam directory" (usually because Steam is not on the primary hard drive) then go to the Eclipse website where you can download a .zip file that can be unpacked directly to your Sourcemods folder.