If you look beyond the celebrity death epidemic, killer clowns, political turmoil and the fact the Great British Bake Off parted ways with the BBC, 2016 has actually been a pretty great year. Well, it’s at least been a pretty great year for videogames, and a pretty great year for game modifications.
As you’ve probably spied elsewhere on the coveted pages of RPS of late, we’re list-entry deep in Best Of season which means I’m now here to present you with this year’s best PC mods. In no particular order, the following collection gathers the best modifications that have either been launched or have been significantly updated in 2016. While our previous Best Mods lists have tended to focus on specific games, this ‘un looks at the specific mods themselves – often considering those which provide extra mileage for some of our favourite games.
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Naturally I’ve almost certainly missed your personal favourite, so please feel free to shout your own mods of choice at me in the comments at the foot of this article.
NB – Installation instructions for each mod can be found via its respective page. A number of the mods featured here are also currently competing for ModDB’s Mod of the Year 2016 – the top 100 shortlist can be viewed this-a-way.
Game: Doom 2
You’ve probably heard of Brutal Doom already – the 2012 mod which took id’s ’93 FPS and added an overwhelming amount of violence to an already pretty violent game. To kick things off, I’m actually going to pass you over to Alice who describes the premise of Brutal Doom better than I ever could:
“Borrow a seven-year-old child, fill them with sweeties and juice, make them spin in circles for five minutes, give ’em a nip of whisky, and have them play Doom for fifteen minutes then describe it to you. Whatever giddy image of Doom their imaginations vomit up, Brutal Doom actually is: a frenzy of ultraviolence with gibs by the bucketload.”
A total conversion mod for the esteemed GZDoom, and a spiritual continuation of the lesser-known Doom 64 mod, Brutal Doom 64 sidesteps the original Brutal Doom’s ultra-violent vision and is focused more on portraying a serious and disturbing, survival-oriented horror outing. There’s still an abundance of blood, guts, gore, and hideous monsters; but also tweaks to the original game’s 32 levels, plus new effects, sounds and animations. The current build is an early release too – with creator Sergeant_Mark_IV planning to add familiar faces Revenant, Chaingunguy and Mastermind down the line.
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Game: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Enderal is a masterpiece. Crafted by Munich-based hobbyist modding team SureAI over a five year period, Enderal: The Shards of Order is a total conversion mod for The Elder Scroll’s fifth main series outing which overhauls its source material’s systems, maps, quests and characters. Its campaign lasts upwards of 30 hours and, coupled with its side ventures, gives Skyrim a serious run for its money on the mileage front. The latter’s recent remaster allowed for a strange return to a land we’d covered from pole to pole on numerous occasions, yet Enderal is in essence an entirely new game in and of itself with a world map similar in size to that of the familiar fantastical province.
If you’re familiar with SureAI’s previous mods – particularly Oblivion total conversion Nehrim: At Fate’s End – you’ll have an idea of what to expect here, but know that Enderal surpases this already high standard in every way imaginable.
Game: S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat
The S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series is a strange one in that it’s hard to categorise. Not only are GSC Game World’s alternative reality post-nuclear disaster ’em ups great first-person shooters, they’re also fantastic survival games and even better horror ones. First launched last year, but significantly updated in September, Call of Chernobyl bills itself as a “free-play sandbox mod” for Call of Pripyat that features 32 maps, reworked level design, improved AI and customisable weather.
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A new level, Trucks Cemetery, compliments a new character creation suite – “including name, portrait and faction selection” – alongside a new achievement, ranking and reputation system. If cooperative play is your thing, Call of Chernobyl also boasts a companion system and a PDA stats system and leaderboard to boot. Update 1.4 released in September bringing with it some sweeping changes. Check those out via the link above.
By CK2:AGOT and Cozur respectively
Game(s): Crusader Kings 2 and Mount and Blade: Warband
Historical strategy games were built for reinterpreting fantasy fiction. Total War’s collaboration with Games Workshop in Total War: Warhammer is the most obvious example of this, yet George R.R. Martin’s esteemed books-now-HBO megaseries reimagined in videogames is also pretty special. So special I can’t decide which interpretation I prefer.
Crusader Kings 2’s A Game of Thrones and Mount and Blade: Warband’s Clash of Kings were launched in 2012, however given the sprawling nature and ever-expanding lore of Westeros, both total conversion mods have been consistently and significantly updated beyond recognition since. While I’d advise giving both mods a spin, where you fall on preference probably depends on which game you favour most.
Both offer impressive translations of their source material, and at present Clash of Kings has just launched its version 3.0 – the most significant update of which adds the formidable Night’s Watch in the fold. CK2’s A Game of Thrones, on the other hand, reworks its base game’s mechanics so that while there is potential for the realm to fragment into multiple kingdoms, it’s unlikely to happen in practice. Instead, players fight to control just one throne – the Iron Throne.
By The Great War Devs
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Game: Hearts of Iron IV
Still in open beta, Hearts of Iron IV: The Great War is already shaping up to be a fantastic reworking of Paradox’s base game. While HoI 4 provides its own slant on World War 2, The Great War, as you might have already guessed, instead portrays WW1. “Start in 1910 with one of the Major Countries of this time and fight through the series of events that lead the world in the first bloodiest conflict: the First World War,” reads the mod’s description.
In doing so, you have the choice to become a member of the Triple Entente or the Central Powers in a bid to help steer your side to victory in the Great War. Building upon and rejigging the foundations of HoI 4, The Great War overhaul adds a new map, new events – such as the Russian Revolution and the Balkans War, among other things – new leaders, new governments, new units, and a new tech relevant to the technological era. Similar to the base game, the mod also offers two starting points: 1910 – where you’ll guide your nation through the events of the Balkan Wars and Agadir Crisis, and 1914 – where you’ll jump straight into WW1.
There are of course a number of features planned for The Great War, some of which can be found on the mod’s Steam Community page.
Game: Fallout 2
“A new old school Fallout game” is how Resurrection describes itself which is a pretty convincing selling point. Paying deference to the series’ amnesia trope, Fallout 1.5 kicks off with the protagonist awakening in dark cave with no recollection of how they got there. Worse still, they’re heavily wounded and need to piece together their life in a world which is seemingly on the brink of collapse. What sounds like a fairly standard hungover Sunday morning scenario is actually a great throwback to Fallout-of-old where exploration and inquisitiveness are just as important as ploughing through the main questline – where there’s still scope to uncover new things even after multiple playthroughs.
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As self-confessed “big fans” of Fallout, the mod’s creators have tried to capture the raw hopelessness and decadence of the series, while sidestepping the jokes and Easter Eggs the second entry often tended toward.
The world itself is in chaos, so says creator DaemonCZ, whereby only a smattering of small independent communities are connected by narrow trade relations. “It’s an unfriendly place,” says the mod’s description, “where the law is on the side of whoever has the biggest gun.” Good luck with that.
By Heath Games
Half-Rats: Parasomnia is a Half-Life mod that isn’t a Half-Life mod. During its three to four hour playtime it weighs heavy on narrative, for example, includes unskippable cut scenes and while filled with plenty of action set pieces is at its best when revelling in its unraveling characters.
A follow-on from last year’s Half-Rats: A Fever Dream, Parasomnia presents a larger, less linear map, as well as a host of more challenging bosses and interesting NPCs. Like its forerunner, it isn’t as smart as it thinks it is, however it’s still one of the best Half-Life mods available – assuming you’re after more than generic running and gunning. The limitations of the almost two-decade old base game add to this one’s charm and the ability to now purchase items and store them in your inventory (as opposed to instantaneous pickups) adds a layer of depth even the original game failed to explore. Fans of Half-Life in its most basic state might struggle with it, but I think those after something different will enjoy what Parasomnia brings to the table.
By Blitz and EnterElysium respectively
Rimworld’s scenarios are what drives the colony management sim, therefore it’s little surprise that the best mods are of similar kind. Both The Exiled Tribe and The Hangover From Hell add scenarios which can be equally as humorous as they can be brutally unforgiving. After knicking a ceremonial dagger from a rival faction, The Exiled Tribe sees you on the receiving end of witch hunt whereby you spent your time alive (which, admittedly, wasn’t very long for me) running and hiding and running some more from your pursuers.
The Hangover From Hell, on the other hand, sees five companions fleeing a burning ship after a wild night on the sauce. As such, your characters have an 80 percent chance of starting with the Chemical Interest trait, and a 100 percent chance of being hungover. Besides survival, making it to the lifeboats “with all the booze you can carry of course” is top priority.
Seeing as this is an end of year celebration, I’m going to cheat a little with my honourable mentions. I’m going to include mods that didn’t necessarily launch or receive significant updates this year, but that I did enjoy messing around with in 2016. There’s even one in here that hasn’t released yet at all but is still worth keeping an eye on.
Game: Grand Theft Auto V
Easily my favourite GTA 5 mod. Smashing cars, playing golf with trucks, causing abject destruction as the Incredible Hulk – what’s not to like?
First Person Cam
By Zullie the Witch
Game: Dark Souls 3
Dark Souls 3 is best served in its default third-person mode, however don’t rule it giving it a bash in first. It’s great fun!
Play as a NPC
Game: Dark Souls 3
Play as NPCs from Dark Souls, Dark Souls 2, Dark Souls 3 and even Demon’s Souls and Bloodborne.
Game: Skyrim Enhanced Edition
Three excellent total conversions for Skyrim that made the jump to this year’s Enhanced Edition.
Any Mod Any Weapon
Game: Fallout 4
A silly but brilliant mod that removes mod restrictions from all weapons.
Star Trek New Horizon
An incoming Star Trek-flavoured Stellaris mod that’s currently in early alpha state. With 45 pre-scripted races with canon starting positions that’re all available to play, and 11 playable factions and their ships already in place, this one is shaping up nicely.
With that, we’ve reached the end of our bestest best mods of 2016 which I hope will help extend the shelf life of some of your favourite games, or alert you to new adventures entirely. Seeing as it’s the end of the year, you may like to revisit some of our previous best mods entries and, as promised, please feel free to shout your favourite mods that I so blatantly failed to include above in the comments below.