The excitement of opening up a game, putting the relevant physical media in and starting it up is sadly a thing of the past. These days, day 1 patches have become so common we hardly acknowledge them. Apart from simply waiting those extra hours on launch day, patches are a common element of video games regardless of platform. While they can be aggravating, it is always worth acknowledging that work is being put in to make games optimal for the users. From adding additional and significant content like No Man’s Sky or just fixing bugs, there is a clear benefit to having that.
Developers now work harder, continuing to balance and update. A breaking bug can now be fixed and exploits can be closed. However, sometimes it is not the developer that goes on to fix the games, but the fans. Since the spread of internet access, the modding scene has grown to be a massive part of the PC landscape. One form of mod that often doesn’t get enough attention are the unofficial patches. These are instances where modders create a mod dedicated to fixing issues found in a game. While there are many reasons for unofficial patch projects, it always boils down to sheer passion.
So today, we at SA Gamer decided to take a look at six games that had unofficial patches and fixes. While many might think of essential mods, this list is focused on unofficial patches where the goal of modders is to fix a glaring issues.
We start by tackling the biggest studio and publisher on the list. Bethesda’s Open World RPG’s are giant critical and financial successes. Very few studios can ever attempt to tackle the scale of Bethesda’s RPG’s with the Elder Scrolls and Fallout franchises. These games are synonymous with a breadth that has engrossed players. It is because of this scope however, that there are a notorious level of bugs.
From The Elder Scrolls Oblivion and Skyrim to Fallout 3 and Fallout 4, Bethesda’s games are unpolished. It is understandable that there is never a way to catch all the bugs through QA and so players and critics will overlook them. Yet Bethesda games are also known for their modding scene and modders like to get the best out of their games.
Anyone who heads over to a mod sharing website like the NexusMods will find many fixes and unofficial patches. It is worth noting that while the unofficial patches are popular, Bethesda are dedicated to patching their games. Of the entries on the list, none of Bethesda’s developed games ever require an unofficial patch but they are often recommended. For the next game however, the next patch being an necessity is not even up for debate.
Fallout: New Vegas
You might have noticed we didn’t mention Fallout: New Vegas in Bethesda’s entry. There are two reasons for this: the first is that New Vegas was developed by Obsidian games, the Second is that New Vegas was on another level in being broken.
Despite being called the best of the modern Fallouts and a better RPG than anything Bethesda has released since Morrowind, New Vegas was known for being a buggy mess at launch (Kotaku, Arstechnica). Regardless of platform, the game was a nightmare to traverse with constant crashes. Bugs were so common, looking for supercut videos would provide dozens (with each having dozens of unique bugs). Where Bethesda’s games are playable without unofficial patches and fixes, New Vegas is next to broken. This was especially the case with the PC version’s launch.
If you ever happen to tell a person who knows New Vegas you are about to start, there is always a consensus on one factor: download and install Yukichigai’s Unoffial Patch (or YUP as many call it). Despite New Vegas getting patches after launch to try clear some of the nastier bugs, Yukichigai still works on updating the patch to optimise the game in the way it deserves. Yukichigai has even gone so far as to make YUP work with all major mods for the game. The last update was in June and needless to say there are sure to be more.
New Vegas was a phenomenal game that despite its issues, was something special and became a bastion for traditional RPG depth. While many suffered through the games brokenness, playing without YUP can be agonising. Official patches did lessen the frustration but YUP is still a must for players.
Durante’s legendary work
If you play primarily on PC, there is a good chance you know of modder Durante. Even if you stick to consoles, it is hard to ignore a beloved figure in the modding world. Durante has become a big name in the last five years with him being at the forefront of fixing games at launch.
We could make an entire list of just the games he has worked on and how he has humiliated developers through his work. His first and most notable fix was for the Dark Souls PC port back in 2012. Dark Souls’ PC version came a year after the consoles and fans were excited. Yet when players got their hands on it, it was a less than stellar job. The resolution went to max 1024×720 and looked like a blurry indistinguishable mess. Soon after, Durante stepped up and took to NeoGAF to announce a resolution fix. The patch called DSFix became a must install for anyone who is going to venture into Dark Souls.
From here, Durante continued to get his recognition for his work. Other notable examples of his fixes include Deadly Premonition and Little King’s Story. Wired did an article on the man who has become an icon to modders. In it, Durante states that he does all these fixes “for fun”.
Outside of Durante still modding, he also does write ups for PCGamer. His main features are Port Reports where he looks at the quality of PC Ports. His most recent was on Bayonetta which released this year on PC. His last big project was porting Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel to PC. He chronicled his work on the official XSeed blog and it is worth a gander. His also recently worked on fixing the bloom and god ray effects in Nier: Automata, which leads us to:
Nier: Automata might be the biggest surprise hit of 2017 and that is saying a lot. The follow up to Yoko Taro’s cult hit Nier has been an incredible success for publisher Square Enix and developer Platinum Games. This success however, was despite a botched PC version which requires a fan fix.
A modder named Kaldaien decided that instead of waiting for Square Enix or Platinum to take months to fix the issue, he would rise up and do it himself. He created the FAR mod (or Fix Automata Resolution). What Nier: Automata actually did was sit at a 900p resolution which was stretched to 1080p. FAR provides an actual 1080p resolution as well as greatly improve performance with optimised lighting and shadow effects. Nier: Automata was not Kaldaien’s first time in the modder spotlight. Last year he fixed the famously horrendous port of Tales of Symphonia which Durante tore to shreds in his write up.
FAR was much more than just correcting the resolution. It was an incredible attempt to do justice to a game that deserved better than what was provided by Square Einx and Platinum. The first version of FAR released just two weeks after Nier: Automata launched worldwide. It received constant updates and received press attention for just how crucial is was. The patch did have a controversial moment however. It featured an anti-piracy measure meaning that Kaldaien intended it to be used only with official copies. This lead to some ire from fans but the modder stood by his decision and did not remove the anti-piracy check.
The reason FAR deserves a place on this list is simple: there is still no official patch for Nier: Automata on PC. Over the months since release, you can find articles covering the poor showing of Platinum and Square Enix with regards to fixing the prominent issues. FAR is a must install for anyone wanting to play Nier: Automata and Kaldaien has put Platinum to shame with it.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2
Now we come to a debatable addition on the list. While we stated this list would focus on patches, the following mod is considered crucial to the Knights of the Old Republic 2 and thus has a definite place. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2 was the follow up to Bioware’s critically acclaimed Knights of the Old Republic. Instead of Bioware continuing to work on the franchise however, Publisher LucasArts gave Obsidian the chance to tackle the eagerly anticipated follow up.
While KOTOR 2 was quite a buggy game at launch but never game breaking and the patch in question is not necessarily focused on that. KOTOR 2 was famously incomplete when it launched with the ending cut. Players were treated to a rushed ending that ruined what was considered a worthy successor. While the ending was a let down, modders were able to find that there was more planned in the games files. With the game rushed for a holiday 2014 release, the real ending could not be included. Modders however, now had the tools to release it.
Thus, The Sith Lords Restored Content Mod was released in 2012, eight years after initial release to finally give players a real send off. Using the unfinished content, modders took years to reconstruct what Obsidian cut to hit market. This mod is crucial and fixes one of (if not the) biggest criticism of the game. It also does quite a bit to clean up a decent but not amazing PC port. It fixes a lot of of the bugs that hampered the game, creating an overall better experience.
The mod has not been updated in over a year and it is unknown if the team will return for any more polishing. In its current state it works wonderfully with the odd but expected hitches. This might not be a case where modders sought to fix the game like the other examples on the list, but if definitely deserves a spot. Even Chris Avellone who worked on KOTOR 2 respects the job they did.
Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines
Finally, we arrive at the game that inspired a look at the best unofficial patches. Likely the most obscure game to grace this list, if the old meme rings true: Someone is reinstalling it because it has been mentioned. Vampire: the Masquerade – Bloodlines released in November 2004 making it the oldest game on the list by a month. It was developed by Troika games which was comprised of the original members of Black Ilse Studios who worked on Fallout 2 and Planescape: Torment. It was the second game from the studio (also the last) and upon release was a buggy mess.
Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines was notorious for being a technical disaster. Similar to New Vegas, those willing to overlook the issues were treated to a gem of an RPG. While KOTOR 2 released within a similar timeframe, the Restored Content Mod was focused on completing the game more than fixing it. Bloodline’s Unofficial Patch was focused on polishing a game that despite flopped, became beloved by those who installed it.
The Unofficial Patch is again another must have for anyone trying the game. The patch has become the only mod any player will ever need. Not only does it fix the significant bugs but also provides the option to restore cut content. It also provides constant updates to make the game run on current operating systems. Despite four patches being released by Troika and Upright Games, the game was still not in a stable place. Thus it led to a modder stepping up.
The history of the VTMB patching community itself is also worth talking about, specifically for modder Werner Spahl (known as Wesp5). Eurogamer published an article by Rick Lane in 2013 which chronicled the troubled development of VTMB. In the article, Lane goes into the history of the modding scene for the game and how Spahl decided to start doing the unofficial patches. While it might seem odd to cover the mods in a story about development hell, it illustrates just how important this patch was for the VTMB community.
Spahl, nearly over a decade later is still updated the unofficial patch. Just recently, version 9.8 released in July and he will likely continue fixing any reported issues. The reason why Bloodlines was the inspiration for this list is simple: it shows just how dedicated a modder and fanbase can be to getting the best out of the games they love. While there has been some criticism leveled at Spahl’s restored content and changes, he has even gone so far to give two separate options for players. The plus patch with cut content and the pure bug fixing one. Spahl’s dedication and the community behind him is truly something special.
These six games represent the dedication of modders and players. While there are super cuts of films, game patches and fixes require a level of time and commitment most people would never bother with. These games show how developers can at times be put to shame by players ready to make the game better. Not just for themselves, but for everyone who purchased it. While some of these modders may have donation pages, all of the mods and patches mentioned are completely free.
Have any other unofficial mods you can’t play without? Let us know in the comments below!