Dark Skies Above Released

Hello! I’m the one woman (for now! All contributions welcome) contributor behind the new mod that you’ve doubtless seen in the list.

A Brief History

Dark Skies actually started off as a dark fantasy conversion mod called ‘Darker Days’ (that may one day see the light of day) but I ran into some trouble with the sheer scope of such a project and ceased development until there are cleaner way to blacklist like a million jobs and items. After moping about the forums for a while, I noticed that there was a little discussion about how it would be cool if there was an XCOM-like mod, and I grabbed the idea and ran with it.

My biggest inspiration is probably from XCOM 2 and its tale of a small band of survivors going on to take on a much larger organized threat, but I also take points from other ‘alien occupation’ media like Half Life 2, Falling Skies, War of the Worlds, and more.

What’s before you now is a proof of concept: not only about the rough idea of Dark Skies, but also a testament that such a mod is possible! I hope that Dark Skies inspires fledgling modders and provides a point of reference for their own projects.

Current Content

Most content so far is a showcase of my general vision and likely will change version-to-version as I work to make Dark Skies a unique experience. As with anything in an open source project, your contribution or additions are greatly appreciated!

At its core, Dark Skies is a struggle to survive against overbearing odds and finding ways to outwit your enemy (so, not unlike vanilla, just with a twist). Your primary enemy will be the aliens, informally known as the “New Order” after a worldwide broadcast where they mentioned the term, though you may never truly see the masterminds - just their creations.

Many buildings were outright destroyed by carpet bombing, intense street fighting, and looters. The towns are filled with Strays, those unlucky enough to be caught in the middle of a fight and horribly mutated into shadows of their former selves. They are not undead but not quite living either, kept moving by their own runaway biology. They are numerous and don’t have much HP, but they are competent enough fighters to make attempting to take them head on is a losing move for most people. Basically, they provide a somewhat familiar enemy that will ease you into the world.

Other than them, the Order makes a small debut in the parks (areas close to cities that are clear enough to drop in), cleaning up their own mess for who knows what purpose. These units will be unlikely to stay as they are, but are included to give you an idea of the general theme of the Order - alien religion worshiping a marriage of biology and technology. Soon, they will not appear at all on the first days and begin to gradually filter in as the Order moves to carve out spaces for themselves, eventually becoming the dominant enemy after the player at least has resources to self-sustain and think up a plan to bring the fight to them.

Short-term Features

Stray rebalancing. Strays will go through a cycle of evolution not unlike a smaller version of vanilla before the Order arrives to clean them up. They’ll also get a slight refluff to emphasize that they are becoming one with the ‘new’ biosphere that’s evolving on Earth, starting as mostly human and turning into something… else.

Order rebalancing. They get a major refluff to emphasize that they’re all creepy biotech cyborgs of things conquered by the masterminds of the Order. Consecrators have their flamethrower attack replaced by a spell that doesn’t spawn fire to ease CPU load. Many more units get “gun” spells so they don’t shoot each other in the back but still represent a ranged threat, befitting of this sort of media. Cataclysm obviously doesn’t support “squad based tactics” because zombies don’t, but I’ll do my best to present at least a somewhat organized enemy.

Initial framework for a crafting system. Alien tech is generally bio-coded to only activate in the hands of said aliens, but that doesn’t stop the crafty survivor from taking it apart and finding new ways to use it!

Order strongpoints. Places that spawn more personnel and house something interesting to a rebel or survivor: a VIP, experimental technology, base coordinates, etc.

Long-term Features

NPCs. Most alien invasion media revolves around groups of plucky rebels facing off against their enemy and Dark Skies will be no different. Like XCOM 2 there will be a few NPC factions to pick from to align with, each with their own philosophy and way of doing things. There will also be several “RP traits” that have no mechanical benefit other than a bit of dialogue, to help give your character a sense of place as being someone who just survived the apocalypse alongside others. The only limits on what does or doesn’t make sense are these are the ones you set for yourself.

Dungeons. Naturally, alien strongholds will be a late-game target for the inspired survivor to whet their teeth on. Already they occupy military installations, but things will ramp up on their own turf.

New aliens. The Order seems to have dragged in several alien creatures, gene-modded to survive Earth’s biosphere. Some aren’t even hostile! Stay out of the sewers.


I’ve been keeping my eye on DSA for a while and it sounds pretty neat. Gonna give it a go today

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Aww yeah, I love this mod already.

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Well, strays are fucking terrifying. They aren’t much more difficult than regular zombies, but goddamn there’s a lot of them.

Went into the mod blind. I have a few questions, and I don’t want to spoil the experience by checking the files:

  1. Are there military installations? I found military ID cards in a military roadblock map extra… which feels like it ain’t supposed to be in the game.
  2. Are there labs or similar types of buildings? Are there locations to get CBMs? Are there similar items to CBMs in the mod?
  3. Is the necropolis in the mod? I wanted to check one out for a long time, and since I’m playing this as the sole game right now, I want to know if I can find one.
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I’m glad the Strays are having the intended effect! On a meta level, they’re supposed to ease you into the idea of stealth and hit-and-run as your best friends in the mod, though I’ll be doing some tweaking very soon.

  1. There are bunkers, outposts, and bases! Eventually I’ll tweak them a bit to be occupied by the Order, Combine style, but for now you might be able to grab a bit of loot - if they aren’t guarded. If you hear heavy footsteps… well. ;3
  2. No labs, but CBMs and mutations are planned for the future as part of reverse engineering alien tech and hijacking their facilities! I might contribute a civilian lab or two to mainline once I get my own affairs in order.
  3. No necropolis, I’m afraid. There will definitely be alien strongholds and I’m really wanting to make a “transitional camp” in a similar scale where you can find NPCs you can recruit under guard by the Order.
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Just in case you’re not liking the replacement, like @ephemeralstoryteller kindly explained to me in the reddit thread:

“You’d be better served copy/pasting the whole monsters file into a new folder, putting a modinfo.json file in there (you can use mine as a reference), and then loading the whole thing as the new mod. From there, you can tweak as you’d like!”

Simply remove the overrides and blacklist folders, that works too :slight_smile:

Amazing work, by the way, would be even more awesome if you added more Half Life creatures like, maybe, Xen bastards like Alien Grunts?I really love it, this has a potential to become a new huge mod like Arcana, PK rebalancing, Secronom, Dorf Life, Fallout - New England, Magiclysm, Cata++ , so welcome aboard :slight_smile:

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Enemy types will probably be more Half-Life 2 esque, horrible cyborgs that the Order bioengineered out of the populations of previously conquered worlds. That said: More enemy types are definitely in the cards!

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That’s cool! Looking forward to it. Any ETA on that? I really want my survivor to have a toolkit in their arm.

Speaking of: you might wanna remove CBM tools from certain recipes (e.g. all the soldering/welding ones) if you aren’t planning on having them in the mod any time soon. Not a big deal, but it does tell the player that CBMs are still in the game.

I’d be eager to find out how exactly am I supposed to sneak around those bastards. They aren’t exactly blind! I had the mispleasure of travelling among them at night: they detect me from a few meters away.

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Unsure on CBMs. I’m in the process of rebalancing our roster of monsters atm (expect that Stray changes today or tomorrow) and that might take a while. You’ll need ways to install the things, which will probably be done in the medical wards of Order strongholds, which will be a mapping thing in and of themselves - not to mention deciding what CBMs there are, fluffing them, etc. It might be a bit.

Stray changes: They no longer all regenerate or revive, should be a little less in number (but still more numerous than vanilla), and you have a 1 week grace period of weaker ‘wounded’ types that have just begun to crawl out of the ruins. They begin to mutate in earnest after that, but sprinters and others will not spawn immediately. This should help, though they will start to become something truly… different about a month or so in. :wink:

My general recommendations are:

  1. Know where the enemy is and their general strength, so if you get in a tight spot down the line you know if you can stand and fight or have to run. Always run into explored areas rather than unexplored ones, which works for all sorts of roguelikes.
  2. Crouch and peek often to minimize your profile and footsteps. Close lots of curtains when indoors, avoid opening/closing doors if you can help it.
  3. Night raids are still effective - they can see a few tiles away from them at night, but are blind beyond that.
  4. Try luring them to places you’re fine with them being using loud sounds: shouting, car alarms, burning buildings all work. Throwing things can work too, especially if you shatter glass while doing it (or cause a similar chain reaction).
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This mod is super cool and i’m interested to see where it goes, but whats the logic behind removing labs before adding a replacement structure for cbms/mutations? I spent literally hours wandering around in a death-mobile trying to find a lab before thinking to check this thread and was incredibly disappointed to hear basically all the end-game content got cut without replacements. Again, still think the mod is dope and looking forward to where it goes

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@Bdole92 you can simply delete locations from the blacklists folder, and all locations will work once again, same with monsters so that strays and new order aliens don’t replace but complement to the existing creatures in the game :slight_smile:

Let me just say: thank you. This is amazing. I’ve been playing DSA since it dropped and I love it. The New Order is also sick - Consecrators can literally go fuck right off (in the best way possible). If I had the knowledge I’d love to contribute, but until then, I’ma just gobble up whatever you decide to make.

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Kinda bad that in the most recent update, new_order soldiers and grunts are removed and only the emissaries are left, so i’ve made some fixes to align it with the newest version which will keep all the monster types just in case someone likes them all like me, here :slight_smile: copy and paste this into your mods folder https://mega.nz/file/CEtBSQzQ#cA337TIORp4hQ88Ek4o35AeNtkaWso8_B1-fBctJMSk

It works fine now, just copy and paste it into your mods folder, if you don’t want monsters to replace vanilla ones just remove the blacklist folder

Maybe I’m just ignorant - are grunts and soldiers the actual names? Because I just killed a few new order knights not even two hours ago and I do believe it’s up to date.

No, it’s not the actual names - it’s just how i call them since they are humanoids, and in the current version they are still there for now, but in the official GitHub repository https://github.com/CleverRaven/Cataclysm-DDA the mod has been updated which essentially removed them for now /:

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This mod is super cool and i’m interested to see where it goes, but whats the logic behind removing labs before adding a replacement structure for cbms/mutations?

Similar to Erk’s mundane zombie overhaul, Dark Skies simply takes place on an Earth that’s more comparable to our own tech level. Largely I want to imply that this Earth really had no idea that there were other worlds or dimensions other than our own, and the decision to use explicitly alien tech vs. relying on purely human tech will be somewhat of a consideration when the NPC factions get fleshed out.

Outside of that: basically I’m rebuilding a lot of the game from the ground up in terms of content, starting with the early game and working my way forward. There’s a lot to do but I wanted to get something out there as a playable demo / “hey check out what you can do with a bit of JSON and a lot of time”.

Let me just say: thank you. This is amazing.

Thanks! ^^

Kinda bad that in the most recent update, new_order soldiers and grunts are removed and only the emissaries are left

I’ll probably re-implement these guys eventually as more explicitly being terrifying mecha-cyborgs and consecrators in particular are quite iconic and deserve a reappearance, I think ;p. I wasn’t happy with them just being humans/humanoid aliens in fancy armor though, vs say, clearly alien-made massive tripods like the emissaries. I think somewhat humanoid design is OK but I want them to have a little more character.
I would’ve remade them in the initial PR, but it was just getting super big with the changes that I already made so I had to settle for just cutting them for the time being and going back to the drawing board.

Future plans for more Order units revolve around base support units, where more maneuverable security/staff would be favored over the huge emissaries, and units that are specifically anti-survivor, though more as a deterrent to ensure that their operations are unhindered rather than direct revenge. They’re quite confident that you are meaningless (show them otherwise!).