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17 June 2011 @ 06:44 am
Game review: The Nameless Mod  
Well, as the title suggests, it's not a game as such, but a mod for a game. Deus Ex, to be specific. My thoughts below:

Seven years in the making, The Nameless Mod (which has a trailer here, if you like) is the story of the denizens of a particular internet forum, recast as a city. One of the moderators of PlanetDeusEx City has gone missing and you, in the roll of Trestkon, a former moderator nominee who turned down the job, have been called back by old friends to help solve the mystery.

No, wait, come back. I swear it's good.

"Well, you've seen James Bond, right? Being a super-spy is not all it's cracked up to be."

That's actually one of the problems that the design team mentions they run into a lot. People play the beginning part, which has the heaviest info-dumps to help catch you up on things (since you're playing an established character), think it's some stupid in-joke game where they aren't in on the joke, and stop before they get to the rest of the game. Which is, by the way, amazing. I can say, without irony, that in this case the student has surpassed the master and The Nameless Mod is better than Deus Ex itself was.

"You know Trestkon, Deus Ex is a great game, but there's one thing I could never quite figure out. Infolinks. What a horrible design choice. I mean the last thing I'd want if I was going on a highly dangerous secret mission is to have some idiot yammering in my ear non-stop. Man that'd be annoying. Wouldn't it Trestkon? Gosh, that would be so annoying. God, the way the guy would just go on and on, yammering away!"

The main point of comparison I can make is--imagine if in Deus Ex you weren't railroaded towards leaving UNATCO, but instead could choose whether you follow Paul and leave (keeping the main story as is) or stay with UNATCO and see where the story went from there. In The Nameless Mod, that's exactly how it works. There are two parallel storylines that you can choose from at the beginning, and then 4-5 other secondary storylines, and dozens and dozens of points where your choices affect the story. The game takes into account who you kill, who you knock out, who you insult, how you solve the minor missions, IF you solve the minor missions, etc., etc., with full voice acting for every single thing. And then, at the end, a Fallout-style scene-by-scene slideshow of the way your actions affected everyone's lives.

It's probably the best implementation of the idea of choices and consequences I've ever seen in a game. One of the mod team mentioned that since they were making a mod of a years-old game, they knew that only real fans ("fanboys," if you will) would actually ever bother to play it, so there was no worry about making the game too complex or the amount of choices too baroque. Anyone who played Deus Ex and liked it enough to be modding it almost a decade after it came out would probably be hoping for a plot just as complex as the original.

That's actually leads into part of why I give The Nameless Mod higher marks. Even though Deus Ex's gameplay was extremely open-ended--you could kill people, stun them, hack turrets to kill them, stealth past them, set traps for them, etc.--the actual story was fixed. You always go to Hong Kong, you always leave UNATCO, you always get captured by MJ12, and so on. As I said above, the The Nameless Mod has an open-ended plot and open-ended gameplay.

"How do you plan to kill me, exactly... without any guns?"

One of the emergent gameplay traits that took hold with Deus Ex was the idea of a "pacifist run," where people would endeavor to get through the game without killing anyone (or killing the minimum number of people possible--I don't remember if there was anyone you had to kill). The people making The Nameless Mod took this into account when designing the weapons and the quests. In addition to the standard mini-crossbow, prod, gas grenades and baton, there's also a rice-bag launcher (for knocking people out using head trauma), unarmed combat and tranquilizer mines.

In Deus Ex, people would comment on you propensity for violence (or lack thereof) at the beginning, but after you left UNATCO you could slaughter your way through the rest of the game and no one would mention it at all. That's not true in The Nameless Mod. Some of your rewards change depending on how violent you are--and you typically get rewards either way, so there's no obviously correct way to do things. It isn't like a lot of games where being the second coming not only makes you feel good but also gives you the best rewards.

"I'm here to evict your skinny ass. With violence."

The gameplay is basically exactly the same as Deus Ex, and anyone who's played that will feel right at home with The Nameless Mod. All the weapons from Deus Ex are here, plus a ton of new ones--in addition to the ones I mentioned, there's normal mines, a katana, sporks and foons (throwing and melee varieties), pump shotguns, dual .45s, a smaller rocket launcher, the EMP pistol, different gloves to enhance your unarmed attacks, molotov cocktails, hammers, etc., etc. The nanoaugmentations all exist as well, and due to the story conceits, quite a few more people have them than in unmodded Deus Ex.

The AI is about the same, sadly, though considering all the other work they had to do and how much trouble they got from the Unreal Engine just implementing the maps I don't blame them for not overhauling the AI.

"I don't need to know - I have people to know it for me."
-Scara B. King

It took me about 18 hours to play through the mod. I spent a lot of time randomly wandering around and poking into places, though--the designers estimate 15 hours is the normal playtime, which is pretty good for a free game, especially since that 15 hours is only one playthrough and doesn't take into account the branching nature of the story. It's probably closer to 40-50 hours to run through every possible iteration, which is excellent game time for a free mod (and some things only unlock on the second playthrough or after certain endings, so there is a reason to play it again). I'll probably just end up watching the other side of the story on Youtube, because I never really liked playing through the "I'm a dick" side of the story, no matter what the game.

"You're unemployed and using a subpar (see FC/Standards_of_Retail_Stores) store as a makeshift lab. Evaluation: You suck. I want to be with my real dad."

In summary--it's awesome, and if you liked Deus Ex at all you owe it to yourself to play this mod. Otherwise...well, I think J.C. said it best.

What a shame.

Current Mood: pensivepensive
Current Music: The Nameless Mod - Sol's Bar & Grille 2