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In Now Playing PC Gamer writers talk about the game currently dominating their spare time. Today, Matt tries to rewrite history in Medieval 2.

Stories in Total War appear without warning, like aunts on damp Sunday afternoons. Attila and Rome 2 deliberately construct these stories, letting you make decisions that nudge the narrative in whichever direction you choose, but I prefer the accidental drama of Medieval 2. 

I m drawn back to Medieval 2: Kingdoms after reading about the Crusades: a compelling period of history, rich in tales of dashing Norman princes, religious fervour and the taut diplomacy of the Byzantine Empire. Specifically, the battle of Manzikert, in which the once-supreme imperial army was crushed by the Turks. It makes me sad, because the Byzantines were always my favourite faction, which is a bit like picking the least-worst racist in an inner-city chain pub, but also: I don t care. Compared to the frothing barbarians of the West, Constantinople had guile and romance. I decide to make myself feel better by changing history, because games let me do that. 

I start a new Crusades campaign, 100 years after Manzikert. My empire is diminished but capable—although huge chunks of Anatolia belong to the Turks, it s still possible to fight back. Soon, purple fingers begin stretching across the map, gradually reclaiming lost lands which were probably taken from someone else in the first place. I construct mines and grow crops. I send emissaries into enemy lands to spread religious dissent. On the faction rankings graph, my purple line creeps upwards while Turkish forces diminish. 

I reach that moment that comes in every Total War game, where armies fight to determine the future of each faction. It s an event where the lines on the graph converge; one faction falls, another ascends. Our forces clash at Amorium, and it s butchery. My general is killed, and the future of my campaign is left dangling from thin gristle like a hacked arm. A wave of green threatens to wash my forces away, leaving the path to Constantinople unguarded Unexpectedly, a young Byzantine warrior steps forward. Instead of fleeing, my troops rally to him. He charges the vulnerable flanks of the Turkish army, presumably screaming something really inspirational, and one by one, the enemy forces rout. Being a true hero, he hacks them down as they flee.

The Doge is captured, I ransom him for 28,000 gold, capture him again, then execute him.

Brilliantly, my hero s name is Modestos Bringas. I reinforce his army and send him after the remnants of the shattered Turkish forces. He pursues them relentlessly, menacing the fringes of the Seljuk empire for years, and I almost forget about him. Back in the West, a Venetian crusader force appears, intent on reclaiming Jerusalem. They re dangerously close to my capital, but being fellow Christians, they ll definitely pass by harmlessly. 

The Venetians take Constantinople. Only one person is near enough to save the city: Modestos. I march him back to the capital. The Venetian force is led by the Doge. (That s their leader, not the smug dog.) Modestos pushes forward to Constantinople, marches through the same holes the crusaders made in my city walls, and expels them. The Doge is captured, I ransom him for 28,000 gold, capture him again, then execute him. Modestos Bringas, once nothing more a humble soldier, has saved the greatest city in Christendom. If only he d been at the battle of Manzikert.

PC Gamer

Few things make me as happy as modders taking one game and stitching it to another. As Troy and Abed said, it only makes them more awesome.

Medieval 2: Total War is getting pretty old in the tooth, but modders are still working hard to find us some new ways to play it. The Elder Scrolls: Total War mod means you can now pit the various factions of Tamriel against each other in a war that can only be described as, well, total.

There are 20 factions to choose from, including The Kingdoms of Skyrim, Daggerfall, and Wayrest, the Clan of Blackmarsh and the Clan of Crowns, and the Great House of Hlaalu, Telvanni, and Dagoth, just to name a few. You can play as monsters too, like the hordes of Oblivion or an army of undead warriors. They're all custom skinned, so if you choose to side with Oblivion you'll really be marching around an army of Daedra.

There's a full map as well, based on The Elder Scrolls games, and appropriate custom banners will snap in the wind as you march your armies into battle. 

The mod is not yet complete, but from my play session I'd say it's off to a good start. The campaign isn't finished yet, and there are some bugs, but I played a few custom battles and they worked just fine. It's also entirely in Russian, so in addition to the mod, which you can find a link for on this page, you may also need the English language patch. Even with it, some of the text still appears untranslated, though they're working on a better one.

Installing Medieval 2 mods isn't always easy, but there's a nice guide here on Reddit.

Half-Life

Welcome to our roundup of the best total conversion mods ever. Presented in no particular order, these are the mods that radically transform our favorite games into something different, with new and improved art, gameplay systems, locations, and adventures. Crafted through years of work, sometimes by large teams of volunteer modders, many of these mods have gone on to become PC gaming classics in their own right.

Here are the best total conversion mods ever made. 

Link: Sven Co-op on Steam

First released way back in 1999, Sven Co-op is still being both updated and played today. A cooperative mod for the original Half-Life, the mod allows groups of players to battle their way through the Half-Life campaign, where they'll find increased challenges and far more enemies, as well as new maps filled with puzzles and challenges. Over the years hundreds of new levels have been added along with new weapons, improved AI, and lots of customization options. Even if you don't own Half-Life, you can play it for free on Steam.

Link: A Game of Thrones mod site

For Game of Thrones fans, this mod is already at the top of your personal list or will be the moment you try it. It transforms CK II’s medieval Europe into the beautifully realised continents of Westeros and Essos and populates them with characters and events straight from the source material. Marry, mingle, or murder your way through the Starks, Lannisters and many other notable dynasties. Best of all, random game events will quickly spin the world into an enjoyable alt-reality of the fiction we’re so familiar with. This is an absolute must-have for gamers who are fans of the George RR Martin novels and the HBO series.

Link: Aliens TC ModDB page

Way back in 1994, this pioneer of full-conversion mods successfully recreated the 1986 sci-fi action film Aliens in Doom. It didn’t settle for just plopping face-huggers and aliens on a map, either: its custom levels mirror familiar locations and story beats from the film and even provide sound effects and voice clips lifted straight from the movie. Hearing Sergeant Apone through your headset reminding you to “Check those corners... check those corners!” not to mention Ripley furiously shouting “COME ON!” when climbing into her signature loader to do battle with the alien queen genuinely made me feel like I was part of the Aliens universe.

Link: Counter-strike ModDB page

You may have heard of it? The multiplayer Half-Life mod featured such team-based missions as hostage rescue and bomb defusal, each team with its own equipment and goals. With its quick rounds and exciting gunplay, Counter-Strike became an instant hit, and the community began creating maps of its own. Counter-Strike’s emphasis on teamwork and communication helped define a new genre of shooters, and the modders behind it were quickly hired by Valve.

Link: Nehrim site

Every full-conversion mod comes with a high degree of ambition, but it’s a truly special situation when the mod’s creators have the talent to match. Nehrim: At Fate’s Edge, created by German modding team SureAI over four years, does what the best full conversion mods do: reshapes the features that are lacking in the original game and provide hours of exciting new content. With original voice work by dozens of actors, big changes to several of the game’s familiar systems, and its own quests, story, lore, playable races, and a massive and beautifully designed new map to explore, Nehrim transforms The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion into an entirely new experience.

Link: Garry's Mod ModDB page

Plenty of games have a god mode accessible through console commands, but Garry’s Mod takes the idea to an entirely new level. A multiplayer sandbox limited only by your creativity, the mod has proven to be the ultimate tool for creating webcomics, videos and custom game modes, as it enables players to spawn objects and entities and pose them however they like. You can even play Half- Life 2 using all of the mod’s tools, turning Gordon Freeman from a simple gun-toting scientist into the ultimate expression of your will.

Link: Long War at Nexus Mods

Harder, longer, and with hundreds of changes to the base game, Long War extends XCOM's campaign, lets you play with up to 12 squad members at a time, adds new soldier classes, voice packs, weapons and technology, and lots of improved and completely overhauled systems. Long War wasn't just a hit with players but with XCOM's developers, who brought the mod team in to work on launch-day mods for XCOM 2, as well as create Long War 2.

Link: The Dark Mod site

This mod isn’t simply a celebration of the acclaimed Thief series using Doom 3’s engine, but actually an improvement on some of its features, especially the wonderful and engaging new lockpicking system. The open-ended stealth adventure lets you slink through a gorgeous, highly-detailed gothic steampunk world as you fill your pantaloons with loot and try to avoid detection. Most importantly, the mod comes with its own mission editor, enabling members of the community to create and submit their own custom levels and stories. The Dark Mod was released as a standalone game in 2013.

Link: Black Mesa site

It sounded like an impossible project: building the entirety of the celebrated FPS Half-Life in Half-Life 2’s Source engine, but after eight years of work by a large volunteer team of modders it finally became a reality. While it stops short of recreating the entire game (Gordon Freeman’s leap into Xen is the mod’s endpoint), it’s still a remarkable accomplishment. For Half-Life veterans it contains a mix of new design elements and familiar confrontations, and it’s a also great way to experience the ground-breaking adventure for those turned off by the dated graphics of the original.

Link: DayZ mod on Steam

In a game featuring starvation, sickness, and swarms of growling zombies, it still falls to other human players to provide most of the horror. While the standalone version of DayZ became a big hit in Early Access, the original open-world multiplayer survival mod is perfectly playable. The vast map and lack of global chat provide a feeling of intense loneliness, but the prospect of actually meeting someone else is a constant threat.

Link: Complex mod site

The name is certainly apt: this mod takes the real-time space strategy game and adds an almost absurd amount of complexity to nearly every single aspect. Alongside improvements to the AI, physics and graphics, the mod adds scores of new units and maps, constructible subsystems, deeper tech and research trees, and a diplomacy system. It even adds an actual calendar so gametime can be marked in years as in the Civilization series.

Link: Dota Allstars, a recent iteration of the original mod, worked on by IceFrog, who now works for Valve on Dota 2.

An exciting combination of RTS and RPG, the multiplayer battle arena mod for Warcraft III (based on a modded map from StarCraft) is a lot of things: simple to understand, difficult to master, and most of all, utterly addictive. In its early days DotA was a project that was passed from modder to modder, and like an unending stream of creeps it eventually spread through the gaming world to become a massive hit, as well as the first lanepushing game to have sponsored tournaments.

Link: NeoTokyo site

This team-based multiplayer mod for Half-Life 2 is set in a slick, futuristic cyberpunk city and features three different classes to choose from, each with their own distinct weapons and strengths. With lethally realistic gunfire and cloaking abilities available to some classes, NeoTokyo requires more stealthy and tactical play than many online shooters demand. Inspired by anime classics Ghost in the Shell and Akira, NeoTokyo also features an amazing and engrossing custom soundtrack that you’ll want to listen to even when you’re not playing the game. The mod was released as a standalone title in 2009.

Link: Mechwarrior: Living Legends site

Combining FPS action and simulation, this large scale multiplayer-only mod brings wonderfully realised Battletech mechs to life in Cryengine 2, though it began as a mod for Quake Wars. Tanks, jets, mechs and hovercraft strategically battle for territorial control in beautiful, varied, highlydetailed outdoor environments with full day/night cycles. The mod was so impressively made it was even sanctioned by Microsoft, who own the Mechwarrior franchise the mod is based on.

Link: Cry of Fear ModDB page

While it’s a standalone release now, Cry of Fear began as a Half-Life mod. It’s the story of a man who wakes after being hit by a car to discover his city is filled with gruesome monsters and his mind packed with psychological horrors. The mod has some interesting and immersive tweaks, such as an extremely limited inventory—and the fact that the game doesn’t pause while using it—that bring new challenges as you play through a disturbing, winding story with original animated sequences and multiple endings.

Link: Genkokujo ModDB page

The Sengoku period in Japan was a time of turmoil, political intrigue and near-constant warfare. What better time and place for a massive, openworld combat RPG built on the capable framework of Mount & Blade? The mod features actual clans and figures from Japanese history, new skins and armour types, new gunpowder weapons, and dozens of historically accurate locations spread across a map of Japan with twice the playable area of the original game. It also incorporates a number of other excellent M&B mods such as Diplomacy and Freelancer, which add even more great features.

Link: The Stanley Parable on Desura

You’re put in control of a clerk who suddenly finds himself completely alone at the office, but you’ll soon start to reconsider just how much control you actually have. While difficult to describe, the mod quickly proves to be a witty and insightful commentary on videogames, particularly the act of making choices. It’s also wonderfully narrated by a voice so soothing you’d like him to read you bedtime stories – if only you could trust him. It’s now a complete game with a lot more polish and an extended story, but the original mod remains a thoughtful, oddball delight.

Link: The Third Age on TWCenter

Every kid who ever picked up JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings novels has longed to step into Middle-earth, and one of the best ways to do it is with this mod for the turn-based strategy game Total War, capable as it is of portraying epic-scale battles. Third Age features over a hundred accurate locations and a dozen factions straight from the fiction. It includes custom units such as ents, trolls, giant spiders and wargs, and lets you play not just as heroes like the men of Gondor and the Silvan Elves, but also as the evil forces of Sauron’s Mordor, Isengard, and even the orcs of the Misty Mountains.

Link: Out of Hell ModDB page

As Donovan Ling, a lone cop investigating a garbled transmission from the industrial town of Grinwood, you quickly find yourself alone and fighting to survive a relentless zombie invasion. This mod is packed with astounding visuals of a city gone to hell, and a chilling original soundtrack accompanies you as you battle your way through more than 20 harrowing and atmospheric maps. Despite an arsenal of deadly weapons and melee attacks, you’ll never really have time to catch your breath.

Link: Natural Selection site

With one team playing marines and the other playing aliens, Natural Selection converts Half-Life into a multiplayer hybrid of first-person shooting and realtime strategy. It brought to life the concept of a commander in an FPS: a sole player who views the map in top-down fashion, giving orders, issuing supply drops, and managing the map in a traditional RTS fashion. The aliens have no overlord or shared resources, so must rely on communication if they want to win. Despite big differences in the two teams’ abilities and tactics, the mod remains a tightly balanced experience.

Link: Team Fortress ModDB page

Long before it evolved into a cartoony hat-trading simulation, Team Fortress was a mod for Quake. It originally featured five classes, later blossoming into the full iconic nine we’re familiar with today, and even provided a tenth class, the civilian, playable during VIP escort missions. Instead of just red and blue teams, certain maps for TF included two additional teams, green and yellow, struggling for map control and engaging in capture the flag games. The mod’s popularity led to a proper release and, much later, the Team Fortress 2 we know today, although the original mod is still played on a few servers.

Link: The Nameless Mod site

With a hundred new skins, sixty maps, custom cinematic sequences,and two storylines providing a hefty thirty hours of playtime, The Nameless Mod grew, over seven years of development, from something of an in-joke to a true mod masterpiece and Deus Ex fan favourite. Part homage and part satire, the mod sports thousands of lines of custom dialogue, tons of tweaks, and dozens of great new music tracks, not to mention books, newspapers and emails.

PC Gamer
Mod of the Week

I don't know how successfully it comes across on the TV show, but the Game of Thrones book series makes the storied history of Westeros as important and intriguing as the current, rather messy state of affairs. Westeros: Age of Petty Kings, a mod for Medieval II: Total War Kingdoms, is set during the Andal Invasion of Westeros, thousands of years before the events of the series, which means now you can take part in the shaping of the turbulent continent and forge your own version of the history of Westeros.
The true, full name of the mod, it appears, is Westeros: Total War: Ages of Petty Kings for Medieval II: Total War: Kingdoms, but I get fined by PC Gamer if I use more than three colons in a single headline. I'll begin by quoting the modder directly, since he does a fine job of explaining the sitch:
Long before the rise of Valyria, Westeros was divided into countless Petty Kingdoms. In the south, the Reach is consumed by fire as countless Andal Kingdoms are drawn into an ever growing civil war. In Dorne, the deserts run red with blood and in the north four kingdoms struggle for supremacy, even as they face invaders from all sides. As chaos descends upon the lands of Westeros it remains to be seen which Kingdoms shall forge dynasties to last a thousand years, and which will fade into history.


You'd think one Stark, once, would move somewhere warmer.
I don't blame you if you're more interested in the current batch of characters from Game of Thrones than in the generations that came before them. The thing is, even though the mod is set thousands of years prior to the events we've been watching and reading about, there are still plenty of familiar names around. Some families have been in Westeros for a very, very long time, so yes, you'll still find the Lannisters at Casterly Rock, the Starks are chillin' (literally) in the North, the Arryns are in The Vale, and the Martells are over in Sunspear. What bright futures they all must have!


It's your chance to be the Lannister who never pays his debts.
There are a whopping 29 different factions to choose from in the mod, including House Reyne, The Stormkings (who have a stag on their banner, which was later co-opted by the Baratheons), plus House Bolton and House Umber in the North, and then a bunch more I've never heard of because I sort of skimmed through certain parts of the book, okay? No need to Google while you're selecting a faction, either: the modders have provided a hefty chunk of lore and history in their descriptions.


Lore-friendly and packed with info, it's like Wiki of Ice and Fire, the game.
The map of Westeros we've come to love is faithfully rendered, and though King's Landing may not exist yet, plenty of still-standing cities predate it. The source material seems to have been well researched and respected: even cities and castles that are mentioned only in passing in the books appear in the mod in their proper spots. There are quotes from historical characters on the loading screens, and you'll even get to listen to the familiar Game of Thrones theme song that I hope is legally okay to use in this mod but I'm not sure that it is. Point being, the mod is really drenched in the feeling and flavor of A Song of Ice and Fire, and I think fans of the books and show will feel quite at home here.


Not sure who these guys are or why we're fighting. But that's true when I read the books sometimes.
If you're not super interested in the politics and city building, you can of course whip up some custom battles on some familiar battlegrounds, like the Wolfswood, Golden Tooth, the Vale of Arryn, the Iron Islands, The Reach, and lots more. I pitted a bunch of Starks against a mass of Boltons for the Dreadfort, for no particular reason and definitely not to exact some sort of revenge. I also had Cracklaw Point battle the Lannisters in the wintery North. Why? I dunno. Why the hell not?


Lions versus Crabs. I know who I'm betting on.
The mod is still in development, and has a lot of plans for the future, including doubling the number of castles on the campaign map and bolstering them with both lore-friendly houses and some created just for the mod. There are also plans to add more units, including unique ones, as they're not particularly varied at the moment. Mercenaries will be added (sellswords, if you want to get all Game of Thrones-y about it), and there's an effort underway to add even more factions like the Night's Watch and the Wildlings.
Installation: Download the mod here. Again, I'll let the modder explain how to get it set up, because he does it well and it worked for me.
1) Make a copy the "Launcher.exe" from your M2TW folder and rename it "kingdoms" (if you already have a "kingdoms" you should be fine).
2) Put the Petty_Kings folder into your mods directory and DO NOT CHANGE THE FOLDER'S NAME.
Assuming you have the "kingdoms.exe" and the correctly named "Petty_Kings" then you can simply double-click on AOPK.bat in the Petty_Kings folder and it will launch the mod.
PC Gamer
Company of Heroes


Sega used to spend their time faffing about with console boxes and a blue hedgehog. Now they spend their time more productively: publishing cool PC games (and occasionally trying to resurrect the blue hedgehog). Sometimes these many projects collide into a single, gloriously incomprehensible mess of different games and styles. It happened with the bizarrely compelling Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed - a game in which an anthropomorphic fox could lose a kart race to the football manager from Football Manager. It's also now happened with this week's Humble Weekly Sale.

The pack collects some of the publisher's more celebrated series, along side smaller projects and a collection of classic console games.

At the lowest pay-what-you-want tier, you'll get Alpha Protocol, Company of Heroes, Rome: Total War and Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit. Pay more than $5.99 and you'll also receive The Typing of the Dead: Overkill, Binary Domain, Renegade Ops, Medieval 2: Total War, and a collection of 10 old "Genesis" games. The Genesis, in case you're unaware, is what incorrect people call the Mega Drive.

The deal also includes Total War: Shogun 2, available for purchases over $14.99. In addition to supporting Sega, the money will also go towards the following charities: Make-A-Wish, Whale & Dolphin Conservation, Willow, Special Effect and GamesAid. As always, the bundle's sliders will let you choose exactly where your money will go.

It's probably one of the best Weekly Sales that Humble have run in some time. Company of Heroes, Rome: Total War, and Medieval 2: Total War are often considered among the best entries of their respective series. In addition, Alpha Protocol and Renegade Ops are definitely worth checking out for the sort of price you can grab them for here. Also, there are a few Mega Drive games - including the Golden Axes. Weirdly, there's no Sonic anywhere in sight, although at this point, maybe it's for the best.

The Sega Humble Weekly Sale will run until March 20th.
PC Gamer
Hyrule Total War


It's time for a confession: when it comes to Zelda, I'm dangerously ignorant. I could try to hide this fact from you - casually mentioning how the green dude is called Link, and thinking that would be enough to conceal my shame - but then I'd probably mess it all up by calling the Triforce, "that thing from Sword & Sworcery EP". Despite this historical deficiency, there are some things I do know: 1) Total War games, and 2) that Total War games would be much improved by the addition of magic, a weird tentacle eye-bug, and a giant Cyclopean scorpion. All of these things can be found in Medieval 2 mod, Hyrule: Total War.



This trailer marks the 3.0 release of the mod, which is available for download at ModDB. It offers 19 factions, a campaign mode, custom settlements, and four missions of a new "Hyrule Historia Campaign". While it's a nice amount of fantasy Total War to enjoy, the mod is still in development - and the final, feature complete version remains "TBD".

You can find more on Hyrule: Total War's status over at the mod's development forum.

Thanks, Reddit.
PC Gamer
TWA Featured


We still don't know much about Total War: Arena, the PvP strategy spin-off that will pit teams of up to 10 players against one another, each controlling small units led by historical generals. We don't even have concept art to speculate over yet. But in a recent interview with Edge, Lead Designer James Russel has shared some tidbits about the game's free to play business model, and the reasoning behind it.

It may sound incredibly obvious, but Creative Assembly says it's going with free to play because they feel they need as many players as possible in their multiplayer pool. “The first is the reason why we’re doing this is to make this great multiplayer experience…to have a player population on a different level,” says Russell. Previous games in the series have suffered with long matchmaking times and deserted lobbies—something I docked Shogun 2's otherwise great Avatar mode for. Thus, it stands to reason that something would need to change for a Total War title intended to stand on the strength of its multiplayer.

Creative Assembly also reassures that "pay to win" won't be a concern in Arena. Rather, the plan is to sell accelerators that "let you level-up your character faster so you get to high-level content more quickly." Again, nothing we haven't seen before in the free-to-play space, and nothing all that unexpected. If you haven't already, you can head over to the Total War: Arena site to sign up to be informed of when the closed beta goes live.
PC Gamer
Total War Battles Shogun


If you don't have an iOS device, you may not have heard of The Creative Assembly's mobile take on Total War. How on Earth do you fit the scale and spectacle of a Total War campaign onto a smartphone? Well, you can't, so Total War Battles tries to offer an entirely different take. It merges building and combat onto battlefields overlaid by grids of hexes. You can channel your troops down lanes drawn across the map and harvest resources with structures placed nearby. It's designed to be quick and easy to jump into, two qualities that Total War titles have traditionally lacked.

Sega's blurb boasts a ten hour campaign with bonus challenge missions. The visuals have been spruced up for the big screen and the PC version will come with bonus concept art showing off TWB's loud, colourful style.

Total War Battles is available now on Steam for $7.99 / £4.99 / EUR 9.99. Find out more on the Total War Battles site, and get a feel for how it plays in this here trailer:

PC Gamer
Rome 2 Logo


I don't know if you noticed, but yesterday Total War: Rome 2 was announced, and we all got rather excited. Today we've got an announcement trailer for you. It's live action (unless Rome's engine is even better than we expected) but it should get you in the mood for murder, betrayal and politics, all of which seem to be one and the same for the Romans. "What would you do for Rome?" It asks. Personally I would pay slightly above average air fare, how about you?

If you want to know more The Creative Assembly's latest effort, check out our Total War: Rome 2 preview or read our interview with the developers.
PC Gamer
Rome 2 Street Fighting Feature


While seeing Rome 2 for the first time at Creative Assembly, I spoke to lead designer James Russell and lead battle designer Jamie Ferguson about the new direction that Total War is taking, their ambitions for the game, and why they're returning to Rome after all this time.

James Russell, lead designer
 

 
Jamie Ferguson, lead battle designer
 

 
Be sure to check out our Rome 2 preview for our first impressions of the game. More on Rome 2 is available in PC Gamer UK issue 242, out July 4th, and PC Gamer US issue 230, out July 17th.
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