PC Gamer

At the end of Thief: The Dark Project, one of its characters muses on the future. Beware the dawn of the Metal Age, he says, looking out over the steampunk city. That line was contributed by Terri Brosius, one of the game's writers and designers as well as the voice of Viktoria (she also provided the memorable voice of System Shock 2's villain Shodan). The dialogue was a spur-of-the-moment addition, but it helped shape the series. Thief II would eventually be given The Metal Age as its subtitle, and the story of an industrial revolution overtaking the city would become its plot.

That's how committed the original trilogy of Thief games are to their foreshadowing, and it's part of what makes them unique among immersive sims.

In Warren Spector's post-mortem of Deus Ex all the way back in the year 2000, he coined the term 'immersive sim' to describe the type of game he and Ion Storm had created. Deus Ex needed its own subgenre because it is, as he put it, part role-playing game, part first-person shooter, part adventure game. Immersive sims are games that combine elements of other genres so you can play them your own way, with multiple paths to discover, each of which lets you jump genres as you please. These are the games where you can get past obstacles by talking or sneaking or killing, or sometimes even hacking them or casting spells at them or flying right over the top.

All that variability, all those systems intersecting to encourage player choice and freedom, are what it takes to count as an immersive sim. They don't require a conflict between philosophically distinct factions going on behind the scenes, but it's a common element nonetheless. Deus Ex has its Illuminati, System Shock 2 has the Many versus Shodan, Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines has competing undead clans, Dishonored has the Hound Pit Pub loyalists acting against the spymaster's conspiracy, and so on. In the Thief trilogy, progenitors of the immersive sim, it's the religious cults of Hammerites in conflict with Pagans, with the Keepers looking on as kind of referee-assassins.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided continues the tradition of player choice, but without some of Thief's subtlety.

You can't just dump secret history on a player straight away. Immersive sims are about freedom to choose your own way of playing, and not engaging with a bunch of boring exposition is a valid choice. (These are usually the games where you can jump on a table while someone is talking to you.) Instead designers hint at the backstory, letting players uncover it so we feel like we're learning things we're not supposed to, experiencing the the same rush we get from finding an unlikely method of infiltrating security.

Subtle as a thief

In Thief: The Dark Project, the first of the series, the Pagans are a cult you don't know much about until you realise one of your employers, Viktoria, is a member. By this point you're at least four missions deep and have been facing off against the rival Hammerites since mission two. But as early as the game's opening level, 'Bafford's Manor', there are hints of what's to come.

A letter from one of Bafford's agents describes Viktoria in passing immediately after summarising how the Hammers are interfering with his plans. Each mission's introductory cutscene opens with a quote from a song or prayer, several of which turn out to be Pagan texts. Those things are seeds that will bear terrible fruit later.

By the time you meet Viktoria you've probably forgotten the letter that mentions her. It's just one of many pieces of scene-setting in a level that also includes notes to a chef about how to prepare dinner, ledgers of illegal payments, a warning to the guards that they need to lift their game, and a letter about expensive relics worth acquiring. Some of these seem immediately relevant as a thief those descriptions of valuable relics are useful pointers, as is knowing the guards have a reputation for drunkenness but others are pure scene-setting.

Thief is full of the kind of scene-setting that broadens your view of its world, and that allows it to hide foreshadowing like this in plain sight. The first conversation you overhear outside Bafford's Manor is two guards arguing about going to the bear pits. One insists it's a good time because the scrawny bears have been fitted with spikes that make them vicious, while the other is old enough to remember when bears were terrifying beasts who didn't need all that knifery strapped to them.

While the bear pits are never mentioned again the theme of nature in decline becomes central, and a world where people need to be reminded the natural world is dangerous as the Pagans plan to has just been set up.

That's the best kind of worldbuilding: hinting at what's to come without you even realising it, while giving the feeling of a larger world beyond the levels you explore. Contrast that with Dishonored, a game that does many other things very well but is full of dialogue in which characters blatantly foreshadow later levels. During Corvo's prison escape through the sewers you overhear two of the City Watch talking about how scary the Flooded District is, setting up a level there. Granny Rags tells you her parties used to be even grander than the ones at Boyle Manor , as you'll see in that level.

If the bear pits conversation happened in Dishonored it would be to foreshadow a level that culminates in choosing whether to assassinate a mechanical bear or free it from servitude to rampage through the Distillery District.

Thief: Deadly Shadows, the third game in the series, has a famous mission set in the Shalebridge Cradle, an abandoned building with a history of horrors that include periods where it was used as an orphanage, an insane asylum, and both at once. If that seems unlikely, Kew Asylum here in Melbourne housed both the mentally ill and wards of the state until the 19th century.

You might hear an optional conversation in the Stonemarket hub about Shalebridge Cradle if you visit the right shop between levels, but you're just as likely to become aware of Shalebridge Cradle in the Old Quarter hub, where it looms over the eastern streets. You've passed its frightening visage and wondered what's up with the world's creepiest building over there before the story's got to the point where you realise you'll need to jump the wall and explore it. You're already dreading the place.

The foreboding Shalebridge Cradle.

While immersive sims tend to foreshadow both their stories and locations, there's something else they need to hint at as well. These are games defined by their freedom of choice with regard to styles of play, but worried about the possibility players might not notice solutions and try to brute force every problem, shooting their way through and not having a good time.

The first level in Thief to give you complete freedom in how you infiltrate a building is 'Assassins', in which you break into the mansion of a crime boss named Ramirez. The outer wall has an open entrance, but it's guarded, the walkway is well-lit and it's covered in crunchy gravel that makes a lot of noise when you cross it. It's doable, but there are better ways over that wall. Adjacent to a low section of it there's a Tudor-style protrusion with wooden windows, which make perfect targets for a rope arrow. It's also possible to go low-tech and stack crates until you're high enough, which you're clued into by two neatly stacked crates nearby.

Once past the outer wall there's the mansion itself to breach. There are two balconies that can be jumped to from guard towers, which your eyes are drawn to by tiled roof sections that happen to be bright red. A gap in the back of the building is noticeable from a distance because of the distinct shadow it casts.

These clues about entrance routes aren't repeated in later levels you can't trust red roofs and stacked crates forever but are there to make you realise how many options are available so that you start to hunt for them yourself.

Thief II ramps up the number of secrets within each level, but even with as many as a dozen hidden rooms and stashes to discover their placement is always just as subtle. A shooting range conceals a lever among the arrows embedded in the wall behind the targets, a bookshelf is slightly out of alignment, a glint of light pokes through the edge of a stone in a wall. Compare that to Deus Ex: Human Revolution, which sometimes hides one of the many ducts you can climb into behind a crate but more often plonks them into the corner of rooms beside a neon sculpture.

Even harder to notice is the Thief games' use of water as an element of level design. When you transition from the relatively safe streets of the city to the more dangerous interior of Bafford's Manor it's through a well, and when you travel from the empty utility station outside Thief II's Shoalgate Watch House to its well-guarded inside, that's also through water.

The haunted mines below Cragscleft Prison are entered through water, and so is The Lost City. A bridge has to be crossed before you arrive at the manor in 'Assassins', and though you don't have to swim out of the well in 'Precious Cargo' it starts raining once you exit.

In every case water marks a dividing line, emphasising that you've crossed into a high-risk area without the HUD needing to note it. Even if you're unaware of the motif, subconsciously the idea that things are about to get real as soon as you get wet seeps in as you play.

Compared to the original Thief trilogy, other immersive sims feel almost insecure and more obviously designed in the ways they lampshade upcoming twists in their story, later levels you'll explore, and the ways you can explore them once you reach them.

With their ubiquitous airduct entry points and audiologs scattered around incongruously to insure you don't miss a single nuance of backstory they rarely surprise us in ways that feel organic. The gun that goes off in act three was not only on the mantelpiece in act one, but two guards talked about the odds of it going off and then recorded the gunshot and left the tape in a nearby trashcan.

Thief lets you know what's possible but does so with subtlety. It's a game about hiding that hides its own possibilities in plain sight, and other immersive sims could learn from that.

PC Gamer

Not only was Deus Ex 3 in development at Ion Storm before its closure in 2005, but the studio mocked up six possible narrative arcs for the title. That's according to a presentation delivered by journalist Joe Martin at a recent VideoBrains event. Martin has original design notes for the canned project, as well as short synopses for two of the six optioned storylines.

"The first is about an augmented Black Ops soldier who goes AWOL upon discovering he s been used for dodgy dealings," Martin wrote on his blog. "His handlers find him and threaten him with either court martial or his wife s execution if he doesn t do one final job." According to Martin, this option would have seen missions switch between flashbacks and current day stories.

"The second story begins immediately after the ending for Deus Ex in which you destroy all global communications. In this story you d investigate the collapse and try to save your sister from a cult which arises in the chaos."

Martin has gathered the information as part of a project to save the 'deleted scenes' of iconic video game projects. His post touches on the early design stages of Doom as well, and is well worth a read.

Deus Ex 3 did end up happening in the form of Eidos Montreal's Deus Ex: Human Revolution, but it bears few connections to the teams responsible for the original Deus Ex and its poorly received sequel Invisible War. If the history of games which never eventuated piques your interest, then maybe you'll enjoy these early concept images for the original Deus Ex.
PC Gamer

Video by PC Gamer superintern Tom Marks

Augmentations activated. We took a break from playing today's most graphically demanding games on the Large Pixel Collider to run one of our favorites: the original Deus Ex. This isn't Deus Ex as it looked in 2000, though this is Deus Ex running at 1440p, running the latest version of the New Vision mod. It's a complete retexturing of Deus Ex, designed for today's high resolutions. If you want to run Deus Ex like this yourself, check out Pixel Boost.

Want more from the LPC video archive? Recently we've hit NeoTokyo, Watch Dogs, Wolfenstein: The New Order, the Titanfall beta, Max Payne 3, Metro: Last Light, and Arma 3. There's much more to come. Have a game in mind you'd like to see the LPC take on at ultra settings? Tell the LPC directly on Twitter.
PC Gamer

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

It's one of the best RPGs ever made. It's one of the best games ever made, period. Deus Ex needs little introduction since 2000, Ion Storm's first-person shooter/RPG has been the benchmark for open-ended game design. There's always a secret vent to crawl through, or a door to hack, or an NPC to persuade. Deus Ex's popularity endures to this day, and modders are still working to make the game look better every year. We decided to pay ol' JC Denton a visit on modern Windows and snap 33 5K screenshots. Here are the tools you can use to do the same.

Install it

Deus Ex: Game of the Year Edition is available for $10 on Steam and Good Old Games. Download and install the game and it should be immediately playable but next, we'll be downloading some utilities that make it much, much better on a modern system.

Run it in high resolution

After installing Deus Ex, run it once to make sure the game creates any necessary configuration files. Because Deus Ex doesn't support modern high resolutions by default, our first priority is to grab a better launcher.

Download the fantastic Deus Exe from Kentie.net. Under the configure menu, Deus Exe lets you insert a custom resolution, choose the aspect ratio, and more. Make sure to set 32-bit textures and the native resolution of your display.

You may notice another setting option in the Deus Exe launcher: the renderer used to run the game. Modders have made updated renderers for Deus Ex that allow the game to run in DirectX 9, DirectX 10, and OpenGL. You should download all of them for greater compatibility, performance, and graphics options, like HDR lighting. Also, you'll need the DirectX 10 renderer for the premiere Deus Ex graphics mod.

Kentie.net also hosts the Unreal Engine DX10 renderer. Download it here. Download the OpenGL 2.0 renderer and Direct3D9 renderer here.

Installing these renderers is a cinch. Simply open up your Deus Ex install directory, navigate to the System directory, and unzip them.

Now re-open the Deus Exe launcher. The renderer dropdown should now include DX9, DX10, and OpenGL. If you plan to run the mods listed in the next section, you should use DX10. If you're more interested in running the game at 4K and downsampling, however, you should use DX9.

With the DX9 renderer, you can run Durante's GeDoSaTo downsampling tool, which you can download here. In GeDoSaTo's settings, you need to set your native monitor resolution like 1920x1080 and the resolution you want to downsample from, which will be much higher. I was able to run Deus Ex at 5120x2880. Any higher, and the game crashed on me.

Once you have a high downsampling resolution set in GeDoSaTo, open the Deus Exe launcher and set the same resolution in the custom resolution field. When you start the game, some white text will appear in the top-left corner of the screen to let you know that it'd downsampling. If you're a purist, and prefer running a game with original graphics, this is the sharpest and cleanest way to run Deus Ex. If you want to use some fan-made higher resolution textures, though, it's time to jump into mods.

Mod it

To mod Deus Ex, we'll have to sacrifice GeDoSaTo's downsampling (it currently only supports DirectX 9) and switch to the DirectX 10 renderer. The go-to Deus Ex graphical mod is New Vision, which you can download on ModDB. New Vision comes with its own installer. Though all the textures are higher resolution than Deus Ex's original textures, the difference isn't striking. Without a side-by-side comparison, you may even have trouble noticing the mod is working in some places. Character model textures are still low-res, and most of the environments look very similar they're just not blurry at 1080p.

Important note: to enable New Vision and other mods, open Data Directories from the Deus Exe launcher and make sure the proper folders are included.

There are tons of other small tweaks for Deus Ex on ModDB. To further modify the graphics, check out the enbseries mod support for Deus Ex.

For a gameplay mod, check out Nihilum, which won a mod of the year award on ModDB in 2013. It's a Deus Ex sidestory with completely new environments, music, and even voice acting.

Deus Ex at 5120x2880 on the LPC

These screenshots were taken on the Large Pixel Collider by PC Gamer superintern Tom Marks, with Deus Ex running with original textures at 5K resolution.

PC Gamer
The best RPGs of all time
PC Gamer
Deus Ex Revision

This new Deus Ex: Revision video is the perfect encapsulation of the heroicly scrappy spirit of the modding community. It's professionally created, contains interesting insights, and features an audio mix that muffles the majority of its narrator's speech. Still, while the words are are bonus, the real treat is a to see the souped up, gorgeously lit recreations at the heart of the game's "re-imagining".

The mod aims to bring a "tightly integrated aesthetic-oriented approach" to the original game, which assuming I'm reading my high-faluting translator correctly means it will make things look better. Okay, so it does go slightly further than that: with a new characters and details to be found. They're also planning a new soundtrack; a brave move considering the quality of the original.

The mod will also act as something of a bundle of some of the best Deus Ex enhancements. "We will be distributing New Vision, HDTP, Shifter, BioMod, improved UI scaling support, the Direct 3D 9 Renderer and a customized version of Kentie s game launcher with Revision," writes Bj rn Ehrby.

Originally planned for a May 12th release, the mod is being delayed by "another development". Despite this, Ehrby says "we still plan to finish production and launch in the near future".
PC Gamer
Deus Ex

We never asked for this reportedly shoddy PC port of the Deus Ex mobile game The Fall. We never asked for this impressive Human Revolution short fan film, but we're glad it got made anyway. We also never asked for this Deus Ex expanded universe thingy, but we'll be glad if it results in another PC game as good as HR. That day may be sooner than we thought, if a recent filed trademark is anything to go by. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is its name, and there is a modicum of evidence to suggest it may be a proper HR sequel, rather than another mobile game. We never asked you to join us after the break.

The trademark details have been collected here by NeoGAF user R sti, and suggest that it relates to "Computer game software", "Printed matter" and "Entertainment services", ie the sort of things that tend to encompass your average Square Enix release. That admittedly sketchy evidence involves the following quote from Eidos Montreal head David Anfossi, taken from an old blog post regarding a future Deus Ex game.

"I want to leave you with a piece of concept art from our next-gen Deus Ex game that shows trans-humanism segregation, which is a backdrop to our vision for the next Deus Ex. It represents a "ghetto-city' voluntarily built in order to separate the classes. The people in this segregated class have reshaped their environment, nostalgic for their ideal of Cyber Renaissance. This dark and dystopian vision sets the tone for things to come in Deus Ex." Trans-human segregation, eh? Sounds a bit like Mankind is Divided.

Let's not get our hopes too far up about this trademark, seeing how the last one resulted in a mobile game, but still: I'd say we're long overdue a proper Human Revolution sequel. And with E3 around the corner, the timing seems about right too.

Thanks, NeoGAF.
PC Gamer

It's a testament to the legacy of Deus Ex that so many still see such potential in the classic cyberpunk game. With its Revision mod, a small team of designers at Caustic Creative is working to put its own stamp on the original experience with redesigned music and environment art.

As we can see in the large number of sample screenshots for the project, Revision aims to offer "new level design, aesthetic direction and world-building detail," according to Caustic. It's obvious that the development team is primarily concerned with way it feels to play Deus Ex and has said it won't be altering the original storyline in any way. As project audio director John French puts it in a video explaining the mod's changes to the game's music, the challenge, and attraction of re-imagining Deus Ex is a straightforward one.

"Why do this project?" French says "Why score something that already has a remarkably good soundtrack? Because we wanted to see if we could do it justice. Because it was there. I hope we did things properly. I hope that everyone enjoys the experience that we've built here."

Deus Ex: Revision isn't available just yet, although Caustic Creative lists early-2014 as the projected time period when the team will complete its work. A demo is currently available to download, but it's missing the new soundtrack and doesn't represent the entire mod or the final versions of the new environment art, according to Caustic. You can check out a list the designers have created detailing the progress they are making here.

With the success of the 2011's Deus Ex: Human Revolution and the announcement of other games within what's being called the Deus Ex: Universe, Revision could be a good reason to revisit how we all got here to begin with.
PC Gamer

There sure has been a lot of activity with the Deus Ex franchise lately. After Eidos Montreal announced a new entry in the series, we get another, albeit much more tenuous, piece of information. A recent casting call for a "confidential video game" makes it sounds like the developer is either about to start or has already started shooting motion capture for the next game.

The casting call asks for a Japanese male to play a character in good physical condition who "has a mild Japanese accent, able to range from professional with his superiors, militant when undercover, and smirky when talking to enemies." The shoot would take place in Montreal, Canada, which is of course where the studio in charge of the Deus Ex franchise resides. But what might be the most indicative of this game's true nature is the description of the character's job: "Hiroshi Saito is an Illuminati Shadow Agent. His current assignment is to infiltrate the Augmented Rights Coalition, to replace its leader and to discredit its movement by committing a series of attacks in their names."

The Illuminati are a staple of the Deus Ex series, and the last game in the series, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, dealt with the emergence of "Augmented" people. "Augs" were mechanically-enhanced citizens who marked the beginning of that world's transition into cybernetics. Prejudice against Augs was a prevalent theme within the game, as some people feared their capabilities and believed that they violated what humanity's natural evolution. The inclusion of an Augmented Rights Coalition heavily implies that this sequel will pick up where Human Revolution left off with Augmented citizens.

All of this comes off as a big neon sign pointing to plot points for the next Deus Ex game to me. And even though this is the farthest thing from official you can get, I 'm just excited at the prospect of a new one.
PC Gamer
15 most brutal mods of all time

Remember when buying a game didn’t feel like a guarantee of seeing the ending? There are still hard games out there, Dark Souls flying the flag most recently, but increasingly, the challenge has dripped out or at least softened, often leading to sadly wasted opportunities. What would Skyrim be like, for instance, if its ice and snow wasn’t simply cosmetic, but actually punished you for going mountain climbing in your underpants?

With a quick mod – Frostfall in this case – you’re forced to dress up warm before facing the elements, and things become much more interesting. That’s just one example, and over the next couple of pages you’ll find plenty more. These aren’t mods that just do something cheap like double your enemy’s hit-points, they’re full rebalances and total conversions. Face their challenge, and they’ll reward you with both a whole new experience and the satisfaction of going above and beyond the call of duty.

Game: Stalker: Call of Pripyat
Link: ModDB

All those weapons scattered around? Gone. Anomalies? Now more dangerous. Magic mini-map? Forget it. Valuable quest rewards? Good luck. Things you do get: thirsty, and factions who send goons after you if you anger them. On the plus side Pripyat is much more active, with a complete sound overhaul, and new NPCs to meet – who all have to play by the rules too, with no more infinite ammo. If you can survive here, you’ve got a good chance when the actual apocalypse comes.

Project Nevada
Fallout: New Vegas
Link: Nexus Mods

Nevada is a good example of making things more difficult without being openly psychotic. Levelling is slower, players and NPCs get less health, and obvious features are now in, such as armour only being a factor in headshots if the target actually has head protection. It’s also possible to toggle some extra-hardcore options, such as food no longer healing and taking care of hunger/thirst/ sleep on the move. There’s a sack of new content, and an Extra Options mod is also available, offering even more control.

Brutal Doom
Game: Doom
Link: ModDB

Despite what modern ‘old-school’ shooters would have you think, Doom was a relatively sedate experience – fast running speed, yes, but lots of skulking in the dark and going slow. Not any more! Brutal Doom cranks everything up to 11, then yawns and goes right for 25.6. We’re talking extra shrapnel, execution attacks, tougher and faster monsters, metal music, and blood, blood, blood as far as your exploding eyes can see. It’s compatible with just about any level you can throw at it, turning even E1M1 into charnel house devastation. The enemies don’t get it all their own way, as Doomguy now starts with an assault rifle rather than simply a pistol, and a whole arsenal of new guns has been added to the Doom collection – including the BFG’s big brother.

Full Combat Rebalance 2
Game: The Witcher 2
Link: RedKit

This streamlines the combat and makes the action closer to how Geralt’s adventure might have played out in the books. He’s more responsive, can automatically parry incoming attacks, begins with his Witcher skills unlocked, and no longer has to spend most fights rolling around like a circus acrobat. But he’s in a tougher world, with monsters now figuring out counterattacks much faster, enemies balanced based on equipment rather than levels, and experience only gained from quests, not combat. Be warned this is a 1.5GB file, not the megabyte Hotfix that’s claimed.

Game: Skyrim
Link: Nexus

Elder Scrolls games get ever more streamlined, and further from the classic RPG experience. Requiem drags Skyrim back, kicking and screaming. The world is no longer levelled for your convenience. Bandits deliver one-hit kills from the start. The undead mock arrows, quietly pointing out their lack of internal organs with a quick bonk to your head. Gods hold back their favour from those who displease them. Most importantly, stamina is now practically a curse. Heavy armour and no training can drain it even if you’re standing still, and running out in battle is Very Bad News. Combine this with Frostfall, and Skyrim finally becomes the cold, unforgiving place it claims to be.

Total War: Shogun 2
Link: TWCenter

Not only is this one of the most comprehensive mods any Total War game has ever seen, its modular nature makes it easy to pick and choose the changes that work best for the experience you want. Together, the campaign AI is reworked, as are the skills and experience systems, diplomacy and technology trees. There are over 100 new units. Campaigns are also longer, providing more time to play with all this, with easier access to the good stuff early on in the name of variety. There’s even a sound module that adds oomph to rifles. Add everything, or only the bits you want. It’s as much of a tactical decision as anything else on the road to conquering Japan.

Game of Thrones
Game: Crusader Kings II
Link: ModDB

Real history doesn’t have enough bite for you? Recast the whole thing with Starks, Lannisters, Freys and the rest and it will. This doesn’t simply swap a few names around, but works with the engine to recreate specific scenarios in the war for the Iron Throne. Individual characters’ traits are pushed into the foreground, especially when duels break out. Wildlings care little about who your daddy was. It’s best to know a fair amount about the world before jumping in, and the scenarios themselves contain spoilers, but you’re absolutely not restricted to just following the story laid down in the books.

Realistic Weapons
Game: Grand Theft Auto IV
Link: GTAGarage

Guess what this one does. A bowling league for Roman? Cars that drive themselves? A character who appears to tell Niko “You have $30,000 in your pocket, you don’t need to goon for assholes” after Act 2? No, of course not. These guns put a little reality back into the cartoon that is GTA. The missions weren’t written with that in mind, obviously, but there’s nothing stopping you from giving it a shot. Worst case: murdering random civilians on the street is much quicker, easier and more satisfying. At least until the cops show up to spoil the fun. Range, accuracy, damage, ammo and fire rate are all covered, though be warned that you shouldn’t expect perfect accuracy from your upgraded hardware. This is GTA after all. Realism is not baked into its combat engine.

The Long War
Game: XCOM: Enemy Unknown
Link: NexusMods

You’re looking at eight soldier classes, many more missions, invaders as focused on upgrades as your own science team, and a much longer path to victory. Research is slow, not least to make early weapon upgrades more useful, while the aliens are constantly getting more powerful. Their ships are better, their terror missions are more regular, and more of them show up for battle. In exchange, you get to field more Interceptors, the council is easier to appease, and the ETs don’t cheat as much.

Ziggy's Mod
Game: Far Cry 3
Link: NexusMods

Ziggy makes Rook Island a more natural place, removing mission requirements for skills, cutting some of the easier ways to earn XP, increasing spawn rates to make the island busier, and throwing away the magic mini-map in favour of a compass. The second island is also unlocked from the start. Smaller changes include randomised ammo from dropped weapons, being able to climb hills that you should realistically be able to, and wingsuit abilities made available earlier to get more out of them.

Game: Minecraft
Link: Terrafirmacraft

Minecraft has a Survival mode, but it’s not desperately challenging. Terrafirmacraft takes it seriously, with hunger and thirst that must be dealt with at all times, and key elements added such as the need to construct support beams while mining to prevent cave-ins, and a seasonal cycle that determines whether or not trees will produce fruit. Many more features are to be added, but there’s enough here already to make survival about much more than throwing together a Creeper-proof fort.

Synergies Mod
Game: Torchlight II
Link: Synergies Mod

This adds a new act to the game, over a hundred monsters, new rare bosses, a new class – the Necromancer – more and tougher monsters and the gear to take them on. There are also endgame raids to add challenge once the world is saved yet again, and more on the way – including two new classes (Paladin and Warlock). It’s the top-ranked Torchlight II mod on Steam Workshop, and easily the most popular. Be aware that it’s still in development, and has a few rough edges.

Civilization Nights
Game: Civilization V
Link: Steam Workshop

While Brave New World has officially given Civ V a big shake up, for many players Nights remains its most popular add-on. It’s a comprehensive upgrade, adding new buildings, wonders, technologies and units, with a heavy focus on policies and making the AI better. The single biggest change is how it calculates happiness, citizens adding cheer simply by existing, but the slow march of war and other miseries detracting from the good times. Annexed a city? Don’t expect too many ticker-tape parades. Yet keeping happiness up is crucial, as it’s also the core of a strong military. This rebalancing completely changes how you play, while the other additions offer plenty of scope for new tactics and even more carefully designed civilisations.

Ultimate Difficulty Mod
Game: Dishonored
Link: TTLG Forums

This makes Dishonored’s enemies more attentive, faster and able to hear a pin drop from the other side of the map. When you get into a fight, it quickly becomes an all-out street war. The biggest change is to Dishonored’s second most abusable ability: the Lean (Blink of course being #1). Corvo can no longer sit behind scenery, lean out into an enemy’s face and be politely ignored. He’s now much more likely to be spotted – especially in ghost runs, where his advantages are now limited to the Outsider’s gifts rather than the Overseers’ continued lack of a local Specsavers.

Game: Deus Ex
Link: ModDB

New augmentations! Altered AI! Randomised inventories! Also a few time-savers: instead of separate keys and multitools for instance, a special keyring has both, while upgrades are used automatically if necessary. Difficulty also changes the balance considerably, from the standard game to ‘Realistic’ mode where you only get nine inventory slots, to ‘Unrealistic’, which makes JC Denton the cyborg killing machine he’s meant to be, but at the cost of facing opponents who warrant it. In this mode he gets double-jumping powers, and automatically gobbles health items when he gets badly wounded. Good luck though, I still got nowhere.

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