Mod of the Week

Mod of the Week: Star Wars Ships, for Space Engineers

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Christopher Livingston at

While Evan continues to make a mockery of Star Wars canon, I thought I might try something different: sticking to the celebrated story that no one has a right to change (except George Lucas, who has the right to change it but really, really shouldn't). I noticed that Space Engineers, while still in early access, is a part of Steam Workshop, and that players have been busy constructing tons of Star Wars ships and bases. While I don't know if player creations are technically mods, it's player-made content, and I figure that's close enough for my purposes.

And so I present a completely accurate and above all respectful re-telling of the original Star Wars trilogy, in screenshots!


Mod of the Week: Ironfall, for Minecraft

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Christopher Livingston at

For weeks I've been dying to summon a robot from outer space, have it land next to me, climb inside, and start whomping on my enemies. Unfortunately, I don't own Titanfall, and simply yelling at the sky hasn't produced a single robot from the heavens. YET. In the meantime, I can play Ironfall, a Minecraft mod that mimics Titanfall's team-based shooting and giant robot summoning. Drop your pickaxe, pick up a gun, and prepare for Ironfall!


Mod of the Week: Tame the Beasts of Skyrim II

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Christopher Livingston at

As an animal lover, it sometimes bothers me to have to slaughter so much wildlife in video games, particularly in Skyrim, where wolves, bears, deer, and mammoths often give you little choice. There's an alternative, however, that lets you put down your sword and pick up a leash. Charm creatures with magic, make them your companions, feed them treats, sell them for profit, and even breed them, with Tame The Beasts of Skyrim II.

The central feature of Tame the Beasts is the Pet Shop (or petshop as it’s called in the mod). There you’ll meet Roselia, the shop owner, who will teach you a new shout. Then, you just need to run around in the wild until you find the animal you’d like to adopt, or just settle for whatever random animal you find, because believe me, when you’re out deliberately looking for a bear, you will never find a bear.


Mod of the Week: Altis Life, for Arma 3

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Christopher Livingston at

After two hours of tense waiting, the op was launched. The four of us, all policemen wearing night-vision goggles, slithered from our vehicles, spread out silently, and sprinted around the darkened buildings in the middle of the night. We converged on the civilian helicopter pilot who had landed nearby a moment ago, surrounding him, our weapons drawn and ready. Then we politely asked him to produce his pilot's license. He promptly did. We thanked him, dispersed, and met back at the vehicles. No illegal activity had transpired. Mission accomplished.

Altis Life, the police and civilian role-playing server mod for Arma 3, reminds me a bit of the time—the very little time—I spent on a few Garry's Mod role-playing servers. Rather than engage in multiplayer warfare, players engage in, well, virtual life. If you're playing a civilian, you buy a car, get a job, and collect a paycheck. If you're a cop, you police the civilians and enforce the law. The laws that include the requirement to have a proper license to operate vehicles such as helicopters, boats, and cars, hence the covert nighttime op.


Mod of the Week: Metroid Mod, for Spelunky

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Christopher Livingston at

It was teased a couple months ago, but it's now been released! The Metroid Mod for Spelunky slickly brings the sci-fi world of spacefaring Samus Aran to the subterranean perma-death platformer. It's the best of both worlds: monsters, items, pick-ups, character skins, music, background art, and even the title and menu screens have all been Metroid-ified. The core game, however, is still pure, unfiltered Spelunky. Fans of either game -- or both -- will love it.


Mod of the Week: Star Trek Armada 3, for Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion

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Christopher Livingston at

If you've been looking for a reason to revisit 2011's SIns of a Solar Empire: Rebellion, might I tempt you with a fresh injection of Star Trek? Galaxy-class Federation starships? Borg Cubes? Klingon Vor'cha? Romulan... whatever it is Romulans drive? The Star Trek Armada III mod completely transforms Sins into Trek, with custom models, animations, effects, and technology.


Mod of the Week: Mouse Interface, for Grim Fandango

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Christopher Livingston at

By now you’ve heard some clever modder has added mouse controls to the LucasArts classic adventure Grim Fandango, allowing you to play the game without having to awkwardly steer Manny Calavera around like a friggin' cargo barge. I've actually tried it out, and I can answer all of your questions. Is the mod hard to install? Not really! Does it work? Almost entirely! Can I squeeze an entire column out of telling you how to get it running? Most definitely. Read on to learn how you can point -- finally point -- in Grim Fandango. Just like Manny's doing!


Mod of the Week: The Last Days, for Mount and Blade: Warband

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Christopher Livingston at

The last time I played a Lord of the Rings mod, I made Aragorn marry a giant spider. This time, I'm not looking for weird fan-fiction nuptials but for massive fan-fiction battles. The Last Days (of The Third Age of Middle Earth) was originally released in 2011, but it's been recently updated and made newly compatible with Mount & Blade: Warband, transforming the game into Tolkien's Middle Earth.

Mod of the Week: Aperture Tag, for Portal 2

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Christopher Livingston at

Without his gravity gun, Gordon Freeman is just another geek. Without his grappling hook, Rico Rodriguez is just another agent. And, without her portal gun, Chell is just... fine? As it turns out, removing the portal gun from Portal 2 isn't that much of a detriment, provided you replace it with a gun that shoots endless streams of science gel. That's what the Aperture Tag mod plans to do, and now you can get a little preview of how it'll work.


Mod of the Week: Australia, for Civilization V

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Christopher Livingston at

If you're anything like me, everything you know about Australia comes from Mad Max, the first half of Crocodile Dundee, the second half of Crocodile Dundee II, and that Monty Python sketch about the Bruces. Let's change that right now with a history lesson! No, not recited out of some stuffy history textbook full of facts, but with a mod that brings Australia into Sid Meier's Civilization V: Brave New World!


Mod of the Week: Mass Effect Edition, for Starbound

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Christopher Livingston at

With early access becoming more and more popular, you don't need to wait for games to be complete to start playing them. And, with mods, you don't need to wait for games to be complete before you start changing them, either. The Mass Effect Edition mod for Starbound (which is currently in early access beta) lets you play as a Turian or an Asari, gives you control of the Normandy SR-1, lets you craft some of Mass Effect's guns and armor, and even includes biotic powers.


Mod of the Week: The Middle Earth Project, for Crusader Kings II

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Christopher Livingston at

"Do you, Aragorn, son of Arathorn, also known as Strider, from J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, take Shelob, a huge terrifying man-eating spider, as your wedded wife?" I do. I did. I married a giant spider! And that's just one of the many bizarre fan-fiction adventures you can have with The Middle Earth Project mod for Crusader Kings II. If marrying a spider sounds weird, it'll make more sense when I explain that I began the game playing as Aragorn's liege: a Balrog.


Mod of the Week: Network Addon Mod, for SimCity 4

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Christopher Livingston at

Since EA just spent months fixing that mistake everyone (except EA) knew they never should have made, you may find yourself tempted to finally buy the 2013 version of SimCity. Nuts to that, says I, because there are still plenty of changes, additions, and enhancements being made to 2003’s SimCity 4, courtesy of the ever-growing Network Addon Mod. NAM is entering its 10th year and still adding new features to the game's transportation system. Lots of them.


Mod of the Week: Afterschool Special, for Fallout: New Vegas

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Christopher Livingston at

School can be a drag, especially when a bunch of atomic bombs have turned your classmates into flesh-eating ghouls. This week, however, class is back in session in the Afterschool Special mod for Fallout: New Vegas, which lets you take an abandoned, decaying schoolhouse and transform it into an awesome high-tech base of operations, with a lab, a crafting center, a health station, and best of all, the CIMS: an awesome computer that can sort, organize, and store all of your worldly possessions at the touch of a button.

(Please note, the picture above of me decapitating a Fiend's attack dog with a laser rifle doesn't specifically have anything to do with the mod. It's just more exciting to look at than a picture of a schoolhouse.)


Mod of the Week: Journal of the Dragonborn, for Skyrim

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Christopher Livingston at

It seems like everyone in Skyrim keeps a journal. Bandits, smugglers, fishermen, necromancers, and even serial killers all obsessively document their lives. Yet the most interesting person in Skyrim -- that Dragonborn character -- does not. It's time to change that, with the Journal of the Dragonborn mod. Take notes, keep a diary, and record your exciting adventures for posterity, all from right there inside the game.


Mod of the Week: Advanced Genetics, for Minecraft

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Christopher Livingston at

Feel like doing a little mad science? The Advanced Genetics mod lets you collect DNA from Minecraft's monsters and animals, analyze it, decrypt it, and grow it in your lab. Then, you can inject it into yourself, gaining the abilities of the monsters you harvested, like the the Enderman's teleportation power, the Ghast's fireballs, the Skeleton's endless arrows, and tons more.


Mod of the Week: A Bunch of Spelunky HD Mods

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Christopher Livingston at

Have you been playing a lot of Spelunky? Maybe even playing it every single day for the Daily Challenge? Do you feel that even though Spelunky is different every single time you play it, it’s just not different enough? Do you promise not to hassle me about these not really being mods but just file replacements? Then read on!


Mod of the Week: Just Cause 2 Multiplayer Mod

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Christopher Livingston at

You're parachuting over the island of Panau, as you've done countless times before. This time, however, you're not alone: the sky is full of chutes. Planes streak by, wildly firing at each other, while a crowd of people with grappling hooks all try to hijack the same helicopter. On the ground, two dozen limousines careen past in the midst of a race around an airport. The Just Cause 2 Multiplayer Mod doesn't boast a server of 24 or 36 players, but hundreds, potentially thousands, all in the same game at once. Panau, already a ridiculous place, just got truly nuts.


Mod of the Week: Autumn Aurora 2, for STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl

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Christopher Livingston at

Ah, Autumn. It’s a time for brisk walks through the woods with crunchy, colorful leaves underfoot. A time for taking deep lungfuls of crisp, fresh air. A time for stuffing diet sausages into your mouth while firing panicky rounds from an inaccurate pistol as irradiated dogs leap and snarl from the thick undergrowth. A time for the Autumn Aurora 2 mod, for STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl.


Mod of the Week: Disaster and Emergency Situations Pack, for Democracy 3

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Christopher Livingston at

Turn on the TV or radio, talk to a relative or co-worker, or listen to a random conversation in a restaurant or bar, and you’ll quickly realize one thing: everyone knows how to run the country better than the person currently running it. And, if cousin Zeke or Carl the bartender can run the country, running the country must be too darn easy, right? Here's how to make it a bit tougher.