Mods make games better, whether they're correcting design oversights, adding improved textures or a whole new story that the developers never envisioned. And if you're after a mod, ModDB is the home for just about every decent one under the sun.
The modding repository recently kicked off voting for their top 100 mods of the year. So if you're not in the mood to buy a new game over the holidays, or you'd just like to explore something different in a universe you already loved, the awards are a great chance to do that. And to help you out, here's a few picks from the top 100.
It wasn't announced during The Game Awards because the organisers forgot, but after the fanfare died down it was officially confirmed that Enderal had won Best Fan Creation. Beating out Brutal Doom 64 for the honour, Enderal is a total conversion for Skyrim that is probably the frontrunner for Mod of the Year.
Created by the German modding crew SureAI, Enderal revolves around a world almost equivalent in size to the original Skyrim. A lot of the mechanics have gotten tweaked - XP is awarded upon finishing quests, health only regenerates in combat when drinking potions rather than over time, and level scaling is gone - and there's a whole new story clocking in at around 50 hours.
It's fully voice acted and the writing is well done. But perhaps the greatest achievement of Enderal isn't how it replaces Skyrim, but helps remind people of what an accomplishment Skyrim was. It's a special game, and Enderal's a special mod.
Hearts of Iron 4 is already one of the best World War 2 strategy games going around. So it only makes sense that someone would use the game's framework to recreate the First World War, which is what The Great War mod does.
The game's currently in open beta, so we'll probably see the full version of the game on the ModDB Top 100 list next year. Right now the mod still has a prelude scenario featuring the Balkan Wars and Agadir Crisis, as well as the Great War itself. On top of that, there's 11 factions to play including some of the smaller, more overlooked countries like Bulgaria and Serbia.
Imagine a world where Aliens: Colonial Marines was released, and it wasn't a steaming turd.
That's what TemplarGFX has tried to do with the Colonial Marines Overhaul, a total conversion that tries to patch up the Gearbox nightmare into something enjoyable and playable. Textures have been corrected. The thinking speed for the Xenomorphs has been boosted to make an actual threat. Human AI has been reworked. Decals, lighting, particles, shaders and animations have all been updated.
I wouldn't go as far to say that it's "the ultimate Aliens gaming experience", as the mod proclaims, but it's certainly a substantial advancement on the nightmare that ACM was on launch. The whole thing is just under 500mb too.
How on earth this mod is still valid for the Top 100 awards is beyond me, but it doesn't really matter. A Game of Thrones is already one of the best Crusader Kings 2 mods around, and one of the best recreations of the political machine that is the Game of Thrones universe. If you want to know more, Luke broke it down pretty well here.
Imagine a mod that takes the three STALKER games and combines them into one, seamless sandbox world. That's what S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Chernobyl does, while giving you your own choice of starting faction, quests and missions that go on forever.
It's not as structured as the original games, which is also part of the fun. I hear the highest difficulty mode also gets rid of the bullet sponge problem that some enemies have, although you can also die in a couple of hits as well, so do be careful. In any case, a superb piece of work.
Warcraft: Armies of Azeroth (StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm)
Given that you can try basically any mod in StarCraft 2 for free through the Starter Edition trial program, this mod should catch a lot of people's attention. It's a remake of Warcraft 3 within the StarCraft 2 engine, which pairs StarCraft 2's better UI and control mechanisms with the balance from the original game.
Mostly, however, it's a remake of one of the best campaigns in RTS history. It was on the StarCraft 2 Arcade earlier this year, but the developers pulled it down and have continued development to work on the Night Elves and Scourge.
It was already looking good earlier this year, as you can see from the video above. Hopefully it returns before too soon, but until then you can keep track of things by following the WarCraft: Armies of Azeroth Facebook page.
Each year the ModDB admins also highlight a series of unreleased mods, the best announced projects of that year if you will. And by far and away one of the most special efforts is the fan revival of Star Wars: Battlefront 3, through the Battlefront 3 Legacy mod.
It's a total conversion of Battlefront 2 that uses as many assets from Battlefront 3 that have been found over the years, as well as a remake of Coruscant, a new HUD and adapted content from all of the Star Wars movies, The Force Unleashed, and DICE's reboot of the series. It doesn't have anything in connection with Galaxy in Turmoil, another fan-made spiritual successor to Battlefront that we'll see more of next year.
The Legacy mod, in the meantime, is targeting 30 playable heroes, space to ground combat and a campaign for both of the new eras (which feature Galactic Civil War and the Clone Wars). There's no release date as of yet, but it'll be worth firing up Battlefront 2 again to see the space to ground combat alone.
You can view, and vote on, the full Top 100 list over at ModDB. There's plenty of outstanding efforts - we wrote about Deus Ex Revision late last year, and Star Trek fans will be thrilled with the many mods for Sins of a Solar Empire and Homeworld: Remastered.
What have been your favourite mods of the year? (I'm a bit disappointed that The Forgotten City didn't rate a mention, but an AWGIE is probably worth more than a fan poll.)