DarthMod Empire (Empire: Total War)
The choice pick of a long modding career that’s culminated in the exquisite and purposeful standalone wargame Ultimate General: Gettysburg. For nine years, Nick Thomadis dedicated himself to retuning the Total War series towards challenge, depth and sheer scale; DarthMod Empire remains the most popular, thanks to better battle realism and newly effective AI.
Company of Heroes: Eastern Front (Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts)
Relic wanted to make their own Eastern Front expansion for Company of Heroes but “couldn’t do the snow”. They made it out East for the sequel, but were beaten to the punch by this exceptional five-year effort. New Soviets were balanced by a new faction designed from the ground up to counter them - the rugged Ostheer.
The Nameless Mod (Deus Ex)
Forum City is a physical embodiment of the internet and its bulletin boards - stuffed full with crime and conspiracy, just as its citizens like it. Invulnerable Moderators normally keep the peace - but one has gone missing, and erstwhile intelligence agent Trestkon must navigate corrupt corporations, religious fanatics, cyber-terrorists, and deadly computer programs to restore order. Freedom of choice, devastating consequences and over 200,000 words of dialogue await.
Median XL (Diablo II: Lord of Destruction)
A tweaked number here or there has worked wonders for Diablo III since its release, and Median XL did similar things for the already-ace Lords of Destruction - rebalancing drop rates and item stats, beefing up monsters and infusing rares with powerful new attributes. You’ll find 30 new skills per class, and Median’s 30 new high level uberquests are the perfect test for them.
Complex (Homeworld 2)
Complex’s team put a full stop on a decade of development after learning of Gearbox’s remastered versions of Relic’s beloved RTS games. What they’ve left behind here is incredibly intricate: a network of systems for ship crews, officers, morale, research, resource acquisition, chain of command and more. Space-worthy.
SkyUI (The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim)
SkyUI is for many the first port of call when building atop of vanilla Skyrim. It’s an edited interface, faithful to Bethesda’s style and palette, that removes the trace signs of console development and leaves the UI prettier, less wasteful and far friendly to mouse and keyboard.
The Dropper (Minecraft)
You position yourself above a trap door, press a button, and allow yourself to freefall through an oversized bedroom or human skeleton. If you survive the fall, you finish the level; if not, well - now you know to dodge left instead of right. The Dropper turns Notch’s building blocks to new and inventive ends - webs become welcome cushions, and water the safest target. The sequel is equally as inventive, but a little chuggier.
MINERVA (Half-Life 2: Episode 1)
Adam Foster’s Half-Life 2 mod got him a job at Valve after its release in 2007, and in lieu of Episode 3 it’s just as playable today. Visit a remote island under Combine control, find out what’s going on, and make it stop. The 2013 Director’s Cut incorporated tweaked visuals, bug fixes and better puzzles.
T2X: Shadows of the Metal Age (Thief 2)
Long before Thi4f, a group of Looking Glass fans united by their distress at the studio’s closure set out to build a campaign as immersive and harrowing as The Metal Age. Thirteen missions take in city streets, rooftops, tombs, hotels, museums and cathedrals, and 10 new weapons and tools expand on Looking Glass’ emergent NPC manipulation.
Lambda Wars (Alien Swarm)
The inevitable, happy result of Valve’s decision to convert the Source engine for top-down play in Alien Swarm, Lamdba Wars is an RTS set in the Half-Life universe. Lead the uprising the Free Man instigated, or thwart the revolution as a Combine overlord - dodging antlions and climbing your way up the tech tree till you reach Striders.