Mods

The 10 best Starbound mods

Phil Savage at

As happens with all the best sandbox game, a huge and creative community has attached itself to Starbound. While the game's still in Early Access, through the use of mods you can expand it into something more varied, more vibrant, and specifically tailored to what you want it to be. Here are ten of the best mods, chosen from the many now available in Starbound's growing mod directory.


Kerbal Space Program official mod brings the World Cup to space

Phil Savage at

We're into the second stage of the World Cup now, meaning two more weeks of increasingly intense football. That's "we" in the global sense. I don't know how your country of origin performed, but England did not. If you're in a similar position, there are options available to help survive such national disappointment. You could pick a better team to live vicariously through. Or you could download Kerbal Space Program's official 'Kerbin Cup' mod. With it, you're able to take your footballs and hide away in the most desolate reaches of space—away from the harsh reality of underperforming athletes.


Mod of the Week: The Citizen Returns, for Half-Life 2, Episode 2

Christopher Livingston at

The Citizen Returns, a mod for Half-Life 2: Episode 2, is a sequel to a 2008 mod called The Citizen. They're both about, as you may have guessed, a citizen. He's trying to escape City 17 at the same time Gordon Freeman is fighting the Combine elsewhere, and he's teaming up with rebel forces along the way. In addition to urban combat with enemy soldiers, zombies, and gunships, there's a fun rescue mission in which you can choose the style of your attack, either at long range as a sniper, up-close in disguise, or just plain loud, with explosives. It's like a little taste of GTA V's heists crept into the Half-Life universe.

Skyrim looks better than ever in this new RealVision ENB showcase video

Phil Savage at

Every few months, I get ambitious; abandoning my modest selection of must-have Skyrim mods, and embarking on a grand plan to build it into something impossibly beautiful. Inevitably, it all goes wrong. The lighting isn't quite right, the distant mountains look a bit off, or whole sections of water have just vanished. But its videos like this—a showcase of what can be achieved with RealVision ENB—that make me want to try all over again.


Watch Dogs mod updated with ultra texture stuttering fix and patch support

Phil Savage at

What started as an experiment to reintroduce Watch Dogs' deactivated E3 2012 presentation effects is quickly growing into a full graphics overhaul. The inaccurately named TheWorse Mod has been updated to version 0.8, bringing a number of improvements. New for this release is a much needed option to vary depth-of-field strength, compatibility with Ubisoft's recent patch, and a fix that enables 'Ultra' setting textures without the accompanied stuttering.


Mod of the Week: Witcher Kings, for Crusader Kings 2

Christopher Livingston at

Excited for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, but can't bear to wait until next year to get some fresh Witcher action? The Witcher Kings mod for Crusader Kings II might tide you over in the meantime. This full conversion mod (still being developed) transforms medieval Europe into the Witcher's world. Go to war with Nilfgaard (or rule them), employ sorcerers and witchers in your court, and send your children to magic academies in hopes of developing their arcane talents. Or, like I did, become moderately obsessed with the idea of becoming besties with Geralt himself.


Watch Dogs mod enables "E3 2012" visual effects, improves performance

Phil Savage at

It's becoming an increasingly common practice: taking a recently released PC port, and working to improve its visual fidelity. What makes Watch Dogs slightly different is its own pre-release media. Specifically, its 2012 reveal, which promised a level of fidelity and shiny visual effects that the final release couldn't match.

Not without mods, that is. A new work-in-progress "E3 Bloom" mod not only introduces more dramatic lighting, but also comes with performance tweaks, stuttering improvements and depth-of-field effects.


Mod of the Week: Hopelessness: The Afterlife, For Half-Life

Christopher Livingston at

With another E3 come and gone and nary an official word from Valve about another Half-Life game, it's probably time to get some new content the old-fashioned way: with mods. Enter Hopelessness: The Afterlife, which gives Half-Life-hungry gamers about forty minutes of new-yet-retro action split between careful puzzle-solving and frenetic gunplay. Grab your crowbar: we're going back to Black Mesa.


Mod of the Week: Holidays, for Skyrim

Christopher Livingston at

I'd just installed a Skyrim mod and was standing in Whiterun, noticing that nothing seemed to be happening. Broken mod, I assumed, or more likely I installed it incorrectly. Then I noticed a few NPCs drifting into the outdoor market area. Then a few more. A couple started playing instruments, some began to dance, others stood around chatting. I noticed some decorations were up, and a couple tables of sweets had appeared. As night fell, it became a full-on party with throngs of townsfolk, followed by fireworks. It was one of several celebrations added by the Wet and Cold: Holidays Mod, one of the most enjoyable mods I've ever tried.


Eleven essential Wildstar addons and how to configure them

Chris Thursten at

I've been playing Wildstar since headstart access began on Saturday. Like Phil, who's detailing his experiences in our review in progress, I'm really enjoying the game. This is the most fun I've had with a traditional MMO since Guild Wars 2, and its mix of new and old ideas has arrived at exactly the right time - just when I've been starting to feel nostalgic for vanilla World of Warcraft, raiding, and worrying about my rotations.

As with World of Warcraft, Wildstar has a substantially moddable interface and there are already hundreds of addons available on Curse. Many are useful, but a few fix problems with the base game - either improving quality of life substantially or resolving oversights in the design of the basic interface. Below, you'll find the set I'm currently using. I imagine that as I level up I'll add to the list, but this is a good place to start.


Starcraft 2 becomes a turn-based RPG with new mod Rogue Star

Phil Savage at

The thing that stops me from being good at Starcraft 2 is I can only manage a few minutes of furious finger work. Luckily, there's now hope for those of us without the stamina to sustain our armies: Rogue Star, a Starcraft 2 Arcade mod that transforms the game into a turn-based RPG. Take that, pro-gamers—you could be spending whole, luxurious minutes before activating your blink attacks.


Winner of Square Enix's Thief: Gold modding competition announced, is a cool Dark Mod level

Phil Savage at

Confession: I was initially dubious about Square Enix's old-school Thief modding contest. It seemed, at the time, like a somewhat cynical attempt at getting Thief's fan-base on-side. In practice, of course, the reasons are less important than the fact it highlighted some exceptional work from a dedicated community. The Dark Mod is an excellent game that neatly captures the feeling of the original Thief series, and so it's fitting that one of its more recent missions has been named as the competition's winner.


Pixel Boost: Command and Conquer Red Alert 2

Wes Fenlon at

Twice a month Wes guides you through the hacks, tricks, and mods you'll need to run a classic PC game on Windows 7/8. Each Pixel Boost guide comes with a free side of high-res screenshots from the LPC celebrating the graphics of PC gaming's past. This week: eternal classic Red Alert 2.

Red Alert 2 is not the most balanced Command & Conquer. It's not the most stable—multiplayer matches ended in crashes more often than not. It's not the most serious (that's probably Generals) and it's not the goofiest (that's probably Red Alert 3). But it's my favorite, because it includes a little bit of what made every C&C game special. Westwood upped the production value if its FMV cutscenes without sacrificing the camp and built a huge range of creative units without straying from C&C's messy large-scale battles. Until the Minecraft era, Westwood was also one of the only developers to make smart use of voxels, and Red Alert 2's colorful world and soldiers still look cool 14 years later. RA2 isn't the easiest game to find these days, but if you have a copy, it's still possible to run the game at high-res in modern Windows.

Project Reality: BF2 update ensures life after Battlefield 2's GameSpy shutdown

Phil Savage at

Armed forces are closing in on the notorious multiplayer sympathiser, GameSpy. The matchmaking system is due to be terminated with extreme prejudice this coming Saturday, plunging the games it uses into an offline darkness. EA have said that many of their GameSpy-enabled games won't be updated with a new matchmaking solution. For Battlefield 2, that's meant the battle for online battles must now be fought by fans. It's not just the main game struggling to stay connected; its mods are also at risk. Thankfully, the most popular of those mods—Project Reality: BF2—has received a new update that will keep its multiplayer running.


Purgateus is a dark remix/mod for Proteus, and it looks fantastic

Tom Sykes at

Paradise/Hiversaires/Oquonie developer Devine Lu Linvega is modding Ed Key's Proteus, words which probably shouldn't feel as strange to type as they actually do. Inspired by Ian Snyder, the developer/musician is overhauling Proteus' colour scheme, reducing the palette to a collection of stark, muted shades, while adding new sprites, and crafting a new interactive soundtrack. Stick around for a trailer for Purgateus, and a link to that elegiac soundtrack.

Mod of the Week: Fistful of Frags

Christopher Livingston at

If a mod is released as a standalone game, can it still be called a mod? If a column features a mod that's almost eight years old, can it still be called "Mod of the Week"? Did cowboys in the Wild West really kick each other in the face all that often? The answer to all three questions is: who cares? Labels, dates, and historical accuracy aren't important, because Fistful of Frags, a 2007 multiplayer mod for Half-Life 2, has been released, all on its own, on Steam, for free, and you can get download it and play it and kick a bunch of cowboys in the face. Pass the whiskey!


Total Chaos is the best-looking Doom II mod you've ever seen

Emanuel Maiberg at

Out of context, the teaser video for Total Chaos looks like an interesting, moody horror game. The abandoned cityscape, ominous ambiance, and foggy alleyways remind me of the upcoming Nether in particular, which runs on Unreal Engine 3. The two games look pretty similar. Here's the crazy thing:  Total Chaos is a total conversion Doom II mod.


Fistful of Frags relaunches as standalone game, can be downloaded for free on Steam

Phil Savage at

Here's something that nearly slipped unnoticed from our news noose. Fistful of Frags, the Wild West Source engine mod first released in 2007, recently relaunched as a free standalone game. It was hardly a trial to play before—thanks to the free-to-play Team Fortress 2 providing the SDK base required to get it working. Now it's even easier: just head to its Steam page to download the back-to-basics deathmatch shooter.


Designing an Escape Goat 2 level with creator Ian Stocker

Wes Fenlon at

"My usual approach to puzzles is to build backwards," says Ian Stocker. Most of the 100 puzzles in Stocker's game Escape Goat 2 started that way—with a door for the goat to escape through and an idea of how it would get there. In early April, Stocker updated the Steam build with a beta level editor and Steam Workshop support. When the build launches out of beta, all of Escape Goat players will be able to create puzzles with the same tools Stocker used for his own levels.

To get a jump on the inevitably heated Workshop competition, I sat down with Stocker to make a PC Gamer puzzle. After 30 minutes of building and brainstorming, I've got a co-designer credit to my name.


Portal 2 community map-pack Cosmogony is a great reason to return to Aperture

Phil Savage at

Every now and then, I like to visit Portal 2's Steam Workshop page. Not to download anything, you understand, but to experience the panic attack of knowing that somewhere in that list of 353,637 maps, there's something really good that nobody has bothered to play. Like great painters not recognised until long after their death, their masterpieces are untouched and their genius is unrecognised. And then I get drunk.

This time, I was too distracted by Cosmogony: a new six-part map-pack that was released earlier this month. Created by 'Dreey', it features a custom story, new locations and clever level design.