System Shock 2 Modding Guide

Steam’s release of System Shock 2 brings a whole new audience to the horrors of space and technology on the isolated Von Braun, humanity’s first faster-than-light starship. But it can be also be difficult to go back to a game released more than a decade ago. What once were groundbreaking and immersive visuals are now blocky models and low resolution textures.

Thankfully, an active mod community has been busy even years after its initial release, continuing to enhance everything from its music to its models even to this day. And Steam’s file structure makes this a painless process, as well. There’s no longer a need for any third party tools or file editing in order to face fear in high definition.

Instead of having to overwrite your existing files, you now only need to embed the mods you would like to install in one of two directories in your System Shock 2 folder. Head on over to your System Shock 2 installation folder, which is usually located in the following directory:

<Steam Installation>/steamapps/common/SS2

and have a look at two folders titled DataPermMods and DataTempMods. These are the two folders in which your files will go.

DataTempMods (DTM) is a folder designed for you to test the mods you download to see if you like them. Mods placed in this folder will overwrite anything you place in DataPermMods (DPM) while you play the game. The system is designed in such a way as to use files placed in DTM as the preferred files you’d like to load. This allows you to test your mods for conflicts with your permanent mods.

Once you’ve figured out what mods you’d like installed, simply place them in the DataPermMods folder. This way, you will have two sets of mods — a permanent set and a temporary set to test things with.

The idea is that if the game crashes after installing a new mod in the DTM folder, you can quickly remove it to get the game working again.

Mods are available in two forms:

Standard .zip files, which you can extract using your system software.

SS2Mod files. It is possible to extract these files as .zip files by opening them as such, or renaming the extension to .zip, if you prefer.

You will find multiple folders in each zip file, such as “Fam,” “Snd,” and “Obj.” Just place the folders in either the DPM or DTM folders and you should be good to go.

To get you started, here are some of the mods we liked.

Rebirth 02

Download Link

This package vastly enhances the models of all the characters in the game with high-resolution versions, including Hybrids, Midwives, Assassins, and Rumblers. It’s understandable why the game’s original characters had such low polycounts, but there’s little reason to play the game in low-res on computer hardware these days. Pick this up and your game will no longer look as old as it is.


Download Link

This mod replaces the game’s dynamic music in its entirety, using music files from the game’s soundtrack. It comes highly recommended by the game’s community. The original soundtrack was split into small files recorded in a low bitrate. To put it simply, the game’s soundtrack basically sounds like crap without this mod.

Straylight’s Anomalies, Discrepancies, and Outright Bugs

Download Link

Straylight’s ADaoB mod is the most thorough attempt at gameplay adjustment (which is kind of like attitude adjustment, but for gameplay) to fix all of the bugs and broken game mechanics that have remained in System Shock 2 over the years.

As its creators note, the mod ‘fixes and rebalances a huge number of anomalies, discrepancies and bugs, all while staying true to the developer’s intentions.” In other words, it doesn’t fix anything that doesn’t need fixing and only alters parts of the game that are quite clearly broken. Think of it as an unofficial patch.

In addition to obvious bug fixes, the mod also includes “SHEMP,” a high-resolution terrain texture replacement to get rid of all the blurry textures in the original game.

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3 Comments on System Shock 2 Modding Guide


On May 14, 2013 at 9:08 am

Thank you for not including the co-op mod in this article. Ive seen far too many people complain on the Steam forums saying Steam dropped the ball by not making sure the game was 100% compatible with said mod. It is beyond ridiculous to the point of insulting the game by trying to shoehorn MP in.


On May 15, 2013 at 2:43 am

Just one thing, that it’s selling on GoG as well, same price, but without DRM :S
In fact, it was selling there BEFORE Steam, erf…