For my money, The Nameless Mod (TNM) is one of the best Deus Ex experiences out there. It's a lengthy total conversion mod for the original Deus Ex that transplants the original masterpiece's immersive sim brilliance into a tale set in a Deus Ex fan forum, and it's much, much better than that pitch makes it sound. Richard Cobbett called it "one of the best things to come from Deus Ex, and one of the best single-player mods in general," in his Crapshoot of the mod, and it just received a huge update 14 years after its original release.
TNM 2.0, as the update is known, has been playable in one state or another for a while now, but it's finally hit its full release as of yesterday, September 12. 2.0's patch notes are sprawling, but the most noticeable feature is the way it overhauls the original mod's maps. All 58 of them have been updated to meet the project's exacting standards.
The project lead on TNM 2.0—formerly the lead level designer on the original project—says the original release of TNM contained "a lot of disconnect due to level designers of varying ability, and a lot of fatigue presented in the maps." To rectify that, "2.0 aims to unify the maps in quality, and add a lot to the gameplay aspect in regard to creating multiple paths where there were none".
"It amazes me that it has taken the current TNM team almost the same amount of time to develop the classic 2009 release," wrote TNM 2.0's lead dev, "but it became a labor of love for a team 1/4th the size of the original team!"
Here are the other headline items it calls out in the post announcing its proper release:
- All 58 levels redesigned to be up to a higher standard
- All levels designed with stealth and combat in mind.
- Multiple routes and solutions added for every obstacle.
- Some levels are more compact but with more material to interact with, leading to approximately 80% less time solely running from point to point in some cases.
- Some levels have been expanded to have more memorable sections and gameplay mechanics, including some levels doubling in size.
- Improved visual design to have a cohesive vision.
- Two brand-new secret levels and one not-so-secret new level to be found.
- New side missions integrated into some levels.
- Quality of life features from Deus Ex: Revision and Deus Ex: Transcended.
- An additional 7 years of bug fixing and refinement.
That overhaul is apparent the second you boot up the game. TNM's first hub—previously a wide lattice of streets that was a chore to traverse—has become considerably tighter and more labyrinthine. I suspect there will be a contingent of fans who prefer the vibe of the original mod's levels, but I can't say I miss the experience of running up the long, long roads of TNM 1.0 to reach its various objectives.
This release brings the entire TNM campaign up to date with 2.0 assets, but the team isn't stopping yet. A future content patch is expected to polish some last things off, fix bugs, and add one last secret level, too.
I'm a staunch Invisible War defender, but even I'll admit that TNM does a better job of capturing the spirit of the original Deus Ex than its sequel. Sure, a lot of the humour in it felt a little inscrutable and/or dated even when it came out—it was a project that spawned out of a Deus Ex fan forum and features many of that forum's pre-eminent personalities as characters and actors, after all—but it had plenty of heart, and a fantastic understanding of the maze-like, many-pathed nature of Deus Ex's design. If you can get past the llama and goat cults and their battle over sporks and foons, you'll find an excellent tribute to one of the best games ever made.