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News And Reviews => Reviews And Reviews Announcements => Topic started by: Silver Sorrow on January 24, 2017, 09:35:16 AM

Title: The Thief Review Resurrection Thread: Preface (i.e., Read This Post First)
Post by: Silver Sorrow on January 24, 2017, 09:35:16 AM
There weren't too many, thank Cthulhu...but there were enough to forever besmirch the good name of Thief. Whatever. I'll start with the Thief (aka, "The Dark Project") / Thief Gold reviews, and then post the Thief 2 (aka, "The Metal Age") reviews. In order. Then, maybe I'll do something productive such as take down the Xmas tree, or clean my bathroom.

I'm still not sure about what color the titles need to be. I'm going with purple at the moment. I hope it shows up on the black background.

UPDATE, 12/21/19
Well...I have quite a few lined up for posting. I decided on a purple for titles, check it out in the posts below. I have edited the exiting reviews to be consistent with the more recent posts...note/footnote colors, etc. Also, I tried to make sure any links are valid, especially the download links. Unlike whatever passed for the Half-Life community, the Thief community is still around...and both games came out around the same time.

UPDATE, 01/12/20
Done with all the reviews. I think. I have several miscellaneous items -- an early non-Hangar review of "TTGM: Errand Boy," a (almost) level-by-level review of the infamously insane Japanese FM "The Elevator," and an outline of a bewilderingly bizarre crossover between Thief and the Monkey Island games which I called "Thief: The Monkey Project" -- and I may post those later, but for now I'll just construct a table of contents for the reviews in this thread. Hopefully, the links are correct. If not, let me know and I'll probably fix them. It depends on various factors.

So.

The Contents of This Thread

Thief 1/Gold
#1: Cult of the Resurrection (https://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2818.msg15587#msg15587)
#2: Bloodstone Prison (https://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2818.msg15588#msg15588)
#3: Autumn In Lampfire Hills (https://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2818.msg15591#msg15591)
#4: Lord Edmund Entertains! (https://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2818.msg15603#msg15603)
#5: The Vigil (https://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2818.msg15604#msg15604)
#6: The Order Of The Vine (https://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2818.msg16432#msg16432)
#7: Shunned (https://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2818.msg16433#msg16433)
#8: Seeds Of Doubt (https://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2818.msg16435#msg16435)
#9: Curse Of The Ancients (https://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2818.msg16436#msg16436)
#10: Mages Area (https://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2818.msg16438#msg16438)
#11: The Secret Way (https://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2818.msg16439#msg16439)

Thief 2
#1: The Inverted Manse (https://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2818.msg16440#msg16440)
#2: TTGM: Errand Boy (https://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2818.msg16444#msg16444)
#3: Saturio Returns Home (https://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2818.msg16448#msg16448)
#4: Benny's Dead (https://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2818.msg16449#msg16449)
#5: Art Of Thievery (https://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2818.msg16450#msg16450)
#6: Calendra's Legacy (https://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2818.msg16451#msg16451)
#7: The 7th Crystal (https://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2818.msg16452#msg16452)
#8: Keeper Of The Prophecies, Book 1 (https://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2818.msg16453#msg16453)
#9: Island Of Iron Series (https://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2818.msg16454#msg16454)
#10: Bloodsport (https://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2818.msg16456#msg16456)
#11: Dyer's Eve (https://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2818.msg16457#msg16457)
#12: Ominous Bequest (https://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2818.msg16458#msg16458)
#13: Rowena's Curse (https://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2818.msg16459#msg16459)
#14: Lord Fishkill's Curse (https://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2818.msg16460#msg16460)
#15: Relic: Left For Dead (https://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2818.msg16461#msg16461)
#16a: The Lord Ashton Series, Part 1 (https://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2818.msg16462#msg16462)
#16b: The Lord Ashton Series, Part 2 (https://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2818.msg16465#msg16465)
#17a: The Night Falcon, Part 1 (https://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2818.msg16467#msg16467)
#17b: The Night Falcon, Part 2 (https://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2818.msg16468#msg16468)
#18: The Curse Of The Falcon (https://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2818.msg16472#msg16472)
#19: Lord Alan's Basement (https://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2818.msg16473#msg16473)
#20: Lord Alan's Fortress (https://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2818.msg16474#msg16474)
#21: The Enterprise (https://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2818.msg16475#msg16475)
#22: Oracle of the Prophets (https://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2818.msg16476#msg16476)
#23: Shore Leave & Up Shit Creek (https://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2818.msg16477#msg16477)
#24: The Seven Sisters (https://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2818.msg16479#msg16479)

Standalones
Thief Gold, part 1 (https://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2818.msg16485#msg16485)
Thief Gold, part 2 (https://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2818.msg16486#msg16486)
Thief 2: The Metal Age, part 1 (https://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2818.msg16487#msg16487)
Thief 2: The Metal Age, part 2 (https://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2818.msg16488#msg16488)
Thief: Deadly Shadows, part 1 (https://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2818.msg16490#msg16490)
Thief: Deadly Shadows, part 2 (https://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2818.msg16491#msg16491)

Further updates as events warrant.
Title: T1/G 001: Cult of the Resurrection
Post by: Silver Sorrow on January 24, 2017, 09:47:15 AM
[This mission is the first part of the author's series dealing with this Cult of the Resurrection; the next installment was one of the best Thief 2 FMs ever made (okay, so I'm biased), "The Inverted Manse." I'll link to my review of that when I post it. Skip ahead, skip ahead...Sledge -- the author -- was hired by Ion Storm and worked on Thief: Deadly Shadows. He now goes by "Raen."]


T1/G: Cult of the Resurrection

Game: Thief: TDP/Gold
Title: Cult of the Resurrection
Author: David “Sledge” Riegel
E-mail: N/A
Homepage: N/A
Filename: cultv1.zip
Filesize: 5,729k
Download: Cheap Thief Missions (http://thiefmissions.com/m/cultv1#m)
Walkthrough and Loot List: See above.

Note: Since there are custom skins ‘n’ stuff going on in this mission, I’m putting my own custom skins and models aside for this review. Yes, that is lust you feel.

[This applies only if there are screenshots involved. Which there aren't. So that's probably just indifference you feel.]

Abstract:
There’s a town not far from where I live, called Moore. I spent a few years there, festering in the confines of the local school system, until a fortuitous escape allowed me to find my way to my current town. As such, my experiences in Moore left me with a somewhat bitter view of that town, to the point where I referred to the residents as “Moore-ons”...not that I demonize the entire population, but what the hell; damnation by association, I suppose.

Anyway, imagine my sheer malevolent joy when I saw the billboard on the outskirts of town: yes...the town had a website, and its domain? “www.moore-on.com”! Oh, the happy...oh, the joy. So it was a sad day indeed when I learned that the billboard AND the website had disappeared. Why? Well...I don’t know. Obviously, someone either got a clue (not likely), or someone gave them a clue. No matter how depressed I am, I still have to chuckle (maliciously) when I think of some functionary running into a city council meeting and shouting “Moore-ons, we got a problem!”

[I wasn't kidding. That was the actual URL.]

The Basics:
Equipment Store: Yes
Skill Settings: Yes; Burglar, Assassin, Master Thief
Map/Automap: Yes/No
Puzzle Difficulty: Minor
General Difficulty: Depends
R_speeds: Good
New Stuff: Yes, oh yes.
Gameplay: Live AI/thief-fu/sinister plot-fu/zombie-fu/Necromancer-fu/holy sword-fu

[I really don't know what the whole "-fu" thing was about. Just my usual stupidity, I guess.]

Briefing/Story?
The Keepers just can’t do anything right. A group of independent thieves -- really, a bunch of psychopaths calling themselves The Cult of the Resurrection, led by a woman obsessed with the Trickster -- have undertaken a wave of brutal robberies; their targets are relics to be used in their freak-job little rituals. Their latest venture was to steal the Spirit Stone, at the cost of really messing up the Hammers protecting it. So a couple of Keepers followed them into the walled-off section of the city, but couldn’t find their hideout. Idiots. They’ve asked you to get inside and get the Spirit Stone back.

One final thing: the Spirit Stone is supposedly imbued with the power to grant life; this is why the Cult wanted it. You’ve heard that before, and you believed it as much then as you do now. But the Keepers are willing to waive your student loans if you do this job for them, so you’re all set. At any rate, the other relics you find should bring a fair price.

Onward!

The first in a planned series, Cult of the Resurrection centers on you breaking into some cult’s HQ and wreaking holy old hell on the place. The next mission, The Inverted Manse for Thief 2, continues the story. It’s a question as to whether or not the plotline will ever be finished, since Sledge is now working for Ion Storm.** Whatever the case, we’ll be playing something by him in the future. Let’s just hope he doesn’t somehow get snapped up by that ridiculous company that John Romero now runs and be forced into an endlessly bleak existence of developing stupid games for hand-helds.***

[** Probably not anymore.]

[*** It was called "Monkeyshit," or something like that.]

[Thinking about it, I believe "MonkeyPizzle" would be a good name for a beverage. "Gimme another MonkeyPizzle, Joe...it's been a looooong week. And put one-a' them fuckin' umbrellas in it, too."]

One of the most fun aspects about this mission is the differences between the skill levels. Burglar is simply that, outright burglary. You can deal with the AI as you wish, but you’re really there to just rob them blind. Assassin entails your dedication to killing everything that moves, in addition to looting the place...you don't want to deal with these freaks ever again, so you're going to kill them all. There’s no blackjack, either, which means that you won’t be able to just bludgeon the bad guys and then hack into them as they lay there. Master Thief, meanwhile, is a far more restrained way of playing, albeit with the goal of killing two specific people.

So I played Master Thief for this review. I’ve played the other skills previously, and I find I prefer the hardest skill. Why? There’s more stuff to do! There’s also a higher loot goal, but that’s not hard to accomplish...it’s not hidden with utter contempt for the player, unlike some other FM’s I’ve played.

The layout flows well; inside the Cult HQ, you’re rarely far from the garden area with the fountain. The other locations -- outside the church, inside the church, the abandoned neighborhood at the start -- are believably run-down.

As for getting inside, you may wish to hone your luring skills. There’s opposition in front of the arch to the church, and I simply shot a broadhead into a stone wall and waited for the investigation party to wander near. Thump. Since I’ve developed my style to accommodate the AI -- make a noise, lie in wait for AI to investigate, hit them on the head, move the body -- I found this mission to be somewhat easy. Of course, it also helps that I’ve played several times and know what’s around the next corner, so don’t take my word for it when I say “easy.” The first time I played, I found it to be fairly tough. Then again, I was also pretty new to FM’s, so that’s a factor.

Bottom line, there are plenty of skulls to crack. There’s also one puzzle you must solve on Master Thief to achieve one goal; it’s straightforward if you pay attention to the hints given, and make the connection with certain items found not too far away. I will say this for a huge hint: keep at least one fire arrow in your quiver for this puzzle.

And what’s this Cult all about, anyway? You’ll find out exactly what they’re up to, but suffice to say that they’re dedicated to the resurrection of a certain nefarious character whom you dealt with in the original game: that’s right, they’re trying to bring back Demi Moore, and you have to stop them before she agrees to do Striptease II!** However, what I don’t understand is how any normal human being can sit there and turn over "Tom & Jerry" like it was some sort of normal TV show. Isn’t that some sort of cardinal sin, ending with the sinner being sent to Hell to be hung by their genitalia over a pit of wailing Celine Dion impersonators?***

[** However...all things considered, it wouldn't be so bad to see her shake her saline bags again, would it? In a world filled with uncertainty and commonplace horror, we need them now more than ever.]

[*** I have no idea what the context of that weird little rant was. I really don't. And for some reason, it makes my stomach hurt.]

But I digress.[Indeed.] The gist is this: take care of the Cult, get your other goals accomplished, escape through the sewers. There isn’t a great deal of thinking to do, but it’s enough to keep things interesting. Plus, you get to pick up several interesting items, including a holy sword, which is quite useful...mostly. When drawn, it causes your visibility go up about a zillion notches.

This mission is more or less on the medium side, in terms of size. It’s surprising to come back to it and realize this, as there are a lot of tasks to perform. Now...on to the formidable task of getting into the Inverted Manse...

[Continued in the T2 mission, "The Inverted Manse."]

Final Fun Note: When dealing with the Cult Leader’s bodyguard, Robert, I played peek-and-duck while he fired at me with fire arrows. The idiot kept firing into the wall as I ducked back, and he eventually killed himself via splash damage. I love my job.

Summary? A sinister Cult with a terrible plan, things to do, places to go, loot to steal, skulls to bruise...you know, the fun stuff.

Annoyance Rating: Minor.

My Level Stats:
Master Thief
Loot: ALL loot found!
KO’s: 21
Kills: 5; 3 zombies, 2 bad guys who needed it

[And onto the next one...]
Title: T1/G 002: Bloodstone Prison
Post by: Silver Sorrow on January 24, 2017, 09:53:31 AM
T1/G: Bloodstone Prison

Game: Thief: TDP/Gold
Title: Bloodstone Prison
Author: Kung Fu Gecko (Garett Choy)
E-mail: N/A
Homepage: N/A
Filename: bldstn10.zip
Filesize: 2.39mb
Download: Cheap Thief Missions (http://thiefmissions.com/m/bldstn10#m)
Rating: 5 / 5

Note: I use custom recolors -- my own -- for Garrett’s arms and weapons, as well as the visibility gem. The rest of what you see is what you get...except for the black-clad Haunt. He’s mine.

[That only applies to the items you see in the screenshots...and since I'm not posting them, never you mind.]

Abstract:
I’ve never understood how the unshelled mollusk (aka, “ocean phlegm”) could be considered an aphrodisiac. I am referring to, of course, oysters. Since I am not involved in the romance biz -- at least not anymore; the restraining orders make that damned clear -- I observe from afar the complex mating rituals of the average idiot. This includes oysters and champagne. The oysters, as it is explained to us, are there for the purpose of inciting unparalleled sexual frenzy, and the champagne, assumedly, is to erase the memory (not to mention the taste) of the oysters sliding down the subjects’ gullet. For this, I would recommend one of your cheaper wines, perhaps the Sparkle Fizzle ‘03 at $6 a case.

So what is the idea behind the oyster’s aphrodisiacal qualities? Why would someone go through all of the trouble to inhale mucus from the sea? I have come to two conclusions. One: people, in general, are idiots. Two: the concept of eating something slimy and revolting conveys the message to the other person that they are so hard-up for action that they would do the singly most revolting thing in the world, just to get the groin cramps to stop...including having sexual relations with someone who would consume oysters as well. That said, both activities feature a lot of spitting and gargling anyway, so you might as well do one or the other and try to be home early in time for Leno.

[I understand that there are people who enjoy oysters. I am perfectly okay with that, just as I have nothing against those who like honey. However, the Cheez-Wiz fans...ugh.]

The Basics:
Equipment Store: Yes
Skill Settings: Yes; Newbie, Hard, Expert
Map/Automap: Yes/No
Puzzle Difficulty: Mild
General Difficulty: Medium
New Stuff: Oh, yes.
Gameplay: Undead AI; haunted prison-fu/sneaking-fu/wardens dabbling in things they shouldn’t fu/pillaging-fu/backstabbing-fu/are you getting as tired of this “fu” thing as I am-fu

[Fu this, fu that. Blech.]

Briefing/Story?
Some guy named Bando, an individual with similar “stealthy” abilities as yours, has hired you -- Garrett -- to get into the old Hammerite penitentiary, Bloodstone Prison. Your mission? Find the brooch belonging to Bando’s late wife; the brooch had been confiscated from him when he was incarcerated there. There’s just one slight problem: the prison has since been overrun with the undead. Fortunately, somewhere in there is a holy sword that may be useful, as well as a holy relic that may come in handy. Of course, Bando can’t pay you, but he’s offered to teach you how to be better at walking through crowds inconspicuously.

So, let’s see: braving unholy dangers and all kinds of scary-ass stuff that would make a Ghostbuster cough up a lung...for the ability to walk through crowds unnoticed. More than fair, if you ask me. I don’t know about you, but I’m heading for the...no, not the women’s showers. That’s been done to death. How about...uh...well, crap. Call me a traditionalist, then...to the ladies’ showers, men! Wait...that didn’t come out right...

Onward!

For such an early FM, this is still one of the best out there. It manages to pull off the creepier aspects of the original Thief undead missions while blazing a trail of its own. Or perhaps I am being hyperbolic. Whatever. Anyway, I don’t think I’ve seen many undead-only missions that were quite as fun -- most of them fall in the “you’re in a tomb...again” column -- so this one is a real treat.

The first problem you’ll face is actually getting inside. There’s a hint about a tree that’s collapsed against a wall, and...well...draw your own conclusions. Once inside, you’re in a curious pickle: Haunts! That’s right, Haunts patrol the place...which is probably why I like this one so much. You’re encouraged to play sneaky...which is fine by me. But you know, I just can’t let a Haunt stay standing. No, I must put a sword through his neck. So I’ll play sneaky in my way: backstab ‘em without causing a commotion.

Oh, and there are a few zombies and Apparitions in there, not to mention archer Haunts, a servant zombie who runs from you, a dozen frogs, an unholy Terror, and a largely oblivious Hammerite ghost. So in short, we have a varied cast of fiends and malcontents...like “Saturday Night Live,” only talented.

As I’ve mentioned, there’s a holy sword; in previous play-throughs, I had waited until the very end to get the sword, because I was stupid. Nothing has changed (as you can see), but I did figure out I could get the sword about halfway through if I was careful. I imagine you’ll see what I mean when you get there, so I won’t belabor the point.

What sets this apart is the attention to detail, the little touches that makes it all real. For example, you’ll come across a bundle of letters written by a man to his wife, explaining to her how he came to be hiding out in an abandoned prison, believing that somehow he would manage to get the letter to her, even though he was dying. You just know that Garrett would get them to her after he was done...unless you subscribe to the “Payback”-style Garrett from “Calendra’s Legacy,” but even then I suppose he’d do what was right.

Worthy gameplay mentions: the timid zombie servant who’d run away from me; “There’s a guy over here! Help me!”...and Brother Sebastin, who is doomed to walk back and forth between the Warden’s office and the chapel, once I did something in the chapel. That doesn’t sound dirty, does it?

And speaking of gameplay, what exactly was the Warden doing? He had been up to something, and his Brothers -- not to mention the prisoners -- paid for being in the same time zone as he. It’s all there in a journal. Nice bit of depth there, beyond the “I am merely megalomaniacal!” mindset...this guy had a serious grudge, and he acted on it.

Making it all come together is a touch of humor here and there, where you need it most. For example, the skeletal remains of a prisoner who concealed a “humongous” diamond...I don’t know, and I don’t wanna know. Read the description of the prisoners in the prisoner logs...you’ll find some fun things.

And not that it’s all that important to mention, but the clues to accomplishing your objectives are right there in front of your face, if you choose to see them; the toughest part about this mission lies in planning your method of advancement. Make a big fuss, and you’re hamburger. Be quick, stealthy, and most of all, be excellent...to...each...other ... Okay, as soon as I get this thing posted, I’m going to sue the bejesus out of the screenwriters of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, because that phrase is stuck in my head. Perfect.

In the Bugs Department, I might add that I came across a small audio bug after killing a bunch of frogbeasts (a task unto itself, which I will let you suffer through on your own): whenever I would kill something later on, I would hear a loud frogbeast “alert” sound, but no frogbeast. Weird, huh? The thing is, that bug pops up in other missions with frogbeasts, so I wonder...

Summary?
A fine undead-only mission; great architecture, tense gameplay, and a couple of procedural puzzles. Still one of the greatest.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Annoyance Rating: Very low.

My Level Stats:
Expert Skill
Loot: 1879/1879
KO’s: 0
Kills: 25

[...next...]
Title: Re: The Thief Review Resurrection Thread: Preface (i.e., Read This Post First)
Post by: Starfox on January 25, 2017, 02:32:11 AM
Silver Sorrow and the big Oyster Dilemma...  :biglaugh: I missed those moments
Title: Re: The Thief Review Resurrection Thread: Preface (i.e., Read This Post First)
Post by: Silver Sorrow on January 25, 2017, 07:32:12 PM
Some of my best moments have involved taking something that a portion of the earth's population enjoys and ruining it for them. I had some really scathing stuff concerning the origins of honey, but my aunt threatened my life if I said another word. Some people. :purplelaugh:
Title: T1/G 003: Autumn In Lampfire Hills
Post by: Silver Sorrow on January 27, 2017, 02:33:30 AM
#3 was missing from my list, so I guessed that it was Purah's Autumn In Lampfire Hills, which I revised and posted a while back on the main site. You can find it HERE (https://foxhole.starfoxweb.com/reviews/review-tfm/120-t1-autumn-in-lampfire-hills). This is that version (complete with the rating alteration, sans screenshots), but with new comments I may have on the piece, if any.


T1/G: Autumn In Lampfire Hills

Game: Thief: TDP/Gold
Title: Autumn In Lampfire Hills
Author: Anthony Huso (Purah)
E-mail: N/A
Filename: fire.zip
Filesize: 3.87mb
Download: Cheap Thief Missions (http://thiefmissions.com/m/fire#m)
French Version: Cheap Thief Missions (http://thiefmissions.com/m/UnAutomneaLampfireHills)
Score: 8.00 / 10.00

Rating Revision: My apologies to everyone out there who were fooled by my 5 out of 5 rating. This mission is extremely difficult in some ways, and as such, I'm revising the rating downward slightly; in converting to the 1 to 10 scale, I can rate these missions more comprehensively than my crude 1 to 5. Keep in mind that an 8 out of 10 is extremely good for an add-on that's about six years old.

[Revise that slightly since it was released in 1999, possibly even before Thief Gold was released.]

Preliminary Note: This is a heavy revision of a review I concocted for Hangar 16 about thirty million years ago; as such, the screenshots aren't all that great, and the prose was unspeakable. I decided to remove all of the extraneous crap that blurred the review into a chaotic mess, but when I was done with the surgery, I noticed its bleeding corpse was reduced just to the title and where to download it. So I put some of the crap back in. I also included some all-new crap. This is where we stand today. Knee-deep.

[Also, I don't know if I even have the original review anymore. I know I never throw anything away, but I seriously hate digging through old CD-Rs. So for all YOU know, I don't have it anymore.]

Anyway, this is the first of several old miscellaneous reviews I'm reposting from That Other Site. This keeps me happy and non-productive. I have a ton of reviews I posted over there, so I never have to write anything again and STILL have content to contribute! Now I believe in recycling. Oh, and the screens? They were just thrown in here with no particular ordering in mind. Pride in my work, yessir. That's what I need...

[No screens here. NO SCREENS HERE.]

Note: I use custom recolors -- my own -- for Garrett’s arms and weapons, as well as the visibility gem. The rest of what you see is what you get, except for the Haunt. He’s mine.

Note #2: That visibility gem is an awful red, isn’t it?

[If you want the screens, see the review on the main site.]

Abstract:
Well. If it isn’t almost Halloween again. I thought we had a Halloween just last year, but some people insist on observing it again. Repetition is really gauche, people. Join the herd. Let’s all dress up like ghosts. Boo. You know? Ghost and goblins and demons aren’t scary. You people don’t know from scary. Here’s a costume suggestion: dress up as a large, reddish lump. When asked, tell them that you’re the troubling lump one finds in their groin. Go as a cancer cell. Make an E.Coli costume. Tell people there’s been a loophole found in the Constitution that would make it possible for a certain universally-hated President to run again. Being chased with a chainsaw is one thing, but how do you explain the fear you experience when...

...never mind. Don’t want to get into a Carnival of Souls thing. Enjoy your caramel apples, you unsuspecting fools.

The Basics:
Equipment Store: Yes
Skill Settings: Yes
Map/Automap: Yes/No
Puzzle Difficulty: Obscure
General Difficulty: Hard
Gameplay: Live things, dead things, and in-between things

[No fu! Praise the fu-less!]

Briefing/Story?
Since you -- Garrett -- have gotten yourself out of debt completely thanks to the Lord Rothchest job,** it’s time to get away from the grind of the City and settle down in a quiet suburb for a while. So you buy a cottage and hire a guard, and you’re all set. You’ve even mowed the lawn wearing Bermuda shorts and knee-high black socks, but you’re not quite ready to retire completely yet. If you were, you probably wouldn’t be interested in the fact that your cottage has a mysterious history, with terrible things whispered about its previous owner. Typical.

[** SEE: The author’s own The Shadow of Lord Rothchest (http://thiefmissions.com/m/rshdw) in the original Thief version, and/or The Shadow of Lord Rothchest (http://thiefmissions.com/m/shadowoflordrothchestT2C), the Thief 2 version, converted by John D.]

So upon finding a curiously unpickable lock on the chimney in the back yard, you decide to get to the bottom of the mystery (I pick you from the mystery of my bottom)** and set off into town to find some information. Since it’s the community’s version of our own Halloween (called Autumn Soul’s Eve), everyone is either vacationing outside the region or locked inside their homes while guards patrol the streets with diligence. Not good for you.

[** From a speech given by...uh...someone. A Native American chief whose language didn't exactly mesh well with the English idiom. I can't remember, and the internet -- Google, actually -- is completely USELESS when it comes to tracking down actual facts. It was in a book I have in storage. Covered in spiders, I'll bet. Goddamn spiders.]

Read your journal, explore the grounds, say “hi” to your henchman (he’s the guy in black out front) and do a little trick or treating...or breaking and entering, in this case. And stealing and clubbing and...


Onward!

In celebration of Autumn -- or “Fall,” depending on your regionality -- I give you an early mission from the guy who brought you “The Shadow of Lord Rothchest,” “Calendra’s Cistern,” and its sequel, “Calendra’s Legacy.”

“Autumn in Lampfire Hills” (which I will henceforth refer to as AiLH if I need to do so) is something of a legend in the FM community for its difficulty and its overall quality...and that quality is excellent, much like McDonald's french fries were until the Health Nazis got hold of them and turned them into complete crap.** As was the case with several stellar FMs released around the same time, AiLH is unique in atmosphere, story and execution. The town is quaint; I can see why Garrett wanted to retire here. The streets are narrow and cobbled, and the general air is one of a sleepy, rustic little community away from the bustle -- not to mention the lice and body odor -- of the City. Washington Irving probably would’ve put a headless Hessian in the nearby woods...it’s just that good a place to live.

[** Remember how good they were back in the 80's? No? Of course you don't. Only I do, apparently.]

As I mentioned in the Story section (you may remember it), the town is celebrating Autumn Soul’s Eve. Normally, this is when the people lock themselves tight in their homes, for nasty things are thought to walk the streets on this night...you know, Pamela Anderson and her equally-misshapen, Botox-puffed ilk, spreading disease and stupidity as they are wont to do. So the people visit distant relatives or simply stay inside, shivering in fear, hoping that their flimsy locks will shelter them from the plastic horror that Canada spawned.

[I know she's ridiculous, but I don't think she's worth an entire paragraph of vitriol. She's not even worth a passing mention, really.]

Mere superstition, you think...but strange things have happened in Lampfire Hills. You own a home where you think you’ll probably retire for good. Well, yippee-skip, you’re in for a hell of a night. With the townsfolk huddled inside their homes, afraid (quite correctly) of a spontaneous Baywatch reunion breaking out. (“Builder preserve us! The Plastic Demon has brought her minions with her! What sins have we committed to deserve The Hoff AND Traci Bingham??”) The guards patrolling the streets have orders to kill anyone or anything that isn’t a guard. But hell...you’re used to that sort of thing. The mystery of your cottage is driving you nuts, so it’s time to venture forth into the crisp air of the night and find out what’s what, despite the very real danger that you may run into Yasmine Bleeth and her Big Bucket O’ Snotty Cocaine.

[A reference to...oh, screw it. I don't care. I wish I'd never even brought it up.]

AiLH is one of those missions I hesitate to recommend to Thief newbies. I had severe problems myself when I first attempted it; only after a year or so of much Thief playing was I good enough to solve it with few problems. It’s not horribly difficult, no...but it’s hard enough to demand plenty of patience as well as a slate cleared of all distractions, at least until you finish. For one thing, actually figuring out what to do is a problem; even though it’s a small town, the place is absolutely stuffed with places to go. The clues (as sparse as they are) aren’t all that enlightening either, so you’ll have to pay especial attention to any clues given to you through readables.

In addition, there is a portion wherein you must sneak past an unkillable/un-KO-able entity, a part that might make a poorly-skilled sneaker rip off his thiefy hood and eat it out of sheer frustration. Other missions of the same approximate time frame fell into this “odd and tough” category as well (“The Order of the Vine,” “Calendra’s Cistern,” et al), but I hold a special place in my heart for this mission, since I wanted to kill it.

I admit, I take these things WAY too personally. I see difficult missions as an affront to my well-being; I will hammer at them until I’ve either broken the damned thing or I’ve physically mangled myself by bashing my head against the nearest available flat surface. You don’t want to know how many desk-induced injuries I’ve suffered through the years. It’s too bad that I’m not as tenacious in most other areas of my life, otherwise Laura San Giacomo would be having MY children! Or at least filing charges...

[Anyone remember Laura San Giacomo? Anyone? Didn't think so.]

So we come to the crux of the matter: if it’s so difficult, why am I reviewing it? Because despite the difficulty (or because of it), I still consider this mission to be one of the best ever released for original Thief. It challenges, it entertains, and it gives your quickload key a healthy workout.

Several elements from this mission found their way into “Calendra’s Legacy”; for example, you’ll notice that part of this mission is at the very beginning of the first map in CL. Early on in this mission (if you’re observant), you’ll break into the home of a Psychic, who knew you were coming.** You’ll most likely also break into the same person’s shop in the second mission of CL.

[** Rim shot.]

So what about the mission itself? Ah, but therein lies the mystery. You need to pore over this town, break into a few places, crack a few skulls, and go into detective mode. You will find yourself confounded, but never fear: it IS possible. The clues are obscure, but as long as you don’t have someone interrupting you every five minutes to do their bidding, tasks that they are perfectly capable of handling on their own except that you’re apparently not doing anything “important,” you’ll be fine. Also, watch out for people who apparently cannot read something quietly to themselves without interrupting whatever useless thing you’re doing (such as revising a review, say) to read you a lengthy, boring passage and your head’s about to blow every goddamn blood vessel shut up shut up shut UP leave me ALONE.

Not that I speak from experience.** Anyway, along with the obscure clues, secret buttons are hard to find and the guards are downright hostile; it really takes a lot of patience and determination to progress in this mission without seeking help.

[** Actually, I do.]

If I’m putting you off this mission entirely, I do apologize; this is a high-quality mission. It’s worth your time just to walk around and see the town...or rubbernecking while being chased by guards, if that’s your thing. And after a lengthy pursuit, nothing caps off an evening like a refreshing dip in the town’s water supply.

There are a couple of bugs and shaky things, as is usual with most 3rd-party add-ons without access to professional testers and/or millions of dollars in capital (with that said, I still wonder how Bethesda’s games still come out so damn buggy...). One problem is that you cannot get all of the loot; your total, even with inhuman scrutiny, will probably be about 800 short of the final tally. Another thing, and probably the most irritating: the framerates get pretty chuggy after tripping a trap in the king’s tomb, and yes, it’s unavoidable. It’s those stinking magic bolt shooters, which really should have been set to quit after a while.

Another problem is in no way the author’s fault -- for how could he have foreseen? -- but the Indiana Jones-like rope arrow swinging (near the magic bolt shooters, natch) is made insanely difficult by Thief’s stupid rope arrow bug. Jump on a rope and have a very good chance of being launched directly into the ceiling at warp speed, then down into a pit of spikes. Welcome, Death. Have some nachos.

[I don't know what that means.]

Side Note: Now that I re-read what I’ve just written (contrary to popular belief, I do proof-read my work...just not very well), I wonder exactly why the notion of jumping from rope to rope is attributed to the Indiana Jones movies. I admit to having done so in the past, but I realize now that it doesn’t ring true; he didn’t do a lot of rope-jumping, from what I recall. I do remember something similar in Dragon’s Lair, however. Remember jumping from flaming rope to flaming rope, suspended over a fiery chasm? Of course you do. I’d refer to that instead, but who remembers the good games anymore?

But back to the mission: I’m being vague about this map, but I can’t help it; I’d hate to wreck the plot just for the sake of elaborating on the basic “map good, play map” premise of my Thief reviews. (My whole point for the Thief section is to showcase my favorites, NOT to review every map out there...I’ll leave that to my colleagues.) And really, I don’t need to say a whole lot about the mission at all. Chances are, you’ve either already played it by now, or are about to do so. Unless you’re just reading my reviews because I wrote them. If so, I’m touched. And a little creeped out. Stop touching me.

Summary?
Tough, beautiful, and slightly insane. Which reminds me of Lucy Liu, for some reason. Remember when she revealed that she had sex with a ghost? I wondered, but it finally hit me: Casper finally got his freak on! Now we know why he's so damn friendly: every Hollywood nutjob who gets all "spiritual" (so to speak) gets to meet the Casp-Masta. Yeah.

On a thoroughly unrelated side note, I’ve always wondered if Casper was really the ghost of Richie Rich.

Rating?
Eight out of Ten.

Annoyance Rating:
Oh, no...you can’t put a number on something like this.

The Grace Scale
Grace gives it a...3 of Very Good!

[Scale: 1 orgasmically excellent, 10 bottomlessly abominable. 5 okay. 2 insanely good. You get the point.]

[And the Grace Scale. I'm sure people who haven't heard of or played any of the Gabriel Knight games are wondering "who?!??"]
Title: T1/G 004: Lord Edmund Entertains!
Post by: Silver Sorrow on February 02, 2017, 01:36:09 AM
T1/G: Lord Edmund Entertains!

Game: Thief: TDP/Gold
Title: Lord Edmund Entertains!
Author: Jussi Lehtinen (Banshee)
E-mail: N/A
Filename: edmund.zip
Filesize: 3.01mb
Download: Cheap Thief Missions (http://thiefmissions.com/m/edmund#m)
Rating: 3 / 5

[Apparently I reverted back to the 0 - 5 scale. Who knows what flavor of cotton candy passes for my mind.]

Note: I use custom recolors -- my own -- for Garrett’s arms and weapons, as well as the visibility gem. The rest of what you see is what you get. I’m working on getting a new Haunt recolor done, so be prepared for anything.

[Again, the note applies only in circumstances where I would post screenshots. And I ain't doin' that.]

Abstract:

Strange Insults That May Or May Not Make Any Sense
1. Do you always smell like that, or did someone dig up some plague victims?
2. Is that your face, or did someone order spaghetti?
3. Obviously while pregnant, your mother was scared by a rectal polyp.
4. You’re so ugly that when you were born, the doctor thought your mother had diarrhea.
5. Your mother wears...lessee here...from what I can see through my binoculars, lacy red lingerie...oh, wait. That’s your DAD.
6. The planet Jupiter just called...they said your momma’s ass is too big and it’s blocking their view of the sun.
7. You’re so dumb that...well, you’re just dumb. Dumb dum-dum dummy!
8. Nice suit, F. Lee Bailey. [No, I really don’t get it, either.]
9. Is that your breath, or has someone been rubbing Ben-Gay on a three-week-dead corpse?
10. Is that your face in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me? [what?!?]

[Bubble gum. If someone were to crack open my skull to get at what passes for my brain, I like to think that it tastes like bubble gum.]

The Basics:
Equipment Store: Yes
Skill Settings: Yes; Easy, Normal, Hard
Map/Automap: Yes/No
Puzzle Difficulty: Mild
General Difficulty: Mild
New Stuff: Yes; graphics, skins, sounds, etc.
Gameplay: Live AI; breaking and entering-fu/conspiracy-fu/mystery-fu/betrayal-fu/possession-fu

[Enough with the fu!]

Briefing/Story?
You found an interesting letter written by a certain Lord Edmund. He’s invited Lady (Sandra) Bernhard and Duke (Nukem) Creygan to his home for the tenth annual meeting of their little “society”. Their plan is to cram their gullets full of various types of foodstuff, drink the fermented grape of the vine, then go down into the cellar and have an orgy so decadent, so depraved, that Caligula himself would’ve fallen off Incitatus in horror and loathing upon witnessing. Uh...no, wait. Actually, they’re performing their annual ritual to something dark and unholy, which is probably a lot safer in the long run...at least in the sense of not having to apply naked flame to one’s personal regions due to an “infestation.”

[An oblique reference to an old joke concerning how to get rid of crabs. Shave off half of your pubic hair, set fire to the rest, and hit the fleeing crabs with a hammer.]

Onward!

So you want into Lord Edmund’s mansion, huh? Well, you’re going to have to do a little bit of thinking about that. It’s not a good idea to go in through the front door, so the back door will have to do (which is something you hear Elton John say a lot).** But it’s locked! How...how will you get in? How???

[** Apologies to Sir Elton.]

That’s for me to know and you to break both ankles finding out. Or not. The point is, you’re going to need something the smart people call “problem-solving skills”...and to look at you, I think you’re better off if you go and find a smart person to help you through this one.

But I kid you, my mentally-handicapped audience. No, it’s not a trial to find the key...just look around. Once inside, you’ll encounter a bunch of guards. I mean, you weren’t expecting squirrels armed with blowguns, right?* Of course not! So you have patrolling guards with swords within, and archers without.** The trick here is to utilize the sneaky aspect of Thief in bypassing them. As I see it, you have two options: sneak by them, or beat the love of the Builder into them.
[* You weren’t, right? Right??]
[** Yes, yes... “without what?” Yeesh.]

As you can see by my stats, I chose the blackjack route. Now, I suppose it’s possible to ghost this mission, but...who cares?? So with the guards out of the way, I was free to take a look at the mission without fear of being chased. The architecture is workable. What I mean is, it’s well done and error-free. There aren’t any mind-bendingly impressive sights to be seen, but what does exist is nicely rendered; specifically, the chapel and the courtyard.

Gameplay is, as I mentioned previously, largely centered on taking care of guards and finding out what the hell is going on with Lord Edmund. Upon finding his journal, you’ll find out that...never mind. Find out for yourself, it’s more fun that way. I will say that I’m glad it’s okay to kill him. Who’d want a freak like that walking around, applying for welfare, rooting for the OSU Cowboys, etc.?**

[** That would be the Oklahoma State University Cowboys, who are a symbol of all that is loathsome and inbred in collegiate sports. Not that I am biased.]

You’ll find that it isn’t always possible to take the most obvious route; sometimes you may have to find an alternate way into a room...say, through adjacent fireplaces, for example. On the Hard (Expert) skill, you’ll have to find a key belonging to Duke “Ready For Action” Creygan, which isn’t in the mansion at all. A little detective work is required, but it isn’t so tough that you spontaneously break out in hives the size of a Dodge Dart.*** No, just a little deduction, the ability to fill in the blanks...that’s all you need, really.
[*** I suppose I should try to be relevant and current with a more modern style of car, but “Dodge Dart” is a funny name, whereas “Kia Sedona,” for example, is just bizarre. I suppose I could delve into current names and twist them a little -- the “Mitsubishi Mitigator,” the “Chrysler Lugubrious,” the “Hyundai Libido,” or even the “Ford Pieceofshit,” but that’s just confusing when used out of context. It would need a setup and...iiick. Just be happy with Dodge Dart. Accept it. Let it into your heart. Be one with the Dart. Climb every mountain. Ford every stream. Follow every rainbow. Until you find your dream. “A dream that will need all the love you can give...”]

[That was one hell of a footnote.]

As for puzzle-solving, it’s nothing too stressful. There’s a floor pressure-plate puzzle (which is easy, even if you don’t read the helpful rhymes provided as clues), and the question of finding keys to progress. If you’ve been through Thief, you won’t have any problems...mostly.

But it isn’t about puzzles or architecture...the whole point is to find out what’s going on, and what kind of weird thing Lord Edmund’s keeping down in the cellar. So if you have perhaps an hour of free time, load up Lord Edmund Entertains! and be...well...entertained.

[Note To Self: Rework that last paragraph until it’s unrecognizable and makes an obscure reference to the works of Rabelais.]

[Note To Self: Curses! Foiled again by my inability to find motivation!]

[Note To Self: read Rabelais. Also: convert to Catholicism so I can give up reading Rabelais for Lent.]

Summary?
It may be unfair to the mission to judge it by the standards of [several] years later, but I can’t retroactively review these things, can I? So I’ll judge it by the standards of someone who loves Thief: it’s a fun mission with good architecture and an intriguing storyline. To be continued in “The Vigil”!

Rating: 3 out of 5

Annoyance Rating: 0 out of 10.

My Level Stats:
Hard (Expert) Skill
Loot: 1900/2008
KO’s: 14
Kills: 1

[...we'll tumble down the years...]
Title: T1/G 005: The Vigil
Post by: Silver Sorrow on February 02, 2017, 01:45:54 AM
T1/G: The Vigil

Game: Thief: TDP/Gold
Title: The Vigil
Author: Jussi Lehtinen (Banshee)
E-mail: N/A
Filename: vigil.zip
Filesize: 2.31mb
Download: Cheap Thief Missions (http://thiefmissions.com/m/vigil#m)
Rating: 3 / 5

Note: [screenshot note]

Abstract:
Around summer of last year (2002),** I received an e-mail from a former classmate of mine (even though I didn’t know her in the slightest), regarding our ten-year class reunion. First of all, how they tracked me down is nothing short of amazing...although on reflection, I suspect that my brief flirtation with Classmates.com was the culprit. Secondly, I didn’t like those people back then...what makes them think I would like them now? So out of a fit of self-destruction, I decided to compile a list of reasons -- i.e., my various and sundry non-accomplishments and the unavoidable circumstances which continually conspire to prevent me from achieving Greatness -- why I should ignore the reunion. The results were astounding. And depressing. Some examples:

1. I’m not rich, famous, or at least globally infamous. I’m not now, nor ever will be, an Evil Overlord [http://www.eviloverlord.com/].
2. I’m not married to an international lingerie model, a huge-breasted stripper, a former Playmate, a blessedly regular woman of any sort of intelligence, a gap-toothed biker chick, or even pond scum. I’m still single and I avoid dating out of respect for society’s gene pool.
3. I think I’m going bald.***
4. Everything I touch, I destroy.
5. I am filth.
6. I am not worthy to roll in a leper’s spittle.

After an hour of such enlightening reasoning, I was looking for a nice, thick trash bag and a jug of Clorox...

[** Yes, it's been almost eighteen years as of this writing. So old...so weary...]

[*** Never before have I made so relevant a Rush reference.]

The Basics:
Equipment Store: Yes
Skill Settings: Yes; Easy, Expert, Diabolical
Map/Automap: Yes/No
Puzzle Difficulty: Mild
General Difficulty: Medium
New Stuff: Yes; sounds
Gameplay: Live AI; funeral crashing-fu/more mystery-fu/minor puzzle-fu/Hammer-fu

[Fu! FU!!!]

Briefing/Story?
Picking up where “Lord Edmund Entertains!” left off, you’re all set to crash Duke “Shake It, Baby” Creygan’s funeral and find out what the hell is the deal with that statue you stole from Lord Edmund. What follows is a trip through the hoary underworld...woooo! Or not.

Onward!

This was unexpected. What I mean is, this mission didn’t turn out the way I thought it would, which...well...see, when you talk about crypts and tombs and all that rot [rim shot], you expect to be kicking mummy meat in no time, right?

Sure, I mean...okay, for example: I played the “Return to Castle Wolfenstein” demo, and what it told me was this: if you go into tombs, you’ll have to fight zombies and miscellaneous assorted undead creepies.* It’s a law, people...even LGS [Looking Glass Studios] knew that, despite the fact that Thief wasn’t supposed to be your standard shooter. So I’m all prepared to gib zombies and ram a sword up a Haunt’s...uh...I just had an unpleasant image there for a moment, so never mind. The point is, fighting undead, right?
[* I won’t comment further on that demo, but rest assured that I have no intention of paying more than ten bucks for the full game.]

[I never warmed to the Wolfenstein series.]

No, not really. This mission delights in tormenting us with twisted expectations. The setup is good: creeping into a graveyard/cemetery/tomb at night, evading/sending flowers to/clubbing guards as you go, sneaking into a tomb where people are keeping a vigil** over Duke “I Think I’ll Come Aboard!” Creygan’s body, getting trapped inside, and...what?
[** Thus the title of the mission. And you thought I had trouble making connections.]

Well, getting out is your main concern. Then you more or less slog through some sewers and find a Hammer compound, etc., etc. I can’t help but be a little let down by this turn of events. However, it does make for a good twist, although in a sort of bland way. Expectations shattered, I beat the Smuckers out of a few Hammers (and later, guards), looted the place, then went on my merry way.

Again, I’m not overwhelmed with joy at the events unfolding as they do, but I can say this: it’s a solid, well-made FM with plenty of other pluses, not that I will name them at them moment...the leftover pizza is calling to me, and I must answer!

Satiated, I return to the fray. Note to self: no more Cheese Lover’s Pan Pizza with double pepperoni, okay? Okay. Oh, God...the stomach cramps.

[Not that it matters to anyone, but for some reason I now find find Pizza Hut's cheese utterly repulsive.]

The architecture, for the most part, is well done, with elements that are only slightly hindered by Thief’s so-so textures. When the structures trump the material, it’s always a good thing. But don’t get me wrong -- not every piece of scenery is screenshot-worthy, but overall it’s not an ugly mission by any means. Me, I’d like to see this and the first part, Lord Edmund Entertains!, redone for Thief 2 with some minor tweaks here and there. I’d also like to see some serious revamping of the Hammerite portion (as well as the sewers), with some more eye candy thrown in...it’s a bit plain, and the story needs some explication here and there.

In contrast, the cemetery (with a minor, yet entertaining puzzle to work out) and the city streets towards the end (which are actually also towards the beginning...it’s a circular argument, just like the mission) are lovely anyway, despite the native texture set.

But if it plays well, that’s all that matters, isn’t it? ISN’T IT!??

Finally, I suppose the question of the statue won’t be answered. Even after reading Creygan’s book, I wasn’t exactly satisfied with anything, be it the story or the mission itself. But the cemetery area at the beginning -- especially the cemetery puzzle -- makes up for it all, in a way.

Summary?
Some good architecture, some bland, etc. Things don’t happen as you think they might...just like real life!

Rating: 3 out of 5

Annoyance Rating:
Very low.

My Level Stats:
Diabolical (Expert) Skill
Loot: 1375/1525
KO’s: 23
Kills: 1 (rat guy)

[...and next...]
Title: T1/G 006: The Order of the Vine
Post by: Silver Sorrow on December 21, 2019, 12:05:37 PM
[#6 was missing from my list, so upon further digging into backup CDs, I found that it was SilentSleep's The Order Of The Vine, which I revised and posted a while back on the main site. You can find it HERE (https://foxhole.starfoxweb.com/reviews/review-tfm/119-t1-the-order-of-the-vine).

Why I plucked it out of the lineup, I have no idea.

On a side note, this was probably my favorite review for one reason: my intentional confusion between the Seal (an item you were tasked to steal) and a seal (the animal). "...somehow, you doubt that finding it will be as simple as prowling the halls with a bucket of fresh fish and making kissing sounds."

It still makes me chuckle, but then again...? I'm easily amused. Sometimes.

Quote
See, there’s just no way to be sneaky when you’re lugging a 500lb glob of disenchanted mammal on your back as it barks its displeasure for all to hear.


T1/G: The Order of the Vine

Game: Thief: TDP/Gold
Title: The Order Of The Vine
Author: Conor Armstrong (SilentSleep)
Filename: TootV1-1.zip
Filesize: 7.89mb
Languages Supported: English, German
Download: Cheap Thief Missions (http://thiefmissions.com/m/TootV1-1#m)
Rating: 8 / 10

Rating Revision: Once again, I'm converting to the more flexible 1 to 10 scale for rating these things, which may revise the score downward; that means nothing to the fun factor, but it is strange to go around giving maximum ratings to half-decade-old mods for an old (but much beloved) game.

[I wish I could JUST PICK A RATING SYSTEM AND BE DONE WITH IT FOR CHRIST'S SAKE!]

Preliminary Note: Once again, this is a recycle from Hangar 16. I've updated it somewhat, but I haven't redone the screens. Let's not get nuts, is what I'm saying...

Note #2: This FM is cut into three parts; a prologue, the main mission, and an epilogue.

Note #3: I know...the screenshots more or less suck. Bite me.

[Refer to the version posted on the Foxhole's main site for screenshots.]

Abstract:
Stupid rope arrow bug. I firmly believe that Thief had a different bug for every different system configuration. I may be exaggerating, but I doubt it. Maybe I’m just letting the bitterness wrap its testic--uh, tentacles around my soul, but multiple reloads do not a happy Silver make...especially if the problem is technical instead of procedural. After about ten reloads, I consider fashioning the rope into a noose...for whom, isn't exactly clear.

On a completely unrelated note, does anyone else find it unnerving when, as you’re sitting in front of the computer typing, household pets take it upon themselves to sit at the very edge of your peripheral vision and stare at you?

[From comments I see around the 'net, this is not an uncommon thing. I recall an instance or two of my cat doing this: I was doing my best to ignore her, when I stopped typing to mull over some inanity I had just written; all was silent. Then I heard this exasperated little nose huff. I think she was fed up with me being immune to her attempts at subtlety. She soon went back to her standard method of attention-getting, something I called "the air raid siren."]

[Isn't it fascinating how people can go on and on about their damn cats?]

The Basics (of the main mission):
Equipment Store: Yes
Skill Settings: Yes
Map/Automap: Yes/Yes
Puzzle Difficulty: Medium
General Difficulty: Yikes
New Stuff: Yup
Gameplay: Human AI; Inhuman AI; Castle-like stuff; A Mystery

[No fu! It's a miracle!]

Briefing/Story?
You -- Garrett -- have been contacted for a job. The guy’s gone through a lot of trouble to track you down, so you might as well listen to him. The first “mission” is actually the prologue wherein you go to meet with the individual and go through the ordeal of dealing. The second part is the actual gameplay mission, where you must infiltrate the mansion/castle belonging to a group of nature-lovers (READ: nervous sheep) called “The Order of the Vine” and find some sort of relic called “The Seal”...somehow, you doubt that finding it will be as simple as prowling the halls with a bucket of fresh fish and making kissing sounds.

Since this mission is supposed to take place before the events in Thief 1, the enigma of nature freaks (or as I call them, “plant owners”) has no bearing on you whatsoever. So get inside, find that Seal -- just follow the sound of bike horns honking “Yankee Doodle” -- and get out. Simple, right?

Onward!

In the prologue, you face the horrifically insurmountable task of walking through some streets to find your contact. Okay, I’m just being sarcastic. But there is loot to find here (one pedestrian has a purse and there’s a chunk of gold hidden away somewhere) to help you with the equipment store; just be sure to pick up the 1,000 in loot when you talk to the guy, otherwise you’ll regret it.

You’ll get your objectives from the guy you meet -- I reveal nothing here -- and you’ll be able to go on to the next mission, which we in the Idiot Sector like to call “the main mission.”

This is where I had to pause and think about the restrictions placed upon me. Did I want to play on Normal? No. Too easy. Did I want to play on Hard? Perhaps...it has a higher loot requirement, is more difficult, and has a kill restriction on humans. Interesting, but what about Expert? Well, there’s the problem as far as I’m concerned: I like the extra objectives, can even handle the no-kill stuff...but there is a KO limit. Eight, to be precise.

Now, I realize that this being sometime in the early days of Thief FM-age, authors tended to monkey around with Garrett’s perceived expertise. Hell, they still do that today (may they rot in Hell).** But even though I have to grit my teeth and bear the problem of no-kills in Thief 1, I absolutely HATE no-KO directives without a damned good reason. There is a reason given here, but it’s not a convincing reason. What the hell do I care if nobles don’t like me for beating them unconscious?

[** I was kidding.]

No, don’t get me wrong: I’ve played this mission on all settings, but I prefer the KO jamboree of Hard. So that’s what I played for this review, and it’s still difficult enough to bless the player with Thiefy enjoyment. Whatever that entails.

Okay, okay...enough of that. Let’s get on to the mission itself. The Order of the Vine is a collection of people who enjoy nature, hunting, hating the Hammerites, humping bunnies, etc. Of course, this society is based on one scant mention in a book in the original mission, “Assassins.” But if we get a full, wonderful FM out of it, so much the better. Just make sure you’re white and Protestant, otherwise they won’t let you in the club. Nice golf course, though.

Okay, loadout...hey, an equipment store! And what’s this? Sand arrows? What are sand arrows? Hmmm...they act like a flashbomb, but only if the (human) guard is not alerted. And they even put out torches! Slot seven, where my gas arrows should be. Oh, well. On to the main mission.

[I cherish gas arrows. I put them at an interchangeable #3 with fire arrows (the variable influencing preference: whether the opposition are human or undead) in my favorite equipment list. Water arrows: #1. Flashbombs: #2. And when a mod replaces my beloved gas arrows with something almost entirely useless to my play style, I tend to become somewhat annoyed.]

So here we are, falling. Ah. Water. After a leisurely swim -- if being dragged by a strong current towards an unknown destination can be defined as such -- we make out way into the place via the boiler/electrical room. Note this room with a “huh” and get up those stairs.

The mansion/castle (I’m not sure how to classify it, exactly) is on the pleasingly massive side, with corridors and hallways and doors, floors and ceilings, walls...all the things that define it as a “structure.” These elements are put together in such a way as to give the impression of a “castle” (again, or a “mansion”...whatever), with added inhabitants in the form of “guards” and “servants.” These walkers of the stone paths lend a semblance of “habitation” to the “structure” and serve to “immerse” the player in the “game.” This it achieves in a good way, without resorting to hordes of pink demons and plasma-shooting biomechanical spiders.

So you’re inside and looking around. Nice, huh? You’ll notice that there aren’t too many guards around, but there are enough to put the hurt on you if it comes to that. They’re also prone to sound the alarm -- and I’m not talking about merely shouting for help...there is an actual alarm -- so it’s best to keep to the shadows. Take a look at those pointed arches...lovely.

I guess you could say that this place is the mother of all hunting lodges; it has a sizeable guard presence, large areas for servant and guard quarters in addition to the guests’ section, and its own small theater. Add to that a kitchen large enough to feed most of an average hip-hop star’s entourage, as well as a large bar/entertainment area for the guests, and we’re looking at the possibility of an impressive sewer system. And that it has. I know...I was in it.

Speaking of the kitchen, this mission had something that was a bit different at the time of its release, and that something was working facilities. Spin a crank by the sink, and “water” would come out. Do the same thing by a stove, and the burner would come on. Not insanely fascinating nowadays, but still a very nice touch nevertheless.

The overall building material theme is stone (LOTS of stone) and marble, with the carpets, paintings and tapestries leaning towards a nature theme, of course. The lowly guards’ and servants’ bedrooms are appropriately squalid, while the guests’/members’ rooms reflect a spartan flavor found in some of your lesser palaces. Gaudy without too much taste to hinder it is the overall motif. Rich carpets, patterned walls, locks on the doors...it was only through climbing out on a balcony and inching my way along a thin ledge that I was able to gain entry into one noble’s room, and I reflected as I cracked his skull with my blackjack that some people are just SO paranoid.

But apart from tormenting the residents of this fine castle/mansion/big-ass lodge/whatever, there was that Seal to pick up. Luckily I brought along my club, so getting the blubbery mammal out of the place would be a bit easier without it fighting me or getting all pissy when I denied it the right to balance a multicolored ball on its snout.

Unfortunately, the order’s Master had carted the Seal off to “study” it, and I hoped that I wouldn’t have to stumble into the middle of a scene of blasphemous perversion or, worse yet, the guy teaching the little bastard how to clap its flippers the correct number of times when asked a math question ([meaty wet slap] “Two plus two is FOUR, dammit! Can’t you do anything right?!?”). So my path was clear: I’d wander around without a clue, hoping to glean info from the books and scrolls I found. I did get to visit the armory -- a sad affair, judging by the broken swords -- and I managed to club the cook out in the garden (burn MY french toast, will you!).

In the game room, I watched a guy caught in a hellish, never-ending cycle of running back and forth to the privy to empty his stomach of its contents. Drunk guards and sick people...no matter where you go, they’re always fun. I did relieve the guy of his torment via skull-rattling clobber, so I hope he didn’t choke on his own...never mind. Jimi should be okay. But I wasn’t going to give him mouth-to-mouth, so ‘scuse me if I didn’t kiss-of-life that guy.*
[* I know, I know. Sometimes I hate myself, too.]**

[** In case you're confused, I was referring to Jimi Hendrix and his senseless death. You're welcome.]

Upon reaching the second floor, I visited the quarters belonging to the various guards, servants and guests; I left them sleeping bruisedly and dreaming of headache powders...or philters...or crucibles...whatever the hell it was medieval people** dreamed about whenever bludgeoned. Now, on the second floor, I found the main dining room. This had a kind of Pagan theme going (duh) -- as evidenced by the large cloven-hoofed fellow behind some glass, a fitting tribute to the Man Goat himself -- while a curious pyramid ensconced in an alcove caught my eye, requiring eight stitches.
[* There is no small conjecture concerning Thief’s place in space and time. Some maintain that it’s a strange alternate universe where magic and technology coexist; others claim that it’s our own future, due to some horrible cataclysm or some such; I, however, take the scholarly position of “Who gives a bleeding crap?? Just play the stinking game, you over-analystic geeks!”]**

[** Side Note: I've seen Skyrim referred to as being set in "medievel times" [sic]...what do these morons think went on back then, anyway?]

I noticed that the pyramid needed a key...but for what? Well, time to find out. So I scoured the place, including the Head Guard’s room (from his journal, he sounds like a nice guy, but prone to dressing up like KISS, judging from his impressive collection of platform boots), the scene of a nasty murder, and the room belonging to the Master’s right-hand man (?), Giblen. I tell ya, the guy just ain’t right. So I killed him. I found the Master’s bedroom, where I found out that there’s more I must do. I found no trace of a medium-sized aquatic mammal anywhere, so I supposed that I’d have to figure out the dilemma of where the Master went. So after dealing with Torgo...uh...Giblen...**

[** Reference: Torgo was the goat-legged manservant in the abysmal Manos: The Hands Of Fate, mocked mercilessly on an infamous episode of MST3K.]

I figured it all out -- finally -- and stepped into...yes, Another! World! Well, maybe not. Maybe that should be: Another! Location! Altogether! Still, there were some ruins that looked Precursor-ish, and a large room with vines hanging down, allowing me to slap on my battered Fedora and cue the John Williams orchestral assault, because I was about to...fall to my death! Yes! It’s that damned rope arrow bug come to life in the vines!***
[*** I cover “hanging vines” in the rope arrow bug explanation, just so you know. They are the same thing, after all.]

After many reloads, much cursing, and some navigation of hallways and stairs, I made it to the main chamber where the Master paced, ready to use the Seal. But where was it? I didn’t see--

--oh, crap. You mean THAT’S the Seal?? I thought it was...you know, with flippers and whiskers? This is a hunk of metal. Well, at least it’ll be easier to transport out of here. To be honest, I kinda dreaded carrying an actual seal out of this place. See, there’s just no way to be sneaky when you’re lugging a 500lb glob of disenchanted mammal on your back as it barks its displeasure for all to hear.

Btw: just for fun, jump into the portal by the Seal...but save your game first. Heh heh.

Oh! And look over there...seems Horten, the Head Guard, tried to do something about the Master and his nasty plot. Well, after I grab the Seal, I’ll carry him back to the mansion/castle/lodge/antebellum plantation and see if there’s anything I can do for him. Yeah, I’m such a nice guy. Really, I want to ask him how many reloads it took him with the vine-crossing. So...

What I’m trying to point out in my own stupid way is that this mission requires the skill of an Indy and the tweed of a Sherlock. It isn’t extraordinarily tough, but neither is it a walk in the park. You need to be observant and sneaky. In fact, this was one of the first FMs I played (the first, I believe, was “The Prodigal Corpse,” which drove me completely insane)...and I had some problems. I wasn’t too well-versed in the art of Looking At Things, so I got lost; I was trying to open a secret door, and I just could not find the switch. I actually resorted to opening up the level in DromEd...with no results. Finally, I scrutinized every square virtual inch of the room and found: a hidden switch.

This town remembers with utter horror the day that I danced naked in the streets.

So if you get stuck, if you can’t find something, whatever, look around. You may have to go back to a book or a scroll, you may have to retrace your steps, you may have to search in dark corners...you may even have to do some good old-fashioned thinking. This is not an impossible mission by any means. Just, um...just don’t alert the Master if you intend to kill him. See, when he’s alert, he’s well-nigh invulnerable. So sneak up on him (if you can!). Show him how much you care via a sword in the back.

So. You have the Seal -- NOT the fish-eating kind -- and you leave the mansion. The main mission ends. On to the epilogue. You go back to that one part of town to meet with your contact. Things don’t turn out the way you thought, but they don’t go absolutely wrong, either. This epilogue “introduces” a character you’ll encounter in Thief. Well...having played Thief, you’ve already encountered this character (in cutscenes), but since this is a prequel mission to Thief, then...

...never mind. Just play it. See if you can find all five secrets in the main mission, while you’re at it.

Summary?
Strange things are afoot in historic Williamsburg...uh...I mean, the Order of the Vine’s clubhouse.

Rating?
8 out of 10.

Annoyance Rating:
Not too high.

The Grace Scale...Grace gives it:
A Three of Good!

[I don't know about you, but after reading one of my "reviews," I feel the need to take a long, restorative nap. Or play a little Russian Roulette.]
Title: T1/G 007: Shunned
Post by: Silver Sorrow on December 21, 2019, 06:29:25 PM
T1/G: Shunned

Game: Thief: TDP/Gold
Title: Shunned
Author: James D. Roberts (Gonchong)
E-mail: N/A
Homepage: N/A
Filename: shunned.zip
Filesize: 4.81mb
Download: Cheap Thief Missions (https://thiefmissions.com/m/shunned#m)
Score: N/A

Note: [Something about weapons and stuff. I don't know.]

Note #2: This one’s for Glaive, Diaz, Doc Brown and all my other Lovecraft fellows.

Abstract:

VOICE-OVER
It was ten years ago this very night...when Jed Clampett met with a horrible end. His gold-digger daughter and nitwit nephew conspired with the nefarious mastermind, Granny Clampett, to kill him and keep all of his money for themselves. Now, ten years to the day, something behind the cement pond stirs in its shallow grave...

NIGHT; INTERIOR, KITCHEN; THUNDERSTORM...LIGHTNING FLASHING OUTSIDE
[A door is kicked open, revealing the silhouette of a tall, tattered figure. It shambles forward]

ROTTING HORROR: Wellllll doggy, Granny...I reckon it’s time to EAT YOUR BRAINS!!

GRANNY: JEEEEEEEEED! JEEEEEEEEED! JEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEED!

VOICE-OVER
You won’t believe your eyes! You won’t believe your ears! You won’t believe how hard it was to make a banjo sound sinister without involving Ned Beatty! It’s...

NIGHT OF THE LIVING JED

GRANNY: JEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEED!!

Coming Christmas 2003!

[Okay, I'll admit that was funny.]

The Basics:
Equipment Store: Yes
Skill Settings: Yes
Map/Automap: Yes/No
Puzzle Difficulty: Mild
General Difficulty: Tough (psychologically speaking)
R_speeds: Good
New Stuff: Nothing material-wise
Gameplay: Undead AI; haunted house-fu/horrors of the ages-fu/the thing(s) that should not be-fu/Necronomicon-fu/Iä! Shub-Niggurath!-fu/the thief on the doorstep-fu/other skewed references I’ll make to Lovecraft-fu

[What the fu?]

Briefing/Story?
Well, that dumb squarehead Fistral (you don’t know him) has finally done it this time. Not only has he called forth all kinds of shambling, flesh-eating horrors into this world, but he’s also managed to turn what was once an attractive Victorian mansion with curbside appeal into a repository for the aforementioned horrors. There goes the friggin’ neighborhood. And it doesn’t help to complain to the community committee, because they’re all zombies too. It just doesn’t pay to live in the country anymore.

There have been attempts by the Hammerites to purify the place, to cleanse it of its blasphemous stain...but they either got bored and wandered off or were converted into zombies, which really isn’t so bad. Think about it! Your meals from now on are nutrition plus entertainment! Like a certain imaginary tiger said, “[we] like our food surprised and running!”

[Reference: Hobbes of Calvin & Hobbes.]

But I digress. Again. You’ve been contacted by someone who probably won’t try to turn you into hamburger meat once you obtain a certain something for him, namely, the Necronomicon. See, Fistral had the book and he did something very, very wrong with it (besides reading it on the toilet). Now, it’s supposedly in his house, which isn’t a place where the sane venture. The Hammers, intent on expunging the book from existence, have tried to get it but met with all kinds of horrible setbacks. So this guy has hired you -- Garrett -- to get into the house and get the book.

Nothing could be more simple, I’d say.

Onward!

Ah, one of my favorite subjects: H.P. Lovecraft. Howard Phillips Lovecraft. Howie Phil. The HP-dude. The LOVE-monster. Writin’ horror stories, bein’ an atheist. Babba-da ding-dong-doo.

Yes, I’m stalling. And stop hitting me.

If you’re a relative naïf about the works of Lovecraft, be aware that the gameplay of this mission isn’t exactly what you would get from a literal adaptation of most of his stories into an FPS. Most of his protagonists tended to be educational savants, overly sensitive types prone to fainting spells and spells of horror-induced incredulity. On the whole, a Lovecraft hero would say something more along the lines of “I stared into the endless gulf of unspeakable night and wet my pants in abject terror,” (loose approximation) rather than “How pretentious can you get!?” Furthermore, it was rare to actually come into contact with hordes of zombies while armed with enough weaponry to send Iraq back to the Stone Age (according to many calculations: “last week”); at most, the main character in a Lovecraft tale would be armed with a flashlight, a useless (sometimes) revolver, and a stricken expression of existential dread on his face as he plumbed the depths of the earth...usually to an ending in breathless, italic text!

That said, the undeniable Lovecraftian elements present in this mission put me in mind of an “entrepreneurial” individual who shows up after poor Randolph Carter has been either carted away by those nice young men in their clean white coats or stumbles into someone’s kitchenette screaming of horrors incomprehensible to man and/or woman and just generally making a shambles of what was supposed to be a quiet breakfast. What I’m saying is, you HAD to have an enterprising type who would willingly steal into one of these eldritch locales and fill his or her pockets with enough non-taxable loot to make the IRS weep and gnash its pointy little teeth. So I consider this to be that person’s story: the “gatherer” who actually gets into these godforsaken places to pick up valuable and/or intriguing items.

Don’t buy that? Well then, answer me this: just WHO is it that acquires all those copies of the Necronomicon** in the stories? What sort of fearless lunatic dares to creep into ancient sealed tombs to find these incredibly eldritch (that word again) artifacts? Lovecraft had a field day describing the exploits of archaeologists and anthropologists, but we understand on some level that these people would most likely hire “experts” to do the really dangerous stuff, as most of them were too pale and weak to lift anything heavier than their cheese sandwich.***
[** For a rare book abhorrent to men, a lot of people seem to have a copy or two just laying about.]
[*** Illustration: The protagonist exclaims in atavistic horror, “My cheese sandwich...it has mustard on it!” He faints, only to wake up in an ancient, crumbling cemetery, covered in black ichor from head to toe and smelling of fish.]

And that’s where Garrett comes in. We all know that a typical Lovecraftian character wouldn’t know what to do with a fire arrow, but Garrett does. He’s the perfect guy to get the worm-eaten Book of the Dead, and he will do it with as much panache as possible (i.e., not as much screaming and fainting as you or I would be inclined to engage in), even though there won’t be anyone living to see him do all these cool things. It must be a self-gratification thing.

So let’s recap: lots of undead horrors and one unflappable hero bearing cool one-liners and devastating firepower.

Conclusion: I would venture to say that the population of the mansion owes more to Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead series than it does to H.P. Lovecraft...but since Raimi was riffing on Lovecraft in the first place, this is a sort of grandchild to the Lovecraft Sphere. And let’s not forget the Cthulhu-type statues in Thief itself, which leads to a hopeless snarl of influences, references, conclusions, inferences, theories, etc.

And since I hate analyzing things, I should probably just move on, eh?

But first, an off-the-wall idea: Bruce Campbell should play Garrett if a Thief movie is ever made. Call me crazy, but to hell with conventional wisdom! After chainsawing a Haunt, he could shout, for instance, “That’s right! Who’s laughing now!!?”

[Bruce has too much charisma for Hollywood. If they ever do make a Thief movie, the person playing Garrett will either be a bland, clumsy wimp, or -- considering the wretched Politically Correct age we currently fester in -- a snotty 19 year old Latina with more attitude than acting talent.]

I admit, I think about such things too much...but not to the point where I’d put together an eighteen page paper proposing Stephen Russell himself for the role. No, I’ll save my efforts for trying to convince people that the role of Viktoria should go to Lucy Liu.

[Yes: I am stupid.]

Okay. First off, you will not be able to ghost this mission. [rim shot] You’re not encouraged to play “sneaky,” which is something of a breath of fresh common sense (whatever THAT means). And since the mansion is rather cramped on the inside -- contributing strongly to a generalized feeling of claustrophobia -- and not to mention that the place is crawling with nasties, I believe this mission is aimed more at my preferred style of gameplay; that is, the player who prefers to eliminate the opposition on his or her own terms. I prefer to backstab a Haunt than let him walk around as he pleases...you gotta be some sort of bleeding-heart wussy wiener to let those things stay mobile. For your peace of mind, there’s only one Haunt in this mission. But there are...other things.

[Nice effect, huh? Look, ma! I’m writing a review!]

The mansion is lovingly ruined; bits of it are missing, there are grisly surprises in the corners, and the occupants don’t like you. Actually, this sounds more like a trip to Wal-Mart; yet while the parallels between the two places are astounding and undeniable, on the whole I’d rather face down a Haunt while completely naked with a school of three-week-dead trout stuffed up my butt and armed with only a sea snail than walk into a Wal-Mart...even with my usual escort of a squad of Marines armed to the teeth. (“Holy crap, they got weed-whackers! Pull out! Pull out!”)

But back to the mansion: it’s weird. The angles are a little...different...and there is definitely something odd about the well out front. Walking up blithely to the front door is strongly advised against, while the more conscientious thief will slip around the back. There are zombies patrolling everywhere, yet not all of them are dangerous. There was one curious resident who turned out to be a zombie ghost (!!!), and he had no interest in me, apart from trying to sell me Amway products. (“No, really...it’s not a pyramid scheme. It’s -- uh...is...is that a fire arrow??”)

Apart from the ghost zombie (!!!???), the ghostly servants in the basement, the Haunt, a couple of irritable apparitions***** and some spiders, your biggest challenge will be gathering enough nerve to actually go inside. And really, this isn’t a tough mission; it’s just, well, daunting. I know, I know: there are certain individuals -- possibly the same sociopaths who didn’t bat an eye at The Inverted Manse -- who won’t have a problem with this map. However, for those of us with actual souls and an appreciation for atmosphere and setting, it’s a fine bit of immersion.
[***** “Alfred Hitchcock Presents: The Three Investigators in: The Case of the Irritable Apparition! Brought to you by Preparation H.”]

[Wikipedia link: The Three Investigators (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Investigators)]

[I recall I had an ambitious bit in there concerning a product called "Apparition H"...y'know, because Apparitions are a pain in the ass? That sort of thing. Happily, I lost it.]

I know that saying any more about this mission could possibly ruin any surprises (which is why my screenshots** stop short of the actual place where you find the Necronomicon); I won’t spoil the storyline, but after you finally get the Necronomicon, things change. A lot. Be prepared. For some reason, I have dreams of Night Gaunts picking me up by my stomach and flying over Cyclopean cities...***

[** What are these "screenshots" of which I babble?]

[*** Reference: Lovecraft had night terrors involving this scenario.]

...and despite that, I had a lot of fun with this mission. It’s still one of the best, and one of the weirdest FMs for Thief (and I exclude those curiously bizarre Japanese FMs from such consideration).

Summary?
Fighting undead to get an ancient book, interesting surprises. A fine tribute to the man who made us all laugh and love again, Charles M. Schultz. Wait, no...I mean H.P. Lovecraft.

Annoyance Rating: Very low...because I’ve been this way before.

[Steve Hackett and Peter Gabriel collaborated on several songs during their time in Genesis; one of these was the never-finished "Deja Vu." Years later, Hackett finished the piece with Paul Carrack singing. It ended with the line: "You can't take back the fruits you once enjoyed / But now I know I've been this way before." A somewhat bleak thought, but...hell's bells, this is a complicated comment on what was just a throwaway line...]

My Level Stats:
Expert Skill
Loot: 100/100
KO’s: 0
Kills: 10

[Lovecraft-Related Anecdote: a couple of years ago I was visiting my mother in the hospital, and a nurse wandered in (they tend to do that). The nurse noticed my book and asked what I was reading. It was one of the many re-compilations of Lovecraft's work, and I held it up and said, "Lovecraft." She said "Oh, I'm not into romance novels." Even my mother looked at her like she was nuts.]
Title: T1/G 008: Seeds Of Doubt
Post by: Silver Sorrow on December 22, 2019, 10:17:41 AM
T1/G: Seeds Of Doubt

Game: Thief: TDP/Gold
Title: Seeds of Doubt
Author: Duncan “The Deceiver” Cooke
E-mail: N/A
Homepage: N/A
Filename: sod.zip
Filesize: 4.94mb
Download: Cheap Thief Missions (http://thiefmissions.com/info.cgi?m=sod)
Hints: at CTM (https://thiefmissions.com/hints/sod.html)
Score: 3.5 / 5

Note: I use custom recolors -- my own -- for Garrett’s arms and weapons, although the visibility gem belongs to Purah (I’m working on a good replacement). The rest of what you see is what you get.

[That is to say: you get nothing.]

Abstract:
Out of nostalgia, I’m playing this mission under The Dark Project instead of Gold. Why? Because I felt that it deserved an homage of spirit, a tribute to its antiquity, and...and...

Okay, so I’m lying. I’m playing under TDP because Gold is acting very strangely of late, being most stutterish. I don’t know why, exactly...it could be the fault of either DirectX 9.0b or my current video drivers...or it could be a combination of both. It could even be the fault of WinXP!* So until I figure it out, I’m back to TDP...and thus I hear the sardonic laughter of Doc Brown, TDP Purist. Go ahead and laugh, Doc...we both know that Great Cthulhu loves me best.
[* I’ve heard that the next major version of Windows will be made entirely of papier- mâché and rainbow-colored cellophane.]

[It was. Or it might as well have been, anyway.]

The Basics:
Equipment Store: No
Skill Settings: Yes; Wussy, Thief, Garrett
Map/Automap: Yes/No
Puzzle Difficulty: Mild...except for one nasty puzzle
General Difficulty: Medium-hard
New Stuff: Yes
Gameplay: Live/Undead AI; town-fu/mysterious conspiracy-fu/necromancer-fu/stolen relic-fu/no more fu!-fu/I mean it!-fu

[fu no more!]

Briefing/Story?
Since you -- Garrett -- have been proving yourself to be a great thief lately, you’ve had to lay low for a while to avoid attention. Steal one lousy mansion from its foundations** and all of a sudden you’re “nefarious.” Anyway, you’ve been holed up in an old Keeper safe house and now, low on supplies and equipment, you’re going out to resupply. But be careful: there have been a rash of murders*** recently, and the City Watch has increased their patrols. Why do you get the feeling that you’re going to have to find out what these murders are all about?
[** Although it made an unwieldy bulge in your pocket, the ladies were quite impressed.]
[*** A “rash of murders”? What, are we *pockmarked* with homicides?? Can the Stridex people do anything about this?]

Onward!
Okay, first off? The point here is not the architecture. The point is the gameplay and the story. Since a lot of Thief 1 missions have to deal with both the so-so Thief textures and a cryptic level editor, a lot of them rely on story. Many of the earlier missions were competent in the structural sense, but those textures and those models...

So an author had to rise above the engine. Nowadays, people pump out their first maps for Thief 2 and they usually look pretty good, thanks to advanced graphics and community editing support. But when you saw a Thief 1 FM that was visually stunning (in the sense of Thief 2 stunning), then perhaps you were partaking of the local foliage, because that was *rare*. In the case of this map, the scenery is adequate to the mission, and even looks terrific in spots...but what it lacks in overall candy, it makes up with an intriguing story and good gameplay.

A bit of fortune telling: let me see your palm. Ick. Never mind, I’ll just read the tea leaves. I see that you have played through the original Thief on Expert...I see also that you have played several of the earlier FMs, and you have come to one conclusion: ouch mommy, make it stop. Yes, some of these earlier missions were a tad bit arduous; taking a page from the “Thief Wasn’t Hard Enough!” manual, this mission involves some insanely tough bad guys who *must* be killed...if they know where you are, it only makes your job that much more difficult. Okay, look: just *try* to keep it together when something with a sword is chasing you and your only defense is a relic that can only be thrown at the bastard. Also, this mission forces you to do a bit of sneaking at one point...unheard of in Thief, I admit, but...

Minor sarcasm aside, I think you’ll find it rewarding if you leave the guards alone. Not because you’re a great guy and feed homeless handicapped squirrels and stuff, but because there is great satisfaction in watching guards die. That, uh...that sounds a little twisted I suppose, but we all understand such (lack of) sentiment. You’re in the shadows, trying to keep out of a guard’s way, and the sonofabigot walks right into you. Happiness untrammeled.

Unfortunately, you have a (human) kill restriction on Expert -- as is right, probably -- but that’s no problem. The town isn’t too heavily-patrolled, although the endless parade performed by those damn stupid stinking archers might drive you nuts. You can bash everyone you want in the Hammer temple, since later events do not transpire in there. Well...okay, you can bash pretty much everyone in town, but again, it’s so much more fun when they die horribly.

Speaking of guards being slaughtered like sword-carrying sheep (however *that* works), what are these “later events” I mentioned? Ha! As if I’d tell YOU. No, thanks once again to something I like to call “plot preservation,” I’m not telling. I will say that if you see something that isn’t human (or used to be human, a loooooong time ago), don’t try to go after it with your sword. You’ll just get your blood all over its pants and have to reload. This “something” (or “somethings” as it turns out) is (are) explained. The plot unfolds from the beginning -- in typical linear-thought fashion -- and at one point you’ll have quite the list of chores to bolster that plot.

I really don’t mind this at all; in fact, I welcome additional objectives with open arms...although I refuse to kiss them on the lips or make them cheese sandwiches. You’ll follow a trail of clues to: [cue big, echoey ambience] Another!...World! [lose control of the knobs, render everyone temporarily deaf with feedback] Yes, in your quest to get to the bottom of this mess once and for all, you’ll need to portal-hop and solve a puzzle that, for some reason, I can never remember how to solve without referring to the hint page.****
[**** FYI, the hint link is near the download link. Yeah. Up there. Near the top.]

Afterwards (an afterwards which entails far more than it implies), you’ll be expected to take care of certain “somethings” mentioned previously, and you can laugh with a child’s delight as the guards are mercilessly butchered in the streets. Ha-ha! Of course, you’ll have a potent (throwable) weapon at this point, so those “somethings” and their boss won’t have a chance. Probably. Most likely.

Is this all vague enough for you? I wouldn’t like to think that you’d get something concrete from my reviews or anything.

Earlier I may have implied that the architecture isn’t the most terrific thing you ever saw, but that wasn’t my intent. This mission may not be as intricate as, say, “Events in Highrock” (either in looks or lootable places), but it’s adequate for killing a chunk of that distressing free time. My favorite area is near the beginning, with a guard standing in a pool of light as he watches the street. Perhaps not the most stunning sight ever, but it’s stayed with me...which is more than I can say for quite a number of so-called “better” missions.

In short, it’s a solid, entertaining mission. I really don’t want to give anything away, because it is a satisfying map to finish, filled with all kinds of fun, carnage and swag. A couple of sections feature pure sneaking, there’s some puzzle solving, mystery is all around, there are several blood-chilling moments, and there’s even a guy pinned to his own ceiling with swords. Wonderful stuff.

Oh, and don’t miss the tribute to “Army of Darkness,” found in the...

...ah, but that would be telling, wouldn’t it?

Summary?
Strange. Different. Good.

Annoyance Rating:
2 out of 10. [That one puzzle? Evil.]

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

My Level Stats:
Skill: Garrett (Expert)
Loot: 2120/2120
KO’s: 9
Kills: 7

[Funny...I don't recall writing this review. Oh, well.]
Title: T1/G 009: Curse Of The Ancients
Post by: Silver Sorrow on December 22, 2019, 12:08:21 PM
[Another "mostly finished" review. It was complete to the point of sticking another half-assed Abstract in there, but not *comprehensively* finished.]

T1/G: Curse of the Ancients

Game: Thief: TDP/Gold
Title: Curse of the Ancients
Author: Kozmala (Gordon Miller)
E-mail: N/A
Homepage: N/A
Filename: curse.zip
Filesize: 3.6mb
Download: Cheap Thief Missions (http://thiefmissions.com/info.cgi?m=curse)
Score: 4.5 / 5

Note: I use custom recolors -- my own -- for Garrett’s arms and weapons, as well as the visibility gem. The rest of what you see in this mission is what you get.

[Nothing matters anymore. Especially screenshots.]

Abstract:
I’ve finally decided on a course for my life. No more foundering in the shoals of uncertainty, no...I’ve found my star, and by Ahab, I’m gonna follow that mamma until the last whale dies! (No more Moby Dick...ever.) Yes, I’ve decided to become The Guy Who Asks “[name of celebrity]?? Who The !!#$%!! Is That?!?” Thank you, thank you...it’s the least I could do. See, ever since I graduated from high school (actually, I more or less escaped with my life), I have noticed an increasing tendency in myself to completely fail to know who -- or “what,” in the case of Andy Dick -- the current “hot” celebrities are. I find myself peering at articles and asking myself in a mystified, slightly lost tone, “Who the hell is Katie Holmes?? And WHAT, exactly, is a Shakira*??” (for example)
[* I’ve never been able to figure that out. Isn’t a shakira a small hand percussion instrument used to signify the ritual closing of business meetings? “Thank you all for coming to the Friday meeting. To thank the gods and chase away the evil spirits, Ted from Acquisitions will now perform the ritual Cheek-Wiggle Of Forbidding, accompanied by Carl on the shakira.”]

[Ah, the years have not been kind to their star power. Mention their names and you might get a blank look, or even a mildly surprised "They're still alive??" Their fame (or infamy) fades, to be replaced by equally-anonymous, but younger, clumps of uselessness. So the names may change, the botox lumps may take on new shapes, and the depths to which they are willing to sink to distinguish themselves from the rest of the herd will go even further than believed possible, but one thing stays the same: I still don't care who any of these chuckleheads are.]

So to capitalize upon my increasing non-awareness of current events (which wasn’t exactly all that great in the first place), I have become a vital member of the non-celebrity-watching crowd, performing a valuable function...much like the person who replaces the urinal cakes. I ask the question that everyone else is afraid to ask, for fear of appearing unwith-it: “who the !!#$%!! is [celebrity]??” That way, everyone else can rest easy, assured that they are not alone in not knowing exactly who the hell these people are (not that it matters much; such is Hollywood). I haven’t quite worked out how I’ll make a profit from this, so I suppose I’ll have to do it for charity reasons for the moment.

So remember: if you ever need someone to ask an irritated, plaintive question about who the !!#$%!! a certain celeb is, look no further than me. Please have your credit card ready.

[It's especially important in recent times, as even the news banners in certain search engines -- Bing, you piece of shit -- are littered with blurbs about allegedly "famous" people I've never heard of, nor care to. Most of the subject matter deals with a particularly metastatic clan of hairy plastic surgery junkies and the labyrinthine web of their relationships, marriages, births, divorces, feuds, gender-switching, etc., etc., etc....as if I, one of the little people with problems of my own, gave a rat's furry ass about their stupid, useless lives.]

The Basics:
Equipment Store: No
Skill Settings: Yes
Map/Automap: Yes/No
Puzzle Difficulty: Eek.
General Difficulty: Ouch.
New Stuff: Indeed.
Gameplay: Undead, ghosts, ancient puzzles and eldritch crypts.

Briefing/Story?
Lord Turell, a rich collector, has hired you -- Garrett -- to get into an abandoned part of the City and retrieve four valuable talismans from a graveyard. Simple, right? Well, Turell says that a local collector, Morgan, had translated some texts concerning the talismans and there might be some sort of magical force keeping the talismans safe. So it’s probably a good idea to get those texts first, *then* you can strut into the area and put your thing down. Count on a few mean-spirited chuckles at your expense at this point.

Onward!
This is the type of FM that requires a soothsayer** to finish. Only the soothsayer can tell you that you need to conserve *this* arrow or *that* inventory item, and woe betide the player who does not heed the sooth. This is how I became irrevocably stuck in this mission, with no hope of solving one of the riddles. How? How could this be, O Fantastic Sorrow, Wonderous Partaker of Prurient Delights?

[** "Psychic" sounds better, but "soothsayer" is more interesting.]

I’ll tell you, groveling knave. It happened when I was trying to solve the riddle of one of the talismans, which required that the evil magical field surrounding it be destroyed. The hint given in the corresponding text mentioned bringing along holy water. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any holy water. Not a single drop. I suppose the holy water arrows that I picked up in the church might have helped, but I used all of those on that stinkin’ horde of zombies in the cemetery. So what do I do now??

Turn around and go home...that’s what.

It’s really sick, because I *know* from prior experience that this is a fantastic, if jaw-clenchingly difficult, mission. I’ve completed it on Expert before, and I was always able to finish. Unfortunately, two things worked against me. One: it’s been a while since I last played, so I couldn’t remember if I should reserve my holy water arrows. Two: I’m used to playing under Thief Gold, where zombies usually stay down when put down. The Dark Project is questionable in that regard, with the dumb mother[CENSORED]s hopping up right away and RRRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAAGGGGGHHHH!!!!

Excuse me, I have to go get an ice pack before I can continue.

Oh, yes. That’s much better. As I was saying, you need an abnormal amount of otherworldy prescience before doing anything in this mission. Consult the invisible beings from out of Time and Space before you do something so crass as using your holy water arrows on zombies or Haunts.

Bottom line: the means of solving puzzles should not rely on precognitive powers; the tools required should be either close by or their preservation made clear. Now, I hold myself partly to blame for my dilemma...I should have remembered, and I should have paid attention to the text. Example: “Note To Self: whenever reading a text that says I need holy water, always try to heed that text.”

But what about the first-time player? Should he or she be held responsible for not know what the future holds? As this mission was released, I believe the author’s answer is a resounding “yes.”

Which leaves us up crotch creek. I don’t know about you, but I failed mind-reading in high school. But this impertinent white-hot poker in the player’s ass aside, the mission is actually pretty good. Just remember that before you play, heed my advice...are you ready for this? I’ll make it absolutely clear: KEEP ONE HOLY WATER ARROW IN RESERVE! Got it? Good. now, on to the mission.

So you clamber through a hole in the wall and find yourself in a really dead part of town. Metaphysically, that is...the things that aren’t supposed to be moving around ARE moving around, and you’re slumped in a corner having a super freak-out. So much for that whole “afterlife in the clouds” jazz. Making your way to the collector’s place -- past the various threatening and non-threatening ...things -- you’ll find purpose for your visit. The prologue to the meat of the mission is a little collecting trip, wherein you will need to gather a few hidden scrolls (which tell how to get past certain hazards in the tombs), get some equipment together (remember: KEEP ONE HOLY WATER ARROW IN RESERVE!), and perform several other menial tasks.

Of course, this is all leading up to the moment where you descend into some ancient tombs for...hell, I don’t know. Oh, wait! Talismans. That’s it. You’re looking for talismans. Each talisman is in the tomb of an ancient...what, king? Wizard? Anyway, each one poses a unique challenge; one entails braving a pit full of Haunts who won’t harm you until you try to get out or take the talisman...and so on. There are four talismans and as many challenges to accompany them, and it isn’t easy at all.

Which is to say that it isn’t a painful journey by any means; sure, I found this mission to be frustrating and futile when I was a Thief baby. But now I’m a Thief man (da-da da-dum!), way past twenty-one. Oh, chile.

[Muddy Waters. "Mannish Boy."]

Um...what I was trying to point out is that advanced players won’t have so many problems as the newbie, but it still poses something of a challenge. There are also a few AI tweaks that will help anyone out, regardless of skill...for example, the Haunts in the church. I was able to kill all four of them -- while taking care, of course -- with nary a flicker of interest amongst them. Hooray for cold indifference!

Zombies being zombies, however...they’re still a pain in the ass.

I mentioned two types of dead people earlier: what you have is the evil dead -- the dead people who want to kill you and suck the marrow out of your shinbones, turning you into an undead version of Gary Coleman (rather, Gary Coleman’s career)** -- and the good dead, who hang out in the bar and get plastered...however that works. You’ll have to deal with the former and can ignore the latter, if that’s what you wish.

[** "Whatchu talkin' 'bout, asshole?"]

However, there are a couple of freakish problems with the AI that are a little puzzling. First example: the ghost who patrols the second floor of the weapons shop...is he a bad guy? Because sometimes he ignores me when I enter, but other times he attacks me. Another is the Haunt patrolling inside the local inn...hotel...whatever. I think he has eyes in the back of his head, because it’s very hard to sneak up on him sometimes. Thirdly, the ghost who wanders around in the church library (second floor): he’s supposed to open a secret panel with some valuable items inside, but you have to bash on the panel and get his attention, ‘cause he’ll just ignore you otherwise. Strange stuff.

Perhaps you think that all of this nitpicking translates into a despicable FM; nothing could be further from the truth! This is a highly enjoyable mission, chock-full of atmosphere and fun...if you can ignore the minor problems, you’re sure to enjoy yourself. I’m feeling...better...about myself. Maybe I should try this optimism thing some more?

[Naaaaaaaaaaah.]

As for the architecture, thumbs up. The town isn’t convoluted by any means, but locations are placed well; the patrolling AI are nicely placed as well, with simple patrol routes, without any of that godawful clumping up you get in some FMs featuring complex patrol routes. The tombs of the ancients are impressive (as they should be), and the puzzles are devious enough to cause one to break out in a sweat, but not hard enough to warrant e-mailing the author a picture of yourself torturing flamingoes with a flamethrower as a desperate cry for help.

Finally, KEEP ONE HOLY WATER ARROW IN RESERVE!

Summary?
Tough but fun. One of the classics.

Rating?
4.5 out of 5

Annoyance Rating:
5 out of 10. [Miscellaneous.]

My Level Stats:
Normal Skill
Loot:
KO’s:
Kills:

Hard Skill
Loot:
KO’s:
Kills:

Expert Skill
Loot:
KO’s:
Kills:

[That section was blank, of course; this was one of the "mostly finished" reviews, after all. I used to play these things on all three settings. I can't imagine doing that sort of thing now.]

[...next...]
Title: T1/G 010: Mages Area
Post by: Silver Sorrow on December 22, 2019, 03:03:13 PM
[One of the mostly-finished reviews that clutter up my archives.]


T1/G: The Mages Area

Game: Thief: TDP/Gold
Title: The Mages Area (v1.1, easy version)
Author: Mad God
E-mail: N/A
Homepage: N/A
Filename: magesarea_e.zip
Filesize: 3.39mb
Download:
the "Easy" version at Cheap Thief Missions (http://thiefmissions.com/info.cgi?m=magesarea_e)
the "Regular" (hard) version at CTM (http://thiefmissions.com/info.cgi?m=magearea)
the French version at CTM (http://thiefmissions.com/info.cgi?m=LAntredesMages)
Walkthrough: at ttlg.com (http://www.ttlg.com/downloads/thief/missions/magearea/magearea-walk.asp)
Score: 3.75 / 5.00

Note: I use custom recolors -- my own -- for Garrett’s arms and weapons, as well as the visibility gem. The rest of what you see is what you get. Except for the Haunt. He’s mine.

[This again?]

Note #2: There is a French-translation version available, but I think it deals with the regular (hard) version instead of the easy version, which I am reviewing here.

Abstract:
[None. It wasn't entirely finished, thus...no Abstract.]

The Basics:
Equipment Store: No
Skill Settings: Yes; Normal, Expert, Impossible
Map/Automap: Yes/Yes
Puzzle Difficulty: Argh.
General Difficulty: Hard
New Stuff: Yup
Gameplay: Undead; puzzles.

Briefing/Story?
Your friend Switcher has lost contact with his son, Mike, who is a member of the Mages’ Guild. So he wants you to go to their...I don’t know, compound? Condominium?...and find Mike. In addition for promising to pay you well for your efforts, Switcher also mentioned a couple of valuable artifacts in the area...which might bring in some added income. So with a hearty “HI-HO SILVER, GET AWAAAAAAAY!” you spring into action and almost fall down a deep, dark hole. Idiot.

Onward!
This review deals with the “easy” version of The Mages Area. Why? 1) I firmly believe that backstabbing a Haunt should kill them (again) and NOT merely piss them off, and 2) see #1. Among other equally-horrible things, the original version made the Haunts invincible, so you had to sneak past them. I refuse to do such a thing, so I was content to leave this mission unfinished. I don’t know what caused the author to release his so-called “easy” version (which it isn’t, not by a long shot), but at least the Haunts can be killed.

A part of my reviewing older missions -- besides putting the spotlight on some great maps -- is in the nostalgia factor. You look at X made for Thief X, and you think, hey! Remember such-and-such mission? Wasn’t that great?

Well, nostalgia sucks. I remember that “The Mages Area” was something of an ordeal, but nothing I can’t handle now, right? Sure, right. Of course. With this in mind...well, let’s just say that I put the link to the walkthrough up there for a reason.* This mission so ding-dang nonintuitive that I hereby enshrine it in the Mindbender Hall of Fame.
[* In case that link doesn’t work, look to “Wt.txt” in the zip file for the complete, detailed walkthrough. By the way, if you can’t understand the wizard Mike’s lines (about halfway through the mission), refer to “Phrases.txt,” which is also in the zip.]

Add to this the hidden switches, strange puzzles and actual combat, and what you have here is a prime cause of high blood pressure amongst Thief players. I had decided to play on Impossible (aptly named, that), and I figured that’d it’d be a quick run-through of the mission and I could simply refresh myself on the salient points. But as I was standing in a room inhabited by a VERY angry Haunt with a flaming head (which perhaps explains his disposition), I could swear that I’d never been in this room before.

And I hadn’t. Until this review, I had never played this mission on the highest setting. Why? I have no idea...but how hard could it be, right? Indeed: I had to refer to the walkthrough in the aforementioned room, and I was not the least bit happy about it. Also of note was the curiously detailed loot requirement: 2,200 loot...but that entails 1,000 in gold, 700 in gems, and 500 in goods. I’ve seen this in other FMs (the author’s “Events in Highrock,” for example), but it never ceases to irritate me. But never fear, as the loot isn’t too difficult to find.

It’s hard to disassociate the architecture for reasons of scrutiny, as it’s intertwined with the difficulty of the mission itself; it works against you in many cases. A room with water for a ceiling may be quite aesthetic, but it certainly means -- in this mission -- that you’ll probably have to swim through that ceiling lake at some point.** A room full of pillars and pressure plates? Oh, noooooooo...
[** For an example of swimming in water that is located in places where it shouldn’t be, at least according to the laws of physics, see the waterway segment of the final Thief mission, “The Maw of Chaos”.]

The thing is, you’ll pick up clues along the way, and it’s important to either file them away or -- if you’re like me -- write them down for later reference. As for the room with the flaming Haunt I mentioned earlier (I call him “Mr. Gumb”**), the clue for solving the puzzle is...well, nonexistent. One readable gives a hint as to the location where one might find the entrance to the puzzle, but once you get there, what then? What do I do??

[** Reference: Silence Of The Lambs, I guess?]

The answer’s in the walkthrough, and I wouldn’t blame you one bit if you were to refer to it liberally.

Okay, okay, enough. The architecture is well done, with some imaginative areas. I especially liked the massive spiral staircase in one section, and the library was interesting as well (even though it was one of the toughest [CENSORED]ing places in the entire mission...*three* Apparitions??); the Hall of Titans (pillars) was appropriately pillaristic, the mazey corridors with the zombies was nice, and the Word Test area was Last Crusade-ish in its particularity. The bordello, however, featuring women of easy virtue from seventeen distinct cultures, was sadly nonexistent.

[Most people spend their lives trying to find out who they are. I've spent mine trying to find out what the hell is wrong with me.]

So we’re looking at some good visuals and good flow. The puzzles, though...okay, look: the puzzles are just fine. If you take the mission logically and try not to lose your sense of purpose, you should be okay. You can’t even get lost, really, because this place isn’t *that* big. The problem is one of figuring out what to do next, and how to do it. It doesn’t help that your equipment is severely limited, but I maintain that it *is* possible to win this thing.

Take the library: Upon entering (on Impossible), you’ll face the problem of two Apparitions downstairs and one upstairs with a Haunt. If you cause a commotion, the Haunt will zero in on your position in no time. I caused that commotion merely by taking one step on a tile floor. “Hooooooooooooooooooooooooooo,” he said, then started seaching for me. That rotten...

I managed, but it wasn’t easy. Fortunately, the author gifted me with a lavish supply of flashbomb...I used it on the Haunt, and then hacked him to re-death. Sadly, with my exceedingly generous ration of flashbomb depleted, I then had to work over one of the Apparitions with the sword while using him as a shield against the other Apparition...then I had to deal with the THIRD Apparition, who saw me from his position upstairs and was hurling ethereal skulls at me, and I was shouting things that would get me excommunicated from every single church in the land, Christian or otherwise.

And then I went to the High Library and had to deal with a Haunt and marble floors...I must’ve reloaded six times before I could sneak up on him. I was aided, of course, by one of my four moss arrows...two of which I had used at the very beginning of the mission so as to grab a sword off a table to use on a patrolling Haunt. Yeah, that’s right: in addition to very little equipment, you start off without a sword.

Now, you all know I’m an idiot. That’s not in dispute. However, I’m not stupid enough to go into an unknown place with Builder-knows-what stalking the corridors without some sort of arsenal (actually, I wouldn’t bother going in the first place)...and I know Garrett’s not stupid, either, so I imagine he’d have at least a sword.*** But no, I have to grab one from a table by which a Haunt is patrolling. Help me.
[*** This brings up a question that’s been nagging me for a while: since Garrett had spied Haunts and other undead through the narrow window of the Haunted Cathedral (in the original Thief mission, natch), why didn’t he try to get more fire arrows before coming back? There’s a fine line between stylistic thievery and complete stupidity, or so I imagine.]

There were other gameplay problems which caused me to glare at my monitor with utter hatred, but I won’t go into those. Okay, I *will* mention the area where I had to hop from wall-hugging ledge to wall-hugging ledge above a pool of lava to get a lever/key thing. Of course, the lever was in a tiny niche guarded by a big green spider, and I simply couldn’t hop down and grab the lever because the big SOB would have me for lunch; to get back up to a place level with the ledges, I’d have to painfully crawl my way up a steep slope inside the niche and jump across to the ledges. So I had to situate myself where I could snipe the dumbass spider from a long way off. And no matter what I did or how many times I reloaded (too many to mention here), I always missed it with my first shot. It was a bad angle.

Anyway, I finally killed it AND its midget buddy nearby...but let this be a lesson to you FM authors out there: if you ever do this in your missions, I’ll kill you too. Thank you.

I had other spider problems in this mission, but those aren’t worth the effort of typing. Some people might hate the Word Test I mentioned even more than the spiders. Essentially, the Word Test is a skill-jumping puzzle...remember “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”? When Indy was trying to spell out “Jehovah” on floor tiles? Well, this is a lot bigger (the size of the tiles, I mean), with far less sympathy for short-jumpers. One mistake and it’s into the lava pool! I’m just glad the Word (which you’ll find out after completing a couple of tasks) is fairly short, otherwise it might have been a completely different experience:

Indy: [recovering from a near-plunge] “Idiot! In English, ‘antidisestablishmentarianism’ starts with an ‘a’!!”

It doesn’t help that sometimes the door on the other side of the Test doesn’t open, for some reason. Going back and forth several times might help, as might reloading. Oh, and btw: there’s a panel on the right side of the room -- accessible by secret lever -- which will give you the key to the symbols on the Test. You’re welcome.

So let’s recap: nice visuals, (potentially) nasty puzzles, enforced combat in places, sadistic traps, and enough irritation to cause desk-induced skull injuries in hapless reviewers.

But let me clarify this one point before (gladly) moving on to another FM: an easier skill level has many of the good puzzle-y elements without forcing you to brave the hard ones. It remains a very good mission if you can overlook the major annoyances kicking you in the face. However, I am a living example that the Impossible skill is possible indeed, and Haunts are, in fact, Good Eats. No! I mean...um...hell, never mind. Hey, do you think Alton Brown would sue me for that?

[No. Anyway, reference: "Good Eats," Alton Brown's show on Food Network.]

Summary?
Ouch. My health shields. Ouch. My de-puzzler lobe. Ouch.

Rating?
3.75 out of 5.

Annoyance Rating:
Skyrockets red glare...

My Level Stats:
Skill: Impossible (Expert)
Loot: 2627/2852
KO’s: 0
Kills: 34

[...next...]
Title: T1/G 011: The Secret Way
Post by: Silver Sorrow on December 22, 2019, 07:12:07 PM
[I'm not sure why I never submitted this one. Anyway, this is the last of my *completed* T1/G reviews.]


T1/G: The Secret Way

Game: T:TDP/Gold
Title: The Secret Way
Author: David Webb (Hengist)
E-mail: N/A
Homepage: N/A
Filename: SecretWay.zip
Filesize: 20,009k
Download: Cheap Thief Missions (https://thiefmissions.com/m/SecretWay#m)

Note: [Custom stuff and screenshots notation DELETED.]

Abstract:
I admit, missions where I’m seen as yet another citizen by the town guards make me a little nervous. Thanks to the usual story in the FPS genre -- Thief included -- I’m far more used to being chased down and pelted with any manner of projectile, bladed weapon, blunt object, emanation of the Force, etc., which makes me something of a wary, paranoid player. And again, thanks to these games, that’s spread into Real Life, where I’ve been known to question people’s motives for every little thing. “What exactly is she up to,” I ask myself, eyes narrowed in suspicion, “why is she being so friendly?” Then I have to make a serious effort to snap out of it, since by society’s standards, it’s considered good manners for a Denny’s waitress to be friendly.

Although in this day and age, it’s far more common to be sneered at by the waitress -- who has no real reason to be scornful of anyone; after all, she works at Denny’s -- and suffer the abuse that only a condescending waitress can deliver. “Here’s your Grand Slam with extra bacon,” she says, smirking in a curious mixture of nihilistic bitterness and a grim, yet sardonic glee at your cow-like appreciation at receiving your order. She rolls her eyes tiredly and sighs, rather theatrically, as you request a refill of the syrup thingy. She saunters off, never to be seen again. Your coffee’s refilled by a relentlessly smiling illegal who cannot seem to grasp the concept of “decaf”, and consequently insists on refilling your mug with high-octane Millstone, usually when you have too much food in your mouth to protest. Someone else delivers the check, in the end. The cashier glares at you with barely concealed hatred.

The rest of the day is no better, as you take guff from a decidedly humorless young Asian woman at the bank, who handles both your attempts at gentle humor and your request for check replacements with a level of contempt usually best reserved for the most vile example of rotting, maggot-ridden rodent. Things get worse with a trip to Wal-Mart, as an overtly Pentacostal Holiness devotee snarls at your choice of clothing as you peruse the DVDs for something not starring the Olsen twins, who you avoid mostly because the jailbait duo make you feel somewhat...well, you know...and you just don't want to deal with those feelings right now.

Okay, I’ve completely wandered off my original point here...which is business as usual. Read on.

[Obviously, things have not improved out there. That's why I remain indoors at all times.]

The Basics:
Equipment Store: No
Skill Settings: Yes; Taffer, Cut-Purse, Thief
Map/Automap: Yes/No
Puzzle Difficulty: Very low.
General Difficulty: Guard-iffic.
R_speeds: Reasonable.
New Stuff: Believe it, pinkboy.
Gameplay: Live AI, a couple undead; town exploration-fu/mansion infiltration-fu/temple desecration-fu.

[fu slipped through. Kill fu. Kill fu dead.]

Briefing/Story?
One of your disreputable acquaintances, Holman, got his dumb ass busted by the City Watch and now he’s a guest of the City. There are rumors about some sort of “secret way” connecting the Hammer Cloister and Lord Binford’s manor; Holman filched a cloister key somehow and was poking around when the long arm of the law gave him a biff up the hooter and landed him in the crowbar motel. Your mission, should you choose to install it, is to get to the lock-up and find out what Holman knows. Who knows? Maybe there is something to the rumors.

[It's not often I get to combine an Asterix reference ("biff up the hooter") and film noir-style jargon into one paragraph.]

Onward!
Ah! A town mission...one of my favorite types of mission, besides the looting of corrupted Haunt-infested cathedrals. Starting out in an alley, it’s soon clear that you’re not wanted by the cops for something, as the guards just let you go about your business. As I stated somewhere in the Abstract (just TRY to find it!), this puts me on edge, somewhat. However, if you don’t do anything overtly criminal (or pull out your weapons), they’ll leave you alone...which I managed to spoil within five minutes of starting the mission. It’s a gift.

Anyway, you’re given free reign to wander about the town and loot the place silly, which I did before even going anywhere near the lock-up. My usual method of play -- blackjack anything that moves -- probably won’t get me invited back to this part of town, but it makes me feel better about myself, and more fulfilled as a person. Feeeeeeeeelings...whoa whoa whoa feeeeeeeeeelings...

So what is this mission, exactly? Well, it’s a number of things: a town-crawl, a mansion-rob, a prison-spring, a temple-trespass...all rolled up into one good-looking map. The architecture is decidedly Thief-like (as opposed to being decidedly non-Thief-like), and well done. I didn’t find any glitches or texture problems worth mentioning, so it would appear that things are in order. Yeah, okay.

I was kind of put off at first by the author’s use of custom AI -- the guards have really tiny faces -- but I’ve seen these models before in other FMs, so I got used to them. Also, there is new voice-acting to be heard, although most of it is at the audio level which rests somewhere between “somewhat audible” and “ear-strain”. Ah, the smell of DIY. Holman’s voice, on the other hand, was appropriate.

What amused me (on normal skill) was that after I had opened Holman’s cell, I was given two new objectives, one of which was to steal Lord Binford’s prized Jar of Callum. For some reason, I immediately associated the Jar of Callum with a type of hand lotion, or natural skin emollient. I had an unsettling vision of a noble taunting a servant at the bottom of a well, and in an oddly-pitched voice telling her, “it rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again”. Thoroughly off my feed, I forgot to be irked by the seeming illogic of stealing someone’s Jar after simply freeing an associate from the hoosegow. Perhaps it’s really a Lid, and Garrett just wants it so he can get high in the Hammer temple. Whatever the case, I headed off to Binford’s mansion (which is really the summer home of Steven “Steverino” Binford, the last surviving heir of Waldo “Crazy Cock” Binford, founder of Binford Tools).

[I wonder sometimes if *I* was high while writing these.]

Now, at this point, I had completely forgotten about the name of the mission and my ultimate goal, “The Secret Way”. Essentially, I was to find if there was a secret way into Binford’s hidden in the Hammer temple cloister, but thanks to the fact the sun is a mile from my window, it made it a little hard to grasp the intricacies of the plot. So make sure you understand the storyline kids and learn from my example: never try to comprehend anything more demanding than a Ziggy comic on a hot, miserable day.

With my thoroughly-roasted peanut mind confused as to my motives, I went over Binford’s wall. Let’s hear it for doing things the hard way, huh? On my expert skill replay (which lends nothing to my actual skills, beyond its name), I took a somewhat different approach -- that is, I went to the Hammerite temple first instead of Binford’s -- so things turned out the way the author intended.

It comes as no surprise to anyone who knows me that when I got to the Hammer temple, I amused myself by doing a naughty little dance in front of the grim-faced Hammers:

[saunter left] Zigga-zigga jigga boom! [pelvic thrust] Whoop! Whoop! [saunter right] Ba-da zigga-doo-zoom! [high kick] [et cetera]

They didn’t do anything to me -- sheer horror on their part paralyzed them, obviously -- but I’m sure that the next guy who tries the same stunt will get a sledgehammer up the ol’ wazoo. Inside the temple, I made a bunch of converts to the religion of Nap Time.

No matter what path I took, Binford’s proved to be something of a technical nightmare once I got inside. As much as I like using the blackjack, it became downright ridiculous. Binford had apparently hired every guard *ever* to watch his stuff. I got a little exasperated at one point, asking myself “how many !!#$%!! guards do you *need*??” But I got over it; I am nothing if not inured to guard-oriented adversity. Thankfully, killing guards wasn’t a no-no on expert, so I put a few arrows through a few necks, just because I could. And also because I kept running into the bastards unintentionally.

So that’s where my twisted little narrative ends and your adventure begins: download it -- while you wait, take the opportunity to roof your house, or read one of the Great American Novels squeezed out of Our National Alimentary Canal during the late 19th century -- and then play it. You’ll like it, probably.

Summary? A town map with a mansion to rob, as well as a minor Hammerite enigma to look at and go “huh” before moving on. In all, a good-looking map with very few errors.

Annoyance Rating: 1 out of 10. [Nothing definite...maybe it was just me.]

Level Stats:
Normal Skill
Loot: 3185/3610
KO’s: 44
Kills: 10

Hard Skill
[not played]

Expert Skill
[not played]

[...and that's it for my T1/G reviews. Next up: the T2 reviews.]
Title: T2 001: The Inverted Manse
Post by: Silver Sorrow on December 23, 2019, 09:53:14 AM
T2: The Inverted Manse

Game: Thief 2
Title: The Inverted Manse
Author: David “Sledge” Riegel
E-mail: N/A
Homepage: N/A
Filename: invman.zip
Filesize: 20.8mb
Download: Cheap Thief Missions (https://thiefmissions.com/m/invman#m)

Note: [Useless screenshot note.]

Note #2: [Another useless screenshot note.]

Note #3: I encourage you to play the author’s “Cult of the Resurrection” first (for Thief 1), as it’s the first part of this story. But if you can’t, there’s an explanation in the readme to get you up to speed. Otherwise, I’ll try not to give too much away. Or provide any useful information whatsoever. You’re welcome.

[The Cult Of The Resurrection review is right here (https://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2818.msg15587#msg15587).]


Abstract:
Word(s) Of The Moment: “inverted” and “manse”

inverted: a., changed to a contrary or counterchanged order; reversed; characterized by inversion.

manse: n., 1. A large and imposing house [syn: mansion, mansion house, hall, residence] 2. The residence of a clergyman (especially a Presbyterian clergyman)


Put the two together, mix with the mission’s storyline, and what you have is the evil residence of the enemies of the Builder.

Usage: “Slogan On A T-Shirt: My parents went into the Inverted Manse and all I got was this lousy t-shirt made of human skin.”

Misusage: “Oops...I inverted again. It’s so hard to be a manse man sometimes.”

[rim shot]

[Whenever I'm asked about what I listen to when writing Abstracts, I tell the truth: weeping and gnashing of teeth, of course.]

The Basics:
Equipment Store: Yes.
Skill Settings: Cutpurse, Rogue, Warrior
Map/Automap: Yes/Yes
Puzzle Difficulty: It depends on the skill you choose.
General Difficulty: Not too bad; if you can handle Haunts and zombies, you’ll be fine.
Briefing/Ending Movie: Yes/Yes
Other New Stuff: You bet your sweet ass.
R_speeds: Good
Gameplay: Undead; haunted factory-fu/holy sword-fu/zombie-fu/Haunt-fu/horrors of the ages-fu/mystical gems-fu/puzzle-fu

[Stop the fu.]

Briefing/Story?
After stealing the Spirit Stone in “Cult of the Resurrection,” [reviewed HERE (https://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2818.msg15587#msg15587)] Garrett’s determined to find out what it is all about. After midnight, he’s going to let it all hang out, needless to say.* The Hammers want it so they can exploit it to kick some Mechanist boo-tay, and the Keepers want it so they can...well, you really don’t know what they want it for, exactly, but you’re sure it involves something deviant and shameful. You’re never too sure about those Keepers. Anyway, Garrett decides to keep it for himself for awhile, until he finds out just what the big flippin’ deal is. So...after some exhaustive research (the eye strain from staring at Precursor-era microfiche was just unbelievable), he finds out that while laying the foundations of a power/smelting facility on the outskirts of the City, the Hammers stumbled upon a series of subterranean tunnels; a search party found an ancient, underground Pagan church in which rested the Spirit Stone.
[* I’m so very sorry.]**

[** Reference: Clapton's "After Midnight." And I actually wasn't sorry. Not in the slightest. I am now, but it doesn't matter anymore.]

What a surprise -- to anyone who has never seen a horror movie -- that only two members of the party returned, stark raving goofy, carrying the Spirit Stone and a bunch of really groovy tales of scary shit that would turn your honky ass bone-white. Undead, dark magic, forgotten gods, Adam Sandler fans...it was clear that something just wasn’t right in that place. [And an Angel Of Inspired Obviousness sweeps down from Heaven and drops an anvil on Silver’s sconce.] They also claimed the Spirit Stone had something to do with the undead problem,** so the Hammers girded up their loins...then they ungirded them and then re-girded them, because you don’t have a lot of opportunity for the happy frivolities in the Hammerite order, besides spanking the bare bottoms of somewhat unwilling novices. Anyway, the idea was to go down there, goosh the undead, grab a few goodies, then come back and gird themselves in front of each other until break of day. So they got their crap together and went down into the tunnels to put their thing down.
[** Although experts will tell you that just a tablespoon’s worth of baking soda in the southwest corner of your basement will take care of any undead problems you might have, including silverfish and deadly radon gas.]

Which ended up getting cut off and thrown into a ditch by the side of the road...they all came back as undead. A nasty battle ensued, and a bunch of people ate the Extra-Spicy Eternal Enchilada of Doom,** so the surviving Hammers declared the place unholy, sealed it off, and went on to do the same with the few struggling K-Mart stores in the region. It was just a question of maintaining a stable balance in the heretofore stagnant local economy, really. Worked like a charm. Then the Japanese opened an Acura plant*** in the area, and everybody forgot about the Spirit Stone. Or something like that. The Spirit Stone was sent to a Hammerite cathedral and subsequently stolen by the Cult of the Resurrection, and then stolen by Garrett.

[** Rework: "...the Extra-Spicy Enchilada of Doom."]

[*** That should be "...a Nissan plant."]

So Garrett, thinking with his money pouch (which his slouch will wear slung very low***), decides to get into the deserted factory, get down into the tunnels and find some answers, not to mention pilfering all the potential glittery valuable things just laying around, waiting for an enterprising individual to come along and scoop them up for distribution to the homeless and special charities.
[*** Special thanks to “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway”.]**

[** That's the Genesis album, btw; specifically, "The Colony Of Slippermen." I shouldn't have named the source material. Yet another "HEY LOOK I'M REFERRING TO THINGS VERY FEW PEOPLE KNOW/CARE ABOUT BECAUSE I'M TEH SMART!" thing. Jesus.]

Naaaaaah. Just kidding. Garrett’s just going to take that loot and buy more EXTRA LOUD boots. So he grabs the sword of Saint Edgar, which is still bloody from his dealings with The Resurrection (if this is how he treats his tools, then I’m never lending him my leaf-blower), and takes off for the abandoned factory. But first he stops for a pee break, because he gets the feeling that having a full bladder in that place really won’t help his confidence a whole lot.

[Cripes. Here I was on autopilot formatting this thing, thinking I was almost done, but then I realized that I hadn't even gotten to the review itself yet.]

Onward!

Backstory is key. This is made clear by the presence of Laz’ excellent .avi briefings. So sit back and watch. And when it (the mission, I mean) is all over, a final .avi leaves the door open for a sequel.

Okay. This one picks up directly from where Cult of the Resurrection left off. Huh...you thought THAT one was creepy? Grab your socks and read on, Joel Robinson!

[These MST3K references may tiresome, but at least they aren't South Park references.]

What you will face is the undead. I’m not talking about those guys who hang around Wal-Mart handing out carts, but the actual unliving, unbreathing undead. Well, sorta...some of them sound like they’re suffering from severe bronchitis, but nobody ever said that being a reanimated corpse was going to be easy. The point I’m trying to make here is that you will encounter nothing in the way of living, breathing, bleeding, cursing humans whatsoever (unless you start on “Warrior” difficulty and somehow find a way down to that town below without breaking your neck); in fact, your old friends are back: that’s right, the Haunts.

I love Haunts. I don’t know why, but I do. They’re the scariest monsters in any game I’ve played so far (and I include the Barney Doom thing in that statement), and you’ll see a LOT of them. In addition to them are -- yes -- the zombies. They’re everywhere, too. And you’ll meet some interesting variations on the standard zombie/Haunt/apparition formula, which you’re just going to have to see to believe. That thing with its head floating above its shoulders? Killer.

[Sadly, the pun was unintended.]

Your first decision is this: what difficulty should you play? There are three, of course: “Cutpurse,” “Rogue,” and “Warrior.” I know there’s a lot of you who play on “expert” first -- not that there’s anything wrong with that -- but I strongly recommend you start on the easiest first. Why? Because this mission is diabolically rendered so as to furnish that most illusive of concepts: replay value.

The objectives and the necessary playing styles change from difficulty to difficulty -- Cutpurse is outright looting (“thieving, stealing, exploration”), Rogue has more puzzle-oriented goals (“traps, puzzles, enigmas”), Warrior is just that (“items, backstabbing, sneaking”) -- but your health doesn’t vary with each skill. And that’s only fair. Each difficulty changes your starting point, as well as item and AI placement, the aforementioned objectives and the actual areas you can enter. As your goals change with the skills, so does your access to certain parts of the map; some areas you could enter on Cutpurse aren’t accessible on Warrior, and vice-versa. That said, none of the skills are a cakewalk; each one presents its own set of problems. However, they do represent a progression in difficulty.

Ah, but how does this help the story? Incredibly so. Garrett’s in a place crawling with myriad nasties with their unfortunate tendency to kill everything that moves...talk about overwhelming. It’s kind of like the feeling of utter hopelessness that diehard Genesis fans felt when half-heartedly calling out “The Knife!” during the “We Can’t Dance” tour.** All hope has fled, and it appears that nothing good is going to happen. Several times, Hammerite ghosts appear, doomed to reenact their urgent call-to-arms against the horror. What’s a suave, unflappable thief to do?

[** Because they didn't play their REALLY old stuff in its entirety, see? Apart from a medley of the *band's* favorite oldies -- which is a completely different animal than what the fans consider their favorites -- they rarely, if ever...you know what? Never mind. Not important.]

Garrett’s no idiot. This time around, he’s getting the best equipment his ill-gotten gains can buy. Visit the equipment store for some nasty additions to your inventory. No, find out for yourself...it’s more fun that way. I will say that the modifications and/or replacements of the standard arrows are highly useful (especially the razor arrows...get those instead of broadheads, I say!); use them well. Plus, you have the holy sword of Saint Edgar, which kills the undead...that is to say...I mean, you can’t kill something that’s dead already, I mean...ah, sugar cookies. A paradox! Reduce them to their component parts, I suppose you could say. But be warned: having a holy sword means that it shines forth with a strong, pure light...completely screwing you over in the process. Don’t whip that out (“EEEEEK!”)** until you’re sure the bastards’ backs are turned.

[** Blazing Saddles. Quite possibly the greatest movie ever made.]

Later on, you can find another holy weapon, which will also make life...er, death...for the undead unbearable as well.

I’ve played each difficulty a zillion times, for a grand total of a LOT of run-throughs. Okay, anything gets old after a record like that; you know where everything is, how to go about each task efficiently, et cetera...but that brooding atmosphere is still there. At no time was I ever completely confident that I wouldn’t have to reload at some point. Cautious creeping...and even more cautious killing. Because I am NOT going to leave some reanimated corpse -- who is an expert with a sword, by the way -- standing. It’s unnerving as it is without having to worry about that. Granted, you could quite possibly ghost this mission, but where’s the fun in that? Kill them! Kill them all! Or at least render them completely incapable of independent motion!

Dread. Doom. Gloom. An obvious lack of happiness and joy. I love it. Navigating through haunted halls, stepping gingerly over corpses, shuddering at the howls and groans of the defiled dead and the horrified exhalations of those doomed to repeat the screams that burst their throats in the extremes of their agony and despair. Right ON. I’m there, man.

[So to speak.]

I had taken to creeping around, humming to myself -- you know, “Whenever I feel afraid, I whistle a happy tune...” -- when a hand reached out of the dark and grabbed me by the throat. A voice said “Thanks! I thought I’d NEVER find you in the dark!”****
[* Emo Philips, it is a pleasure indeed to rip you off.]**

[** It is far less pleasurable, however, to cringe at my blatant stupidity, years later.]

There is no surcease to the dread you feel, until you reach the very end. With a backwards glance at the scene, Garrett probably stumbles into the bushes to throw up. I know I would. Oh, the shakes.

Right now is about the time where I would say something cogent about the architecture. Ready? It’s great. There.

To expand: it’s obvious that this place hasn’t been maintained too well...you know how Haunts are about routine maintenance. Hell, we even sent Joanne Liebler and Bob Vila down there,** but they never came back. Oh, well. Omelets, breaking eggs...you get the idea. But that’s what you get when you have the undead prowling around and desecrating things all willy-nilly: a general atmosphere of disarray. Thankfully, Garrett’s not an obsessive-compulsive neat-freak, so he can step gingerly past the rubble in his path without feeling the need to spray Windex on everything. Although, it’s amazing how a flower-fresh shine can make a haunted factory look so much better.

[** Joanne Liebler (actually, "Liebeler") and Bob Vila were hosts of the PBS series "Hometime" and "This Old House," respectively. You've most likely heard of Bob Vila before, but Joanne...probably not. Again, it doesn't really matter.]

But I digress like crazy. Everything is lit with a kind of depressed glow. Part of it is the atmosphere itself, but the lighting is excellent. Stealing down a hallway with flickering lights, thanks to the aforementioned non-repair skills of the Haunts, gives the feeling of being in a real-surreal horror flick: it’s real, and yet it feels unreal. Or is it the other way around? Contrasting to the doom-laden air of the factory and church is the crisp autumn setting...the golds, the reds, the oranges, the browns. A quaint little windmill churns away, overlooking a courtyard filled with zombies and Hammer corpses. I find that a tad disturbing.

Oddly, the factory and church themselves -- despite the obvious malfunctioning of machinery here and there -- are still lit up like Christmas (Buildermas?). Why? It seems that a diabolical intelligence is at work here...who else would be keeping the torches lit? Something along these lines is hinted at in a scroll in the church (accessible only on Cutpurse). However, it failed to consider the problem of broken water pipes, since the personal quarters are flooded. Everywhere you look is evidence of violence; rooms turned upside down, furniture flung about, doors hastily boarded shut, corpses litter the place like...like...well there was a passable simile in there, but I’ve forgotten it.

And then you get to the Manse itself. Oh, it’s a doozy. Pagan symbols, strange statues...yet a disciplined and logical layout reigns, which means that the ancient Pagans weren’t merely barefoot mumblers living in the forest. No, they were organized, and even had their own caste system, as such. Not to mention a much more unsettling view of the Trickster than we’ve run across so far.

On Rogue and Warrior, you’ll be called upon to delve into the Manse further than Cutpurse allowed. In fact, as you play each difficulty, you’ll find that the factory and church differ from skill to skill in terms of loot, the number of adversaries, available routes, etc. Such is the case with the Manse...you’ll have to solve some puzzles (Rogue) or deal with guardians (Warrior) to get some interesting sister stones to the Spirit Stone. You even get to have a conversation with a Hammer’s ghost on Warrior, and he has a rather grisly request for you, in exchange for his help.

I’ve left a lot of things unsaid -- and a few things overstated, admittedly -- but I’d like you to try it out for yourself, without hearing anything that could possibly spoil one of the best FMs ever. In short, you’ll most likely enjoy it, if you have some sort of brainwave activity (it’s amazing how many don’t)...while a cold, bony finger traces its way up your spine. Personally, I prefer an invigorating neck and shoulder massage from a Nordic goddess to the cold, bony finger treatment, but I guess you have to take what you’re given in life. A little to the left, Manny.

[I meant Manny Calavera, the protagonist of Grim Fandango.]

Finally, try to figure out the combination to the Vault (you’ll know what I mean when you see it)...there are hints, two for each difficulty, that you can figure out for yourself. The Vault’s contents are quite useful... Sledge didn’t want anyone posting the combination on the TTLG forums, and I’ll honor that here as well by requesting that no one post the answer in the Hangar forums...however, if you’re stumped, just send me an e-mail and I’ll help out.

[Do NOT send me an e-mail. I'll spoil it right here, but under spoiler code: bane There. Happy??]

Summary? Play it, you fool!

[I'm not sure if that reference was to Gandalf in the mines of Moria, or the end of Lovecraft's The Statement of Randolph Carter. I don't suppose it really matters, but...you never know.]

My Level Stats:
Cutpurse
Loot: 1054/1204 [Hmmm...better luck next time]
KO’s: 0 [nothing to KO]
Kills: 15 Haunts, 1 Apparition, 29 Zombies, 2 spiders

Rogue
Loot: 2603/2603 [All of it! Woo-hoo!]
KO’s: 0
Kills: 18 Haunts, 3 Apparitions, 30 Zombies, 2 spiders

Warrior
Loot: 1829/1904 [Hmmmph.]
KO’s: 0
Kills: 12 Haunts, 2 Apparitions, 36 Zombies, 4 spiders

[I'd like to mention the spider in the forest. Talk about memorable.]

[...next...]
Title: T2 002: TTGM: Errand Boy
Post by: Silver Sorrow on December 24, 2019, 12:16:18 AM
T2: The Trickster's Gem Mine: Errand Boy

Game: Thief 2
Title: TTGM: Errand Boy
Author: Stephen “belboz” Hindley
E-mail: N/A
Homepage: N/A
Filename: errand.zip
Filesize: 5,173k
Download: Cheap Thief Missions (http://thiefmissions.com/m/errand#m)
Rating: N/A

Note: [screenshot note]

Abstract: Bats!
People talk about how tough they had it as kids, but they never had my childhood. Me, I used to be a bat wrangler for Ozzy Osbourne...a “bat boy,” in a way. On tours, I had to break into the local zoos and steal every bat they had -- I still hate the Giant Madagascar Fruit Tree Bat** for very specific reasons -- and then cart them all to the show. After the show, I had to sweep up their still-twitching, headless bodies and dump them all into a big Tupperware container. What was disturbing was the odd night when Randy Roads would hang around and swat me on the ass repeatedly with that big polka-dot guitar of his.

[** That was the bat stolen in the movie Dragnet.]

Anyway, after gathering up all the bats, I would have to take them to the tour cook. Touring with Ozzy was a never-ending hell of bat cuisine. We had bat sandwiches, bat goulash, bat cocktail, bat roast, bat soup, Bat Suzette, bat almondine, bat cereal (“Lucky Bats,” “Cap'n Bat,” “Bat Pops,” “Bat Krispies,” “AlphaBats,” etc), bat candy, bat cookies, bat juice (with 10% real bat), bat tortillas, bat enchiladas, bat tacos, bat chimichangas, bat quesadillas, bat guacamole...
[To Be Continued!]

[I continued this Bats! thing as a weird little running gag until The Lord Ashton Series review (#016), from which I omitted the Bats! Abstract. (The reviews between #008 and #016 were never submitted/posted on the Hangar or the Foxhole, as far as I can tell.) The next two reviews were Bats!-less as well, but I resumed the inanity for #019 and finished it on #020. No more Bats! after that. Happily.]


The Basics:
Equipment Store: Yes
Skill Settings: Yes
Map/Automap: Yes/No
Puzzle Difficulty: Medium
General Difficulty: Medium-Well
R_speeds: Good
New Stuff: Some
Nude Female Cop: Yes
Gameplay: Live AI; town-fu/exploration-fu/cop-fu/Keeper-fu/Hammer-fu/hooker-fu/naked-lad-cop-in-shower-fu/bank rob-fu/difficult key puzzle-fu

[Fu me.]

Briefing/Story?
The Place: An unfamiliar part of the City
The Time: An early spring evening, about six-ish

The scene opens on a City street; Garrett is strolling along, stealing candy from babies, harrassing small children by jabbing some of them in the back of the neck with his lockpicks and giving others frogbeasts to play with (“My God! Where did Billy’s head go?!”), when he finally remembers what he was supposed to be doing: meeting with the head Keeper at the local Keeper HQ, where he will be briefed about a missing person they want found.

Executing a well-aimed kick at the backside of an unsuspecting Hammer standing beside a fountain, Garrett heads for the HQ. The Hammer, wet, spluttering and about as angry as a wet, spluttering Hammer is prone to become, climbs out of the fountain and focuses on a laughing child. Little Timmy does fifteen years in Cragscleft.

But Garrett’s never been to this part of the City, since it’s heavily-guarded. Thanks to its role as a major port, a curfew is in effect, and anyone caught out on the streets after sunset is liable to become stew meat. So he’s going to have to be a little careful in getting to the meeting with the Keeper.

Onward!

“Hmmm...I thought I spied something. It was no doubt noOOWHAWHAUGH!” Thud. That’s right, I started out next to a Hammer compound of sorts, adjunct to their bank (but I couldn’t do anything about robbing that YET). I don’t know about you idiots (no offense, idiots), but I like the Hammers...they’re so easy to rob. And I (eventually) robbed them blind, I tell ya. I kicked their ecclesiastical butts into a cocked hat and made them wear it. In other words, I KO’d every one of them and left their bodies in a neat pile. God, I’m good.

On my list of Things To Do was nothing in particular. Oh, sure, I had a loot objective and a goal to meet a Keeper in a room above some arches, but I was in no particular hurry to get there...there was so much to loot and guards and cops and others to club and generally embarrass in various ways, that I didn’t get to the Keeper for a long while. But I did enjoy the trip there. I’d like to recall a Rush lyric on the subject...there. Now, moving on.

[If you must know, they Rush lyric in question was from "Prime Mover": The point of the journey / Is not to arrive]

Or how about a bit of moving back, instead? This mission is essentially a full-bodied remake of the author’s “Garrett’s Revenge” for Thief 1. When I first played that one, I vowed the ultimate destruction of the author, because I could never fulfill the !!#$%!! loot requirement. But that’s all changed with this release, and I am currently having screenshots from his various Thief 2 missions rendered in stained glass for installment in a modest little cathedral I’m building in the backyard, right next to the Cynthia Watros-plex (“Come ride the Erin-O-Lator!”).** This version is a whole lot more fun, and with an achievable loot requirement; plus, a lot of areas that were closed off are now open, adding greatly to the experience. Some things are moved around, and the clues, hints, etc. essential to progress are a lot clearer.

[** Cynthia Watros is an actress. She played "Erin" on "Titus." I was enthralled by her, apparently.]

Now we move forward to the present. Now we move back. Move forward. Move back. Now we’re doing the Cha-Cha!** Anyway, back in the present: as I mentioned above, instead of your usual shopping list of objectives, you’re given just two to begin with (depending on difficulty); fairly straightforward goals with the assumption that you’ll be given more once you meet with the Keeper. If this weren’t the case, you could just speedrun this thing (relatively speaking, since Garrett runs about as fast as a sloth with no legs and serious cranial trauma) and be done within minutes. So here’s to making your stay worthwhile. Along the way, poking around the various buildings and residences will yield some optional and not-so-optional objectives. And that’s what makes this mission so charming: instead of a set of rigidly-defined objectives that you HAVE to complete in a certain order, you’re given the blessedly flexible option of making it happen your way.

[** Real Genius.]

And that I did. I put everyone in town (besides the Keepers) to sleep with visions of stars and planets dancing in their bruised little skulls. Now, I make it a point to avoid killing the human AI -- as long as you can evade them and hide, it’s always possible to KO them when they’re looking around. No need to kill them...unless they piss me off. (You wouldn’t believe how often that happens. I especially like throwing people in canals.) ANYWAY, the reason I bring this up is because you should keep my playing style in mind so as not to think that you must play like me: KO everything that moves unless they’re friendlies, kill every burrick, hell-beast, bot, what have you, but at least try to avoid killing humans. And speaking of things that come from Hell, you’ll find a few spiders here and there, so you arachnophobes will find something to screech about. I don’t blame you one bit.
 
As with most Thief missions of good quality, there’s a sinister undercurrent to the quaint atmosphere of the sleepy city streets at night. You know there’s always going to be some knuckle-knob screwing around in the Builder’s domain, but this time you’ll benefit nicely from it, should you figure it out. No hints from me.

There are several things to work out if you want to get into certain areas, or acquire certain items; for instance, getting into the Hammers’ bank vault involves a curious quest to find some keys, PIN numbers, etc...and it isn’t easy to find them. Hooray! After getting to the Keeper, you’ll receive an additional goal or two...yes, even more to do. I’m very happy at this point. My life is bleak and dull, without texture, joy, love or light. Please feel sorry for me. Thank you.

The first-time player would do well to head for the arches first (either avoiding or disposing of the cops along the way, needless to say), read the scroll, grab the key to your room at the Inn (you’ll find useful equipment there), read the notes in the Keeper library to find out what the deal is with the missing guy they want found, and go on from there.

An important side note: for those of you who like playing on Expert, you’ll find that you are prohibited from knocking out cops (you know, the guys in the blue uniforms?) or backstabbing them. However, if one attacks you first, you may defend yourself. This is why I didn’t play on Expert, simply because I have very little patience for non-KO restrictions. I’ll follow my own curious moral code, thank you.

As for immersion, good attention is paid to details via books, diaries, journals, etc; they add depth to the proceedings, giving the impression of a living city district. Read everything legible -- most things are informative, some are hilarious.

The architecture is very city-like; that is, I didn’t feel as if I wasn’t in a part of The City. Take that as a strong compliment. From the buildings accessible only via a rope arrow in an overhanging beam to the surreptitious picking of a lock,* it’s entirely believable and appropriate to the Thief 2 universe (such as it is). Looting places, of course, is the only way you’re going to fulfill the loot requirement, so you might as well sit back and enjoy it. I did, and I lived to tell the tale. Or maybe I’m writing this from Beyond! Woooooo!
[* Needless to say, if they find you in the street picking the grocery store’s locks, they’re gonna send you back to mother in a cardboard box.]**

[** You'd better run. *sigh* Pink Floyd. "Run."]

Naaaaaaah.

So what’s left to tell? Bugs? Didn’t really find any of serious note (very minor ones -- sound glitches, etc.). Streets? Narrow, kind of dark, a few cops patrolling, otherwise quiet. Buildings? Tons of them. You get to visit the grocer’s, a weaponsmith’s shop, a Tinker** and so on, so you should have your hands full just breaking and entering. Hammers? A few, mingled with a couple of Mechanists (read the notes in the Keeper library for the reason why).  Puzzles? You bet. Esoteric things that may take a little skull sweat to figure out? Sure. Keepers? They’re there, too. A talented electric bear on a unicycle? Y--oh, ha HA. Funny. Anyway, play it. It’s one of the better missions released for Thief 2, and a lot of fun.
[* Insert your own Time Of Their Lives reference here. Odd’s bodkins and copper pots!]**

[** Time Of Their Lives is an Abbot & Costello movie, one of their best. I saw that movie repeatedly when I was a kid, sometimes even against my will.]

I would like to mention the nude lady cop taking a shower, and also the presence of a brothel. Truly, life is grand.

Funny Thief Moment, #808,420:
I opened the front doors of the bank; at the same time, the combat bot on guard spun around and saw me. He backed up in surprise while I beat cheeks back to the outside arch. He followed me out, and I used the wall to my advantage -- he blew himself up with his own bombs -- and I waited for a couple of Hammers to wander outside to look for me, since it was a hellacious racket. One Hammer walks out, looks around, then says “I suspect there’s someone in the building!” No shinola, Sherlock...

Summary?
City streets with plenty of places to rob and people to club; a ritual to perform if you want a nice new weapon, and plenty of spiders to kill. Sets you up nicely for the next installment, “Shore Leave” and “Up Shit Creek”.

Annoyance Rating: Low, but that’s because I’ve played it quite a few times and know where everything is.

My Level Stats:
Skill: Hard
Loot: 5935/6210
KO’s: 44
Kills: 16

[This mission was the first of many. You can find the rest listed on this page at Cheap Thief Missions (http://thiefmissions.com/search.cgi?search=%2bseries=Trickster%27s%20Gem%20Mine).]
Title: T2 003: Saturio Returns Home
Post by: Silver Sorrow on December 26, 2019, 02:01:07 AM
T2: Saturio Returns Home

Game: Thief 2
Title: Saturio Returns Home
Author: Robin G. (Roberto García)
E-mail: N/A
Homepage: N/A
Filename: saturio.zip
Filesize: 5.1mb
Download: Cheap Thief Missions (https://thiefmissions.com/m/saturio#m)

Note: I use my own custom recolored skins for Thief 2, but the AI models (besides the Haunt) in the screens belong to this mission.

[And that's a "no" on the screenshots.]

Abstract:
[Bats! Part 2]
... bat con carne, bat alfredo, bat al fresco, bat in a distinctive sauce, lemon-pepper bat, bat casserole, bat nachos grande, bat pie, bat yogurt, bat ice cream, rum and bat, mango bat, bat juleps, whisky sours with extra bat, martinis that were shaken and not stirred but with plenty of bat, bat fruitcake, bat pudding, pepperoni pizza with double bat, chipped bat on toast, Bat Brulee, cheez ‘n’ crackers ‘n’ bat, bat cake with bat icing, bat chops, bat rump roast, bat ‘n’ chips, batburgers, bat ‘n’ bacon batburgers, roast bat sandwiches, bat gumbo, “bat”balaya, hushbatties, bat strips, ham ‘n’ bat on rye, bat water, bat Kool-Aid, cherry bat soda, bat ‘n’ tabouli, Pop-Bats, granola bars with 87% bat, bat burritos con guano del batto, a Bat Mac with special bat sauce, bat dogs Chicago style, bat jelly, bat jam, bat marmalade, bat cocktail, batcorn, Oolong bat, zucchini wrapped in bat wings, barbecue bat, bat calzone, teriyaki bat, bat-fried rice, bat with noodles, General Tso’s Bat, sesame bat, Cleopatra Bat, Sweet ‘n’ Sour Bat...
[To Be Continued!]


The Basics:
Equipment Store: Yes
Skill Settings: Yes, all three
Map/Automap: Yes/No
Puzzle Difficulty: Easy
General Difficulty: Not too tough
R_speeds: Good
New Stuff: Yes
Gameplay: Mostly live AI, some undead; mansion breaking-in-fu/finding info-fu/rescue-fu/sewer escape-fu

[Just say NO to fu.]

Briefing/Story?
You -- Garrett -- have been hired by a lady to find her significant other, Saturio Machado. Saturio had been away for a few months, fighting in some little war somewhere (I imagine it has nothing to do with that little dust-up in Phu Bai), and just a week before, he had returned...they spent their reunion evening together, reading Donald Duck comics aloud to each other. Then they retired to separate rooms and dreamed wholesome dreams of chastity and purity. Either that, or they spent the night taking turns Oiling Up The Great God Pan, so to speak.

[I prefer the term "greasing the satyr."]

In any case, the next morning Saturio went off to visit his sick -- as in “ill”, not “morally reprehensible” -- mother at his family’s estate. That was the last time the lady had seen him, and so she went to the authorities (really just a chunky guy in a shed by the canal with a bucket of herring and a badge) instead of Saturio’s mother, since Lady Machado had always thought Saturio’s little love muffin was just a cheap tramp. A gold-digging hussy. A gutter-slut. A whore to all nations. You get the idea. The lady was quite acerbic in her referrals to Saturio’s mother in turn, referring to her several times as “that wretched old hatchet-faced prune”, and oddly, “the best sex Satan ever had”. Clearly, this was a woman not prone to forgiveness. Anyway, the police informed her that Lady Machado’s nephew, Sigfrido, had reported him dead in combat a few weeks before. Now, it could be me, but something ain’t right here. So the lady has hired you to get into the Machado mansion and find out what the hexadecimal is going on.

Onward!
Lovely. There are a couple of ways to get into the mansion, which I will list in order of non-feasibility:

1) The front door

2) The side door

3) The family crypt

Going in through the front door denies everything that Thief is about, plus there’s an archer there. The side door has possibilities, but as you’d be running past a couple of guards, an Eye and a turret, you might have some difficulties. That leaves the crypt.

As you can guess, the crypt holds some...unsavory...residents. Do you like crypts? Zombies? Haunts? Yes? Well, take a refreshing stroll through the family ossuary, and breathe deep the vapors of things that usually cause a nasty flesh-eating bacteria in most people. On the whole, zombies are easy to elude, so if they see you, just keep running. Just...um...just don’t piss off the Haunt; he’s a bit more tenacious. However, if you do, just run outside and to the front of the mansion where a couple of guards are, get *their* attention, and then book it over to the well and hop in. Carnage will ensue. Then after the Haunt is dead -- in my dealings with this mission, the Haunt *never* wins against two or more guards -- just run back into the crypt. The guards, if they see you, will chase you, but I don’t think they can enter the crypt through the front. If by some fluke they do, just lead them to the zombies.

Four guards killed, yet I killed no one. How? I lured the guards in the mansion down into the crypt where the undead are...it’s fun, efficient, and makes the mission last longer than it normally should. Caveat: don’t lure the zombies inside the mansion; they’ll become obsessed with the Mechanist turrets. plus the halls are a little narrow for dodging. The crypt has more room to maneuver, and it has dark corners where you can watch a guard get gooshed by three or four undead (there are five total zombies, one laying down; but one -- in the sewer -- doesn’t want to get up). I lured the Haunt into the mansion, where he put the hurt on several guards, but ended up getting his ass killed. There was a servant running around whining, and the Haunt went after him instead of the guards. Yeesh.

Another caveat: to lure the guards down into the crypt, use the chapel access. They’ll follow you into the crypt if you go that way. Just make sure you’ve opened all the doors first. So with a combination of blackjack work and zombie-baiting -- oh, the screams -- I managed to make the place very quiet, indeed.

But if you decide to take the more traditional route, i.e., sneaking, then by all means...although if such is your intent, then I can guess that your home life must be equally dull. Brown paint, tan car, gray cat. Tell me: when you first played Quake, did you go into shock because all that brown was too much for your deadened sensibilities? I spit upon you and your sensible shoes. You make me sick.

Okay! Now that I’ve alienated most of my audience, let’s talk a bit about the map. Since Garrett is there to find out what happened to Saturio and not make the place an abattoir, it’s advisable to keep the killings to none or less. Plus, you can’t kill anyone on expert. I usually chafe at such restrictions with little grace, as I provide my own morality in these games; that is, I only kill when I’m backed into a corner. However, with the undead thrown into the mix, I felt I could hang up my sword for just one mission. I mean, is it possible to *not* kill, for once?

So with the entire local residents either unconscious or dead by misdirection, I could take a look at the mansion: well! While not a huge structure, it’s richly appointed, with a good eye towards textures; the rooms are lavish and ornate. However, the third floor, ostensibly an attic space, is a little sparse in design...which makes a lot of sense, seeing as I myself don’t keep valuable works of art in the crawlspace over my bathroom. No, I keep spiders and insulation there, which are a poor substitution for elegance. The attic looks just fine is what I mean, so I don’t even know why I brought it up. Also, I commend the idea of keeping a torture chamber and a couple of holding cells...if I had such things, I’d never have to worry about Jehovah’s Witnesses ever again.

[I think what I meant was that I would welcome them into my home and then torture them to death; the idea, apparently, was that they'd keep sending more until they ran out, or something. Then I wouldn't have to worry about them anymore, as they would all be dead. At my hands. I'm not sure that I really understand my thinking here...I confuse myself a lot. I am not kidding in the slightest when I tell you that when reading these things, I often rub my forehead with great weariness, feeling very tired and very much alone.

I am sure that you, the reader, can relate all too well.]

As with many mansions in the Thief universe, this one is crammed with carpets and tile. While I am a big fan of tile in real life -- it’s blessedly cool in both summer and winter and feels good against the forlorn cheek (both ends) -- in this game it’s a challenge that must be dealt with. I prefer to make a racket and blackjack the poor clods who come to investigate, but for the rest of you who are such stinking traditionalists that you cannot begin to visualize making a noise, I suggest creeping movement.

Oh, and as for Sigfrido? As it’s a no-no to kill anyone, I simply blackjacked him and left him in the crypt. With the zombies. Mu-hahaha.

By the way: is it possible to ghost this level? And, who cares? For an answer, refer to your handbooks, chapter 37, page 433, paragraph six, section ii-a, seats 13 and 14: “Answer unclear; ask again later.” As with all things related and not, this paragraph speaks with non-forkéd tongue.

["seats 13 and 14" is a direct ripoff of a similar Dave Barry joke. Sorry, Dave.]

So what do we have here? Among other sundry items, we have a lovely mansion, attractive grounds, a haunted crypt, a conspiracy amongst the nobility, escaping through the sewers, spiders, guards, undead, evil and good nobles, bots, turrets, cameras, keys, loot, outdoor toilets, tiles, carpet, a wine cellar, a well, a sky, grass, hedges, windows, doors, arrows, readables, and most importantly, a starting point. You’ll be playing in no time, unless you’ve forsaken Darkloader and are playing this with the aid of your imagination and a Ouija Board. (“Look! It’s spelling something...‘L-O-S-E-R’? Whatever can it mean?”)

I might mention that around the mansion are wax cylinder players, stocked with the author’s own renditions of John Dowland’s work, as played on classical acoustic guitar (as opposed to an ocarina and a dented tin cup). Quite beautiful; the mission is worth playing just for that.

Summary?
A mansion to infiltrate, people to knock out, and things to steal. What else do you need?

Annoyance Rating: 1 out of 10. [Not the fault of the author, but Thief 2’s AI are just *brain dead* at times.]

Final Tally:
Skill: Expert
Loot: All loot found!
KO’s: 13
Kills: 0 humans, 3 spiders
Bots Junked: 2, plus 1 Eye

[...next...]
Title: T2 004: Benny's Dead
Post by: Silver Sorrow on December 26, 2019, 09:58:18 AM
T2: Benny’s Dead

Game: Thief 2
Title: Benny’s Dead
Author: The Gingerbread Man
E-mail: N/A
Homepage: N/A
Filename: bendedv2.zip
Filesize: 5.8mb
Download: Cheap Thief Missions (https://thiefmissions.com/m/bendedv2)

Note: Some of the models depicted in the screenshots are my custom recolorings. The cops, the Mechanists, the player weapons...everything else belongs to this mission.

[Screenshots be like, not here.]

Abstract:
[Bats! Part 3]
... bat kebabs, bleu cheese batburgers, Bourbon Street-style New York Strip Bat, broiled bat, Broiled Sante Fe Bat, Butterflied Curry Bat Tenderloins, Cajun Barbecued Bat, Caribbean-style Jerked Bat, bat jerky, Cinnamon Chile Crusted Bat, Cranberry-Glazed Bat Ribs, Caribbean Bat with Tropical Salsa, Creamy Curried Bat with Grilled Pineapple and Even More Bat, Grilled Bat Teriyaki, Eggplant and Bat Parmesan Sandwiches, Bat Flank with Horseradish Sauce, Fruity Grilled Bat Tenderloin, Grilled Asparagus with Orange Wasabi Dressing and Plenty of Bat, bat salad, Grilled Bat with Orange Cilantro Salsa, Indonesian Bat Satay, London Bat Broil Sandwiches with Yogurt-Cucumber Sauce, Mustard-Glazed Bat Skewers with Apple-Apricot Chutney...
[To Be Continued!]

The Basics:
Equipment Store: Yes
Skill Settings: Yes; Cakewalk, Normal, Extra Spicy
Map/Automap: Yes/No
Puzzle Difficulty: Mild
General Difficulty: Depends on skill setting
R_speeds: Good
New Stuff: Yes
Gameplay: Live AI/hotel-fu/sewer-fu/all kinds of stuff-fu

[I'm killing me with this fu thing.]

Briefing/Story?
[deep breath]
AfterKarrastriedtokilltheCity withthenecroticmutoxgastheHam mersandMechanistsworkedtogeth ertobuildawalltokeepthatregio nclosedandthentheystartedkill ingeachotherandthentheCityWat chgotinvolvedandnowtheyhadath reewaydeathdealgoingandyouGar rettdecidedtogetoutoftheCityu ntilthingsdieddown(maybeyouevenmeantitliterally)andsoyouwenttostayinaboringli ttleminingtowncalledMothatthe placeofanoldacquaintanceandpo sedasavisitingtailorandthenyo uwerevisitedbytwoofthelocalSe erscalledIdsusandMopsuswhower ebrothersandtheysawrightthrou ghyourdisguiseandlaughedatyou runderwearwiththeredrocketshi psandthengaveyouajobdespiteth isandthejobhastodowithbreakin gintoalocalhotelandfindingout whokilledBennywhowastheCaptai noftheTownWatchanditsreallyfi shyandcomplicatedbuttheywanty outogettothebottomofitandisan yoneelseseeingtheseblackspots becausethey’remakingithardtotypeand

...thump...

Okay. Now that I’ve had my potassium and the saline drip has been set up, I can tell you to read the story for yourself, because it’s far more detailed than I can render here.

Onward!
Since I’m such a stickler for using the blackjack at every opportunity (I’ve even used it on Constantine...not that it did any good), I played on the middle skill setting, “Normal”. On Extra Spicy, you’re supposed to ghost around the cops and can only KO five people or less...so I played on a lighter skill. Ghosting isn’t my forte, to say the least. On Normal, I opted to kill only one guard (out of the concept of lackadaisical manslaughter, I suppose), but I vented my spleen upon the non-human AI.

So here we go...on to the hotel! Well...okay, maybe not yet. See, it’s not exactly a straightforward proposition to get into the hotel; you’ll need to do a bit of roundabout-way-ing, including a pleasant little trip through the sewers, to even get *close* to the hotel to investigate Captain Benny’s death. It seems the old boy shot himself in the neck while cleaning his bow, and you’ve been hired by a couple of Seers -- who have themselves been hired by the City Watch -- to find out the truth of the matter. So it does make sense to avoid the cops, but I still can’t let one go by without giving them a headache. There must be *something* inside of me that makes me act out like this, and I suspect it may have something to do with the little Indonesian girl I pushed off her bike when I was four. No, it doesn’t make any sense to me, either, but it’s a great way to go through life: always have a childhood excuse.

Where was I? Oh. In the sewers, you will meet some decidedly unsavory things, and praise the Builder’s nubile nieces, you can kill them!

Again, this is probably something I need to work out for myself.
 
The sewers are infested with Bogeys! Great! One question: what are Bogeys?? It’s explained in-game, so if you’re looking for actual information from me, then you’ve obviously stumbled onto the wrong website. Anyway, they are quite amusing creatures and spout some of the most colorful metaphors this side of an Andrew Dice Clay monologue. Not that I was offended, no...in fact, one of my favorite phrases ever uttered dealt with using the “f” word -- not “fantabulous” -- in such a way that it was used as an adjective, a verb *and* a noun,** all in the same sentence. In any case...if you’re overly sensitive, then poke yourself in the eardrums with an icepick, or something.

[** It was a National Lampoon piece...I can't remember the author, nor can I find the book that anthologized the story ("Short Eyes?"), but I think the phrase was "F___ you, you f___in' f___!". Something like that.]

After mild ordeal to keyhunt through the sewers, I finally made it to the environs of the hotel. Ehh...that is, I was *almost* there. First, I had to get into the Police station for a good reason, and it wasn’t for the free strip-search. Afterwards, I got to rob the Thief version of a fast-food joint...and it *was* pretty fast: it kept getting underfoot and I had to chase it with my sword.

Now, with obstacles gone, I get to...go to the hotel! Oh, but I killed an archer before actually entering...I admit, I need help. Inside the hotel lobby are shops accessible via floor-situated maintenance vents that bear scrutiny; one of them is a vault of security boxes, and you’ll probably want to come by later and close some accounts when you have some more info on the vault combination.

So I get into the hotel, muck about, make note of the blonde in the paintings, and beat the love of the Builder into every single person I meet. After gathering info, looting and other furtive things, some of which involved the kitchen (advice: don’t order the “pudding”), I finally came to the end. It’s not exactly heralded when you reach the room where the ending occurs -- it’s downright unassuming -- but the ending has a surprising twist, so don’t freak out when you get there and things happen. I understand that there may be a sequel,** so don’t feel down when it’s done. You can *get* down (although I do support the death penalty for Rick Dees and his Disco Duck thing), but don’t harsh your own buzz.

[** There wasn't.]

Yes, I have no idea what I’m doing.

Anyway, as for gameplay: there are several instances where you *may* have to alert an AI or two just to progress. Or not...I suppose it all depends on how well you play. My knuckle-dragger technique works fine, but I play a little differently than average...so my results may vary from yours. It may be a bit tough for the novice player to get through without alerting several AI; tiled floors in some areas with guards don’t help one bit.

There is one unavoidable instance where you *must* kill. Rest assured that it does fit in with the plot, and it’s not a matter of poor design. On the contrary...

I might as well go ahead and mention the architecture while I’m here. The sewer is, oddly, nice. I mean, I’m used to tromping though sewers with so-so stone work and organic floors, but this one is well done. So it isn’t the Waldorf...but at least the Bogeys like it. The streets of Moth -- the town you’re in, remember?** -- are at least laid out where you’ll run into someone before long. Please don’t ask what I mean, because my neck is killing me. The hotel is exquisite...tile, good texturing, rich appointments...however, when you get to the guards’ quarters, you’ll see how the lowly guard resides in relatively spartan conditions. All a guard needs in life is a bed, a chair, and a sword...***

[** Apologies. You would only remember it if I had, in fact, mentioned it clearly and not in that wall of "breathless" text in the Briefing/Story? section.]

[*** Reference: Steve Hackett, "A Bed, A Chair and a Guitar."]

Probably my favorite part of the hotel was the pool area. Even though the pool was empty for cleaning, it still made quite an impression with the lights turned on. I wonder how it would’ve looked with water? No matter. Actually...if it had water, I could’ve dropped the entire populace of the town into the pool and--

Once again, something evil peers through these eyes. Excuse me while I use some Holy Visine...

IT BURNS IT BURNS OH MY GOD NOOOooooooooooo

Summary?
Is this a perfect mission? No...but it is good enough to be considered one of the best I’ve played. The streets of the town, the sewer system, the hotel...beautifully done. And I think I saw Courteney Cox’s face on one of the female civilians. I just hope anesthetic was used.*
[* Is this a good time to mention Slayer’s “Dead Skin Mask”?]

Annoyance Rating: Hmmm...low?

My Level Stats:
Normal (skill 2)
Loot: 2109/2209
KO’s: 30
Kills: 14 (2 guards, 7 Bogeys, 3 spiders...and two kills I can’t account for)

[...next...]
Title: T2 005: Art Of Thievery
Post by: Silver Sorrow on December 26, 2019, 03:53:51 PM
T2: The Art of Thievery

Game: Thief 2
Title: The Art of Thievery
Author: Richard Cull (RiCh)
E-mail: N/A
Homepage: N/A
Filename: art.zip
Filesize: 5.5mb
Download: Cheap Thief Missions (https://thiefmissions.com/m/art)

Note: I use custom recolors -- health shields, visibility gem, weapon & AI models -- so what you see besides architecture is probably not what you get. Please remember that before e-mailing me to ask why your health shields aren’t black. Some of the recolors are modifications of elements found in Purah’s “Calendra’s Legacy” (which were too cool *not* to use), and some are my own dabbling with colors. Oh, and I use the new, *dark* health shields and gem so they don’t dominate the screenshots. Thanks goes to Purah.

[So much effort went into that explanation, it's a shame that it's wasted. No screenshots, see.]

Abstract:
[Bats! Part 4]
...Savory Grilled Bat with Roasted Rosemary Potatoes, Andouille and Bat Creole Pasta, Green Curry Bat Meatballs, Vegetarian Bat Casserole (it was a Vegetarian bat), Bat Masala with Jeweled Rice, Cajun Style Blackened Bat, bat canapés, bat dip, New Orleans Barbecued Bat, Asian Barbequed Butterflied Leg of Bat, Bat Chops in Duck Sauce, bat cobbler, Bat L’Arabique, Moroccan Bat with Shiraz Honey Sauce, Portofino Bat and Artichoke Risotto, Bat Soup with Cream of Mushroom and Celery, Slow-Cooked Shredded Bat for Tacos, Sloppy Bats, batschnitzel, bat stroganoff, Bat L’Orange, Bat Salad with Wild Rice, Pecans, Grapes, and Orange Dressing, Peking Bat, Grilled Bat with Prune Stuffing and Gravy, Bat Under Glass, Asian Bat Barbecue on Sesame Scallion Toast...
[To Be Continued!]

The Basics:
Equipment Store: Yes
Skill Settings: Yes; EaSy, HaRd, GhOsT [sic, sic, sic...sick.]
Map/Automap: Yes/No
Puzzle Difficulty: Varies
General Difficulty: Varies
R_speeds: Boggy on slower systems
New Stuff: Yes
Gameplay: Live AI; mansion looting-fu/finding stuff-fu/getting lost-fu

[I hate the fu thing. Have I mentioned that?]

Briefing/Story?
Taking place sometime around the beginning of Thief 2, you’re about to rob a certain Lord Bradford’s mansion. You had intended to do so earlier, but you had some complications, what with having to save the world and all, not to mention league bowling night. So tonight, you’re about to break in and put a major dent in some guy’s equity. Since Bradford’s made some large contributions to the Mechanist order, he’s in the good books of Karras, who has given him an important position in the Mechanist ranks...but like Queen Victoria, we’ll hear NO talk of positions!

[I think that a Monty Python joke? Or was it MST3K? I seem to recall Kevin Murphy's voice...]

Your goal for the evening: steal several paintings, a jeweled sword, and a bunch of other stuff. Simple, eh? Good luck, son...you’re going to need it.

Onward!
This is what I get for wishing for a comprehensive mansion-rob. This one beats the stuffing out of everything similar and snags in its soup.

Here lies this metaphor. May the grass grow green over its heart.

Anyway, if you like breaking into a massive mansion and doing illegal things, then this is your FM. Put the Rice Krispy Treat down, kid...we got stuff to filch. Let’s begin with getting inside, hmmm? I don’t know why, but most of these rich folks hire people with the worst eyesight and even worse peripheral vision. Not to mention that they put windows all over the place and climb-able drain pipes...it’s a thief’s paradise.

The first question is one of entry: how do I get inside the mansion? Well, you have all these windows, drain pipes and guarded doors, why not pick one and hop inside? But use the brains God gave you; don’t just run for a window, start lockpicking madly and hope no one will kill you! Scope the place out...pick a few pockets. A couple of the Mechanist guards have useful keys on their person, one of which will prove invaluable in this mission. A wonderful beginning: give the player some breathing space and let them decide how they want to enter.

Now, here’s where I might mention the true genius of this FM’s gameplay: flexibility.* Playing on the highest skill of most FMs usually entails some seriously draconian guidelines -- don’t kill anyone, don’t flash your pasty white butt to the third floor maid, etc. -- but while you’re encouraged to play stealthy and unseen on “GhOsT” (ugh) skill, you’re not required to do so. For example, you’re given the option of keeping your KOs to a minimum of five or less. After 5 KOs on GhOsT (ick), Garrett will say “Oops!”; upon alerting guards for the first time, Garrett will mutter “Damn! Didn’t mean for that to happen!”, but you won’t fail the mission in either case. Of course, you still can’t kill anyone or set off any alarms, but we’re good enough at this game to avoid bloodshed, aren’t we? Of course we are.
[* So you know a girl from Thailand who is flexible to the point of being able to stand on her own head...so what? We’re talking about Thief here.]

This is the epitome of what I consider good gameplay in a Thief FM: give the player the option of utilizing his or her own personal level of sneakiness. My usual method is to clock everyone unconscious and loot the place at my leisure. But be warned: there are a couple of AI walking around with those damned non-KO helmets; but there are gas-related items (arrows, mines, chicken quesadillas) to be found, so all is not lost. But you’re probably better off avoiding those guys and saving your precious gear for more deserving targets.**
[** I’m still waiting for a non-Japanese FM that provides 900 broadheads and rewards the player for using all of them on guards...and especially servants.]

Since my coordination is right down there with your more rudimentary annelids,** I kept alerting the stupid guards throughout the mission. No, it *isn’t* tough to play stealthy, but sometimes I play these things in a rotten mood and just give up all pretenses of being a Master Thief. Before long, I’m jumping up and down on tile in my tap boots and screaming, “I’M CLUMSY, OKAY??” So having a positive outlook is key. Or not.

[** I'm not sure what I mean, exactly.]

But enough about my shortcomings as a thief and as a human being. Let’s talk about the most important thing: large, firm, perky breas...er...*architecture*. Perky architecture. That’s exactly what I meant. Yes. Okay, so architecture *isn’t* the most important part of the game, but a well-planned and attractive layout does help a great deal.*** If you were looking for the largest, most convoluted, confusing mansion in The City, then you’ve found it. The architecture is top-notch: grand staircases, rich, luxurious textures, woodwork, carpeting...it’s the sort of place someone tags with a name like “Tara” or “Whispering Acres”...or even “Slubberdegullion** Drool-Factory”. Whatever. Anyway, what with the place being worthy of its own zip code, there are times that you will get utterly lost. “Where am I?” I asked in a little boy’s plaintive voice a couple of times.
[*** So speak-um Chief Big-Thing-Fall-On-Head.]

[** Genesis. "The Colony Of Slippermen." I wandered lonely as a cloud / Till I came upon this dirty street / I've never seen a stranger crowd / Slubberdegullions on squeaky feet]

The map is not a lot of help, really; it just shows where the main rooms are. Since this is such a large mansion, an automap would’ve been helpful; however, since Garrett really doesn’t know the layout 100%, the vagueness of the map makes sense. Aren’t you glad I approve? But it’s little comfort. Let me reiterate: this place is enormous...the bill for the tile flooring alone would buy you Napa Valley, with enough change left over to have the palace of Versailles brought over and rebuilt in the back yard for your own personal use as a very large, very beautiful bathroom.

And speaking of bathrooms...where are they?? I don’t recall seeing one bathroom in the mansion proper, and they can’t all be downstairs, can they? Picture it: you’re Lord Bradford. You’re suffering from a bit of tainted spider meat at dinner, and now circumstances dictate that you’re about to become the unwilling main character in a new off-Broadway production entitled “Bowel Blast Bonanza!” You’re in your third floor office the North Wing library, and the closest thing approaching a biffy is the pool on the second floor in another part of the wing (seeing as water equals relief in any culture). So you hobble over to the lift, butt sealed tight with the Clench Of Death, and as you reach the lift, you remember that it’s out of order. So you face the prospect of walking all over that wing of the mansion to get to the second floor...

So the question arises: what should you do? Remain stock-still by the lift, sphincters locked, praying to the Builder that someone will fix the lift before you die? Or will you inch over to a window, bash the glass out with your mace, stick your butt through the window (at the risk of deep puncture wounds in embarrassing places) and let the Shi’ite** fly? No, the answer here is to call over one of those guards with their stupid non-KO helmets, appropriate his helmet, and...well, you know. So the bottom line is: plan ahead for this type of situation...install bathrooms *everywhere*.

[** It's associated with an old joke: "Didja hear about the Iranian terrorist who got sucked into the engine of the airliner he was trying to hijack? The Shi'ite really hit the fan..."]

Which brings up the subject of your real-world comfort. Since this mission is massive and somewhat complex, it wouldn’t do for you to try to play this thing in one go-through. I mean, Garrett doesn’t have to take naps or face society in general, does he? No! But you have to do so. Plus, there’s the problem of tiredness creeping in around the fiftieth Mechanist bludgeoned...I suggest pacing yourself. I mean, it’s all fine and good to have Garrett running around like a monkey on a leash****, but try to take a break from your marathon and...I don’t know, take a pee break, call your mom, make untoward sexual advances at a pile of high heels...whatever.
[****  Of course, not all monkeys will run...sometimes you must foment the “Furrowed Earth Policy”. In all, it really depends on the monkey, the course being run, and the length of the leash. I suggest a gentle warm-up first, followed by a brisk drag around the foyer to get your monkey’s heart rate up. Here’s a tip: I suggest trimming the monkey’s claws (nails?) so he can’t get a definite hold on rough surfaces. So have fun, and remember to have your monkey rotated every 3,000 miles.]

See, for me, ennui sets in after a while. It’s not the mission’s fault by any means; I just have the attention span of a Mayfly. So long, involved missions are usually pretty interesting for me the first time, but sometime around the third or fourth playthrough, the whole thing gets kinda old. I’m sure that’s true of most people, but since I’m so self-absorbed and selfish, I can only relate this in terms that make sense to me. Besides, you people don’t exist anyway.

Illustration: The previous day, I got to the point where it didn’t matter if I alerted the guards or not. It suited my then-rotten mood that Thief 2’s handling of doors-and-AI-alertness would make damned sure that when I opened a door guarded by a Mechanist, he would immediately go into search mode...which meant that I failed the ghost goal completely. But so what?? At that point, had it not been for the no-kill restriction, I would’ve charged into the hallway and killed every one of those bastards.

As long as I’m here, I’d like to ask a question: just who are these nobles running around the mansion? House guests? This is one of several missions in which I’ve encountered such a population in a noble’s mansion. Another thing...where are the servants? Are they all out for the evening, doing whatever it is servants do when they don’t have boots to lick? I didn’t see one servant, but I did see a LOT of Mechanists. Do they do windows?

Mechanist: [smashes window with mace] “Mine instructions are clear: no streaks shall pass!”

Clarification: the absence of bathrooms and servants is okay. It doesn’t bother me...but those elements do add depth. Also, I’m perfectly okay -- you might even say uncharacteristically enthusiastic -- over how terrifically huge this mission is.

But back to the mission itself. Gameplay is terrific; patrol patterns are in effect (except for one poor schlub who got stuck walking into a rail), and some observation of routines will enable KO success. The mission is overwhelming if you look at the big picture...which is why I avoid doing so. Compartmentalize, and you’ll be just fine. Probably the biggest obstacle I faced was remembering that I had forgotten to pick up a bit of loot in one part, then having to trek waaaaaaaaaaay back to get it.

And now, puzzles: what do they mean to me? The puzzles in GhOsT (aaaaargh...) aren’t of the “Gleefully Spitting Upon The Corpse Of The Player” variety...most of the difficulties you face will be in figuring out how to do something, or how to get to a certain location without breaking your fool neck. But actual puzzles do exist in the form of the elemental stones, and how to get them. See, Bradford’s hidden the jeweled sword he was planning to give to Karras (in an attempt to bolster his position in the Mechanists) in his Super Secret Vault somewhere in his mansion, and you have to find the vault. Okay, by reading books here and there, you’ll find out where the vault is, and how to open it...but the fact remains that you need the four elemental stones to open *another* door to get inside the vault. So you need to find the elements -- that’s a day’s task in itself -- find the place where you use them and get a combination for a safe, then get to the vault and...well, it’s a real chore. I had a blast.

Another set of goals involves finding several valuable paintings. These differ in name and location depending on skill level; a nice touch. What else is there to say? You can turn off most of the security cameras (hooray!), you have a lot of water arrows, there’s plenty of people to KO...what else do you want? Just play it...it’s great.

I’m out of words. The review must be over.

Summary?
A fantastically gi-normous mansion to rob, a load of Mechanists to beat senseless, and lots of loot just laying around. Oh, and a couple of puzzles, too. One of the most massive mansion-robs yet. Enjoy!

Annoyance Rating: Low

My Level Stats:
GhOsT (Expert) Skill
Loot: 6695/6935
KO’s: 91
Kills: 0

[I will admit that this is one of my better reviews...]
Title: T2 006: Calendra's Legacy
Post by: Silver Sorrow on December 26, 2019, 07:43:27 PM
T2: Calendra’s Legacy

Game: Thief 2
Title: Calendra’s Legacy
Author: Purah (Anthony Huso)
Filename: Calendras_Legacy_v1a.zip
Filesize: 322.8mb
Download: Cheap Thief Missions (https://thiefmissions.com/m/Calendras_Legacy_v1a)
Walkthrough: at CTM (https://thiefmissions.com/walkthroughs/Calendras_Legacy_v1a/CalendrasLegacy1.html)
Lootlist: at CTM (https://thiefmissions.com/lootlists/Calendras_Legacy_v1a.html)

Note: This is a “mature” mission...violence, profanity, partial nudity...you know, the good stuff. Don’t let your mom know you’re playing this.

Abstract:
[Bats! Part 5]
...Tangerine-Glazed Bat, Baked Ziti with Bat Meatballs, Cherry-Pecan Stuffed Bat, deep-fried bat, The Colonel’s Original Bat Recipe, Green Bat and Cheese, Hearty Bat Soup with Parsley Dumplings, Apricot-Glazed Bat with Roasted Onion and Shallot Gravy, batloaf, Bat Tetrazzini, Bat and Pumpkin Lasagna, Bat and Spinach Alfredo Lasagna, Broccoli Pesto Angel Hair with Bat Chunks, Four Bat Ravioli with Artichoke Hearts, Olives, Pesto and of course Bat, Black Pasta in a Pink Gorgonzola Sauce With Too Much Bat, Black Pepper Angel Hair Pasta with Smoked Bat, Bat And Artichoke Penne With A White Sauce, Fettuccine And Bat with Sweet Pepper-Cayenne Sauce, Fettuccini with Mushroom, Bat and Rose Sauce, Pumpkin And Bat Ravioli with Hazelnut Cream Sauce, Smoked Bat in Vodka Cream Sauce, Barbeque Bat and Black Bean Burritos, Cottage Bat Cheese Enchiladas...
[To Be Continued!]

The Basics:
Equipment Store: Yes...to all missions
Skill Settings: Yes; Footpad, Cat Thief, Garrett
Map/Automap: Yes/No
Puzzle Difficulty: Depends
General Difficulty: Somewhat difficult on even the easiest skill
R_speeds: Good on a PIII 1.13ghz; rough on a PII-350
New Stuff: The Magic 8 Ball says...“Yes”
Gameplay: Live AI, Undead; surreptitious-fu/intrigue-fu/betrayal-fu/Night of the Living Dead-fu/vampire-fu/zombie-fu/ultimate revenge-fu/kicking various kinds of ass-fu/thief-versus-Hammer-fu/Keeper compound-fu/great mysteries-fu/prophecy-fu/et cetera-fu

[fu me sideways.]

Briefing/Story?
The story of Calendra’s Legacy picks up right where the first installment, Calendra’s Cistern (for Thief 1), left off...you had just given Mercedes a jolly good rogering, then you snuck out with the Cylix of Jortul to meet an interested buyer.

Waitaminit...who is Mercedes? What’s a Cylix? Who is this Jortul and why does he have a Cylix? Rogering??? Okay, okay...here’s the deal: the story of this installment is dependent upon your understanding of the previous FM’s story. So here goes: Mercedes Lexus [yes, really] is an old “friend” of yours (meaning, you know what she looks like naked) from your Keeper days.** She contacted you to help her steal the Cylix of Jortul -- hell if I know what a Cylix is -- from a nefarious no-goodnik named Lady Calendra. Calendra was a member of the Larloch Society, which wasn’t exactly dedicated to helping the poor crippled children of the world, if you know what I mean.

[** So does everyone else. IIRC, the model Purah used for her in the artwork was Playboy model Angel Boris.]

Calendra was giving a party for the Society under the tavern she owned (it was all for nefarious reasons...play the first part for *definitive* details); Corvette Camaro infiltrated the party, gave you some information, and you went off to do the various things that would let you find the Cylix and get out; Challenger Charger would help out where she could (which was, what, twice?). After you had the Cylix, you and Hupmobile Prius went back to her apartment and played “Find The Gunboat”** until, exhausted, you both shucked the sailor suits and engaged in the weirdest sex this side of Aleister Crowley’s wildest nightmares.

[** A line from Doctor Detroit, I believe. Don't ask for details. I'm too tired to care.]

And after this vile, disturbing, yet totally unrecorded encounter (imagination...piffle! We wanna see the goods!), that’s where this part begins. As Impala PT Cruiser sleeps the sleep of the auto-erotic asphyxiation aficionado, Garrett spits out the ball-gag, slips out and goes looking for a fence for the Cylix of Jortul. Jortul, it turns out, was an ancient wizard of some sort. The Cylix is an ancient relic with the power to...I don’t know, master the undead or turn your green Christmas tree lights blue...whatever. Garrett ends up at a pawnshop; the owner says he can set up a meeting with a very interested buyer named Duchess Suedomsa. Of course, Garrett being the fun, paranoid guy that he is, arranges to have Basso drop some weapons ‘n’ stuff off at his rented room, just in case something goes wrong.

Onward!
I’m splitting this thing into sections, as there are, of course, four...er...*three* missions. I played on different difficulty settings for the review, since I’ve played them all on each skill anyway. It’s important to note that a couple of the .avi briefings are huge, which is a large part of the reason this thing passed the 300mb mark.

The first mission is...

A Meeting With Basso
Your main goal for the mission is to meet with Basso in order to work out where he’ll leave your equipment so you can pick it up after your meeting with the buyer.

You start out on the Lampfire Hills side of a bridge. You’ve seen this bridge before if you’ve played the author’s “Autumn In Lampfire Hills” (for Thief 1).** If you haven’t, then too bad. Anyway, the first thing you notice about this mission is the incredible attention to detail. Plus, it’s just downright gorgeous. Purah has a distinct knack for making beautiful missions, and this one is probably the prettiest of the lot.

[** You can find my review HERE (https://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2818.msg15591#msg15591).]

The problem with being a thief here is that you really can’t let anyone know you’re a thief. I mean, why invite trouble? If you’re tagged as a thief, you fail. So don’t do anything stupid. On higher skill settings, your KO’s are limited severely, with the “Garrett” skill showing no tolerance for any blackjacking whatsoever. And here’s the thing: you don’t *need* to bash anyone’s head in, or really anything extra-curricular at all. All you have to do is find Basso, let a conversation play, find a way into the restricted Murkbell district without being seen, and get to the inn and go to your room. Simple.

Of course, you don’t play Thief for an easy ride...right? Right! We want to do things the hard way. So find all the loot...figure out how to loot Arkhyn’s tomb without getting killed...pickpocket without being seen or exposed as a thief...break and enter, but quietly...get into the police HQ and crack open the safe for some info...find an interesting way to get into Murkbell...make it your mission in life to doggedly follow that guy wearing the barrel. It’s the side quests that will keep you busy with this one, so have a blast.

And by the way, there are five ways to get into Murkbell, some easy, some not so easy. My preferred method involves taking the scenic route through a wizard’s tomb, but you don’t have to do that. It’s up to you. Personally, I prefer to skip the Police station, as the AI are so twitchy; I’ve done it a couple of times, but ghosting isn’t really my Cup O’ Beanie-Weenies.

[I hate Beanie-Weenies.]

A side note: if you want to KO a few people on the easier skill settings, the Dark engine shows its flakiness. Sometimes you can successfully KO, sometimes you fail the mission. Why? It has something to do with AI awareness, etc. The best method, in the end, is to be sneaky and avoid knocking anyone out...you can hide in the shadows for a *reason*, you know.

Besides the multiple-choice entry into Murkbell and other things, you’ll notice that a blue fog hangs over the area. Even though Thief 2 doesn’t do fog too well, it looks pretty good here. It really makes the rainy weather more “there”....or “here”...whatever. Thunder cracks overhead, lightning flashes...very atmospheric. This mission is a terrific prologue to the meat of the matter, and worth your while to dilly-dally...although if you’re expecting a huge chunk of change every time you pickpocket someone, you’ll be sorely disappointed. No, if you want the big money, you’re going to have to jump through some hoops.

[12/21/19: I decided to play through again, just for...what, fun? What else could it be? Anyway, I found that I absolutely could not get out of the wizard's tomb. At all. Even though I solved all the little riddles and suffered no missteps, I could not loot the final area without waking up his skull, nor could I deactivate it; running for the boulder that triggers the exit ladder was futile, as the ladder never lowered at all. I don't know if all of this is due to scripts and other crap that's changed in the last decade-and-a-half, but it's just easier to forget the whole thing and avoid the tomb altogether.]

So you meet with Basso, get into Murkbell, find the inn and hit the hay. Next up is...

Midnight In Murkbell
You begin the mission with a conversation with the buyer...or so you think. Actually, she’s representing Cardinal Alcandor, who is *very* interested in buying the Cylix. She gives you 25,000 in advance; the rest upon delivery of the Cylix to the Cardinal at St. Trinnet’s cathedral. Downside: you have ten minutes to get there, and you can’t alert the Battle Priests while getting into the Cathedral.

I played on the middle difficulty, since it’s 1) slightly easier to get around the place than on “Garrett”, and 2) you have more weapons at your disposal. I don’t want to give one iota away as to this mission’s surprises, but I will say this: the evening is about to become...interesting.

Since you have ten minutes to get to the Cardinal, you need to become familiar -- I would suggest becoming *extremely* familiar -- with the layout of the area. Use your map to orient yourself (an excellent map, by the way), and don’t be afraid to screw up. Save often. It got to the point where I could do quite a few things along the way to meeting with the Cardinal, and still have some time to spare.

After meeting with the Cardinal (the less said about that, the better for your enjoyment of the mission), you’re supposed to grab your stash -- your *weapons* I mean, not that other crap you keep in your underwear drawer -- from your rented room. Since accomplishing this goal triggers a rather surprising complication in fulfilling your planned activities for the evening, it’s possible to lean into the room and grab some essentials without tripping the goal. There’s an invisible trigger in the room, about halfway in, that sets certain events in motion, but with some trial and error you can edge up to the trigger, lean in, and grab your blackjack and some of your arrows without a major plot point occurring.

This is good news, as moving about after the “event” becomes a little risky; before that, it’s bad enough...after, it’s a lot worse. So I recommend accomplishing as many of the side explorations as you possibly can first; some useful items are either moved around or removed entirely, so grab them early on. Afterwards, you can go back to your room and spring the trigger* to get on with the story.
[* No, that isn’t a metaphor for something furtive.]

As with the first mission, there’s a lot to do...if you want to do those things (and also depending on skill level). There’s a missing amulet somewhere, there’s talk of some weird gemstones, there’s a wizards’ guild that’s just begging for robbery, a museum ripe for plundering, cows wanting a good milking before exploding all over the local gentry in a disgusting, yet completely cool, display of milk and blood**...no, scratch that...and a few other activities. I found that if you go ahead and accomplish the amulet quest, it makes it so much easier to fulfill one of the major goals later on, although again, it’s not necessary. Supposedly, it’s possible to ghost this mission, but I have better things to do with my time, like making sure my cat gets enough fiber in her diet, or seeing how many Chee-tohs (TM) I can eat before I throw up.
[** Cue Scatterbrain: “Milk and blood...blood and milk...MILK AND BLOOD!”]

[Scatterbrain: "Drunken Milkman."]

Since this is supposed to be a city, the architecture is essentially buildings and streets. Join me next time as I observe that the sky is a color akin to blue, and that grass is a decidedly “green” color. Besides my penchant for making a big deal out of the painfully obvious, the streets roll and slope with incredible realism...it’s a quaint town, and attractive to boot. There’s a canal running throughout the district, and I’ll tell you right now that you will be spending most of your time swimming. Why? Well, it’s just easier, isn’t it? A great dead Greek once said, “The shortest distance between two points is a hop in the canal.” Not to mention safer than the streets, I’d say...

Anyway, this mission is the main course of the campaign, and it’s tough...even on Footpad. You’ll find your survival skills tested, but rest assured that a panicked leap into the canal can do wonders for your health. Just...avoid letting archers shoot you. That’s bad.***
[*** Although, I like leaving the human AI alone...because it brings me joy unspeakable as I step over their crumpled, lifeless bodies later on.]

In short, this mission is a remarkable achievement. There’s tons to do, more to see, and it features perhaps the most curious collection of AI in an FM yet. If you like using fire arrows, you’ll like this one. After accomplishing your goals, you’re all set for...

A Winter’s Eve
Taking place a while after the events in Murkbell (a month or so?), Garrett agrees to meet F-250 Tundra in a bad part of town, ostensibly for getting him into the local Keeper compound to find out a few things. It’s also important to note that there are a couple of great encounters between Hammers and thieves right off, so don’t miss out on those. I don’t know what it is about watching AI fight each other, but it sure beats the hell out of watching Russell Crowe and Kim Basinger talk at each other. “Do something! Shoot her! Shoot him! Blow something up already!”

But enough of my unfortunate decision to watch 10 excruciating minutes of L.A. Confidential.

[I find that the more critics love a film, the greater the chance is that I'll hate it.]

As the previous two missions were set in an autumnal atmosphere, it makes sense that in this mission, you’re up to your flashbombs in snow. Trundtrundtrundtrund through the snow, since Garrett dashes about as well as a quadriplegic reindeer. Again, most of the side quests -- depending on skill level -- are largely optional. All you have to do in the beginning is to make it to the bridge and meet Murcielago Testarossa...which is easier said than done.

The Hammers don’t like you, the local thieves are your enemies, and they’re all at each other’s throats. So you need to keep to the shadows and avoid the warring parties. Of course on “Garrett”, you have to kill the leader of the local thieves’ guild, Gaston the Red, as you’re bitter enemies; it’s an ongoing war of one-upmanship: he’s hired people to kill you in the past, and you probably stuck an arrow point-up in his toilet, or something like that. Being forced to kill someone in a mission is not something I like, really.

[pregnant pause]

Had you going there, didn’t I? I’m pretty friggin’ happy that I get to kill someone. I *love* having no-kill restrictions! The more bodies I have piled around my big noisy boots the better!

Yes, I intend to seek help...once I make parole. I suppose it makes sense that there are no kill restrictions (besides not killing Q45 Weinermobile) in this mission, as just about everyone is out for your blood. It makes it easier on me, anyway...I like using my arrows.
 
By the way, this is the perfect mission to play on an irritatingly clear and sunny day, with highs above 75. Close the blinds, draw the shades, staple the drapes together and shatter every light bulb in the room, because you need a break. However if you’re playing this in late Fall and, like me, happened to accidentally tear off a good portion of your left big toenail in an unfortunate grooming incident,**** then it might become a little chilly in the room, not to mention the painful throbbing from the toe. However, if your toes are fine, then you might want to wear just a light jacket.
[**** Perhaps you think I am joking. Perhaps you are a fool. But not as big a fool as I.]**

[** I don't remember any of this.]

The first half of the mission is spent outside -- in the snow, natch -- where you can lurk in the shadows and watch the thieves and Hammers encounter each other in the most violent way (as opposed to, say, getting frostbite in embarrassing places despite the heat of their passion). There are several unique setups here: one has a thief pickpocketing a Hammer; another involves two thieves putting out their makeshift fire when a Hammer approaches. It’s the little touches that help make this one memorable...try to find the flying scroll!

Side note: there’s a pretty nifty Easter Egg in this mission...although the payoff would’ve been far more useful in the previous mission, I think. Oh, well...massive rewards are massive rewards, no matter what.

If you have to eliminate Gaston the Red, you’ll have to get into the thieves’ hideout and lay the smack down -- or not -- on a bunch of your competitors. I liked the idea of luring them all into one tight knot and gassing them with the Taco Bell Arrow (never mind).

But the most important thing is to meet up with Pimpmobile Station Wagon...and to protect her. She has this little job for you to do, namely, sneaking into the local Keeper compound (Keepers’ Local 311...motto: “What Are YOU Lookin’ At??”) and performing a few tasks. Just...uh...just don’t get caught, eh? The Keepers wouldn’t be too happy to see you screwing around the premises.

And there’s quite a sight in store for you...the Keeper compound is massive, and it’s beautifully done. According to the text file, it was Saturnine -- author of the excellent “The 7th Crystal” FM for Thief 2 -- who built a large part of this portion of the mission. An incredible piece of work. And when you’re there, you won’t meet just the green-robed Keepers, but also specialized Keepers who...well, I’ll let you see for yourself. Just don’t alert them, or you’ll have a speck of trouble actually finding ‘em.

Mental Burp: if you’re supposed to be the guy that all the prophecies are talking about, does it make sense that the Keepers in this mission try to kill you if you’re discovered? Never mind, never mind.

What was great was the Keepers’ new voices and their reactions to external stimuli. One knew I was around, and he was searching for me; right out of the blue, he says “Garrett? Is that you? If it’s you...don’t hurt me.” I just about fell out of my chair. Which brings me to the voice-acting of the whole campaign in general: the voices were excellent. (There’s some of my patented “Hyperbole In The EXTREME!!!!” for you.) Some of them are dire in nature, some are hilarious, and all are nicely done.

Back to this mission. Ehh...maybe not. Because if I say anymore, I’ll ruin the surprises. Let’s just say that there are some incredible discoveries to be made in this mission.

...But Back To The Big Picture
Overall, the maps are high quality, visually stunning, and eminently playable. Scripted sequences abound, plot points are logical, and the whole story spins out beautifully. There were few bugs to speak of (most of them were, again, due to the flaky behavior of the Dark engine), and the only trouble I had was trying to remember my limitations before I got myself killed with some stupid stunt. The missions are so open-ended in terms of procedure and advancement that I was never 100% sure if I should quicksave as normal, or just quicksave in a safe place and use the other save slots for trying out risky things. The answer is...it’s a good thing there are a lot of save slots. The second mission in particular is exquisitely nerve-wracking, what with the new, unpredictable (and quite nasty) AI running around.

Besides the eye-ear-gameplay candy of the campaign, there is the fun of doing and seeing the zillions of things no average FM author puts into a mission. Most people would be satisfied with creating a straightforward mission -- and I enjoy those greatly, myself -- but this campaign is something different. While the first part of the story, Calendra’s Cistern, sets the story up, Calendra’s Legacy takes it to the very end. Calendra’s Cistern was a huge, involving mission, but it certainly had its share of bugs, missteps and annoyances. Calendra’s Legacy shows that lessons were learned well. It’s big, it’s ambitious, and it’s beautiful.

If I asked for a group hug, would it happen?

[I changed my mind. Keep your distance, you disease-spewing snot fountains.]

Btw: if you get stuck, there is a walkthrough available...and in case you want to do some weird things, try this thread -- TTLG Forums - Easter Eggs-Special Quests in CL. Have you ever... (http://www.ttlg.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=47257) -- for some extracurricular activities.

So after all is said and done, one question still remains: what the hell IS a Cylix, anyway?? No, don’t answer that...I may not like the answer.

[After all this time, I finally looked it up. "Cylix" is actually a form of "kylix." So:

kylix - noun, plural kylikes. Greek: kýlix meaning "cup"
1. a shallow bowl having two horizontal handles projecting from the sides, often set upon a stem terminating in a foot: used as a drinking cup.]

Summary?
Possibly the best -- certainly the most ambitious -- FM released for Thief 2...so far! [It was at the time, that is.]

Annoyance Rating: Medium, if you know what you’re doing.

My Level Stats:
A Meeting With Basso
Skill: Footpad
Loot: 1443/1605
KO’s: 0
Kills: 2 (spiders)

Midnight in Murkbell
Skill: Cat Thief
Loot: 4645/5115
KO’s: 9
Kills: 219
Backstabs: 179
Damage Dealt: 24,473

A Winter’s Eve
Skill: Garrett
Loot: 6398/6658
KO’s: 31
Kills: 8

[...next...]
Title: T2 007: The 7th Crystal
Post by: Silver Sorrow on December 27, 2019, 12:15:16 AM
T2: The 7th Crystal

Game: Thief 2
Title: The 7th Crystal
Author: Saturnine
E-mail: N/A
Filename: T7Cv-2.zip
Filesize: 25.7mb
Download: Cheap Thief Missions (https://thiefmissions.com/m/T7Cv-2#m)

Note: I use custom recolors -- health shields, visibility gem, weapon & AI models -- so what you see besides architecture is probably not what you get. Please remember that before e-mailing me to ask why your health shields aren’t black. Some of the recolors are modifications of elements found in Purah’s “Calendra’s Legacy” (which were too cool *not* to use), and some are my own dabbling with colors. Oh, and I use the new, *dark* health shields and gem so they don’t dominate the screenshots. Thanks goes to Purah.

[Who cares?]

Ah! But this FM will replace most of MY replacements, so it’s a moot point. This is so confusing...

Today’s (Looped) Soundtrack: Jade Warrior’s “East Wind”.

[Huh. I hadn't listened to that one in a long time.]

Abstract:
[Bats! Part 6]
...Orange Bat and Mushroom Pasta, Cinnamon Bat Roll, Buttery Bat Crescent Rolls, Potato & Rosemary Bat Biscuits, Blueberry Walnut Bat Bread, Garlic Bread With Bat Chunks, Raisin ‘n’ Bat Bread, Rum Raisin And Bat Ice Cream, Banana Chip Bat Muffins, Blueberry Scones With Bat Marmalade, French Toast With Grated Bat, Bat Jelly (!) Doughnuts, Amish Cinnamon Bread With A Surprise Bat Center, Apple Cinnamon Batmeal Bread, Applesauce/Batsauce Jamboree, Corned Bat And Hash, Batbrowns, Basil, Roasted Peppers, Seared Bat & Monterey Jack Cornbread, Argentine Chimichurri ‘n’ Bat Bread, Buttermilk Bat Fritters, French Bat Toast, Bat Sopapillas Rolled In Processed Bat Powder & Drizzled With Bat Honey, Bat Balls In Blankets, Bat Bavarian Torte, Apple-Cranberry-Bat Relish, Bat Mincemeat Crumble, Cantaloupe Bread With Bat Praline Glaze, Persimmon -- And Bat -- Bread, Banana Date Flaxseed Bat Bread...
[To Be Continued!]

The Basics:
Equipment Store: Yes
Skill Settings: Yes
Map/Automap: Yes/No
Puzzle Difficulty: Mild
General Difficulty: Medium
R_speeds: Good...but don’t use a P2P program while playing. Learned that the hard way. [Hmmm?]
New Stuff: Indeed
Gameplay: Live AI; mansion rob-fu/great mystery-fu/a noble’s anguish-fu/deceit-fu/manipulation-fu

[Just fu it. Fu it all.]

Briefing/Story?
It’s all explained in-game, so I’ll keep it short: Garrett’s been hired by a woman named Seraphina to break into a certain Lord Saturnine’s mansion and steal the Cerulean Sapphire. You primary goal is to get to the place where Seraphina hid your payment for the job and a note (maps, info, etc.). As you sneak through the mansion and find out more about this Lord Saturnine and the inhabitants of the place, things soon become...interesting. As if *that’s* an odd occurrence in the Thief universe.

Onward!
Ah, the twisting, convoluted world of a Master Thief: if it isn’t one thing, it’s another. This time, it’s a woman who wants you to do a bunch of illegal things. Can I just say something here? Thanks.

RUN GARRETT RUN! SAVE YOURSELF!

Thank you. But does he run? Noooooooooo. He takes the job and before you know it, he’s embroiled in something more complicated and dangerous than he originally thought. But let’s not spoil things, huh? After all, Garrett is the type of guy who shows no fear and will jump headlong...into...danger...is it just me, or does this sound like a setup for Daredevil? And why the [CENSORED] would anyone even *consider* Ben “AFLAC!” Affleck for ANY role? Okay, okay...never mind. The point is, show Garrett some money, and he’ll do all kinds of things. Waitaminit...I just thought of a way to get my bathroom cleaned...

Actually, I really should mention this instead: the “mission” is actually in four acts; Act I is a narrated (by MsLedd) tour through ancient Hammerite catacombs...introducing the Cam-Vator! (You’ll see what I mean when you play.) Then you get to meet Seraphina at a bridge and find out a few things. Act II is the actual hit-‘em-over-the-head-and-steal-their-gold mission. Act III is a trip into the catacombs to find something mentioned in the previous mission; it’s pretty short and painless (he says, with a wicked gleam in his eye). The last act, Act IV, is another “hands-off” mission, with the storyline developing further...with a cliffhanger!

So this review mainly concerns itself with Act II. Why? Because the other three acts are more or less concerned with story elements instead of gameplay, and I don’t want to screw up your experience. Yeah, yeah...I’m 10lbs of nice in a 5lb bag.

So I get inside, find out something has gone wrong at the party Saturnine is giving, and I’m prowling through this mansion. I’m looking for the East Gate Conservatory where I’m ‘sposed to be, when I run into the first obstacle in every Thief mission: dumb AI. Since I played on Expert, I was bound -- morally, as well as in gameplay -- to not kill anyone. Okay, I can handle that usually, but...

[This bitter rant about “no-kill” restrictions has been deleted for reasons of peace and harmony amongst the Peoples Of Earth, whoever they may be.]

The reason I bring up my bitter loathing of no-kill restrictions is because sometimes, the AI were even dumber in this mission than usual. However, I don’t believe for an instant that it was the fault of the author, so he shouldn’t take this in a negative way. One idiot guard even got stuck on top of a table in the hallway, shouting “I’ll find you...just you wait!” It was about that point that I was forced to reload, as I had gone completely out of my friggin’ mind and had cut the poor dumb clod into bite-sized chunks.

It felt good, but I really need to watch myself. Anyway, let’s take a look at the mission and try to answer the questions that plague us: why you should download The 7th Crystal,* how good it is,** and what I’m wearing right now.***
[* Because you have nothing else to do.]
[** Pretty good.]
[*** Clothing.]

All right...architecture. The first thing you will notice -- besides the snow -- is that a lot of effort went into making this mission absolutely gorgeous. So much attention is paid to the little details that you may find yourself gawking at your surroundings, instead of stealing stuff. And tile...everywhere...but not really annoying. I shoulda gone into the tile business. Anyway, take the tour: see the Conservatory, the staircases, the library, the guest bedrooms, the nursery, etc. You’ll love it here.

The outside of the mansion, as well as several rooms (especially the gazebo in the snowy yard), reminded me of Thomas Kinkade’s paintings...so is Saturnine now “The Dromeder of Light”? Let’s go into the audience, and...

[I'm not sure where that was going.]

Anyway, there is new voice-acting: from the ubiquitous Loanstar as Garrett (sadly, he’s left the community, so he’s not so ubiquitous anymore) and as Captain Lorcan, to Wynne’s performance as Seraphina (and others?), there are new conversations and lines being thrown about here, rather than having Garrett blurt out something we’ve all heard before, or worse...complete silence beyond your own monotonous footsteps. MsLedd deserves a pat on the back for her narration, as well.

Gameplay -- that is, interaction with the AI -- is pretty much just “sneak up on guard and put out his lights”, with the ever-present “look for stuff with monetary value”. Of course, it’s not all so simple as that. There’s a story to be had here, and you find out just how deep this plot goes as you explore the mansion and plunder diaries and ravage letters to steal their thoughts and unearth their plots.****
[**** Cue Marillion: “INNOCENCE?!”]

[Marillion: "Emerald Lies."]

And speaking of the interwoven gameplay/plot combination, it becomes clear that you really have no choices (beyond spite-induced suicide) in this mission. I mean, sure, you can vary your strategy in dealing with the guards, but once you perform a certain task, you are duty-bound to perform the next task, and the next. It felt as if I were acting out a script. I say this without rancor or malice, as I realize that I’ve played this mission several times now...so I know intimately what happens next.

But the funny thing, the really funny thing is, this by-the-numbers plot is, I assume, *meant* to feel contrived. Events are too coincidental, and it appears that someone is giving you a helping hand here and there. If you aren’t suspicious by a certain point, then there’s something really wrong with you. Keep your attention on the plot, as it becomes painfully obvious what the deal is.

As a side note, I was a little surprised at the changes in the current version (v2); I had very little trouble with the previous versions, but the changes -- no spawning guards, easier-to-find important keys, etc. -- are pleasant.

What else is there to say? If I say anything more specific, it will pretty much ruin the plot, thus your enjoyment will be as ashes. So in short, if you like beautifully-rendered, highly-linear missions with intriguing storylines, this is your mission. Although I like my missions a little looser, this mission is so charming and so well done that I can’t help but like it.

Oh, and play Act III with the lights out. [insert the most evil-looking grin imaginable here] But first, make sure you have 911 on speed-dial...you know how hard it is to find the “11” when you’re in a hurry.

[An audio joke. "Where's the eleven on this phone??"]

The good news is that Saturnine (the author, not the noble in the story) is in the process of making a sequel. This apparently comes as a sort of relief to many, as he stated that he wasn’t going to finish the story. So the cliffhanger will have a resolution sometime in the future.

[It didn't. I don't recall the exact events, but the author had a ton of shitty things happen to him in real life, so there was no sequel. He did, however, eventually release the exquisite Rose Cottage.]

Finally, how do you reconcile being given morality lessons from a dead kid?

[I'm not sure that's even a thing. I'm not sure what I MEANT, for Christ's sake. Just...just ignore it.]

Summary?
Beautiful, Hitchcockian...it’s The Big Big Mansion Of Secrets And Lies. Have fun!

Annoyance Rating: Low.

My Level Stats (Act II):
Expert Skill
Loot: 2253
KO’s: 27
Kills: 0

[...next...]
Title: T2 008: A Keeper Of The Prophecies, Book 1
Post by: Silver Sorrow on December 27, 2019, 10:39:31 AM
[Well. This one...this is only a couple of missions from what turned out to be a much larger campaign. I found that the mission pack that I reviewed -- two missions -- doesn't actually exist anymore, so this review is way, WAY outdated...and considering that the full campaign was released sometime back in 2005, it's a safe conclusion that most, if not all, of any info I provide is even less accurate than usual (this is why I try not to provide any useful information whatsoever). This release included what turned out to be episodes 2 and 3 in the final version; the whole thing encompassed nine episodes in total. I don't intend to review the whole thing, so I'll just leave it in this state. I will, however, point to the most current version download on Cheap Thief Missions.]


T2: A Keeper of the Prophecies, Book 1

Game: Thief 2
Title: A Keeper of the Prophecies, Book 1
Author: frobber (Ken Ramsley)
E-mail: N/A
Filename: N/A
Filesize: 213.5mb
Download: The full campaign at Cheap Thief Missions (https://thiefmissions.com/m/KOTP-Episodes1-9)
Rating: 5 / 5

Note #1: I use custom recolors -- health shields, visibility gem, weapon & AI models -- so what you see besides architecture is probably not what you get. Please remember that before e-mailing me to ask why your health shields aren’t little skulls. Some of the recolors are based on work by Purah (here is where I should probably say “thanks!”), and some are my own dabbling with colors.

[Someone out there cares. Lord knows, it isn't me.]

Note #2: The reviewed campaign is a combined-mission release of two earlier missions, “Hallucinations” and “The Insurrection”. They both make up the first part of a larger work in progress.

[No kidding.]

Note #3: Oh, and by the way: there’s a warning about being careful if you are subject to visually-induced seizures. He says he’s not joking, and I believe him. I believe a lot of things, some of them even true, but this in particular I believe.

[There were a lot of flashing lights in the second mission.]

Abstract:
[Bats! Part 7]
...Basil, Bat & Sun-Dried Tomatoes Bread, Cranberry Pignoli Bat Nuts Bread, Garlic Bat Bubble Ring, Herbed Bat Cheese Whole Wheat Breadsticks, Italian Bat Cream Cheese Pinwheels, Kalamata Olive and Garlic Bat Bread, Sun-Dried Tomato and Asiago Bat Cheese Bread, Fruitbatcake, Bat de Muertos (Mexican Bat of the Dead), Oatmeal Chocolate Bat Chip Muffins, English Saffron Bat Bread, Multi-Bat Seeded Bread, Vegan Bat Muffins (these bats never ate dairy or meat in their lives!), Almond Bat Rum Cake, Roast Bat Stuffed with Chorizo Sausage, Portuguese Kale And Bat Soup, Tea-Smoked Bat With Chilled Noodle Salad And Hoisin Sauce, Kiawe Wood-Smoked Bat Chops With Green Apple Chutney And An Apple-Soy Glaze, Bat And Sweet Corn Pozole With Foie Gras, Sauteed Rock Shrimp In Creole Cream Sauce In A Puff Pastry Vol-au-Vent with Chunks Of Extruded Bat, Rock Shrimp And Mozzarella Bat Strudel With A Smokey Tomato-Butter Sauce...
[To Be Continued!]

The Basics:
Equipment Store: No
Skill Settings: Yes
Map/Automap: Yes/No
Puzzle Difficulty: Not too hard
General Difficulty: Medium
R_speeds: Good on a P4 2.4ghz
New Stuff: Oh, I suppose so...
Gameplay: Very different. Hurry...

[No fu! Yay!]

Briefing/Story?
Continuing from where “The Enterprise” (for Thief) left off, Garrett is in trouble. He’s been mysteriously poisoned with a slow-acting poison (duh) that will turn him into a zombie if it succeeds, a dead lover has been haunting him, and worst of all, the cleaners shrunk his cloak...now it can best be described as “an amusingly big collar.” But no worries...Garrett knows what to do: curl up and die. However, the Keepers and Alisha -- for that is the ghost of his dead hoochie -- are dogging the hell out of him for their own purposes. See, Alisha was the daughter of the high muckamuck of Solustice Industries, a rather nasty gentleman who wanted Garrett to take over the company when he died. Garrett had no interest in becoming a CEO, which only goes to prove a point, although I have no idea what that point may be.

Anyway, Alisha has taken it upon herself to help Garrett out through his time of trouble; Garrett, meanwhile, doesn’t trust her one bit. Will Garrett ever trust Alisha? Will Alisha ever be free of the stain of being the daughter of that Solustice guy? Will Garrett find his long-lost Siamese twin? Will Alisha reveal to Garrett exactly what rough beast crawls towards Bethlehem to be born? Or will Garrett say “because it is bitter, and because it is my heart”? Tune in next week for the shocking conclusion that will blast you out of your seat!

[All next week on "As The Stomach Churns."]

Er...back to the story: so Garrett is slowly dying, and he’s only kept alive by quaffing health potions periodically. His main goal is to find a cure, and to do that he has to jump through some hoops...which entails stumbling into the middle of some twisty, diabolical plot, not to mention being caught up in a turf war between the Hammers (the Bloods) and the Mechanists (the Crips). The Hammer cathedral is the local 7-11 where they smack each other down, and Garrett’s only there for an Icy and a novelty lighter that doubles as a switchblade. I think I lost control somewhere, and I’m not sure where. Well...needless to say: since this is “part one”, we aren’t going to see a resolution just yet.

Onward!

[A possibly relevant note, first. The author -- frobber -- originally released the first part of this story, "The Enterprise," for Thief 1. That version has since disappeared from Cheap Thief Missions, although it may exist elsewhere. The full campaign contains that mission (either converted or entirely remade for T2) as the first episode, so you won't miss out on anything.]

As a responsible reviewer -- I’m responsible for a lot of things, some of them even good, sorta -- I feel that I must point out the clincher for these two missions: they’re timed missions. But this actually makes sense, which is more than I can say for 90% of the timed missions in Grand Theft Auto III.* The time allotted is dependent on the skill level chosen, so you masochists out there can play in the 60-minute time limit of expert, while I will be stretching out a bit in my full two normal-skill hours. There are several lengthy conversations in the first mission, so don’t think that just one hour will be all that easy.
[* The ending mission, for example. Yiiiiiiiick.]

[Obviously, I was also playing GTA3 at the time. I sure knew how to live.]

And since there are two missions, I’ll divide the review up accordingly.

Hallucinations

You start in what is referred to as a “briefing mission”...no, they aren’t going to rip off your underwear and spank you red...you’ll have to go elsewhere for that.** The voice you’re hearing is that of Alisha. The sensation you’re feeling is called “The Camvator”, and believe it or not, it was invented by a third party (SilentSleep, I believe). Thanks to LGS’s complete disregard of the concept of “noclipping”, someone had to invent what other games could achieve just with a simple console command. But my griping aside, you’re given the grand tour of various places, including a trip through a breath-taking cathedral (which is where you go in “The Insurrection”), as well as a bucket-full of back story. If you don’t like long soliloquies, then you will probably become antsy...but hang around, because there’s some important story info to be heard here. After the briefing, the main “Hallucinations” mission loads.

[** And that would've been funny if it had been called a "DEbriefing" mission. Oh, well. Not every swing for the fences connects, I guess.]

“Hallucinations” starts out in a very familiar cemetery; if you’ve played the original Thief 2 (I suppose I shouldn’t assume, but...), then you’ve been here before. In fact, a good chunk of the level takes place in surroundings provided by Thief and Thief 2’s original missions. And this harkens back to the author’s “The Enterprise” as well, as far as your apartment is concerned. Specifically, the graveyard and closely surrounding streets from Thief 2’s “Tracing the Courier” and the street and canal section intro from Thief’s “The Lost City”. The rest of the mission’s locales are totally new. I must give props to frobber right off, using familiar scenery. It makes the mission seem more real, and closer to the original games...even though the storyline is probably something LGS never had in mind for their master thief.

Which is not to impugn the storyline. The story takes off from the author’s own Thief 1 mission “The Enterprise” (which in turn takes place after Thief), in which Garrett, depressed and uncaring about whether or not he gets his new mechanical eye, finds that his lover, Alisha, has been killed by agents of a local company called Solustice Industries. Alisha got fed up with Garrett’s inaction and decided to get the new eye from the Hammers, who made the eye for Garrett in recognition of his role in killing the Trickster (Mister G popped a cap in his ass, yo!**). They gave her the eye, and as she was within sight of Garrett’s apartment, she was murdered and the eye stolen. “The Enterprise”, subsequently, was Garrett’s infiltration of the Solustice compound. It ended with Garrett being offered to take over as owner of Solustice Industries.

[** So to speak.]

Oh, by the way: if you haven’t played “The Enterprise” yet, don’t read the previous paragraph. [chuckles]

Garrett had no intention of accepting the offer (apparently), but one thing was haunting him: Alisha. Literally. So here we are, where we originally came into this review: the cemetery. Alisha’s ghost appears just as you, as Garrett, are doing the Technicolor Yawn;** you have conversation with Alisha -- the first of several inconclusive palavers in this mission -- wherein she informs you that there are Keepers in the cemetery, wanting a word with you. So you have to find the Keepers. Once found, they tell you that to find the cure for the poison, you has to leave this world via a dimensional teleporter that the Precursors made, which is in the hands of the Hammerites, who in turn are set to destroy the thing at midnight. As for your ghostly friend Alisha, they dismiss her as merely a hallucination. But you know how those Keepers are...

[** Meaning, he was vomiting. Throwing up. Tossing cookies. Spewing a light brunch. Paying homage to the Porcelain Pope. And so on.]

So your purpose is clear: get to the Hammerite cathedral by 10pm, which is when they lock the doors for the night. However, you need to perform a few preliminary tasks first. One of these is picking up the local mortician’s pocket watch, which doubles as a compass. Another is finding out who killed your wannabe-benefactor, Funnyname Solustice, who turns out to be...BUM BA BUM!

I’m not going to tell you.

So in between unraveling the plot against yourself and having these cryptic conversations with Alisha, you make your way across town to the gates of the Hammers’ cathedral. But first, you have to stop in at your apartment and get your gear...a very nice touch in an already-great mission. All geared up? Great. Next stop: stuff!

Along the way, you’ll encounter dead townsfolk in alleys (who have obviously been poisoned, too), witness an encounter between a Hammer and Mechanists, enjoy a hilarious family dynamic in the form of a drunk guy asking you to help open the door to his apartment while his shrieking harridan of a wife gives him what-for the whole time, find out how tricky it is to walk on ice, visit a funeral home, avoid the locals, listen in on some intriguing conversations, infiltrate a few places where you shouldn’t be, witness a “hallucination” or two, generally admire the architecture, and essentially piss off Alisha to no end with your mistrust.

The gameplay is typical Thief: stick to the shadows, avoid interaction with anyone beyond beating the love of the Builder into them, etc. Of course, this is why we play Thief in the first place, so it’s nice to see some things staying constant in this world.

The architecture, on the other webbed hand, is simply beautiful. I think I spent more time admiring my surroundings than paying attention to what the guards were doing...which led to a reload or three. Those of you playing on the easiest skill will get some time to look around a bit, while on the hardest skill, you’ll be somewhat pressed for time. A good part of this time is spent in conversations, whether Garrett’s directly involved or not. The loot goal is nonexistent, as you’re just passing through after all. I recommend playing on “normal” skill first, just to get a good look at the town, as well as learning the local landmarks.

I must point out an important element here: you lose health periodically from the poison. Garrett cries out in pain, coughing...and you need to pay attention to your health and drink potions accordingly. You’ll find them scattered around, so don’t worry about running out...and this way, it’s probably a good idea to avoid getting into fights.

Side note: there are four secrets to be found, but I only found one out of every single time I played with this version of the mission. And for the record, I never did find out the answer to the easter egg riddle found in the readme. I’m terrible at riddles and logic puzzles, so even the most rudimentary riddle hurts deeply. At any rate, it’s a shame that the version of Hallucinations found in this pack had the egg changed from the previous version; in that version, I actually figured out the riddle (hooray!) and found the secrets...pretty great secrets, really. But that’s changed now, and I feel a bit depressed over the whole thing. Maybe I should go sit in the backyard and eat crickets for a while.

Continuing... Even though I’m usually wary of timed missions in general, I enjoyed this one mightily; and despite my reservations about playing on expert, I found that once I knew the layout of the map perfectly (via several playthroughs), I was able to coast through easily on that skill. Although there are a few more guards and...other things...I’ve been playing the game long enough not to wet my pants and scream like a little girl when confronted with problems. No, I reserve such unseemly conduct for when Mistress Kiki TELLS me I should.

[It finally dawned on me that the key to the enjoyment of being dominated is actually submitting; all this time I was just looking at the leather-clad mean ladies like they were nuts and telling them to stop hitting me, why do they keep hitting me?!? Then they would look at *me* like I was nuts (hey, I didn't dress up like a superhero/nun hybrid and come to YOUR house and hit you with a riding crop, did I? Why am I the crazy one??) and they'd just sigh put their clothes back on and leave and I could finally go back to sorting my Transformers in peace.]

By the way, watch out for zombies.

But as much effort has been put into this mission, your main goal is to get to those cathedral gates as soon as you’ve put some clues together...which takes us to:


The Insurrection

At the end of Hallucinations, you blacked out. You awake at the insistence of a Keeper, and find that you’re under the bridge leading to the cathedral’s front doors. A cache of weaponry is nearby, the water in front of you is frozen, there’s a dead guy on the ice, and a loudspeaker above you blares with a Hammerite call to arms. It seems that you’ve stumbled upon a nice little holy war between the Mechanists and the Hammers**...which means that you’ll have to take especial care in not getting your ass killed.
[** A typical church schism. The town where I spent a few miserable school years had a similar problem. It wasn’t a very large town...and it still isn’t; but as it stands now, they have something on the order of 65 distinct churches, most of them established by breaking off from other churches. We Protestants are a happy, cooperative lot...]

[Had the Catholics been players of the Long Game, they could've just waited for us to wipe ourselves out.]

What’s even better is that you’ll finally be able to take a firsthand look at the cathedral in the briefing mission. My expert (ha ha ha) opinion? Yikes. Now, I will not recommend this mission for people with low-end machines, because the sheer size and the level of detail would make my old P2-350** explode, sending case shards in a deadly twenty-foot radius. However, if you have some processing muscle, the mission will play just fine...although there’s a place where the author warns you to save before accessing -- the towers that you can climb to look at the outside -- no matter *what* you’re running.

[** I used to know exactly what I had in my CPU case. Now? Who knows.]

Anyway, this mission is a little more convoluted than the first; there aren’t any lengthy conversations that you *must* listen to...however, the way to the Precursor device isn’t straightforward by any means. Thanks to the Mechanists, the Hammers are jumpy, and you’ll never know just whom you’ll bump into when turning a corner, be it a gear-head or a Hammer...regardless, they’ll both want to introduce you to the Builder, but you have other plans.

So it isn’t going to be easy (unless you’ve played through three times as I have). The focus is more on finding and accessing the device, instead of the exploration and plot establishment of Hallucinations. But you have enough time to watch the Mechs and Hammers whomp on each other, if that’s your fancy. Anyway, the two hours you get before midnight -- I’ll explain that in a moment -- are better spent finding clues and navigating this mother of a church. You’ll probably do some walking along a ledge or two outside, but it’s good exercise (if you don’t fall off and splat courageously on the ground below), and you can pick up some most helpful supplies left by the Supply Fairy, who comes and leaves gas arrows and health and invisibility potions on windswept ledges for the good little thieves of the world. I’m not even gonna ASK why this stuff is on the ledges, but I suspect Alisha.

You’ll eventually find that Karras and Cavador are involved, and they’ve been misusing the device for their own purposes***...they’ve fled the scene, as they were going to have a few Hammer boots shoved up their woofters. By the way, since this is set before Thief 2, this mission is filling in the sketchily-drawn past of Karras, as LGS didn’t consider it important enough to tell us about Karras’ stint in the Hammerite order.
[*** Needless to say.]

On another note, do these two guys remind anyone else of Dr. Forrester and TV’s Frank from the pre-SciFi channel incarnation of “Mystery Science Theater 3000”? Once in a while, I’ll think of things like Karras taking all of the money from Cavador’s 401K and investing it in something called “Unhappy Meals”...or just using Cavador’s blood to power his desk fan, or something, and inadvertently killing him for the three hundredth time.

Of course, the main premise is that Dr. Karras “Firebrand” Forrester and WCM’s Cavador**** have trapped Garrett in a small room at the top of Soulforge Cathedral and make him read badly-written scrolls while they monitor his mind. But he takes a couple of dead bots and turns them into wise-cracking companions, and they all sit around in the light of a candle and make fun of the scrolls with short breaks for impromptu skits and commercials. Now that I think about it, MST3K and Thief 2 really aren’t that far apart, once I twist it around a bit...
[**** WCM: Wax Cylinder Machine. I couldn’t say “TV’s Cavador” now, could I?]

[I'm surprised at how well that crossover premise turned out...]

ANYWAY, while you’re avoiding the various fanatics, you’ll be trying to get into the laboratories belonging to Karras and Cavador, as the device needs to be turned on before it can take you to this “other world”...and you simply can’t turn it on by flashing Cristy Thom** pictures at it (although that works on most of us); no, you’re going to need something more potent: Petra Verkaik.*** Unfortunately, she won’t fit in your inventory...so you’ll have to use masonry blocks on some pressure plates.

[** Cristy Thom was Playmate of the month in February of 1991. She's now an artist.]

[*** Petra Verkaik was Playmate of the month in December of 1989. She's still modeling nude.]

Somewhat Irrelevant And Stupid Side Note That Derails My Train Of Thought: Like Hallucinations, I was somewhat reluctant to play on expert...but I did it anyway. My knowledge of the cathedral’s layout allowed me to complete the mission in about 39 minutes on a 65-minute timer, which is actually pretty good for me. Granted that most of my time on the other skills was spent in killing Mechanists and blackjacking Hammers, so this time around I simply avoided them when I could. It goes that much faster, but I wasn’t as impacted as much by the whole thing that way. I recommend taking time to explore, as there’s plenty of fun things around every corner, some of them non-lethal!

Anyway...after you’ve activated the device, you’ll have to beat cheeks to where the device is, since the Hammers have had it with time tables and are...well. why should I give *everything* away? You’ll see. Oh, and may I give you a hint on how to get to the device (since I’ve seen many posts questioning how to get there)? Drainpipe. That is all.

So you’ve gotten to the device and jumped in...this is where you should quit if you are susceptible to seizures. For the rest of you, enjoy the credits. Hopefully, Book Two will make us happy very soon...but I doubt it. So much for my optimism therapy...didn’t have much hope for it anyway.

Finally, a note on the screenshots: I found that I had taken quite a few in Hallucinations, but not so many in Insurrection. Why? I have no idea, but it doesn’t matter; the screenshots I took in Insurrection couldn’t do it justice...you’ll just have to see the cathedral to believe it.

[In person. I provide no screenshots.]

Summary?
Two incredible timed missions with awe-inspiring architecture and beautiful texturing work. The cathedral, by the way, is to scale.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Annoyance Rating: Low

My Level Stats:

Hallucinations:
Normal Skill; Expert Skill
Loot: 998/1173; 998/1173
KO’s: 13; 13
Kills: 2; 12

Insurrection:
Normal Skill; Expert Skill
Loot: 1806/1956; 1848/2013
KO’s: 16; 8
Kills: 17; 5

[...next...]
Title: T2 009: Island Of Iron Series
Post by: Silver Sorrow on December 27, 2019, 09:50:27 PM
[Another "rescue"...I posted this in the main Foxhole reviews, but for this version I restored the original "Bats!" (part 8) Abstract. And so on. At the end of this post is the replacement Abstract. Because why not.]

[And I feel I should, in the spirit of honesty, admit that for this post I've rewritten small bits here and there. Nothing major, just some of the more awkward passages that made me feel more sad and tired than usual. (For example, the bit about wrestling.) Some tightening up of throwaway jokes, minor deletions of some truly unnecessary asides, and so on. It's all to make it read better...and to alleviate (if only a little) the psychosomatic aches and pains I experience when dealing with this shit.]

[An Important (at least, to me) Note: In the years since I wrote these reviews, the author -- John D. -- had been banned from the TTLG forums, and gave over his work to a third party (Dark Assassin) to make updates, etc. I'm not sure of the details, but I do know that after his banning, he asked *me* (as the Hangar had hosted one of his later FMs, we were apparently sympathetic?) to plead with the TTLG staff for reinstatement. They laid out a firm and reasonable "no." I thanked them for their time, informed him of their decision, and that was that; never heard from John D. again.

Anyway, it seems that since I wrote these reviews, the FMs in question were "improved"...what those improvements entail, I'm not sure. From the scant bit of research I've done -- life lesson: only learn enough to make you dangerous, but not enough to make you successful -- it seems that whoever "improved" them added in voice files for the Hammerites in "Brawl In The Tombs." Also, that same missions seems a little less populated with the undead. Beyond that, I don't know. As that mission was really the only one with any change in filesize, I've changed the info to reflect the newer version.

Something that may also be of pertinent interest is that the first mission of this review, "Quick Cash," is also part of a three-FM pack of John D.'s earlier missions ("Quick Cash," "Burglary In Blackbrook," and "Shadows Of The Past"); that pack can be found at Cheap Thief Missions (https://thiefmissions.com/m/DarkBeginnings) under the name "Dark Beginnings" (48.9mb). "Burglary In Blackbrook" is a good-sized remake of his T1/G FM of the same name, and it's worth the download. The other two missions are short and interesting.

So now you know. And knowing is half the battle.]


T2: The Island Of Iron Series


Game: Thief 2
Title(s): Quick Cash, Your Last Breath, A Brawl In The Tombs, Island of Iron Part One: Fortress of Steel, Island of Iron Part Two: Confrontation
Author: John D. Productions! (John D. Head)
E-mail: N/A
Filename(s)/Downloads:
quickcash.zip (312k) (http://thiefmissions.com/info.cgi?m=quickcash)
yourlastbreath.zip (959k) (http://thiefmissions.com/info.cgi?m=yourlastbreath)
brawlinthetombsV2.zip (48.9mb) (http://thiefmissions.com/info.cgi?m=BrawlinthetombsV2)
Islandpt1FOS.zip (8.7mb) (http://thiefmissions.com/info.cgi?m=Islandpt1FOS)
Islandpt2.zip (17mb) (http://thiefmissions.com/info.cgi?m=Islandpt2)
Overall Score: 5 / 5

Note: You know the drill...custom recolors, health shields, what have you. Thanks to Purah and others for providing the basics of what my custom interface has become.

[That should mean something to me, and yet...it doesn't.]

Abstract:
[Bats! Part 8]
...Baked Louisiana Blue Crab Imperial With Caviar And Sautéed Pea Shoots Smothered In Bat Chutney, Smoked Sturgeon Napoleon With Caviar Cream And A Lemon-Bat Gastrique, Country Bat With Redeye Gravy and Buttermilk Bat Biscuits, Country Bat And Apple Slaw Sandwich With Baby Swiss And Bourbon Mustard With Little Minced Pieces Of Otherwise Useless Bat Parts, Crawfish And Artichoke Risotto With Crispy Eggplant And Soggy Whole Bat, Smoked Bat And Scallop Koulibiaca With Spinach And Black Truffles Wrapped In Phyllo And/Or Cellophane With Truffle Beurre Blanc, Gnocchi With A Garlic Bat Cream Sauce And Balsamic Glazed Pearl Onions, Pumpkin Gnocchi With A Brown Bat Sauce With Crisped Sage And Shaved Parmigianno-Reggiano, Warm Porcini Mushroom Flan With Wild Bat Confit, Bat Emulsion and Crispy Bat Wings, Nimbu Rice: Rice with Indian Spices, Cashews, A Buttload of Rabid Frothing Bats and Chiles...
[TO BE CONTINUED!]


The Basics:
Equipment Store: No across the board.
Skill Settings: No/Yes/Yes/Yes/Yes
Map/Automap: No/No to all except the last, which has a placeholder map but no automap.
Puzzle Difficulty: Easy/Easy/Medium/Easy/Medium
General Difficulty: Easy/Easy/Medium/Medium/Hard
R_speeds: Adequate, even though the last mission may make your system hiccup like a mother.
New Stuff: No/Yes to the rest
Gameplay: Undead versus living AI-fu/exorcizing the fu-demon once and for all-fu

[And good riddance to the fu.]

Briefing/Story?
I take care of the story in the individual mission entries. Enjoy.

Onward!
Since I hate spreading things every which way for thousands of pages, I’ll be reviewing all of the FMs in the series right here...which may take the focus off a thoroughly in-depth look, but since when did my reviews ever achieve anything approaching depth? Don’t answer that!

So on to the review. Read on, and try to comprehend me.


Quick Cash
Nice and short. The whole idea here is to break into a Hammerite barracks and pick up some loot...very simple. The fun part comes when you enter a chapel filled with Hammers, and you notice a note tacked up by a side door, a dire warning to not open the door.

So of course I had to open it.

Hint? Leave the Hammers alone, open the door and shoot a noisemaker into what lies beyond. Rewarding.

As for the technical side of things, the architecture isn’t ambitious by any means; the layout is rather plain and workmanlike. But the whole idea isn’t to wow you with special effects, or a show of technical wizardry...no, it’s more or less a setup for the AI to fight each other. This is a hint of things to come in later missions, but this is a good start.

In short, it’s adequately named.

Score: 2 / 5


Your Last Breath
It’s your intention to hop off your raft (that thing you're standing on) and find out what the Mechanists are doing on the sea bed. If you know what you’re doing, you won’t drown...but there are plenty of breath potions on hand, just in case you don’t know what you’re doing. There are a couple of structures to peruse, but the only one of any especial importance is also the most heavily-patrolled (isn’t that always the way?). Before swimming over there, you can investigate a lookout post with its solitary inhabitant, investigate a corpse a short distance away, or get your ass perforated by a Mechanist in diving gear. "Stay away from him," is all I’m trying to say in my own crude, uneducated manner.

Once you’re ready to head over to the main building, remember that you’re carrying flash bombs...because you’ll probably need them. The whole point of this exercise is to find information; it seems some Mech-a-muck* named Friend Arbez has been pulling some mysterious crap...the Mechs are also putting together a plan to retake the Island of Iron, a former Hammer possession that was overrun by the undead.
[* Oh, I’m SO clever.]

So as you’re finding all of this out, try not to disturb everybody with your Zildjian-brand Cymbal Boots, which react quite harmoniously -- if loudly -- with the largely metal floors. Look around, gather some info, and put everyone to sleep.

I liked this one, if only for the tranquil underwater jaunt...you know, when I wasn’t frantically swimming for air. The author mentions in the readme that he had problems with adding a starry sky texture, so enjoy a kind of blocky black sky. It doesn’t really bother me, except that I have my gamma cranked up (I find squinting is not inducive to enjoyment), and it gives the impression that it’s in a subaquatic cavern with a pretty good air pocket above me. Again, this is my own strange little hang-up and shouldn’t be construed as actual fact.

Also, the architecture is improving; the underwater terrain is well done (and spiky), the buildings are Mechtastic, and the water is quite lung-filling. Glub, glub.

Score: 3 / 5


A Brawl In The Tombs
Now we’re getting somewhere. After your ordeal ‘neath the bounding main (or whatever), you decide to take a vacation from the City and go to Lithscon (not to be confused with Lithone, the planet Unicron destroys at the beginning of Transformers: The Movie), a small town not far from the City. You had gathered some info, but were unsure of what to do next; hence, your vacation. It seems the Mechanists are eager to conquer the Island of Iron, a former Hammerite possession that was overrun by the undead. At this point, it’s unclear to you why they want to do this (maybe somebody lost a contact lens), but someone called Friend Arbez is heavily involved.

Anyway, while in Lithscon you meet up with an old friend who tells you of a series of ancient, forgotten tombs beneath the town and the problems that occur when you let a fourth-rate wizard try out a few spells. Instant zombie overrun! This presents no end of frustration to the living, who on the whole don’t like being gnawed upon by shambling undead horrors.* So to combat this unseemly rotting riot, the Hammers have sent Thoren, a legendary fighter of the undead, as well as a few hired mercenaries, to clean out the tombs once and for all. Caught up in this mess is a band of thieves who were making their base in the tombs; their leader, Willy, is a good friend of your friend and he’s agreed to let you have free passage through their hideout. They’ll also let you have your pick of equipment and all the loot you can carry from the tombs, as long as you give them a cut. Seems fair.
[* Some people are so picky. “Oh, boo-hoo, I don’t wanna be a zombie’s lunch! I hate it when my undead grandma eats my brains! Waaaaaah!” Buncha babies.]

Also, you hear that there are Mechanists operating in a section of the tombs, and they’ve been seen slumming with a Lord Linus, whose mansion’s basement is connected to the tombs themselves. Until recently, the thieves have been plundering his home with great success. Maybe the Mechs will have some important information just laying around for you to read. You wonder if this Friend Arbez is as dangerous as he seems. You also wonder if people can hear you wonder, because there seems to be a LOT of echo in here. Hello! Is this thing on? Now-ow batting-ing for-or the Yankees-ees...

So in short, you’re supposed to meet with the thieves and pick up some equipment, then do a few errands...which also involves looting what you can and causing as much chaos as possible for the Hammers and Mechs. There are also rumors of some Keepers down here somewhere...

...and with the exception of the Keepers (as they are far removed from the action), perhaps you could get them all to join together in peace, joy and harmony; become one in a common goal of fostering a better, brighter world for our children and our children’s children and our children’s children’s children.

Better yet, you could simply get them all to kill each other in a bloody explosion of unparalleled pain and brutality. Your choice, but guess which option is more fun? John D. knows the path to true Thief happiness, and he sets the game board admirably: is there an area that’s too full of undead? Lure them into an area with living AI. Are you being chased by a Hammer? Run through the middle of some zombies. Pesky Haunts? Run around one of the manned posts where holy water-carrying archers are stationed. Troubled by ghostly hemorrhoids the size of ripe grapefruit? Buy some Apparition-H!

[I finally got to use that joke. Yay.]

Besides the ulterior motive of the mission -- loot the tombs and find information about the Island of Iron thing -- the author taps directly into a furtive part of every person on the planet: [the joy one feels] watching people (or things) kick the hell out of each other. This is why televised professional wrestling exists, friends. But when you come down to it, wrestling is really just a bunch of sweaty guys touching each other. No thank you.

But at least the women get involved once in a while, or so I've heard. Ask yourself: when’s the last time you saw a woman slam another woman’s face into a turnbuckle and keep slamming until there’s nothing left but chunky brain salsa smeared all over the canvas? Probably never, but...

Uh, the point I was trying to make is that you come for the loot and stay for the carnage. There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing Mechanists slaughtered by the score, or zombies exploding in a crowd of Hammers, Haunts whomping on a Mech turret, or telemarketers being drawn and quartered. Spring traps or set your own, you can do it all...with your new hair!

[slaps forehead...which is much higher than it used to be]

Um...anyway, you will see/do these things and more. I’ve played this mission many, *many* times. I just can’t get enough of watching the AI fight each other...so just sit back and enjoy the spectacle.

What’s interesting is that, among other projects, this Arbez fruit loop has been tinkering with a new kind of Mech soldier that’s fairly effective at fighting the undead. Of course, this spells bad news for *you* if you run into one, but you won’t have that problem just yet...for now, watch what happens when they go into action. Observe by watching, someone once said,** and damned if that isn’t true.
[** I think it was Yogi Berra...or Yogi the Bear...which one hung around with Boo-Boo?]

Caveat: seeing as how you are equipped with a holy sword, you may be tempted to kill supine zombies. Yes, that is possible...but be careful of Thief 2’s tendency to treat the flying zombie parts as potentially fatal projectiles. Find a good angle to strike from; I prefer standing in the collarbone area, then swinging for the body. Splorch!

Also, try to *backstab* ambulatory zombies; the same death-by-flying-rotting-torso rule still applies here.

Another thing I must mention is the fact that the thieves get involved at a certain point. If you see a thief or two attacking a zombie and you decide to jump in, they might take it the wrong way and turn on you. Leave ‘em alone; let them work and continue looting. Speaking of the thieves: before you do anything, try to visit the thieves’ hideout for more equipment; be careful, as they’re friends...you won’t fail the mission if you kill them, but why should you kill allies? So don’t attack them!

As for what the place looks like, come on: it’s a series of tombs. I mean, you aren’t looking for anything Bonehoard-ish I hope, because you aren’t going to get it. That is to say, the architecture isn’t overly awe-inspiring -- it’s downright utilitarian in places -- but it isn’t exactly sithspit, either. There are several pleasing areas, but the overall theme is one of *dark* tombs. You’ll probably still be squinting a bit...however, I found that if I maxed out the game gamma (as I usually keep it anyway), I was able to see perfectly well. The bottom line is that it was dim, but still perfectly playable. My eye strain was minimum, but turn up your gamma if you have problems.

One other minor quibble concerns the ambient sounds in the tombs. They were well-chosen, but a little...um...LOUD.

So now that you’ve caused an unholy amount of carnage and can barely stand from the sheer amount of loot you’re carrying, it’s time to head for the exit.

Score: 4.5 / 5


Island of Iron Part One: Fortress of Steel
That was interesting. After your little jaunt in the tombs, you made good on your deal to give the thieves a good cut of the loot you found, as well a couple of gifts to their leader, Willy. This allowed you to make your exit in one piece. Whilst snooping in the Mechanists’ HQ, you found sick experiments being carried out on both the living and undead, and the one responsible is that Friend Arbez guy. It seems Arbez has been trying to control the undead for some unfathomable reason. All you know is that he made some allusion to being expelled from the Hand Brotherhood, and that’s probably fuelled his badness...this guy is a real character, an “interesting” guy. Remember Constantine? He was interesting, too. You’ve had enough of interesting people.

You’ve rowed out to the Island of Iron (in a rowboat no less*), in hopes of catching Arbez at the Mech outpost. The Mechs are ostensibly trying to reclaim the island from the undead for the glory of the Builder, or some such thing...but more likely because there are quite a few exploitable natural resources to be had. Even so, you believe that Arbez has a sinister ulterior motive for being on the island. You’re here to find Arbez and kill him...although if it were that easy, there wouldn’t be an “Island of Iron Part Two.”
[* As opposed to a quinquereme.]

While this installment does indeed feature an area wherein Mechs fight the undead, it’s only one occurrence, albeit memorable. Your goal is to essentially find out a few things...oh, and to loot the place. That’s understood. This mission also introduces a new Mech toy in the form of the Firebots, which is a new type of combat bot...and of course, it’s impervious to fire. So much for those mines and fire arrows you’ve been squirreling away. Fortunately, they still work on soft targets...

This place is a fortress, manned with all manner of Mechs armed to the teeth and ready for a zombie attack. Sneaking around, you’ll find a few readables pointing out that these people are horrified by the whole thing...but you don’t give a crap what Mechanists think, right? I left the fortress littered with dismembered bodies and mangled bots. But you may choose the wholly sneaky route, which is perfectly okay, but perhaps not as much fun. I prefer striking from the shadows and throwing them into utter confusion and horror as I pick off their companions one by one until the last one left realizes he or she is alone...all alone...

Okay, perhaps I need to get away from the computer for a while...or stop reading Lovecraft.** But whatever you enjoy doing with your equipment, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to try out your new offensive dinguses. Or not. Your choice.
[** “...I heard it well up from the innermost depths of that damnable open sepulcher as I watched amorphous, necrophagous shadows dance beneath an accursed waning moon. ‘You fool! Disco is DEAD!’” -- from “The Statement of Donna Summer”]

And what’s new in the area of your equipment? Well, for starters, there’s the firebomb, a curious flashbomb-like device that sets someone on fire (or as close to such a thing that the engine can claim). Another delicious item is the flash arrow, which is essentially what it sounds like. To get that arrow, use your “next weapon” key, because it replaces nothing in your inventory. I might also mention a new sword at your disposal that you can pick up at some point; up to then, you’ll be carrying a little dagger. This is good for lancing boils and pricking your finger for diabetes testing, but I prefer a sword that takes both arms to lift.

I hope that doesn’t say anything weird about me.

After the last mission, a live-AI jaunt might be to your liking, perhaps. Destroying the hopes and dreams of the living is my immutable goal, and this I accomplished with a grin on my face and a spring in my step (or was it the other way around?). It’s good to be able to familiarize yourself with some of the new items and tools at your disposal, as well as what you can expect in possible AI in the next mission.

But what about the fortress itself, you may ask? It’s...well, it’s pretty much a Mech base. There it is. If you’re expecting flying buttresses and soaring colonnades, then you’re in for bitter disappointment...but it’s your own fault, since you’re not here to sightsee. The Mechs aren’t exactly interested in needless decoration, so count on utilitarian architecture and a lot of metal.

As for the mission itself, your main goal is to kill Arbez, all the while avoiding the Mechs and their toys (or clubbing the Mechs and breaking their toys) in an attempt to gather information and do some irreparable harm to the Mechs’ island-reclaiming agenda.

Like I mentioned earlier, things aren’t as cut-and-dried as they look from the outset; complications present themselves...but it’s nothing you can’t handle. That said, most of the satisfaction you derive in this mission is of a spiritual nature: by sabotaging the Fortress’ security, you’re putting the Mechs all over the island into severe peril. Allow me to laugh in the manner of Vincent Price. But that’s all you get in this one; however, you do see the result of your handiwork in the conclusion, which is where we’re going next.

Score: 3.9 / 5


Island of Iron Part Two: Confrontation
This is it. In your quest to track down Arbez and plant your size 11 boot in his groin, you’ve reached the most dangerous part of the Island, the former Hammer cathedral/fortress. The Mechs have reclaimed the place and have set up housekeeping, etc. They infest the place like the dogma-spewing cockroaches they are and, well, gee...wouldn’t it be a *shame* if they were overrun by the undead?

Ask not for whom I cry, I cry not for them. Anyway, your first task is to travel through a sort of sewage/drainage system to the actual cathedral -- noticing from the resulting carnage at a nearby outpost that your actions in the Fortress of Steel weren’t completely in vain, ha-ha! -- and find a way inside.

I’ll leave this up to you. Hint: there is another way in besides the doors.

Once inside, you’ll discover that your task may be a bit tougher than you thought. Or maybe it’ll be *easier* than you thought. It’s all based on your expectations and inherent personality defects, but never fear: there’s always free therapy at the local colleges. Just look for the guy with the tweediest clothing.

So let’s look around. An impressive cathedral with crumbling masonry giving a general impression of neglect and despair which is being renovated by a bunch of gear-obsessed idiots? Check! Mechs patrolling the halls, descanting the fundamentals? Check! Mech bot experiments at the ready for the purpose of smashing and killing? Check! Slyfoxx, my favorite Garrett impersonator, returning to the role? Check! Loot? Check! A needlessly elaborate, monolithic taxmatic bureaucracy dedicated to constricting your every financial step forward in an attempt to squeeze more blood out of your personal budgetary stone? Che--uh, no. That’s just in real life. Try not to think about it. Carry on.

As you sneak through the fortress’ upper levels, you’ll find that Friend Arbez has been tampering in the Builder’s domain. Once you get into his laboratories, in fact...but I’ll let you discover that on your own. But here’s the kicker: even though there is no undead-human interaction in the first part of this mission (a single event divides the mission), the second part more than makes up for it. In fact, you’ll be interested only in escape the first time you play, which is just too bad if you hadn’t fulfilled the loot objective yet.

And while this mission owes at least a spiritual debt to Purah’s “Midnight in Murkbell,” (the second mission in “Calendra’s Legacy”) it isn’t really a rehash at all, despite Garrett’s comment: “Oh, shit...looks like Murkbell all over again!” Granted, both involve a lot of undead...however, in “Murkbell,” You had to perform certain tasks in the middle of a hellish (but fun) “Night of the Living Dead” scenario, while this mission doesn’t require you to do anything but escape when it happens (even though I decided to hang around and clean the place out), as you’ve probably completed all of your objectives by that point.

And what is that point? Sorry, but you’ll just have to find out for yourself...but it isn’t too hard to figure out. Until you get there, you’ll be...well...delighted and/or horrified by the readables and atmospheric situations you encounter. There are some truly disturbing things here and there (such as the old nursery or the ground-floor generator room), all of which makes me extremely happy. Remember, I’m the guy who used to consider books detailing the forensic analysis of serial murders as “light reading”...anyway, Arbez would never be considered a nice guy with whom you’d leave the kids while you and the ol’ ball and chain go out on the town. That’s a warning, by the way. Don’t freak when you find out how dire a warning it is.

I’ve mentioned this previously, but the architecture in this mission is top-notch; the previous installments were more utilitarian, but workable; featuring some good-looking cathedralism and a host of nasty surprises for the slow of heel, the author’s shown stellar improvement in his building skills, and I eagerly await his next project. I also eagerly await the day that I acquire complete One-ness with the Universe, but in the meantime I’ll settle for Subway hiring people with a reasonable amount of intelligence. Hope springs eternal...

[...and I keep hoping...]

When I first played this mission, the game crashed several times for a couple of reasons; one, there was a lot going on at once (which is anathema to the Dark Engine; the undead being a particular beam in Thief 2’s eye, specifically exploding zombies and Apparitions dying), and two, I had a stupid tendency towards quicksaving and then quickloading in the middle of large confrontations. Crunch. For the review, however, I performed a few hard saves in my progress and experienced no crashes.

I must stress again that quicksaving and quickloading in the middle of complex undead/human fights is not something I recommend, and should be avoided. Otherwise, you should be fine.

And speaking of conflict, there are a couple of precautions you can take to make your exit easier. For one, try to avoid killing or blackjacking the Mechs. They’re easily avoided, even on Expert. (Although the Mechs on the top floor and in Arbez’ lab I neutralized gleefully.) Another thing is that you don’t *have* to visit every single area in the place before fulfilling your primary goal, although it’s better if you were to perhaps open all of the doors so that the Mechs will hear any...er...disturbances. Remember that if you do take the sneaky non-KO, non-alerting route (kind of like ghosting, but with exceedingly malicious intent), it will be extremely difficult to get the required loot without alerting the Mechs. But with any luck, both parties will be so weakened by combat that the remaining AI (undead or alive) will be fairly easy to finish off with a minimum of effort, leaving you pretty much the run of the place.

With that said, don’t be too sure of yourself...there are a couple of undead horrors who are a little too tough (and quick) for mere dilly-dallying. I laid a sunburst device trap for a couple of them, and they actually survived...

So even though you can almost ghost the first half, it’s really not the type of mission that lends well to perfect ghosting. Your (evil) intent in ghosting is to keep the undead busy while you escape/fulfill your loot requirement. So if you enjoy strolling easily past scenes of carnage (hi!), this mission will enthrall you.

In short, a fine end to the series.

Score: 5 / 5


Final Series Score: 5 out of 5 for the whole package. Yes, I’m a nice guy.

Summary?
A series of missions with 1) the intent of killing a madman with all kinds of interpersonal problems, and 2) AI fighting each other to your great amusement. The author’s architecture improves progressively (some might say exponentially) over the course of the series, so it’s interesting to see. Fun and funny, give them a try.

My Level Stats (Ha-ha! Fear Me, Fools!):

Quick Cash
Skill: Easy (Normal)
KO’s: 5
Kills: 0
Loot: 502/502

Your Last Breath
Skill: Top Taffer (Expert)
KO’s: 10
Kills: 0
Loot: 1365/1365

A Brawl In the Tombs
Skill: 1 Man Army (Expert)
KO’s: 11
Kills: 71
Loot: 5070/5420

Island of Iron Part One
Skill: Killer (Expert)
KO’s: 32
Kills: 24
Loot: 1405/1405

Island of Iron Part Two
Skill: Killer (Expert)
KO’s: 10
Kills: 42
Loot: 1662/2127

The Grace Scale
Grace gives it a... [...I don't know. She never told me.]

[And now, the Abstract I had originally replaced "Bats" with. You're welcome.]

An excerpt from Die In A Pit Of Lime, Mr. Bahnd!
by A. Gardner

Bahnd parked his Fermari Tuscalahoosa next to the Ifrit doublewide trailer. The sleek elegance of the Fermari contrasted starkly with the breath-taking trashiness of the so-called "mobile home". Bahnd winced as the driver's side gull-wing door scraped up the side of the trailer, leaving a red streak of paint far more expensive per gallon than the entire fleet of similar rolling domiciles produced in a year in the great doublewide factories of Omaha. "Well," Bahnd thought with a smirk, "perhaps this will add class to the residence."

It was a matter of seconds' work to break through the flimsy screen door and the pressed particle board door behind it. Bahnd grimaced as he stepped into the trailer, sickened by the horrors of the tacky orange 1978 Sandersonville shag rug (stock #3030722-A) lashing mercilessly at the soles of his Italian Sonata No. 5 Gumchi loafers. When he stepped in what could only be the gastro-intestinal output of a rather large dog with a healthy appetite, he lost it completely.

"Who thuh hell are yew??" a rough voice exclaimed from the kitchen/bathroom suite, interrupting Bahnd's freak-out. The voice belonged to a thoroughly inbred descendent of hardy, semi-intelligent pioneers that, inexplicably, settled in what is now West Virginia. He was holding a double-barreled Riffington shotgun, which was pointed at Bahnd's Armafia tuxedo. Bahnd considered his options: he could either 1) fake left and roll right, pulling his Schliss-Zevart .22 pistol (called "The Pussy Popper" by derisive gun aficionados) and putting a tight groupings of rounds into the man's chest, or 2) talk to him first. He decided on the second option.

"Bahnd. J--" he managed to get out before a large dog pounced on him from behind, sending him sprawling ingloriously to the floor. The dog, obviously quite friendly in many ways, finished licking Bond's face, then began to methodically rape him.

Bahnd whimpered.

[For some reason, the current owners of the 007 series have never tried to contact me about writing a script.]

[...next...]
Title: T2 010: Bloodsport
Post by: Silver Sorrow on December 28, 2019, 10:53:12 AM
T2: Bloodsport

Game: Thief 2
Title: Bloodsport
Author: Metalhead
E-mail: N/A
Homepage: N/A
Filename: Bloodsport_hibr.zip
Filesize: 27.7mb
Download: Cheap Thief Missions (http://thiefmissions.com/info.cgi?m=Bloodsport_hibr)
A List of the Secrets: at CTM (http://thiefmissions.com/hints/Bloodsport_hibr.html)
Score: 4 / 5

Note: You know the drill...custom recolors, health shields, what have you. Thanks to Purah and others for providing the basics of what my custom interface has become.

[It would be truly something if it really mattered.]

Abstract:
[Bats! Part 9]
...Baked Bat In Shiitake Wine Sauce, Zucchini-Smothered Bat And Bell Pepper Frittata, Bat Roast Hash with Fried Bat Eggs (unless bats don’t lay eggs), Apple Pie with Bat and Walnut Streusel, Chocolate Bat Pecan Pie, Grits with Tasso and Bat and Poached Eggs, Potato Bat Saffron Omelet, Asparagus with Gruyere and Tarragon Bat Souffléd Omelet, Bat Tortilla Espanola, Herbed Bat and Cheddar Frittata, Fried Eggs over Warm Lentil Salad with Bat, Aunt Mary’s Old Fashioned Stacked Double Crust Batsauce Pie With Tangy Bat Ice Cream...
[TO BE CONTINUED!]

The Basics:
Equipment Store: No
Skill Settings: Yes; Easy, Expert, Nuckin’ Futs!
Map/Automap: No/No
Puzzle Difficulty: Mild
General Difficulty: Eek. Hold on to your knickers.
R_speeds: Good, except for one specific instance (more below)
New Stuff: Yes, indeedy
Gameplay: Live/Undead; blood-obsessed cult-fu/zombie-fu/weird Haunt & Apparition variations-fu/spider-fu/bot-fu/tunnel-fu/sewer-fu/secret passage-fu/massive explosion-fu/I’ve had it with this “-fu” thing-fu

[I hate the fu.]

Briefing/Story?
Well, this is a fine pickle. You -- Garrett -- have been captured and thrown into a cell. But this isn’t any ordinary jail, no...you’re a guest of the Brotherhood of the Raven, a shady cult who will eventually toss your butt into an arena to fight to the death with...I don’t know, an accountant from Dayport, or something. You’re just a source of amusement to them, but they’re damned picky as to what that entertainment entails, as they’re interested only in your fighting abilities and show no interest whatsoever in your soft-shoe skills.*
[* As if Garrett were capable of that.]

[I may have screwed that up. What I meant was that since Garrett's boots are (from the sound he makes moving) made out of extra-loud concrete blocks, he has no "soft-shoe" skills whatsoever.]

So you know that since you’re a lover and not a fighter, you have to escape. Luckily, a guard with a key walks too close to the bars, and there just happens to be an outward-leading tunnel near the back of the cells. Talk about your lucky breaks! Plus, since no one in the Thief universe but you knows how to crouch... But escape isn’t all that’s on your mind, no! You’re going to make them regret they ever interrupted your evening with the charming Lady Francine Dee, the widely respected import cart model.**
[* Her detractors call her “a glorified horse ornament,” but they’re just jealous of her enormous...er...abilities.]

[I don't want to explain that. Do I have to? Yes, I left the goddamn thing in there, I should explain it. Okay. Francine Dee was an import CAR model, and they often spent a lot of time polishing hoods for the camera...that is, they posed on/in/around the cars, often wearing very little clothing, if any. So an import CART model would, of course, be posing draped all over the horse(s) in a similar fashion. Thus: if she were on a CAR, she would be a hood ornament. On a CART, she's a horse ornament. Can I move on now? My sinuses hurt and I'm starting to taste metal.]

Onward!
From the “I Know This Came Out A Couple Of Years Ago, But I really Don’t Care” retro reviews file.

[Try nineteen years ago (as of this post), bub.]

So there’s the guard, making his rounds. Sneak up, grab his key, then consider your options. You could scoot out of the cell when no one’s looking and grab a sword in a nearby room, or you could crawl through the tunnel and find a blackjack somewhere. It’s your choice, really, but it is possible to get the sword without too much trouble. The blackjack, on the other hand, desires some sneaking skill to acquire.

You see? It’s these type of missions that force me to actually think...and it isn’t all that easy, either (the thinking, I mean...although the mission is pretty tough itself). In fact, I hated this mission when I first played it...because I didn’t know what was going on, I had no weapons, and it was damnably difficult. But now I enjoy it *because* of these things.

Donations to the National Fund For Silver Sorrow’s Sanity are welcome, but not necessary. I know what I’m doing.

[The craft may be in flames, but I know exactly where I'm headed: right into that there mountain.]

That said, I still find this to be one of the longer marathon-like missions I’ve ever played. Part of it is the layout of the map; no short walk to get where you’re going, no...you’ll need to hoof it, no matter where you want to go. But don’t despair, ass-- uh, *grass*hopper, the place is honeycombed with connecting passages, etc., that you’ll find at least two different ways to go wherever you wish.

At any rate, I suggest playing on the easiest skill first, just to get the hang of it. And even though I’ve played through a few times, this mission still kicks me in the head...all the secrets, the weird new AI, the traps...this is one of those missions you either love forever or hate with the heat of a thousand (give or take a few) suns. Strangely enough, you really don’t have to visit all of the map; you can fulfill most (or all) of your goals without ever finding one secret or encountering anything undead.

So as jail cells go, the one you start out in is fairly straightforward: bars, stone floor, there’s a ceiling in there somewhere, guards outside, fellow prisoners standing around, etc. It’s when you get out of the cell that the architecture picks up. As you go further into the mission, you’ll see some pretty interesting stuff...although the author doesn’t go overboard with the gee-whiz visuals, there are still some nice sights; the arena, for example, the gigantic inverted question mark in one area,*** and let’s not forget the Brotherhood’s chapel.
[*** Agnostics find the inverted question mark highly offensive.]

[A little riff on what might be the agnostic's wishy-washy equivalent of religious iconography.]

One thing that *does* go overboard, and this has become something of a trademark of the author, is the Massive Framerate-Killing Explosion Of Hellfire And Death And/Or Permanent Disability. You’ll know it when you see it...but let me describe it anyway. On a higher skill level, one of your goals is to “ransack the [Brotherhood’s] supply room and plunder what you can.” Which means that those barrels of explosives aren’t there just for show. You can also pick them up and put them where you wish...so I suggest putting a couple of them in the hallway, just in case you might need them for other things, like setting traps for combat bots. I’m not sure, but I think the “ransack” goal won’t check off until you destroy all of the barrels...again, I’m not sure. However, a few of the crates have useful contents, so check the text description of each crate...and if it’s something useful -- such as a crate of gold nuggets -- then break the crate against a wall, or something. Watch out for crates that contain things like explosives or spiders, or even hammers...ouch.

Okay, ready? All right: now stack the explosives and the questionable crates against the large immovable crates. You can use a fire arrow, but a flare will work just as well. Stand waaaaaaaaaaaay back and...

...well, it’s one of those things that needs to be seen to be fully appreciated. Your game will become a slideshow, many things will go flying, and you will find yourself praying to your own personal concept of a Higher Power that your computer doesn’t explode as well.

But besides the “Well, I’ll be hornswoggled, Martha...did you see that??” special effects, there are other things to contend with. See, it’d be one thing if you were just creeping through a compound filled with humans and robots (more on them in a minute), but how about facing a few perversions of nature?

No...I’m not talking about a naked 70 year-old Yoko Ono,**** I’m talking about Haunts that explode into a group of spiders upon being killed; zombies that look oddly familiar (if you’ve played System Shock 2); a new version of the Mech combat servant that is impervious to everything but mines and fire and can go anywhere a human can; cows that, when naked flame is held close to their bottoms, are capable of shooting flames up to *eighteen feet*! Well, maybe that’s something else. The point is, the new AI show a lot of imagination.
[**** That feeling you’re experiencing? It’s your genitalia shriveling up in an attempt to get back home.]

[And she's 86 now, so try to get THAT image out of your head without resorting to an icepick. Sleep well, kids!]

As for the combat bots, there’s only four of them (besides the new one mentioned in the last paragraph*****). They’ve been modified by the Brotherhood to reflect their order’s embrace of the four elements, and they’re somewhat troublesome. One shoots rocks, another shoots poisonous water worms, etc. The Brotherhood itself, by the way doesn’t react normally either. The regular guys, as characterized by their green robes, look a bit like Keepers, except for the designs on their clothes (Morbid Angel shirts?). They will go through the motions of a magical attack and will launch arrows, razor blades and whatnot at you. The Grand Liege, their complete puss of a leader, looks like Garrett in a dress.
[***** I’m not sure (third time this review...a new record!), but I think the new combat bot may count as a human kill. So care may be required when playing on Expert.]

So as you navigate this maze and encounter the denizens both normal and not (do thieves with unearthly running speed count as “normal”?), you’ll find plenty of secrets, massive explosions, heart-stopping surprises, inexplicable oddities (hint: glowing rats be different from normal rats!), and a shopping list of goals as long as your arm. Some of the goals may be a bit buggy, such as the Expert-level goal of dropping the Grand Liege in the middle of the arena...which works most of the time. On the whole a fantastically difficult and convoluted mission.

This mission is followed by “Dyer’s Eve,” which is yet another adventure in keeping all of your parts and wits in the same self-contained structure.

Summary?
Hell on earth, but fun once you know what you’re doing...say, by the third or fourth playthrough.

Rating?
4 out of 5

Annoyance Rating:
Let’s say this grape represents your patience, and this sledgehammer represents this mission. You make the connection.

My Level Stats:
Skill: Nuckin’ Futs! (Expert)
KO’s: 39
Kills: 18
Loot: 2715/3095

[For some reason, I had Pink Floyd's "Have A Cigar" stuck in my head while formatting. I suspect that I could have been listening to that when I wrote the review way back when and I somehow remembered? It would be...interesting...if that were so, but I think it may be just another brain fart.]

[By the way, which one's Pink? Never mind. Next!]
Title: T2 011: Dyer's Eve
Post by: Silver Sorrow on December 28, 2019, 11:49:18 AM
[I can't believe that back when I reviewed this, I made no reference whatsoever to Metallica's "Dyer's Eve." I mean, I LIVE for that shit, you know?]


Dyer’s Eve

Game: Thief 2
Title: Dyer’s Eve
Author: Metalhead
E-mail: N/A
Homepage: N/A
Filename: DyersEve1.0.zip
Filesize: 5.72mb
Download: Cheap Thief Missions (http://thiefmissions.com/info.cgi?m=DyersEve1.0)
Score: 5 / 5

Note: You know the drill...custom recolors, health shields, what have you. Thanks to Purah and others for providing the basics of what my custom interface has become.

[Yipee-skip.]

Abstract:
[Bats! Part 10]
...Pickled Bat and Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie, Cauliflower Cheese ‘n’ Bat Pie, Spaghetti Pie with Bat-Shaped Bat Meatballs, Curried Bat Pie with Sweet Potato Rosettes, Butterbat Squash Soup with Croutons and Extra Bat, Old-Fashioned Bat Noodle Soup, South American Hissing Death Bat and Creamed Corn Soup, Shrimp and Spinach Noodle Soup With Big Meaty Chunks O’ Bat, Soba Soup With Spinach and Tofu and Enough Extruded Bat to Feed a Platoon of Starving Marines...
[TO BE CONTINUED!]

The Basics:
Equipment Store: Yes
Skill Settings: Easy, Hard, Nuckin’ Futs!
Map/Automap: No/No
Puzzle Difficulty: Medium to Hard
General Difficulty: Evil Incarnate
New Stuff: Most likely.
Gameplay: Undead. Sheer hopelessness. Joy!

Briefing/Story?
After escaping from the sanctum of the Brotherhood of the Raven, you (Garrett) holed up in a village local to the Brotherhood’s arena. You have no idea where you are, exactly, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to lose sight of what’s important: all the cookies you can eat! Uh...no. I mean: getting your revenge! A helpful local...er...businessman has offered you a deal concerning information; if you get an ancient navigation globe for him, he can tell you where to get more info. So it’s no surprise that this globe is inside a haunted temple that once belonged to the Brotherhood before it was overrun by -- you guessed it! -- the undead. So you gotta get inside and start crossing things off your shopping list...but it won’t be as easy as you think. Isn’t that always the way?

Onward!
Imagine a young man of reasonable intelligence; he is a Thief aficionado, and he has become more or less proficient in surviving on the hardest skill levels. Now take this poor dumb clod and drop him in the front yard of a haunted church, and watch him pull out his sword to backstab a curiously-dressed Haunt. Now watch him break a finger in surprise over what happens next. Isn’t this fun?

You bet.

Like this mission’s predecessor, “Bloodsport,” this place will either turn you into a quivering glob of insecure jelly, or it will drive you completely batshit. I’ve been to both, and I can testify that multiple playings do not make things dramatically better in any way. The atmosphere is oppressive, the odds are seemingly insurmountable, and the monsters’ sounds (both inarticulate and not) are downright blood-curdling.

Add to this a shopping list of objectives designed to make you visit every square inch of real estate available, and you’re looking at the FM that ate the Fortress of Sorrowtude. So as a gift to you, I give you this boon: play on the easiest skill first. You won’t regret it. Play on the hardest skill when you know your way around and you know how to deal with the new Haunts.

The multitude of shambling resident horrors aside, this mission will test your puzzle-solving mettle. At one point, you will be required to acquire all four of the elemental wards -- there’s a reason -- and each poses its own set of unique problems. The puzzle of the Air talisman, for example, deserves its own place in self-sacrificial history. There isn’t a puzzle that’s 100% obscure, but you may feel some distress at certain points. It is doable, in short.

If the Addams Family went to church, this would be the place. The author shows a curious knack for presenting the player with overwhelming quests detailed by seemingly hopeless tasks therein. In the back of your head, you’re thinking that it *may* be possible...but how the hell are you going to do it?? The place is crawling with zombies and a new kind of Haunt; will I have enough equipment to deal with them all? Answer: probably not. But don’t worry...zombies are still susceptible to enforced napping via sword slashes, so the real problem is in dealing with the Haunts. You’ll probably figure it out, so I won’t go into that here.

But if there’s something everyone needs, it’s a glimmer of hope. And lo, from the dumpster** came the reviewer with that glimmer: the one thing that makes it all easier on the soul is found in the church’s sanctuary. No, I won’t tell you what it is.

[** Fortress of Sorrowtude, the dumpster...tiresome. But I aim to chafe.]

But what about the place itself, you ask? It’s evil, in a great way. Pieces of masonry are scattered everywhere, the aftermath of some horrific battle; gaping holes in the walls, utter destruction in places, signs that perhaps the Youth Group meeting went horribly, horribly wrong. Inside, you’ll read accounts of people about to die, writing down their thoughts as the Evil Ones battered down their doors. You’ll come across the last missives of heroic warriors who fought to their last breath. You’ll go swimming in an inundated basement and probably drown, so for God’s sake, stock up on breath potions!

Once again, the author puts another trademark into the proceedings: The Framerate-Killing Explosion of Grisly (and Fiery) Death. Now, the task of getting the means important to this explosion lies within *your* purview; meaning, you’ll have to figure it out for yourself. But it is worth it AND necessary to winning? Just don’t stand too close when you launch that fire arrow, eh?

In addition to the physical aspects of the mission, you also catch a glimpse at how much depth this mission really has; the readables belonging to the Brotherhood are surprisingly detailed, and the scriptures bear a striking kinship to fundamental ecclesiastical thought...perhaps intentional, perhaps not.

[Sometimes when I'm formatting these things my mind will wander (I'm always tired), and then I'll snap back in the middle of a paragraph and, bewildered, wonder what's going on. It's like stumbling into the middle of a conversation between several three year olds.]

Now for the bad (sorta) stuff: the objectives are somewhat buggy, but just ignore them if some things check off or not...they work. Sometimes while I was cycling through my inventory, the water talisman would leave a particle effect where I was standing; it would go away eventually. I received a new objective while killing a zombie, not after reading a particular scroll where I should have received the objective; it occurred in the general area of the scroll in question, so...I don’t know. And those are really the worst problems I encountered...to compensate for these minor quibbles, exploding zombie parts don’t zero in on the player like Patriot missiles in this mission.

Speaking of patriotism, try to find the uber-tough-to-find secret, which gives a touching tribute to Osama bin Laden...in hellish torment. Where he belongs.

The mission ends with Garrett leaving this world in a portal-type way, which is the signal that there is supposed to be a sequel...except this mission was released back in October of 2001. This means that this series is probably dead. Oh, well...another series bites the dust.

In closing, I highly recommend this mission to anyone who has grown jaded to the horrors of “Return to the Cathedral” in original Thief. I even recommend it -- somewhat reservedly -- to those who just couldn’t handle that mission at all. If you’re into undead missions, this is a pre-“Calendra’s Legacy” undead Holy Grail, of sorts. Have fun, and don’t waste those flashbombs.

Summary?
The horror....the horror.

[So...Dyer's Eve, eh? Dear mother, dear father indeed.]

Rating?
5 out of 5.

Annoyance Rating:
Low, but has potential for escalating exponentially.

My Level Stats:
Skill: Hard
KO’s: 0
Kills: 15
Loot: 1590/1805

[...next...]
Title: T2 012: Ominous Bequest
Post by: Silver Sorrow on December 28, 2019, 07:06:36 PM
[Whilst idly skimming through a list of FMs (at about 3:30am, which explains why it's taking me so bloody long to type this), I discovered that this mission was updated several years later, so this review is of an older, non-improved version. I'll play the new version, but I don't expect that the review needs amending. So I'll update the links and the general info that needs attention.]


Ominous Bequest

Game: Thief 2
Title: Ominous Bequest
Author: Eshaktaar (Renzo Thönen)
E-mail: N/A
Homepage: N/A
Filename: OminousBequestGold.zip
Filesize: 19.5mb
Languages Supported: English, German, Spanish
Download: Cheap Thief Missions (https://thiefmissions.com/m/OminousBequest#m)
Walkthrough: at CTM (https://thiefmissions.com/walkthroughs/OminousBequest.html)
Lootlist: at CTM (https://thiefmissions.com/lootlists/OminousBequest.html) too
Vault Switch Hint: at CTM (https://thiefmissions.com/hints/OminousBequest.html) as well
Score: 5 / 5

Note: You know the drill...custom recolors, health shields, what have you. Thanks to Purah and others for providing the basics of what my custom interface has become. Although this time, the shields and 99% of the models belong to this release.

[Unbridled applause.]

Abstract:
[Bats! Part 11]
...Moroccan Rub Bat Chops, Grilled Halibut and Bat Sandwiches with Tartar Sauce, Grilled Honey Lime Bat Sandwiches, Bat Tikka Kebabs with Charred Tomato Chutney and Warm Flat Bread, Israeli Spice Bat, Rosemary Grilled Bat Thighs and Wild Mushroom Sauce, Bat Brutus: Caesar Salad with Sliced Bat Sirloin, Sliced Bat Sirloin Smothered in Onions with Roquefort Potato Pie and Spinach Salad with “Baco-Bats” Dressing, Maple Mustard Barbecued Bat Chops, Grilled Bat Fillets and Asparagus with Orange and Sesame, Grilled Spanish-Style Bat with Tomato and Green Olive Salsa...
[TO BE CONTINUED!]

The Basics:
Equipment Store: No
Skill Settings: Yes
Map/Automap: Yes/No
Puzzle Difficulty: Fiendish
General Difficulty: Convoluted
New Stuff: You bet.
Gameplay: Thieving. Stuff.

Briefing/Story?
You’ve been contacted by an antique dealer named Grimworth, who has hired you to break into the mansion belonging to one Lord Robert Farrington: stereotypical eccentric collector, known supporter of the Hammerite order and a fine individual, hey let’s bring him out now, whatta great guy, I--oops. Well, it seems the old boy has dropped dead without his Last Will And Testament being found, and now his two sons are wrangling over who gets to keep Aunt Tiffany’s antique chute-menderer. Since they’re worthless estate-wrangling scum (not that I’m biased or anything), they’ve refused to pay the guards, many of whom have either quit or gone on strike. Plenty of guards remain however, so it won’t be as simple as walking through the front door.

Your main goal this fine evening is to find and steal Farrington’s Will; Grimworth believes that the Will lists all of Farrington’s most priceless collectibles, and thus will give you a shopping list of items to collect. Hell hath no fury like an antique dealer scorned, eh? In addition (commence groaning), Grimworth wants you to investigate the possibility that the rumors of an ancient Mages’ dwelling beneath the mansion might be true. He wants you to find documentation to this effect, and possibly even a way in, should it be true. This will most likely lead to a further job, entailing your entry into these alleged ruins. A large bonus is involved, which makes your eyes turn into dollar signs as the “ka-ching!” of cash registers goes off in your head.

You can trust a guy named “Grimworth,” right?

Anyway, as you clamber over the wall surrounding the Farrington estate, you slip on some loose bricks and fall. You klutz. You’re fine, but you’ve lost most of your equipment on the other side of the wall, including your blackjack. Typical. You have no other choice but to get into the mansion and hope to find a replacement blackjack.


Onward!
Ah, the life of a thief. Being able to steal into some rich guy’s home and riffle through his sexy young trophy wife’s panty drawer...chuckling evilly while peeing in the pool...the simple joy of abusing the already-downtrodden servants with something sharp. Yes, once again, you’re set to break into a noble’s home with the intent of doing all of these things and more!

The only problem is that in climbing over the wall, you lost most of your equipment, including your precious blackjack...again, you’re a klutz. Oh, and the night just gets better from there. Your main concern is finding a suitable skull-bonking replacement...or you could ghost the mission entirely.

As I sit here, blinking the tears of hysterical laughter from my eyes, I am reminded of a poem by...by...actually, no. I’m really reminded of the Faith No More song “Ashes To Ashes,” due to the fact that it’s currently stuck in my head. “I SEE YOU!” Help me.

Moving on.

Okay, first off: this is one of several absolutely stellar missions -- instant classics, if you will -- released for Thief 2 lately, along with “Rowena’s Curse” and “Lord Fishkill’s Curse”...all curse-related, I suppose. Things don’t turn out the way you expect, and there are so many surprises to be had that you may as well just give up trying to be in control and let the thing sweep you along to the very satisfying conclusion. I would make minor comparisons to the equally-entangled FM, “The 7th Crystal,” but that would be a disservice to both missions...I might say, however, that this mission is more or less a free-form mystery, as opposed to T7C’s rigid Hitchcockian structure.*
[* Stop giggling. It isn’t funny.]

[Okay, maybe it is.]

The first problem you face entails finding a way into the mansion itself. There are several good entries, but nothing so obviously appropriate as the coal chute. In fact, the setup to using that entrance is so funny that it’d be a shame to use such a mundane entrance as a side door. Annoy the guard indirectly, and all is well.

Once inside, you face the monumental tasks of acquiring 1) a blackjack replacement (if you so desire), and 2) Farrington’s Will. Be aware that all (or most) readables contain clues to what you seek. A new “blackjack” is easy to find (so it really isn’t all that monumental a task after all), and you should be able to do that very quickly early on. Let me state that it’s probably the best replacement for that hallowed instrument I’ve seen recently. Bashing guards is *much* more fun now.

[Spoiler alert: it's a frying pan. Love it.]

As for Farrington’s Will...well, that’s the monumental part. I balk at revealing anything as to the puzzles or the plot...to do so would kill your enjoyment of the mission, and I just couldn’t live with myself if I ruined it for you. Okay, that’s a lie. I *could* live with myself; furthermore, I’d probably laugh in a bizarre mix of pure joy and overwhelming spite as I see you frustrated beyond all measure. Please, don’t take it personally...I was an only child.

No, really: I’d just ruin it if I told you specifics. And it would take a lot more typing, which is an abomination. Let’s just say that you need to be extraordinarily alert for clues in the readables. Several of the puzzles themselves have shortcuts to solving them on easier difficulties, but be a man -- or a woman -- for once and play the mission as it’s meant to be played: on Expert! I admit that I first played on Normal, and yes...the puzzles were easier. But on Expert, I was forced to retrace my steps over and over, to re-read scrolls, to comb the entire mansion seven thousand times...and to actually win by paying attention to clues was a beautiful thing.

[Sadly, it actually didn't improve my life one bit. So much for the alleged rewards of engaging in character-building.]

Speaking of difficulties...for this review, I played through for the third time. However, this time I knew where everything was, exactly what to do, and where to go. It still took me somewhere in the neighborhood of an hour and twenty minutes, so count on being in the general area for quite a while. I know it may be frustrating at first, I know you may want to rend your garments and tear your hair, I know it may force you into buying questionable items on eBay,** but persevere: it all makes sense, and the clues are there to help you along. Once you figure everything out, you may feel like punching yourself in the head repeatedly, if you haven’t done so already in trying to solve the puzzles. I recommend an ice pack.

[** By the way, will there ever be an end to the sheer amount of Raquel Welch memorabilia available? I'm asking for a friend.]

I have to mention that some puzzles are a little obscure -- the switch puzzle in the vault comes to mind, without the solving of which you absolutely cannot win -- and may force you to search the TTLG FM forums for help. This is perfectly reasonable, and you shouldn’t be ashamed of doing so.

["without the solving of which you absolutely cannot win"...this seems somewhat awkward. Perhaps it should have been: "...the switch puzzle in the vault comes to mind; you absolutely cannot win without solving it..." See? Kept it simple AND was able to use a semicolon. Win-win.]

So instead of talking about puzzle and plot specifics, let’s look at our surroundings. The mansion is a grand affair, with plenty of space. It isn’t anywhere near the scale of, say, the mansion in “Art of Thievery” (few mansions are, really), but it isn’t a Contest Four entry, either. It’s more like a summer mansion than anything else...as if I could relate to such a pronouncement.

The outside of the place is appropriately outside-ish, what with grass and trees and plants...and a bunch of guards in the gazebo, obviously on strike. You can tell by the banners. But, uh...don’t get too close, as they’re still guards in their hearts. You’d think they’d let me pass, but noooooo! “I hope you don’t get severance pay and your dental insurance collapses!” I shout as they chase me, adding “I hope your 401K turns out to be nothing more than an elaborate money-laundering scheme perpetrated by the Hong Kong Triads!”

Inside, there aren’t all that many guards to bother you, but there are enough. I had the strange good fortune of taking care of most of them when I made the (seeming) mistake of having a male servant surprise me as I KO’ed another servant in the kitchen. He cried for help, alerting the nearby guards, and I retreated down the back stairs (after beating him like a red-headed stepchild, needless to say). They hadn’t seen me, so I ended up just luring them down the stairs and bashing them as they approached. So it all turned out well. I love this job.

So with the guard problem (largely) taken care of, I could turn my attention to finding that Will...hmmm...

The rest of the mansion isn’t too strenuous a place to orient yourself; the layout isn’t needlessly complex, and it looks as if someone genuinely designed it for human habitation and people actually live there. At some point, you will have to venture down into the Hammer church, and beyond that...things get a little bizarre. Fair warning.

This is exactly the sort of mission I enjoy the most: a mansion with all kinds of horrible, eldritch things waiting for the unsuspecting thief to stumble into. Plenty of mind-bending puzzles, lots of loot, and plenty of opportunities to use the new equipment (the legendary sword available further into the mission is quite cool) and to show a bit of style on top of it all.

What makes it all worthwhile is the mixture of humor and pathos. Benny savagely guards his locker...why? What’s behind the barred door on the second floor? What’s so important about Elizabeth? What’s cursing this family? Where’s that damned pole so I can get into the attic?? These questions and many more are answered in time, so just be patient.

This mission also contains some of the funniest moments and/or elements seen thus far;  from figuring out why Benny’s uniform doesn’t fit anymore, to the Karras “I Want Thee!” posters, to pissing off the Hammers by playing the pipe organ, humorous touches such as these make this mission one of the best out there.

I leave you now with two words: Holy Sponge.

Summary?
Subjecting Garrett to a complex plot wherein plot twists and turns...although your new “blackjack” will make you absolutely fearless...probably. Enjoy!

Annoyance Rating:
High, until you know what you’re doing.

Score:
5 out of 5.

Level Stats:
Skill: Expert
KO’s: 26
Kills: 8
Loot: 7690/8000

[...next...]
Title: T2 013: Rowena's Curse
Post by: Silver Sorrow on December 28, 2019, 09:24:55 PM
T2: Rowena’s Curse

Game: Thief 2
Title: Rowena’s Curse
Author: Lady Rowena (A.M.I)
E-mail: N/A
Homepage: N/A
Filename: RowenaV2.zip
Filesize: 12.6mb
Download: Cheap Thief Missions (http://thiefmissions.com/info.cgi?m=RowenaV2)
Loot List: at CTM (http://thiefmissions.com/lootlists/RowenaV2.html)
Score: 5 / 5

Note: [Tiresome custom stuff note.]

Abstract:
[Bats! Part 12]
...Portobello Bat Burgers with Roasted Pepper Paste and Smoked Bat Cheese, Pasta with Pumpkin and Bat Sausage, Pasta Bat-tanesca (“It’s Bat-tastic!”), Spicy Bat and Spaghetti Aglio Olio, Bat with Herbed Bat Cheese, Seared Bat with Mango Salsa, Lemon Bat Angel Food Cake, Chocolate-Dipped Bat Chunks, Tropical Bat Smoothies, Bacon-Wrapped Grilled Bat on a Stick, Watermelon and Bat Salad with Mint Leaves and Minced Bat Wings, Orange Walnut Salad with Sweet ‘n’ Sour Dressing and a Frantic Bat Stuffed Down Your Underwear As a Malicious Prank, Warm Apple and Bat Cheese Salad, Dry Aged Standing Bat Roast with Sage Jus, Bat Vinaigrette with Grilled Radicchio, Curry Bat Pot Pie...
[TO BE CONTINUED!]

The Basics:
Equipment Store: No
Skill Settings: Yes
Map/Automap: Yes/No
Puzzle Difficulty: Medium
General Difficulty: Twisty
New Stuff: Yipper
Gameplay: Complex plot-ness

Briefing/Story?
Set during Thief 2, this mission takes place before the death of Truart. You’ve been contacted by one Lord Carlysle, who wants you to go to the country mansion belonging to Lord Bafford’s great-grandfather. Carlysle’s daughter, Isabella, has been married off to Bafford’s son, Cedric, and they moved into the mansion. The past few months, however, strange things have been happening; two maids have disappeared and a troop of Bluecoats from the City Watch were sent there to investigate. And a few days ago, Isabella vanished too.

Carlysle received an odd message from the caretaker, Barker, who is sure that Isabella is still alive. Your mission, should you choose to...accept...it...*sigh* is to get into the mansion, find out what Barker knows, if Isabella is still alive, and find out what the hell *else* is going on out there in the country. You just hope that it doesn’t involve banjo music and squealing like a pig.

Onward!
Screw reading books. I now get my mystery novel fix from the Thief FM community, and I am one content psychopathic loner. See, it isn’t enough to merely read anymore...no, I gotta DO something at the same time (shut up, it’s not what you think); that’s why interactive TV is such an intriguing concept, as it allows the viewer to choose who lives and who dies in their favorite sitcoms.

Wait...it doesn’t?! Then what the hell good is it, anyway??

[As fun as it would be deciding who dies on various TV shows (I didn't mean it literally...probably), I just know that every week when the votes are tabulated, my expectations would be crushed due to my opinion being so outside the "norm" of mainstream society. For example, I would have voted to throw Baby Yoda into a woodchipper.]

Well, it’d be that way if *I* were in charge. Anyway, my point is that thanks to the efforts of some talented individuals, PC gaming is as valid an art form as any book. Sure, unmitigated trash exists in the video game genre, but the same is true of all art forms. Ballet blows, interpretive dance is for idiots, Jennifer Lopez is an embarrassing, mentally-inept hack, and Robert Mapplethorpe is an ass-munch.* But in sifting through these execrable offerings, we are able to catch a glimpse of something good.
[* However, if you like any of these “art” forms, be aware that I and the rest of the Hangar staff support you 100%. After all, it’s the least we can do for the less-fortunate among us.]

[You have our support, retards.]

A bit overwrought for an add-on to a First Person Shooter, I admit...but where else do YOU have to be right now?

In short, the melding of great mysteries with the possibility for (skull-bashing) interaction has always fascinated me; and when I can solve these mysteries without being assaulted by mindless hordes of pink demons, so much the better. But I don’t mean to chastise Doom, even indirectly; thanks to that game, here we stand in a beautiful time: the ability to merge storytelling with kick-ass graphics. And though Thief 2 may be showing its age -- we want Thief 3 NOW!** -- it’s still sufficient to graphical immersion in addition to the *possibility* of intellectual immersion.

[** We eventually got it. I can't say that we enjoyed it greatly. (This is Royal "we," of course.)]

Again, a bit overwrought for a Fan Mission, but it’s all I have...sorta. Hold on, leg cramp.

But what does this have to do with this mission, you’re probably screaming?** I bring this all up because I am happy to be here, in this mansion. I know horrible things are happening to the residents...I know that terrible things await me as I unlock the secrets surrounding this house...I KNOW that I use too many dots to convey a particularly trenchant thought and/or a thoughtful trailing off in a tired attempt at breathless drama...see?...but it’s okay. It’s okay because I know that...that...

[** Fuckin'-A.]

...fudge. Forgot what I know. Regardless, I’ll show you around the place. Hop the wall...watch the--! Crap. GOOD one. All my equipment is in shatters, thanks to you. Well, I have my blackjack, lockpicks and compass. Thank the Builder for small favors. No, no...don’t worry about it. Let’s go inside. We’ll need to come up through a hole in the basement and make our way through the nitre-scummed walls and the dank, fetid air to an inner courtyard...where some cop is watching a woman through a window. How charming. Whilst dragging his bludgeoned form to a dark spot, know that cops patrol the area; also, some of the servants are pretty high-strung as well. In fact, a lot of the AI is a little jumpy. Put it to nervousness, whatever. All this means that you need to be a very quiet little tour group, m’kay? ‘kay. Let’s continue.

This is of course the ground floor of the estate. That doorway over there leads to the patrolled front yard -- nice exteriors, I know...lovely and lush, isn’t it? -- and that one leads to the caretaker’s quarters. There are several other doors, so let’s try one. Okay, let’s move briskly past the servants’ quarters and kitchens -- remember that like all good mansions, there are several secret passages in the place -- and take a look at the opalescence of the manor itself. That’s a lot of marble flooring, huh? I bet the cops love that. Yes, it’s a beautiful place, and some of the color-theme rooms are absolutely gorgeous, especially Lady Isabella’s room, the White Room. She’s gone missing, you know.

What’s that? Oh, no...we couldn’t possibly. No, you have to do a couple of things first before you can go in there, you morbid freaks. I’m just your tour guide, not a locksmith. But I can give you a glimpse or two of the other features of the place via this color brochure. See? Looks great...bad angle, though. Sorry about that. Here’s a picture of the back garden -- lovely, isn’t it? -- and that’s Lieutenant Wilson, head cop on this case...handsome fellow, yes.

*sigh*

Yes, we can go look at the garden now. Criminy, like I have nothing better to do. Follow me...now, avoid the guards and you should be okay. Madam, control your children. All right, here we are. Lovely, isn’t it? What’s that? Yes ma’am, that door is locked...but I do happen to have a key. That’s right, step inside, but --

[sounds of many people screaming in various languages as they fall a very, VERY long way to their doom]

-- but watch out for the giant hole in the ground. Well! That does it for the rotten tourists. Now I can get back to the review itself.

As I mentioned before, the place is lovely; the White Room** is a triumph of white marble, etc....it’s how I’ve always wanted my bathroom to look, but instead I have to be content with cheap, peeling wallpaper. There are other similarly-themed rooms: Blue,*** Yellow,**** Red*****...but you just can’t get into those without following the rules. You need to use clues and logical progression to find your way throughout the mission; there is no “fire arrow-jump to the altar and snatch the Miter of the Most Extravagantly Plumaged One and beat cheeks out the side door” type of action, no. If you’re familiar with “The 7th Crystal” and “Ominous Bequest,” then you’ll understand the compelling need to be patient in reaching the end. There is a story here, and you’re living it.
[** It contained no black curtains, nor was it anywhere near a station...although as I walked out I *did* feel my own need just beginning. Weird, huh?]
[*** A room of dancing shadows where the heartache disappeared...from the glowing tongues of candles, I heard a whisper in my ear: “j’entend ton coeur”...]
[**** Wherein a yellow-clad jester did not dance, but gently pulled the strings, smiling as the puppets danced...]
[***** Where the Red Death held sway over all...or not. All I know is that I’d want to kill myself if MY room were that red.]

[Cripes. Okay, the references: Cream's "White Room"; the "Blue Angel" segment of Marillion's "Bitter Suite"; King Crimson's "In The Court Of The Crimson King"; E.A. Poe's "The Masque Of The Red Death."]

And just what is this big mystery? It’s not that easy, buckaroo...you’ll just have to play it for yourself. Let’s just say that the author is devious and she enjoys pulling the player’s strings...dance puppet, dance! Yes, I’ve been to the Yellow room.

[Callback to the Yellow Jester of "In The Court Of The Crimson King."]

Okay: the architecture is perfection. There is a terrific plot. Now what about the other stuff? The intangibles...sure thing. The mission is not boring in any way, as even the Thief players with the most rudimentary intelligence will be enthralled by said plot. You may disagree with me, which is fine...but keep in mind that in doing so, you run the risk of being identified as a useless lackwit.

Some other miscellaneous things of note: when playing on Expert skill, you have no sword. You can pick one up almost near the end of the mission, but since you’re an Expert you won’t need it until then. ‘Course, you can’t kill anyone human either, so that’s another factor.

[One thing I do recall is that all of the guards can be KO'd, even though some of them are wearing those non-KO helmets that drive me absolutely batshit. Someone asked about them in the TTLG thread for this FM, to which Lady Rowena herself stated that all of the guards can be blackjacked. (Regardless of helmet choice.)]

There is a secret panel in an armoire (no, I’m not telling you where), that reminded me of a similar secret in the second Gabriel Knight game, “The Beast Within.” Just thought I’d mention that.

[I am currently drawing a blank.]

The only thing that brought the mission down for me *slightly* was the mini-quest I undertook to acquire four Elemental keys. Two of the key-centric areas (water and air) required I submit my mortal flesh to the horrors of the jumping puzzle, while the other two didn’t. Of the four, I preferred the Earth key, as it needed some amount of finesse to obtain. But I did more or less enjoy myself, and it did give the mission an added facet, so I have no real problem with it, now that I really think about it. Aren’t you glad I work these things out beforehand?

As for the ending...no. I can’t really mention the ending without ruining the plot, so I’ll just say this: it’s intense. When a mission so successfully meshes elements found in both of the original games *plus* something that the original games avoided without devolving into a tired FPS cliché, then you know you have a winner. This plus the fact that the many readables bear the plot along nicely in an interesting and well-written way makes it a worhtwhile experience.

And when you find the occasional threatening note, directed squarely at Garrett, i.e., YOU, that experience is unsettling in a personal way. Obviously, something is going on here, so you’d better watch it. To quote Vincent Price to Peter Lorre: “What did you STEP in?!?”

[It's been a while since I made reference to "The Comedy Of Terrors," aka The Greatest Movie Ever Made.]

Indeed. Just what has Garrett stepped into this time? I could tell you, but I won’t. I’m not helping you one bit; enjoy your sojourn alone. Never fear, though, as I’ll be nearby to jump from the shadows at purely random intervals and shout “BOOGA BOOGA!” at you when you least expect it. Ciao!

["Ciao" because Lady Rowena was Italian. I am ten pounds of cleverness in a five pound bag.]

Summary?
A great mystery, a nasty curse, and a fine evening for dancing under the moon with the corpse you love.

End Note:
That Lady Rowena in the painting? Wow! Um...and when I say “wow!” I mean that in a purely professional sense. I hope you buy that.

[You should. I meant it in all admiration.]

Annoyance Rating:
Low, once you figure out what you’re doing.

Score:
5 out of 5

My Level Stats:
Skill: Expert
KO’s: 60 (!!)
Kills: 60 (??)
Loot: 8974/9074

[...next...]
Title: T2 014: Lord Fishkill's Curse
Post by: Silver Sorrow on December 29, 2019, 12:33:10 PM
[Never was too happy with this review. For this post, it took a bit more work than I like to get it to a point where I found it just passable enough for others to see it. I had to rewrite almost all of the Briefing/Story? section, because...well, it sucked. And I performed further (minor) (and major) surgery on other bits, because...well, they sucked too. Maybe I should've just scrapped the whole thing. But if you play the mission and have fun with it, I guess that's the real point.]


Lord Fishkill’s Curse


Game: Thief 2
Title: Lord Fishkill’s Curse
Author: Randy Sybel (Shadowspawn)
E-mail: N/A
Homepage: http://www.angelfire.com/games4/shadowspawn/
Filename: LFCurse.zip
Filesize: 34.8mb
Download: Cheap Thief Missions (http://thiefmissions.com/info.cgi?m=LFCurse)
Score: 5 / 5

Note: Custom interface note.

Note #2: This mission is prefaced with an excellent camvator introduction; it’s also capped off with another camvator sequence after the main mission has been won. So don’t freak at the unorthodox beginning.


Abstract:
[Bats! Part 13]
...Bibb Lettuce with Albino Midget Bats, Asparagus, and Chive Aïoli, Balsamic- and Dijon-Glazed Bat Rump with Roasted Pearl Onions, Bat and Fava Bean Soup with Carrot ‘n’ Bat Cream, Bat Flan with Pink Grapefruit and Mint Syrup, Almond-Crusted Bat with Leek and Lemon Cream, Roast Bat and Root Vegetables with Mustard-Rosemary Sauce, Autumn Pears in Mulled Bat Squeezings, Sweet and Sour Swiss Bat with Dried Currants, Herb-Coated Bat with Port-Red Wine Sauce, Scalloped Potatoes with Bat Cheese and Herbes de Provence, Smoked Bat Hash with Red Potatoes and Fennel, Mixed Greens with Bat Cheese Crostini, Bat Short-Rib Tangine with Honey-Glazed Butternut Squash...
[TO BE CONTINUED!]

The Basics:
Equipment Store: No
Skill Settings: Yes
Map/Automap: Yes/Yes
Puzzle Difficulty: Mild
General Difficulty: Medium at first, easier on subsequent playings
New Stuff: Don’t be daft, lad! Of course there’s new stuff!
Gameplay: In the rays of the sun I am longing for the darkness.**

[** Reference: Opeth's "Closure."]

Briefing/Story?
It’s tough having enemies, isn’t it? Take Lord Fishkill. Back in “Lorgan’s Web,” [the author's T1/G mission] you broke into his manor and looted the place. Now, after the events of Thief 2, Fishkill has decided to make you -- Garrett -- an offer you can’t refuse: work for him as his chief of security; the alternative is being cursed. But of course you refuse...you're just like that.

As a result, Fishkill cursed you with a nasty spell: whenever you venture into bright light, odd monsters appear and try to kill you (as opposed to attempting to sell you a timeshare in Florida). So you have to watch yourself even closer than usual...right, stop that. Too close. Give yourself some space. Geez. Anyway, your purpose tonight is to meet a Keeper friend who may have the answer to removing the curse, as well as a pair of utterly FANTASTIC fuchsia flamenco boots you’ve been dying to borrow.


Onward!
Opeth said “step into the light,” Rush mentioned the “limelight,” Martin Page had a “house of stone and light,” Genesis told about “the day the light went out,” Beethoven had his “moonlight sonata,” Steve Hackett played “black light,” Iluvatar was “dreaming with the lights on,” Carcass had their “black star” with light that never shines, and Manfred Mann’s Earth Band was “blinded by the light,” whereupon they were “revved up like a deuce” and fell down the stairs and died. Good riddance. I’ve had that stupid song stuck in my head for over 20 years, and dammit...they must pay. Most galling is the fact that until very recently, I thought the line was “revved up like a *douche*,” so you can imagine my distress.

[Jesus Marimba. Okay, references: Opeth "To Rid The Disease"; Martin Page "In The House Of Stone And Light"; Genesis "The Day The Light Went Out"' Beethoven "Moonlight Sonata"; Steve Hackett "Black Light"; Iluvatar "Dreaming With The Lights On"; Carcass "Black Star"; Manfred Mann’s Earth Band "Blinded By The Light."]

Anyway, most bands have a penchant for dealing with light in some way; they embrace it or flee it. Me, I dislike light that shines on my monitor, obscuring the wondrous things there. Some people are even allergic to sunlight. Take Garrett, for example: light is his enemy, as he can be seen by the average nose-picking, scabies-infested denizen of the City where he plies his trade, thieving. Ordinarily, his penalty for being seen on the streets is a brisk jog and a refreshing dip into the canal.

Canal water. Yum.

This time, however, it’s much more complicated. Okay, how would YOU like it if every time someone turned on the light, unholy demons from the Hoary Underworld appeared and tried to kill you?

...judging from my e-mail, this happens to quite a few of you. But this is Garrett’s plight and he has to find a cure this fine evening, or at least a useful workaround. So it’s off to meet up with a Keeper and...Builder’s Little Boy, do they HAVE to turn on every friggin’ light in the place??

[It's too bad that Thief never featured the ability to extinguish all light sources, rather than just a select few. Imagine being able to put out a streetlight with a simple rock. How great that would be. But no.]

[Oh, and "Builder's Little Boy" is just my idiotic attempt at an in-lore "Jesus H. Christ!" exclamation. I shouldn't have bothered.]

[And just what does that "H" stand for (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_H._Christ), anyway??]

Yup. You’ll be cringing with delight [no pun intended] as your light gem flares, thanks to some very bright lights here and there. You do have two comforts: one, the evil things are limited to three varieties, and two, you aren’t totally defenseless. They react to standard anti-undead weapons (flashbombs, holy water), and they’re short-lived. Merely running for your life works wonders, and it saves on equipment, too.

Here’s the deal: the first time you play, you may find it a little difficult to keep spirit and body intact, at least until you figure out all the angles. The second playthrough will be a breeze, as you know exactly what you’re doing and where you’re going. At least *I* did...I don’t know about you idiots--er...fine folks, but my progress was made so much easier by the fact that I already knew the map’s general layout intimately.

Right, stop that. I don’t mean “intimate” as in “I was intimate with her until she found out about it.” No, what I mean is that I’ve been this way before...in the original T2 mission, “Life of the Party.” That’s right, this mission’s architecture is largely LOTP’s but with important new things. For one, some previously-inaccessible locations -- such as the streets -- are open for your ambulatory enjoyment, as are a couple of other places. It’s more like LOTP would have been, had the developers been less worried about framerates.

But since the whole thing takes place after Thief 2, the places that are familiar to you have changed a little. For one thing, the Carlysle armory, the greenhouse nearby, the building where the thieves’ hideout was, the Necromancer’s tower...all are there, but changed for the better (well...mostly). Time stumbles on, y’know.

So if you’ve ever wanted to get to the streets in LOTP and walk around -- or run like hell through the streets with some insane armored skeleton in hot pursuit -- then this mission is for you. This part of the City has been fleshed out and made more organic, more likely to house people...which is both good and bad. Good, because they don’t think you’re a threat, right? Right. The cops ignore you if you don’t do anything stupid. But people like to have some amount of light -- unless they’re Ray Charles -- so as to be able to avoid stumbling into deep dark holes and dying. And light, as I’ve pounded into your head previously, is BAD for Garrett.

So it’s off to find a cure. Since you’ve seen most of the scenery before, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding the Keeper’s place. Do a little reading, find out a few things, etc. In fact, you will learn that there are certain *types* of light, some of them not harmful to you. I might as well reveal that you’ll end up in a compound belonging to the Mages, for various (or maybe just one) reasons. Of all the sights to behold there (besides the metabolically-challenged mages and the Mage Who Is An Orangutan), I couldn’t get over one thing: bunnies!

You’ll know them when you see them. Hop! Hop! Hop!

I know, I know. Shut up.

Anyway, this mission contains some serious humor potential as well, which would be totally freaking astounding if “serious humor” wasn’t such an oxymoron. Plenty of funny setups abound (such as Garrett chuckling about being reduced to stealing the silverware), all serving to support a solid storyline. By the way, I might get into trouble for saying this -- although I don’t see how -- but I think the supplemental architecture is better than the original mission’s architecture. The Mages’ kitchen and dining room? Wonderful.

So it looks and plays great. There’s only the small concern of the voice acting...which is excellent, too. Slyfoxx, my favorite Garrett, returns. The voice acting is a delight, what with some truly funny lines. The sub-plot situations were nicely implemented as well; the guy wanting to hurl himself off the balcony due to a bad relationship, for example. I went with my instincts on that one, and got a nice reward (as well as a good laugh) for being a nice guy.

I don’t know if you caught my earlier statement about “Lorgan’s Web”: this mission is a sort of sequel to that fine release. This one ends with a cliffhanger, and I HOPE that we see a sequel. Remember “Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins”? There was never a sequel to that, and I’m still bitter.

[As for this mission, there was no sequel. I know: shocking.]

I found a way to enjoy the mission without too much frustration. My method -- and feel free to ignore it -- was to get to the Keeper and then the cure right away; that way, I could freely explore the town without being rendered into my component parts by cackling demons. The mission ends only when you wish it to end (i.e., going back to your room at the inn when all of your goals are complete), which is always my favorite aspect of large, well-crafted missions.

So let’s see: good plot, good story, good everything else...what’s left? Nothing. Play it, you fool.

Summary?
Finding a cure for what aileth Garrett. A really big sun hat, perhaps?
 
Annoyance Rating:
Low.

Score:
5 / 5

My Level Stats:
Skill: Expert
KO’s: 39
Kills: 1
Loot: 3865/4255

[I gotta just post this and be done with it, or I'll end up rewriting the whole stupid thing. NEXT!]
Title: T2 015: Relic: Left For Dead
Post by: Silver Sorrow on December 29, 2019, 08:10:34 PM
[This was one of the unfinished reviews. However, as I reflect in my notes at the end, it really doesn't need much more than what I had.]


T2: Relic: Left For Dead

Game: Thief 2
Title: Relic: Left For Dead
Author: Schwaa (J. Knez)
E-mail: N/A
Homepage: N/A
Filename: Left4Dead.zip
Filesize: 23.8mb
Download: Cheap Thief Missions (http://thiefmissions.com/info.cgi?m=Left4Dead)
Score: N/A

Note: The models...what you see is what you get. This time.

Abstract:
[Bats! Part 14]
...Seared Bat Salad with Haricots Verts and Truffle Oil, Young Bat Rib Chops with Caramelized Fennel and Figs, Smoked Bat and Walnuts with Winter Greens, Roast Prime Bat Rib with Madeira Sauce and Horseradish Sauce, Mashed Bats with Jerusalem Artichokes and Chives, Bat Sprouts with Shallots and Mustard Seeds, Roasted Bat and Amaretto Trifle, Warm Bat Cheese Salad with Grilled Olive Bread, Herb-Crusted Bat Flank Steak with Cherry Tomatoes and Olives...
[TO BE CONTINUED!]

The Basics:
Equipment Store: No
Skill Settings: Yes; Easy, Hard, Difficult
Map/Automap: No/Yes (WHAT???)
Puzzle Difficulty: Medium
General Difficulty: Medium-Tough
New Stuff: You bet, wabbit
Gameplay: Swamp. Thieves. Hallucinations. Undead. Good night, nurse.

Briefing/Story?
You -- Garrett -- awake in a shallow grave in the swamp. Apparently someone’s done you in, and now’s the time to drag yourself from your winding sheet and wreak some good old-fashioned unspeakably hellish wrath upon the ones who done you wrong. You also wonder if that Crest Whitening stuff will work on skeletons, because you seem rather yellowed without your protective covering.

Onward!
A unique setup: wake up in your own grave, exact your revenge. Okay, this *may* have been done before -- usually in any sitcom that features a former Saturday Night Live cast member** -- but not so well done. I’m speaking, of course, about walking around without any...you know...skin.

[** What?]

First of all, let me caution you: this mission may not work on your computer. Some have had problems rendering the thing -- it is an extremely large mission, after all -- and it may just be too much. You have water, trees, massive architecture, plenty of strange AI...in short, it’s a processor’s worst nightmare. So if it doesn’t work for you, then...well, I’m sorry. Tell the author about it (NICELY, people...nicely!), not me.

Okay, so you’re a corpse. So what are ya gonna do, cry about it?? Unfortunately, you’re not the type of corpse who slaughters the living and sucks their brains out through their eye sockets. I’d like to think that if I had to unearth myself, I’d at least eat a few brains to compensate for any inconvenience...in the woods, shambling after screaming co-eds who twist their ankles...tormenting the comic relief with his own splintered femur...refusing to pay sales tax for sundries...it’s all good, or so I imagine. But I just KNOW there will be some jackass with holy water or a shotgun who insists on ending my reign of messy terror...lousy rotten busy-bodies. Go rain on some other zombie’s parade, willya?!?

Uh...anyway, I *suppose* you could play this mission as a Haunt; there’s an optional no-kill objective on Hard and Expert, so there may be some sort of plot point that may reveal something interesting about your current circumstances...but I won’t give anything away. In the meantime, however, you have to deal with the distressing fact that your arm is...well...you know, that’s pretty damn cool. I mean, I wouldn’t like that *personally*, but in-game, it’s rather interesting. I can also choose my own head from my inventory and throw it to look around corners...isn’t that just *disturbing*? I like it.

But it all comes down to the fact that you are still more Garrett than, say, Caleb.* You still have to be careful, you still run as fast as a gut-shot clown (a pleasant thought, indeed), and you’re still as strong as a room full of Eddie Deezens. In short, it’s best to stick to Thief’s particular playing style, instead of rushing into the room with a Tesla cannon in one hand and a voodoo doll in the other.
[* I made up for this long ago by bolstering the blackjack impact sound with a nasty laugh from Caleb, so there you have it: the best of both worlds.]

[By the way, Caleb is the main character in "Blood." You may have known that already, but I try not to assume as much as I used to.]

[And as I pointed out in another review, there's nothing more indicative of timely relevant wit than an Eddie Deezen reference.]

Okay, enough of that. Let’s look at the mission itself. If you like large, non-linear maps with a zillion things to do that aren’t necessarily connected to the main goals, then you’ll most likely enjoy this mission almost beyond your capacity for enjoyment. You have the swamp, which bears exploring, there are lots of trees to scrutinize (short on loot? look up!), there’s a thieves’ compound to raid, some guy with goat legs is wandering around the swamps, and...are those dragonflies?

I’d be doing this mission a disservice if I made an attempt to explicate it; it just *is*.

[And that's where I stopped. I suppose, looking at it now, that it really didn't need more than that. Knowing me, however, I figure that I would've gone on for a dozen more paragraphs.]

Summary?
[BLANK.]

Annoyance Rating:
[BLANK.]

Score:
[BLANK.]

My Level Stats:
Skill:
KO’s:
Kills:
Loot:

[BLANK.]

[...next...]
Title: T2 016: Lord Ashton Series, Part 1
Post by: Silver Sorrow on December 30, 2019, 10:59:54 AM
[I've previously posted this review on the main site (with screenshots, even!), but I'll put it here (without screenshots!) just for...fun? Aggravation? Whichever. I also updated the relevant links in the info.]

[And due to the length of the review, I've split it into two posts.]

[Also: The version of this review posted at the Hangar is also available at Southquarter (http://www.southquarter.com/christine/reviews/LordAshton-Review.html), so a big thanks to everyone involved in that. Especially for preserving my screenshots.]

[Another Also: the "Bats!" Abstract took a hiatus for a couple of reviews, picking up again with "Lord Alan's Basement."]


T2: The Lord Ashton Series


Game: Thief 2
Title: The Lord Ashton Series
Author: Christine Schneider
Homepage: http://www.southquarter.com/christine/
Filename: Lord_Ashton_SeriesV2.zip
Filesize: 39.8mb
Download:  Full campaign at Cheap Thief Missions (https://thiefmissions.com/m/Lord_Ashton_SeriesV2)
Walkthroughs & Loot Lists: At Southquarter (http://www.southquarter.com/christine/lascreenshots.html) (Click on the link to the mission you need help solving.)

Important Note: You can download the missions individually or collectively; there are eight missions, so if you’d like to play them one by one without involving yourself in a 40 megabyte download (Ha! Dial-up wimp! Get a real ISP!), you can do this by doing a search at The Circle or Cheap Thief Missions.

Ever-Present Custom Stuff Note: If you play this pack and things aren't exactly as they appear in my screenshots...well, there's a reason for that: I use custom HUD elements, and this pack does not. I can't help myself. It's a sickness.

[...and if you do see screenshots here, you're hallucinating and possibly a danger to yourself and others. Seek professional help.]

Abstract:
Some of you -- and here I can't think of any one individual in particular -- may have noticed the kills, KOs and loot totals at the end of my Thief reviews. Instead of bragging, the real purpose of these tallies is to give the reader an in idea of how much violence and/or loot to expect in a given mission. (If that final tally of KO’s is ridiculously enormous, then so much the better.) As for the loot total, it’s supposed to be an indicator as to how difficult it is to acquire all of the loot; you’ll notice that I don’t always get all of the loot, and I freely admit that, so you can put away the knitting needles and the Vaseline (but stick around...I’ll see you later). If you can exceed my total, then well done. If not, don’t worry about it.

The Basics:
Equipment Store(s): No
Skill Settings: Yes
Map/Automap: Not really
Puzzle Difficulty: Fluctuates
General Difficulty: Mild-Medium
New Stuff: yup
Gameplay: I cover that in the individual entries

Onward!

This is a compilation of eight individually-released missions, now together in a single campaign. Previous to the final version, the author kept us on our toes...just when you thought the series was over, here comes another mission! Not that I’m complaining one bit, because I love them all. Anyway, all missions were played on Expert skill, because I’m just that kind of guy. I’ve included my level stats at the end of each mission section, with the cumulative stats at the end of the review. I’m curious to see how much loot I missed.

By the way, these missions were translated from the author’s native language (German), so the English translation may seem a little quaint and/or quirky in places. That’s perfectly fine by me, as I don’t usually play these missions for the prose (I also don’t go to steakhouses for the fish, and vice-versa...if that has anything to do with it). Despite that, the translations were done very well.

Speaking of reading, you should read Garrett’s diary at the beginning of every mission; this will expand upon the goals and story and such.

Each section hereafter represents an entire mission review; each mission included in the pack is a full-length level (theoretically), and deserves an appropriately full-length review. Why don’t I just review them individually and release them as such, you ask? I like to keep all of the reviews for mission packs in one review, even though that review may be broken up across several pages. So are you happy now, Mister or Missus Question Everything Silver Does??


A Visit To Lord Ashton’s

Gameplay: Humans, a treebeast; mansion robbing...and, well, that’s it.

First off, read your diary and Lady Helena’s letter in your inventory.

Since Lord Ashton is one of the richest and most respected men in the City, it’s about time you broke into his home, tormented his servants, creeped out his guards, ransacked his possessions, and rubbed your naked butt all over his silverware. And while you’re in there, you might as well pick up a few specific items for one Lady Helena, who has given you a shopping list of things *she* wants from Lord Ashton. Isn’t that just like a woman? “Oh, and while you’re out, here’s a list! Don’t forget the gem-encrusted skull formerly belonging to a long-dead technomage AGAIN, you bastard!”* You’ve “worked” for Lady Helena in the past, and it’s always proven lucrative...so you decide to pick up her requested items (and the dry cleaning and the Meow Mix and the eggs and...); she tells you to go to the Ashton cemetery for further instructions when you’re all done.
[* For real-world comparison’s sake, insert “milk” or “bread” or even “diapers” for “gem-encrusted blah blah blah”.]

One thing I will not dwell upon like some cheesy female-worshiping lech is that the author is a woman. Thief is a curious game in that it attracts the distaff side more than other FPS games;** I think it goes back to the early hunter-gatherer phase of human history, where men would go out and get stomped on and partially eaten by prehistoric wildlife while the women stayed in the cave and played Thief.
[** Yes, Thief is an FPS, no matter how you define the “S”...deal with it, ya poncy elitist pansy.]

Anyway, this mission is essentially a mansion-looting fiesta. You get to prowl around the grounds of a large mansion, shamelessly abuse the guards’ sensibilities, and just be the most amoral shadow-skulking weirdo that you can be. And you know? There’s something appealing about that. For a first (released) mission, it’s mind-blowing. Many first missions built in Thief 2 are visually stunning anyway, thanks to the wonderful textures available, but this one plays nicely as well.

Your main problem here is actually getting into the mansion. You’ll have to do a bit of circumnavigation*** -- literally -- to find clues on how to get inside. All you need is a key, and that’s found...hey, you actually thought I was going to say where to find it, didn’t you?
[*** Shut up, it’s a real word! It also makes me hunch over protectively for some reason.]

The mansion -- both inside and out -- is picturesque, not to mention quite spacious. It’s not Art of Thievery big (although how many are that big, really?), but it is a walking tour nevertheless. And really, how can you disparage an estate where the caretaker is Gordon Freeman and the captain of the guards is Adrian Shepherd? No, really! Some of the guards, by the way, carry shields. Okay, not that they help them one bit (they’re just decoration), but they do look nice. The greatest thing is that you can pick up the shields and simply let go of them, whereupon they will float in mid-air. I had a little fun with this, culminating in my “shield tree”...I know, I’m pathetic.

[There was a screenshot here depicting a tree with shields "hanging" all over it, like flat metal fruit.]

I did start off with plenty of equipment (and even acquired more later)...but I didn’t use it all. I can usually get by in most human-oriented missions with just my blackjack, but it was nice to have an impressive arsenal anyway, just in case I wanted to go off my nut. I had plenty of opportunities to do just that, but since I was supposedly an Expert (at least for this review), I had to keep my cool, which didn’t involve scrambling onto a roof and playing my favorite game, "Let's Shoot Everyone Who Looks Like People I Knew In High School!" My mettle was tested somewhat by the presence of a buttload of tile, which is even more daunting when you understand that I had Jennifer Lopez’s**** butt in mind for that particular metaphor. That equals a LOT of tile. Since I’ve played through this entire pack several times, I can safely say that this will not be the end of your tile frustrations, oh no. The author’s just getting started.
[**** I refuse to resort to using that insipid moniker “J.Lo”; however, I will call her “untalented moron” if I must refer to her.]

My only real challenge, besides the tile, was outside: there were guards carrying lanterns. Hiding from them is one thing, while hiding their bodies after cracking their skulls is quite another. It’s a task unto itself, requiring one to drop the body so that the lantern clips through the wall, removing it as a light source; walls that converge at acute angles are most helpful. It all adds to your extracurricular fun value. I eventually made it inside the mansion and proceeded to sit down with Lord Ashton and listen to his fascinating views on revised gender roles in the modern world.

Or maybe I just gave him a concussion and stole all of his stuff. In doing so, I gave myself a serious hernia...there is a *lot* of loot just laying around. I mean, SCADS of valuable items, over 13,000 worth, some of it hidden quite well in secret areas. Speaking of which, there were a few “secrets,” but in this mission (and subsequent missions), secrets are not counted as “secrets,” if you get my meaning.** No, it’s not a problem; I just like hearing that chime when I find a secret. Again, color me pathetic. Some of the hidden switches were a little on the obscure side: hard to find, behind curtains, etc. I don’t mind that, but the first time I played this mission, I missed a ton of loot hidden in one room because I didn’t see the switch, so deviously hidden. It’s a good idea to scrutinize your surroundings like a good little thief.

[** I'm mystified, myself...I think I meant that something that might appear to be a secret isn't actually marked as as secret, so you don't get that nifty little "secret found!" notification for finding, say, a well-hidden stash of gear or loot.]

And now for a list of curious (or not) things:

1) If you have "Attach Ladders" set to "Jump" in your options, it’s tough to get down off the low roof where the archers are standing (outside the mansion) without losing a chunk of health. Jumping onto the cart below is not a good idea, as it still hurts. I recommend setting "Attach Ladders" to "Touch"; that way, you can climb down via the ladder and avoid consequently being mistaken for a Toulouse Lautrec impersonator.

[Do I really need to explain that one?]

2) One female servant, when knocked out, is described as a “corpse” when you pick her up. This is an error, as she is still very much alive. I know: I tested her with my sword until she stopped screaming. Of course, I had to reload, but that’s the kind of selfless sacrifice a scientist/thief must make.

3) Objects/items that aren’t necessarily valuable in some missions will show up as such in other missions, but this isn’t 100% consistent; sometimes they’re valuable, sometimes they’re not. This adds to the fun.

4) When entering the sparring room with the treebeast, Garrett suddenly exclaims “Damn! I didn’t mean for that to happen!” What? What didn’t he mean to happen? Probably nothing to worry about. I hope. I panicked anyway, just be safe.

5) Benny by the pool. Don’t fall in, Benny...mu-hahahahaaaa... (“I shwim better when I’m drunk...it makesh me float! *hic* If I shee a fish, I jusht point my shword at him and saaaaaaaaaay GLUB! BLUB GLUB glub glub glub...”)

6) Mah homey Biggie L.O.R.D. Ash-baby likes hangin' wit' his peeps, da Keepahs. (Translation: Lord Ashton is an aquaintance of the Keepers.)

7) Shepherd (aka, “The Hoochie-Coochie Man”) proposing to his delicate flower by the fountain. How sweet. I just had to take a picture. Then I HAD to club them both and arrange their bodies in amusing positions.

Level Stats
KO’s: 37
Kills: 1 (treebeast)
Loot: 13,577 / 13,677


A Night’s Stroll

Gameplay: Humans, burricks, two zombies; strolling / hunting lodge looting / Texas Chainsaw Burrick Massacre (I wish) / brothel-looting / well-diving / et cetera

After successfully robbing Lord Ashton and burning his mansion to its foundations and dancing around it totally naked save for being ritually decorated with the guards’ blood -- or perhaps your experience was a bit different than mine -- you headed for the Ashton family cemetery. There, you found further instructions from Lady Helena. You’re to make your way to the local village and meet her at a pub. Oh, and watch out for the burricks.

Pffft! They should watch out for *me*. Wait...that could be misconstrued somehow. (“The City: Where Men Are Men And The Burricks Are Nervous”)

Of course, your equipment doesn’t carry over from the last mission, so if you were hoarding your gas and water arrows (like I usually do) in hopes that you’d have them in the next mission, then you are now probably kicking yourself for not using it all when you had the chance.

This map is, essentially, what its title implies. There are a couple of hunting lodges along the way to town, as well a some very nice scenery. The two prime attractions of Christine’s missions are her meticulous attention to detail and her penchant for using custom objects. Fish in the pond, cool new loot, toilets, psychedelic mushrooms (some of them frobbable), etc. I’ve always found these things reason enough to download her maps, because they just look so freakin’ good.

You’ll eventually find the hunting lodge belonging to a very familiar guy, Lord Bafford himself, although he’s called “Bufford” sometimes. Poor Lord Bafford! You ruined him when you looted his mansion, and he still hasn’t recovered financially. That says something about how he invests his money (he was the primary backer of both Glitter and Gigli), but never mind. To recover from his downward spiral, he’s been courting Lord Ashton’s daughter in hopes that the dowry would get him back in the black, but she turned him down cold. Blueballs for the blueblood! Ha-ha!

Ashton’s daughter, by the way, lost her ring while taking a stroll of her own, and a notice to this effect is posted at Ashton’s lodge. I mention this fact only because that ring meant two things to me: one, I could never remember where the ring was hidden without referring to the walkthrough, and two, that ring represents the author’s enchanting tendency (read: maddening habit) of putting very tiny rings into her missions. I found myself wading through shallow pools of water and bathtubs, poring over bathrooms, staring at window sills, looking under furniture, etc., all in an effort to find every last bit of loot...but I enjoyed it, oddly enough.

I probably shouldn’t have bothered with trying to find all the loot because I didn’t need it to buy equipment, but that really isn’t the point, I guess: I’m a thief, therefore I should bleed the town dry. And speaking of which, once you reach the town you’ll have the chance to rob a few fine stores. There’s a butcher’s shop, a bakery, an apothecary, a weapons shop, a Victoria’s Secret, a Christie’s Toybox, the DMV (Department of Mobile Villagers), a Dairy Queen and seventeen Starbucks. It’s all here, a testament to human ingenuity, made even more impressive when you consider the fact that the denizens of the Thief world have yet to perfect strip mall technology.

In a previous incarnation of this review, I had mentioned that there is no way to return to the first part of town before going down that well in the middle of the square (the rope is short and the only exit from the area puts you in a gated-off part of town). It turns out that I was being a monumental dumbass -- business as usual -- and you *can* return there easily if you make it a point to actually LOOK for a lever to open the gate. I'm like an idiot savant at being an idiot.

You'll also need to visit Madame Kira’s House O’ Ill Repute (yes, it's a brothel) for a few items. This includes her diary, which details some interesting dirt on a few prominent citizens...wouldn’t that be useful to have? Obviously, it takes in plenty of money -- hey, it’s the nicest place in town, friendlier than the church by far -- and it’s ripe for a bit of larceny.

Speaking of brothels... [NOTE: This paragraph has been expunged from existence. It was merely yet another self-indulgent exercise on the part of the reviewer to somehow tie together the concepts of whorehouses, the Asian girl he was obsessed with in his senior year of high school, and a long-closed, suspicious “massage parlor” in his hometown called “Oriental Tokyo Health Massage.” I, the reviewer’s real-world alter-ego, have undertaken this task in an effort to keep the review more or less focused on the subject at hand. However, I did find the phrase “Cherry Chung’s Hot Chinese Taco Eat-Out Fiesta!” to be amusing enough to mention here, although it is completely out of context and not intended as a racist or sexist comment in any way...or so the vicious little beast claims. -- E.]

Okay, you’ve clubbed all the girls and the boys, you stole everything worth stealing, and you got all the stuff on your list. Now it's time to head for the other part of town where the pub is located to meet with Lady Helena. But wait! Hear that? Two cops having a conversation. It seems that they're on the lookout for YOU. Why? That’s an interesting question. Too bad the cops don’t talk after being bludgeoned. Oh, well. Perhaps I should kick them a few times...nope, nothing.

Hey, there’s the local Hammer church. They’re having a few problems, what with the Mechanists recruiting their high priest and all. There are a couple of shops...private homes...a small graveyard...six more Starbucks...not a bad section of town, really. At the end of the street is the pub. But wouldn’t you know it, things don’t run the way you planned them in the humdrum...

[Reference: Peter Gabriel's "Humdrum."]

And now for the list of what could be interesting things of note, but I doubt it:

1) Even though the previous mission had a decently-rendered kitchen area, this mission begins to reveal the full extent of Christine’s obsession with elaborate kitchens.

2) There’s a lot of food laying around, isn’t there? ...ohhhh, man...anyone got a box of Gas-X? *burp* Maybe they should *urp* call the next game "Thief: Massive Bloating." I shouldn't have eaten all that cheese...I hope they have some of those exploding barrels in the next mission, because I will definitely need a couple. Oh, god. Never again!

Oooh! Cheesecake! Yes, please!

3) Burricks can’t be killed with the sword after they’ve been KO’ed, unfortunately.

4) Like the previous mission, some things are a little obscure; secrets, keys, switches...but hey, it’s Thief. If you’re playing this, you’re used to such things by now.

5) I killed seven rats, which counted in my kill tally. Weird, yes, but not excessively so. What’s *really* weird is that the two zombies I killed didn’t show up in the stats.

Level Stats
KO’s: 49
Kills: 9 (7 rats plus the 2 zombies the game ignored)
Loot: 9287 / 9287


Escape!

Gameplay: Humans, bots, spiders; imprisoned against my will / Papillion / Escape From Alcatraz / Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption / Attica! / Attica! / Attica! / you get the idea / escaping / seething resentment / revenge / vault-plundering / teddy bear kidnapping / stowing away

You’re in trouble. At the end of “A Night’s Stroll”, you were captured by the local excuse for a police force...of course, it took 127 of them to corner you, but it didn’t end there, oh no. After an intense and extremely bloody three-day standoff -- during which you tossed out a body every fifteen minutes -- they called in the National Guard and local SWAT, but to no avail. It was only after they devised a giant, six-story papier-mâché mockup of a jewel-encrusted vase that they finally apprehended you. Although to your credit, you still managed to fit it in your pants.

So here you sit in this dank little cell, singing Beatles songs ("'We can work it out, we can--' HEY! Why isn't anyone singing??"), waiting for your chance to break out, to wreak unholy vengeance upon your captors, and probably even force a select lucky few to listen to your “poetry”... ‘twas an evening of horror...the horror...

‘Twere worse fur twerp thrice inches taller,
Fewer than thripster wurthel fwap-a-doo nap...
Wouldst nipper a tweet a few woot?
Hip hup hop hap hep hemp in my TWINKIES
Mother? Mother? WHERE ARE MY FINGERS!!?!?


You’ve also been eating the mushrooms growing in the corners of your cell, which may explain a few things.

Aha! So you’ve finally escaped from your cell, thanks to your friend Leon’s bribing of a guard to give you a lockpick and a letter. Your next step is to sneak into the sewer (stumbling across Ben’s big brother**), whereupon you find your way to the morgue. Gather up thy equipment, ye fusty black-cloaked lurker, because you'll be needing it. Here’s the plan: knock out all the guards, loot the joint and get out to Lord Ashton’s yacht as Leon mentioned in his letter. Got it? Terrific! Let’s just get up these stairs here to...wow. Pretty fancy for a police station, huh? Looks like Truart really went all out!

[** You know, Ben? The movie about a boy and his killer rat? Yeah. That one.]

Of course, the good Sheriff has an ulterior motive for fixing up the place, and it’s probably a good idea for you to find out why. Oh, and you need to get back all the loot you got from your previous jobs, not to mention doing a couple of deliciously mean-spirited things, such as robbing the vault and kidnapping Truart’s teddy bear...but oddly enough, I enjoy doing bad things to bad people.

[Not as much fun as doing bad things to good people, but we find our fun wherever we can.]

There really isn’t a whole lot to say about how complex the mission is: you escape from jail and stow away on Lord Ashton’s yacht. Okay, yes, you steal everything from the station’s vault and require a back operation after lugging all of the valuables out, but essentially it’s an escape map. But a very good one.

There is an underlying story which adds depth, however, dealing with Truart’s reasons for renovating this small out-of-the-way police station, the local cops who are suspicious of his motives, and Truart’s obvious “evidence relocation” program. There’s also the question of who betrayed you to the cops in the first place. Was it Leon? Was it Lady Helena? Was it Dr. Clayton Deborah Susan “Firebrand” Forester?** You’ll find out eventually. Perhaps as soon as the next page.

[** MST3K reference. Of course.]

And yes, everything looks stunning, as usual.

The obligatory list of stuff only I care about:

1) Lots of tile. Oh, complain, complain. It’s fine.

2) The familiar names continue. There’s a Sergeant Bronson, a Dr. Crusher, a conscientious cop named Denton...

3) I managed to KO about 45 AI, but a lot of those were my fellow prisoners. What I won’t do to increase my noggin-crunching total.

4) No kill restrictions! Woo-hoo!

5) The poor cook’s had enough of burrick, I guess.

6) That’s a lot of books for a police station.

7) Sushi??

8) I wonder if Truart ever gets the quality tech support he needs for his PC?

9) Benny! Again! Being picked up by a (possibly infected) lady of the night! Let’s give ol’ Benny a hand! Clap clap clap clap...[clever smirk]

(You got the joke, didn't you? Normally I wouldn't ask, but sometimes I wonder.)

Level Stats
KO’s: 45
Kills: 5 (3 spiders and 2 Bots)
Loot: 7664 / 7764


END OF PART ONE
Title: T2 016: Lord Ashton Series, Part 2
Post by: Silver Sorrow on December 30, 2019, 12:57:10 PM
PART TWO


Revenge

Gameplay: Humans, burricks, a fire elemental; stealing a bunch of stuff / revenging yourself upon the woman who done you wrong / hey Garrett where you goin’ with that sword in your hand? / I'm goin' down to stab my old lady / you know I caught her betrayin' me to The Man /

After your infamous break from prison in which 168 innocent souls lost their lives, you decided to teach your betrayer, Lady Helena, a lesson she’ll never forget: you’re going to kill her. That should be pretty memorable. Unfortunately, everyone is on the lookout for your face, so it wouldn’t do any good to cut around the edges and peel it off, masquerading around town as a non-threatening Haunt. So you’d probably better stick with that stealth thing people keep talking about.

Yes, I said Lady Helena was responsible for your incarceration. This answers the question I was dancing around in the previous mission review. So much for attempting plot preservation. Anyway, she was being blackmailed by Truart and she turned you in. Seems Truart found some fascinating (read: hot) letters she wrote to a man who isn’t her husband, and wouldn’t her husband find them interesting? So into the clink *you* go.

That’s where you stand. Not in jail, that was the last mission. Situationally, I mean. Find Lady Helena and kill her. But first, you gotta get in to get out.* The key to the front gates of her mansion is in the possession of her husband, who spends a lot of time at the Hotel Maritime getting sloshed. If you can’t figure THAT hint out, you really should be playing something easier. It goes without saying that the town’s crawling with cops (more or less), and you shouldn’t be smiling about it, unless you’re like me and enjoy hitting people. If they catch you, they won’t merely consent to strip you of your dignity in a series of highly-invasive cavity searches, no; they’ll simply kill you and kick your corpse repeatedly. Are you gonna stand for that? No!
[* The tickler may take his stickleback, but the carpet crawlers still heed their callers.]

[Admittedly Obscure Reference: Genesis' "Carpet Crawlers" from The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway.]

The problem here is that you have to find a way to GET to Lady Helena. Scouring the town for cash and info is good, but there comes a point when you have to suck it up and put ‘er down. Ouch. Just got hit in the face with a few potential double-entendres. And another one by complete accident. I'm not trying to do a Tera Patrick** impression, it just sorta happens. What happens online stays online, my little bubbling cutie-poos.

[** Tera Patrick is a porn star. She gets hit in the face a lot with...you know what? Never mind. Not important.]

This map really isn’t all that big; there are essentially four main areas -- by the bookshop where you start, the front of the hotel, the back of the hotel, Lady Helena’s estate -- so this map will tick by fairly quickly if you know what you’re doing.

Yes, this mission is somewhat short and lacking in dozens of people walking around the streets, but hey! It’s raining! What can you expect? The other day I saw some woman nearly kill herself running to her car just to avoid a light sprinkling of rain. Jeebus Xmas, people! It won’t make you melt! When they say “acid rain,” it doesn’t mean sulfuric acid!

[And they do the same thing when they're driving in wet conditions, apparently attempting to dodge the invidual drops of rain. My opinion of humanity -- already very low -- drops even more in bad weather.]

Anyway.

So you’ve assaulted everyone worth assaulting in the hotel, you have the mansion key, and you’ve strained your eyes mercilessly (hey, that rhymed!) looking for tiny gold rings worth 100 gold each. Now you need to get to Her Ladyship’s estate. After alerting both guards with your subtle way of opening the gate, you’re inside. Nice place! Have you stolen everything that isn’t nailed down? Good! Now find Lady Helena and make her squeak...um...but before you try that, you might have noticed by now that you don’t have a sword. Sure, you could probably turn her into a pincushion, but wouldn’t you feel better with a sword, just in case you run out of arrows?

You may remember Constantine’s sword from the original Thief. Yes, it was a magic sword that didn’t make you any more conspicuous than your blackjack when drawn. No one at LGS thought it important enough to explain its absence in Thief II, which means -- naturally -- that the sword is still the subject of endless (and tiresome) (and stupid) debate. However, it’s explained in this mission that you sold the sword to Lady H. a while back and you’ve missed it ever since. So find it on her estate and kill her (I cannot stress that point enough). But watch out! She’s not entirely helpless, and she’s made friends with a fire elemental.

So she’s dead, right? Great! Now go to the side door by the front gates and meet your friend Leon. All done? Terrific. Onward we march to the next mission.

But first, ponder over my ubiquitous list of quaint and curious forgotten (or not) lore:

[We seemed to be missing #2 here. It's not on the main site review, either...but I found it in Southquarter's preserved version of the review. And then I realized that somehow I screwed up the list entirely when I reposted it for the Foxhole, and that #2 was shifted to #1 (erasing that one) and omitting a second entry entirely. So I've restored the list to how it should have been (with some minor tweaks). Once again, my thanks to the fine folks at Southquarter.]

1) The drunk guard at Lady Helena's: Kyle Kartan. I suppose the author really meant "Katarn," but I got the gist anyway.

2) In the building by the iron gates leading to Lady Helena’s estate, there is a small burrick pen. In the pen is a secret door which is opened by a torch holder. I don’t mind giving away this information, because the rooms in that building appear to have no purpose whatsoever besides a higher view of the area. No loot, no equipment...nothing but a table with a lamp on the uppermost floor. Strange.

3) My only advice in getting past that gate that blocks your goal of getting to the mansion is this: an arrow. You could use a broadhead, sure. But wouldn't a moss arrow make less noise? Hmmmm? Well...unfortunately, the only moss arrows I found are in Lady Helena's estate...beyond the gate. Oh, well. So you make a little noise. Big deal.

4) Lady Helena’s kitchen is quite impressive.

5) Do they have photography in the Thief world? No? Then how did my (Garrett’s) picture get on the wanted posters? Maybe they just found a Thief box somewhere and used that.

Level Stats
KO’s: 31
Kills: 2 (a fire elemental, Lady Helena)
Loot: 6888 / 6958


In Search of Leon

Gameplay: Humans, a fire elemental; infiltration / more stealing / searching / finding

After shattering the hopes, dreams and lives of the citizenry during your last rampage, you took a long, extraordinarily libertine vacation touring the fleshpots of Southeast Asia. And although the trip was worth suffering through the lingering physical after-effects, you returned with enough mental scarring to keep a convention of psychoanalysts busy for years...needless to say, you’ll never look at a ping-pong ball in quite the same way again. When your genitalia finally swelled to the size of a maritime craft, you took your massive injections of penicillin like a man and hobbled (gingerly) home.

This would go far to explain why Garrett runs like a man suffering from advanced syphilis.

Anyway, once home you sift through your mail (eight offers for a City Express card, three flyers from a lawn-mowing service, pizza coupons, subscription offers to “Harper’s Thievery,” and “Teen Thief,” et cetera) and find a letter from Madame Kira -- remember her from the second mission? -- asking you to steal a valuable book from Sir Hrothgar von Hagen...who may also know something about your missing buddy, Leon.

Yes, Leon. He’s gone missing in his quest to pick up that stupid book, and it’s your job to get into some rich nutcase’s castle and find both Leon and the book. Typical Christine visual wizardry abounds, although the guards are a bit confused sometimes and get stuck in doorways. Maybe they’re amazed.

...I mean maybe they're amazed by the mission, not at the way you love me all the time.

[Paul McCartney. Wings. "Maybe I'm Amazed."]

Once again it’s another mansion rob, this time in the form of a castle. The author exceeds at these sort of missions, so you’ll feel comfortable here...probably. I make no assumptions about your comfort. Although this mission features roughly the same amount of game time as the previous mission, it has more secret areas and loot bonanzas. I especially liked the architecture and texturing -- the pillared main hall was quite interesting* -- and can’t help but note that this castle looks very clean, much like Paul’s grandfather.**
[* Reminding me, strangely enough, of the storage rooms of Marlinspike Hall in Hergé’s Tintin book, The Secret of the Unicorn.]

[** The Beatles. A Hard Day's Night. The movie. Was I on some sort of Beatles kick at the time?]

So now you’re inside, what do you do? Mistreat everyone, yes...that’s a given; but you really need to find that book and Leon. From your investigations, Leon’s been captured and has been resisting interrogation; he’s still alive, but how much do you want to bet he’s unconscious and that you’ll have to sling him over your shoulder and stagger out of there? They’ve tied his shoelaces together, the bastards!

[Referring to Rowan Atkinson's character in Hot Shots! Part Deux.]

Although this mission is relatively short, it is very much enjoyable. But just when you think the series is over, here comes another one! Yee-haw!

Hey! How about another list of stuff?

1) They say three on a match is bad luck, but I consider three on a flashbomb to be quite stylish.

2) Sir Hrothgar?? I suppose I’ll have to beat the snot out of Grendel too, while I’m at it. Typical.

[You know, Grendel? King Hrothgar's bane? From Beowulf? Read a BOOK, people!]

3) Sir Hrothgar’s son Andre wants to be a musician. Oh, the horror! Look on the bright side, though: at least he doesn’t want to be a dancer. I'll stand on my tippy-toes and stretch out my hand to pluck a star from the sky and put it in my pock-- oh, poopie. Leotards don't have pockets!

[It's interesting to note that I'm not on drugs.]

4) In addition to being a scruffy, immature musician of questionable talent -- not to mention being a prolific collector of teddy bears -- Sir Andre is being set up to court Lord Ashton’s daughter, Carla. He’s probably not interested, as groupies are more fun, after all. There’s always one who can show up with a bucket of dead fish and make it an erotic experience...as opposed to a cold, clammy, and fundamentally creepy nightmare. Then again, that can be highly erotic too, if it's done right.

5) The loot totals get smaller and smaller with each installment in the series...not a value judgment or anything, just an observation.

6) Sir Hrothgar has an interesting collection of heraldic shields. One bears a basilisk...or is it a tricked-out chicken? Another depicts an eagle about to snicker-snag on a duck. (See the screenshot.) Hmmm...

[You'll just have to use your imagination.]

Level Stats
KO’s: 31
Kills: 1 (fire elemental)
Loot: 6231 / 6471


The Secret of Sir Stefan

Gameplay: Humans, burricks; town map / sewer-swim / thieves’ hideout

After your escapade to rescue Leon and retrieve a magic book for Madame Kira, you shook any pursuing heavily-armed employees of Sir Hrothgar’s by detonating a small, “dirty” thermonuclear device, ultimately wiping out thousands of souls in a flash and causing the rest to suffer and die of various excruciating fallout-related illnesses. All’s fair in love and thievery, after all.

Or maybe you just dreamed it.

Anyway, now that you’re Madame Kira’s errand boy, she wants you to pick up a couple of interesting items (you’ve traded in one demanding harridan for another...how nice): the Mystic’s Soul and the Mystic’s Heart. Perhaps you remember these items from the original Thief. If not, then don’t worry: they’re large gems and NOT icky organic things that require fireplace tongs and a Hazmat suit to handle.

The Mystic’s Soul was in the hands of the Mechanists until a couple weeks ago, meaning that it’s all sweaty and smells of fuel oil. One of Madame Kira’s boys managed to steal it, but not without alerting everyone this side of Hell. He managed to get rid of it before being caught though, and it hasn’t been found yet. The Mystic’s Heart is reputedly in the possession of Sir Stefan, supposedly an upstanding weapons dealer, but he’s really a big fat jerk and the head of the local thieves’ guild, although he looks great in spangled tights and stiletto heels as he trolls for rich johns. Not that you’ve previously picked him up by mistake while visiting a bad part of town or anything, no.

It’s just a matter of (secret) record that the hideout is secret -- what, you want everyone to know where you’re hiding?? -- but you’ll find it, or your name isn’t...uh...

In addition to these two baubles, you’ll need to stop by Lady Irmgard’s and relieve her of a valuable harp. Oh, and Sir Hrothgar’s idiot son, Andre, is staying with her; he pretty much ran away from home when he learned he was to be married to Lady Carla. Not that I blame him, as she resembles a Halle Berry Halloween mask stretched over a half-deflated volleyball. Well, maybe that’s my fault. The skin I modified for the noblewoman model didn’t come out all that well and I didn't really care enough to fix it.

[Texturing is easy. But only talent makes it look good.]

Well, that pretty much covers the mission. Find one gem, get the harp, infiltrate the secret thief hideout for the other gem, and get out. Pretty straightforward, yes. The only problem you’ll face is twitchy AI; specifically, thieves who have pounded down so many Triple Mocha-Coke Insaneccinos that they’re like really big black hummingbirds with swords (but with hands to hold those swords, you know?); this makes the thieves’ hideout a bit more difficult than you’d think. The rest of the AI prove to be no problem at all, although the fish in the waterways kept resorting to ramming speed and slowed me down.

This mission is another town mission, albeit a little larger and more detailed than the previous four missions. The streets are cozy and quaint, with plenty of detail to keep your eyes busy while you skulk about. There really is nothing too much out of the ordinary -- for this author, anyway -- but the very act of getting the Mystic’s Heart can be quite fun if you have fire arrows. I hate burricks.

So what’s next? Another mission!

But first, I’d like to sing a little song about the inscrutable...

1) Lady Irmgard is hot! Well...okay, so I gave the skin Lynda Carter’s face and cleavage. That probably explains it.

[A bit of texture work that went right.]

2) I’ve managed to club Sir Andre twice now, and I want to hit him again. Is that wrong?

3) Andre can’t sleep without his teddy bear, I guess.

4) Who owned the thieves’ hideout before the thieves moved in? Judging by the stained glass designs, Satan.

Level Stats
KO’s: 42
Kills: 3 (burricks)
Loot: 6582 / 6727


A Winter’s Night

Gameplay: Humans; snow / town / jeweler’s shop / apartment-hunting

Snow! I wanna wash the blood off my hands and sword with snowwwwww...

[I'm dreaming of a red Christmas...]

[Okay, okay. It's "Snow," from White Christmas. You know the scene: four clowns sitting on a train, singing joyously about the benefits of frostbite. Great movie, otherwise.]

Welcome to the town of New Bungwich. Maybe that isn’t the name. There was a lot of snow on the sign. Anyway, the ground is covered with a fresh blanket of snow, and you’re extremely broke. You’re in town to “acquire” a valuable diamond and find some guy’s weapons cache, not to mention a warm place to stay.

See, it’s a winter wonderland out there, although I’ve always wondered how hypothermia can be classified as a wonderful thing. More Hollywood propaganda, I imagine. All I know is that if I see Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye in Santa suits I’m running like hell in the opposite direction.

[For good reason: both of them have been dead for years. They're obviously zombies.]

You might have noticed that I’m running out of relevant things to say about the missions. I can’t really help it. Mansion, town, prison, town, castle, town, and now town again. The next mission is a mansion, and it’s getting a little mind-numbing because I REALLY should have taken a day’s break between missions instead of playing through them all in one day. Still, this is a good (if short) mission with plenty of swag and head-busting to do. And it’s free, so I don’t have anything to complain about, do I?

I also don’t have that much to say about it beyond its beauty and that it's one of my favorite missions in the campaign, so let’s move on to the final mission.

Continue-us Interruptus:

1) I’m sure all those people I left in the snowdrifts with bleeding head wounds will be just fine.

2) When I opened the door to the pub (I had put out the nearby torch so I wouldn’t be seen), the lady bartender freaked and ran straight for the exit. You know, if you’re THAT jumpy...

3) Hey, there’s a snowman! Hey, what a snowman. They say a snow year's a good year filled with the love of all who lie so deep...but since I'm all out of love, I tried to mug him of his corn-cob pipe, button-nose and both eyes made from coal. But the bastard just wouldn’t give them up, so I had to fire-arrow him. Pray for the snowman.*
[* Genesis. ...And Then There Were Three. You're welcome.]

[Specifically, the song "Snowbound."]

4) Garrett is now squatting on prime real estate. Maybe he should have taken all that loot he’s gathered up so far and buy a nice studio apartment downtown?

Level Stats
KO’s: 17
Kills: 0
Loot: 5642 / 5692


The Wedding of Sir Andre

Gameplay: Humans, a baby burrick (Rest In Pieces); mansion rob / crashing a wedding party / stealing cake / eating all the cake / getting sick / tummy ache / praying for death or an ipecac / the end of the series (probably)

So here you are, standing in front of the mansion belonging to one Lady Gertrud “Stein” Ashton, Lord Ashton’s mother, and you are impressed. This mansion deserves its own zip code. Big mansion like that? Why, it’d probably take a nuke to destroy! Luckily, you have a few of those, thanks to your Russian connections.

Again, maybe you dreamed it.

But it seems that so far, the Ashton family and the von Hagen clan have survived the walking catastrophe that is Garrett. You just can’t leave these people alone, can you? You won’t be happy until they’re covered in sores and begging in the streets! God, I admire you. And by “you” I mean “Garrett.”

But until then, you have to get inside the mansion and steal a few specific items. One of these is a scepter belonging to Lady Ashton, although it looks more like a wizard’s staff than a scepter. As if I knew what I was talking about. Another is a very special and rare weapon that’s the property of the captain of the guards, Oskar Denton. *Another* item is the gift that Lady Barbara -- Sir Stefan’s widow -- is going to present to the happy (?) couple; she’s been known to give extravagant gifts, but judging by the wrapping, it’s something circus-related. Yet another item of interest is the wedding ring ordered by Sir Andre, which is in the possession of Sir Ar-Zimrathon, who is witness to the marriage. ANOTHER guest, George Foreman, has this amazing steam-powered grill that has been scientifically proven to drain money from your wallet. So I made that up. Even so, it’s still quite a list.

So how do you get in there? Me, I decided suavely on the side door, and right off the bat I cracked Lady Barbara’s skull. Baby won’t you let me be your side door man?** Anyway, there’s a letter in her rooms thanking her for coming in spite of “unfortunate happenings.” Hey, what do you know? I’m an unfortunate happening! But I’m sure you knew that already. It seems that Sir Stefan met with a tragic end, and even though you never touched him, you’re a suspect in the rotten bastard’s death. Okay, so maybe you gassed him (with an arrow!) like I did. We are subtle and efficient, are we not? It’s not like we routinely take a carving knife and cut our victims from ass to appetite. Not in Thief, anyway.

[** As far as I can tell, I was referring to Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love."]

So! That’s a lot of tile, huh? This mission is the culmination of the series, and what better way to celebrate that fact than to put every single bit of tile in the world in your mansion? I don’t think I have that many moss arrows. But really, I do like the *color* of the tile, a kind of mauve...in fact, there’s one bathroom done in mauve that I liked quite a bit...uh...but mauve’s a totally fruity color and completely unsuitable for a manly man like me! A man in tights, yessss, but...

[Reference: Robin Hood: Men In Tights.]

Let’s see: how to describe this place, other than “big”? Standard synonyms include: ample, capacious, colossal, enormous, gigantic, huge, hulking, humungous, immense, jumbo, mammoth, massive, monstrous, ponderous, prodigious, substantial, vast, walloping, whopping, and other words that are suitable to the task. This is a place that could house England if they got behind on the rent and were evicted. In short, it’s a rather large dwelling. Again, not as big as the mansion in Art of Thievery, but I won't hold that against it.

Features include many rooms and quite a few bathrooms, two indoor pools (which can double as toilets in the case of emergencies), two staircases, enough carpeting upstairs to keep the Persians rich for centuries (who needs all that icky oil, anyway?), and a LOT of tile; perhaps I’ve mentioned it before. There’s also a zillion little trinkets laying around, so feel free to line your pockets. My only regret is that the kitchen wasn’t as needlessly (yet pleasingly) elaborate as in previous missions.

So it’s a straightforward mansion-rob with a couple of interesting features (Oskar Denton’s special weapon, for example); nothing bizarre or totally out of the ordinary, but Holy Shiitake does it look fantastic. Normally, I like these mansion missions to have a few bizarre secrets (as in the mansion in “Shining Standards” for example, which had a ratio of roughly four secrets for every guard), but this is fine as-is.

You know, a normal person would probably feel a little guilty about robbing a couple of families gearing up for a wedding, but then again, I’m not exactly normal. I even stole the wedding cake. See, I’m the Banquo at their banquet, their fifteen stone first-footer, hell...I’m the thirteenth at the table! In summary, I’m the uninvited guest.*
[* With apologies to Marillion.]

[Perhaps I should be apologizing to the reader instead. Anyway, reference: Marillion, "The Uninvited Guest."]

So with the mansion emptied of loot and the people inside dreaming of little stars and twittering birdies, you should make your way back to the main gates. You’ve never eaten so much cake in your life, and you think you’re gonna-- NO! Not in the fish pond! Arrrrrrrrgh...

The Last Interruption:

1) Sir Andre was three sheets to the wind, not that I blame him; Lady Carla isn’t exactly Catherine Bell...or even Yoko Ono, for that matter.

[Those timely and relevant references just keep coming!]

2) The guards on patrol tended to clump together; perhaps they’re all agoraphobic?

3) That song that plays when you frob the mandolins in this pack? I now hate that song for all eternity.

4) Lady Ashton had a baby burrick as a pet. I stress “had.”

5) Doughnuts! Or, in the American parlance, “donuts.” I weep for my country.

6) Beautiful wedding cake. And it’s interesting to note that Garrett can eat that much cake without throwing up. I know I can’t.

7) So we meet again, Mr. Bear...or shall I call you “Teddy”?

8) When I went into Sir Ar-Zimrathon’s room to get the ring, I decided to unlock the far door on the other side of the room and take care of the archers on the parapet, but one of the archers, who was apparently standing right in front of the door with his face to it (!?!), started yelling and took aim. I scooted out of the room without injury and flashbombed him when he followed. Surprised the hell out of me. I don’t recall making any noise to alert him, so maybe he got misplaced after a reload. He should have been roughly twenty feet away and looking the other way, but sometimes weird things happen.

9) Allow me a pun: Captain Denton’s secret weapon should let me give my foes a serious “shock” to their “systems”! Great. Now I feel dirty and ashamed, and not in a good way.

10) Even though I clubbed or gassed (arrows, son, arrows) everyone else into unconsciousness, I left Lady Nightwalker alone. After all, who else will help me if I get into trouble? I hope she appreciates my kindness.

[The reference is to Nightwalker at the TTLG forums, the nicest person imaginable.]

11) Although this place is much bigger than Lord Ashton’s, it only has, what, about 60% the loot of that mission?

12) Speaking of loot, I came up about 195 short. Though that doesn’t seem to be a lot, it’s still enough cash for the Ashtons & von Hagens to buy a few broadheads and get their bloody revenge upon me. This disturbs me.

Level Stats
KO’s: 47
Kills: 1 (a burrick)
Loot: 7905 / 8100

Campaign Summary?
Visually stunning maps, but with some repetitive gameplay after a couple of missions: serious medical problems are inevitable if you try to play them all in one sitting, so good luck with that. A fine series.

Annoyance Rating:
Mild.

Campaign Score:
5 out of 5

Campaign Stats:
Expert Skill
KO’s: 299
Kills: 21 (only one human, Lady Helena)
Loot: 63,776 / 64,676 (900 short! Crud!)

[...next...]
Title: T2 017: The Night Falcon Series, Part 1
Post by: Silver Sorrow on December 30, 2019, 09:18:00 PM
[While I had this review up at the Hangar, I never did post it on the Foxhole. You can find the Hangar's version at Southquarter (http://www.southquarter.com/christine/reviews/Night%20Falcon-Review%20.html), complete with screenshots. Some of them are even amusing. Many thanks to Brethren, Christine, et al.]

[Due to character restrictions, I've split this review into two posts.]


T2: The Night Falcon Series


Game: Thief 2
Title: The Night Falcon
Author: Christine Schneider
E-mail: N/A
Homepage: http://www.southquarter.com/christine/
Filename: Night-Falcon-EnglishV2.zip
Filesize: 168mb
Download: Cheap thief Missions (http://thiefmissions.com/info.cgi?m=Night-Falcon-EnglishV2)
Walkthrough: At Southquarter (http://www.southquarter.com/christine/pageM008.html) (Click on the link to the mission you need help solving.)
Score: 5 / 5

Version Note: This review was written before the latest version was released; some issues I’ve mentioned here have probably been fixed with the new version.

Ever-Present Custom Stuff Note: You know the drill...custom skins, HUD, what have you. This campaign adds a few custom models and skins to the mix, so don’t hurt yourself trying to sort out what is or isn’t mine.

[Need I say the words?]

Abstract:
Naaaaah. Still short on bats...but if you really want bats, then play this campaign. There are bats aplenty. This is my chance to stock up, so...

The Basics:
Equipment Store(s): Yes
Skill Settings: Yes
Map/Automap: Not really
Puzzle Difficulty: Fluctuates
General Difficulty: Medium; Medium-Hard in later missions
New Stuff: but of course
Gameplay: I cover that in the individual entries


Onward!
Seven missions. Wow. This series, from what I gather, was supposed to part of an elaborate scheme on the part of German FM authors to destroy my free time completely. Although the project fell apart, Christine put together what she had already finished and modified the overall campaign and story; the full explanation is in the text file, so forgive my oversimplification and/or sludging of the facts, whatever they may be. Despite its truncated nature, this campaign still managed to keep me off the streets and out of trouble quite nicely, the arson charges notwithstanding.

[Burn down one orphanage and it's like you're typecast for life. Hey, I like burning down OTHER things too, y'know...]

One of the things (besides the .mis files themselves) that shoots the filesize up to staggering heights is the presence of .avi cutscenes; that’s perfectly fine by me, as they are a thoughtful touch to the overall experience. Those of you still on dial-up connections may feel otherwise, and I more or less feel your pain. [Mostly less.] Anyway, although they really don’t provide any relevant info to the missions, they do show off the next mission a little...nice music, too. But you know Windows...if I watch anything with Media Player (a pox upon it!) before playing Thief, the game will skip the cutscenes. This can be fixed by the codec thingamawhatsit on one of the game CDs,* but even so I find that a reboot before playing will let me see the movies.
[*  I’ve probably already mentioned this before, but I hate the whole codec thing. Some people like THIS one, some like THAT one, and it’s such a big bunch of techno-weenie bullshit that it HAS to have its reality-challenged combatants, just like the whole Mac versus PC thing...who gives a bleeding crap, anyway??]

[Thankfully, media players such as VLC takes care of such things so neo-Luddites such as myself don't have to mess with them.]

Okay. For the purpose of this review, all missions were played on Expert skill; I’m following the format I put together for my review of the author’s Lord Ashton series (gameplay, mission story, stats, etc.), so if you’ve read that, then...well, I apologize. But it should seem familiar, anyway.

Storyline Note: Before you start cracking skulls in each mission, read your diary. This will give you background info and an explanation of your goals.


A Shopping Walk
Gameplay: Humans, a zombie, a Haunt; walking / looting / info gathering

You’re broke. Your landlord is threatening to toss you out on your blackjack if you don’t make the rent tomorrow, so tonight you’re skulking out to make a bit of profit off the town, as well as your landlord. You’re going to filch his house key and steal his stuff, including his gold pocket watch, a treasured family heirloom. While you’re out, it might be a good idea to check out the Hammerites and see what they’re up to; it never hurts to know what’s going on. Unless you’re Bill Clinton...then you have to deny everything when everyone knows you know and YOU know you know, but you can’t let THEM know that you know that they know you know what you know, you know?

[And should they know too much? Have them killed in such an incompetent manner that it's blindingly obvious that you were responsible in some way.]

So take a look around your house -- nice! -- and grab your equipment, because you have lots of things to do and less time to do them in. Look *very* carefully around the kitchen fireplace...I’ll give you that one for free.

[Mel Brooks trademark line: we have much to do and less time to do it in.]

So you’re outside. I suppose you’re now living in the nice section of town (after all the cash you scraped up in the Lord Ashton series, it’s no wonder); there are a couple of friendly cops patrolling, and they won’t bother you as long as you don’t do something stupid...

...but you know me. Fortunately, I avoided their wrath for this review. Beyond those two clowns, you’ll find out that the rest of the cops really don’t like you at all. In fact, they’re eager to take you in for some reason, as revealed by a nice little parley between two of the fascist oinkers--uh, fine men and women in blue. This means that it’s time, once again, to slap on your Sam Spade hat (was it a fedora? a porkpie? a tricorn?) and do a little digging for info. And while you’re at it, find out why your fellow thieves are disappearing; the Hammers suspect that Lord Wellhofer is behind the disappearances, but they’re puzzled as to why. This means that you’ll eventually have to take to trip to his place of residence, but first...go get some cash.

This mission requires you to explore, and explore you will. The title, in fact, puts me in mind of Richard Bachman’s (aka Stephen King) “The Long Walk”...for obvious reasons. But I don’t mean all of that in a disparaging way, oh no...I love big town missions with plenty of opportunities to riffle through others’ private property, even though they blister my mouse’s little feet.*
[* After a equipment-changing operation, he’s entirely optical now and doing just fine...he’s even gotten over the humiliation of losing his little ball.]

You’ll soon find out that the general size of the town is roughly that of three of the author’s town maps in her Lord Ashton series. It’s easy to miss things and overlook loot, but if you’re not in a hurry and can explore thoroughly, your diligence will be rewarded with helpful items. And take a look at the scenery while you’re at it; Christine knows the value of eye candy. The architecture has all of these interesting little features that you really won’t catch if you’re in a hurry.

The AI, on the other hand, are a little...well, they’re odd sometimes, being pretty twitchy on the whole. I KO’d a cop roughly twenty feet from a female cop, and she went on full alert. I’m not complaining, as it does add a touch of (unintended?) realism. Look at the Hammers...I mean, I’d jump too if a door opened by itself.

Okay, so whom did you steal from? I don’t know about you, but I hit the fishmonger, the theater, the weaponsmith, a pub, an innocent lamppost (there were coins on the ground nearby, I just assumed they belonged to it), a bank, a few citizens, a couple of cops, the Hammer church, a crypt, a carpenter, the police station...just about everyone had something to (involuntarily) donate to a (un)worthy cause. I got roughly 2,000 more loot than the goal required, so that leaves plenty of cash to support my pudding habit...but just barely.**
[* I miss Hunt’s little metal cans of pudding. Sure, as a kid I lost a lot of blood thanks to those sharp-edged lids, but I still prefer that peril over these oh-so-safe plastic containers you get nowadays. Maybe the pudding reacted with the metal, who knows? It just *tasted* better. Or maybe it’s just psychological. Can anyone tell me why I feel like crying whenever I think back to lunch in kindergarten? Ah, no...never mind. I really don’t want to know.]

[The show "Stranger Things" created a wave of nostalgia for pudding in cans...but nothing ever came of it. Just as well, as I just know that it wouldn't be as good as I remembered it.]

So with the town poorer and you richer, it’s time to pay a visit to Lord Wellhofer’s mansion. I guess I’m about to find out where all the cowboys...uh...*thieves* have gone.

The List Of Things:

1) Your equipment’s somewhere in your house at the beginning, so check the downstairs thoroughly. I’ve read comments from people who are puzzled as to why Garrett has to search for secrets in his own home in some FMs, and I question this as well...up to a point. I find it’s easier to just accept it...don’t make waves! Anyway, earlier I said to search the fireplace; it’s pretty obvious that there’s something in there, but it’s not so obvious how to proceed from there. Check the walkthrough (linked waaaaaay above) for details if you get stuck...or just ask me on the Thief section of the forums. I’ll be glad to help...strangely enough.

[No, don't ask me. I don't remember.]

2) Read the recipe book by the sink for the truth behind the health potions. If it’s all the same to you, I’ll avoid personal injury in the future, thank you. *shudder* Although...since I did come up through the American school system, I shouldn’t have any problems with horrible concoctions, as I am used to standard public school cafeteria food. Something that’s always bothered me, though: why did the fried chicken have hair growing out of it?? This question has plagued me since the 4th grade.

[And why were there never any stray dogs in the neighborhood? But at least the dinner rolls were excellent.]

3) Minor spoiler ahoy! Jumping from that ladder into the room with your weapons stash is an exercise in frustration. Be patient.

4) Loot and helpful equipment are hidden in the darnedest places, so be observant. I meaningfully mention the weapons shop.

5) Speaking of loot, it seems to be more consistent than in the Ashton missions. Meaning...well, you know what I mean if you’ve read my review of that campaign. So if it looks like loot, then it very likely is loot, and if it doesn’t, then... Exception: you can’t pick up the looty-like things in your own house, but that’s just common sense; it is your stuff, after all.

6) That’s an interesting way to get into a bank...

7) That’s one terrific fountain. With fish, too!

8) I’m guessing that, with most of the structures in the town built of stone, the guy with the wooden house must be the local carpenter. Ya think?

9) The zombie in the Hammer crypt doesn’t want to stay down after being backstabbed...the little rotting bastard hopped right up and came after me. And like an idiot, I had already opened the secret door that would allow me to go further into the crypt, so I woke up the Haunt when I fire-arrowed the zombie and he chased me. Fast guy...I guess we now know what happened to Jim Thorpe after he died.

[Jim Thorpe became a Haunt? Naaaaah. Usain Bolt, maybe, but not Mr. Thorpe.]

10) My only real complaint with the AI is that the Haunt in the Hammer crypt refused to chase me all the way outside; he just stopped near the top of the spiral stairs and made disturbing gestures at me.*** Too bad, really...I find that a Haunt on the loose in a town full of nervous nellies is very funny, indeed.
[*** “Don’t you...don’t you moon me! You put that bony butt back in your pants, mister!”]

11) I considered throwing the Haunt’s body into the water supply just to see if anyone noticed the decidedly...peculiar...bouque t that would result, but I decided against it because it would be wrong. Okay, stop laughing. Honestly? It was just so inconvenient to carry the thing all the way to a well or the canal.

[If it's a long trek to poison the town's water supply, remember to hydrate, kids. But hydrate before you poison the water. Just sayin'.]

12) Tonight at the Nokia Community Theater: fresh from his acclaimed performance in the local drunk tank, it’s Richard Burton! Tickets still available. Please buy in bulk. We beg of you.

[I'm not familiar with Broadway's current alcoholics, so I had to reach back into history and came up with: Richard Burton. Yessir, when it comes to timely references, I'm on it like Pharaoh on the Israelites, man.]

13) I have no idea who or what the third kill in the stats refers to; I recall only killing a zombie and a Haunt. File it under “Who Knows?” I guess. On reflection however, I have “nokillgoal” enabled (because I make my own rules), so maybe a human AI died. I don’t know. I’m too tired to care anymore.

14) The final loot tally is 8709, but the walkthrough says 8809.

My Level Stats:
KO’s: 37
Kills: 3 (1 zombie, 1 Haunt, 1 unknown)
Loot: 8419 / 8709


Lord Wellhofer
Gameplay: Humans, spiders, zombies (only 2), haunted toys; mansion robbing / info-gathering

The diary you stole from the Hammer priest detailed the Hammers’ shadowing of Lord Wellhofer. It seems that in addition to making nefarious people disappear, he’s also been searching for some valuable artifact called the Night Falcon. (They also mentioned his tendency to troll for male prostitutes, but that’s just a given.) Night Falcon? Huh. Well, you don’t know what it is or what it does (maybe it’s a cappuccino maker that flies), but you want to make it yours. But the info is in Wellhofer’s mansion, and it’d be wrong to break in and...

...waitaminit, that gives me an idea! Why not? Why not combine peanut butter with fish? Um...never mind. There’s a problem with getting into the place, though: since the way is closed, you’ll need to go through the mines and find the place where the workers accidentally broke through the wall of Wellhofer’s chapel. Needless to say, the mine’s been deserted, thanks to two giant spiders...and you without any broadheads or thermal detonators. So if you like sparring with spiders, you’re in luck. Personally, I’d rather brave the front gates totally naked and unarmed except for a sprig of parsley and carrying a sign declaring “GUARDS SUCK!”

While you’re down there trying not to get eaten and doing a good job of totally freaking out, you might try to find some sort of ancient gravesite or whatever that’s rumored to have a mysterious dagger that might come in useful later on. 2 zombies patrol the place, but fret not: you’re armed with only a sword and a blackjack...and moss arrows! Run away in fear, zombies!

Me, I wasn’t really convinced by the mine (more on that in the notes below), except for one area...but then again, I’m picky about things like that. Anyway, so now you’re in the chapel. All right...tile floors! And twitchy guards! Hooray! This mission presents something of a challenge; the stationary guards are placed so that it’s a little tough to sneak up on them, while the mobile guards -- upstairs in particular -- patrol in brightly-lit areas. Talk about rude! But with a little patience and a willingness to lure them into dark corners, they shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

Well...since you’re currently in the mansion’s basement, take a look around. The guards’ quarters are here, there’s the electrical room, the chapel, the sparring room, the armory, the dungeon...hey, this Wellhofer guy is sick! Sebastian Medina sick! Whoosh...whoosh...you’ll see what I mean. At least you now know what happened to all of your thiefy colleagues.

[Vincent Price's charater, Sebastian Medina, from 1961's The Pit And The Pendulum.]

Take the stairs up, and you’ll be on the ground floor. Here you’ll find the dining room, the kitchen, the bathroom, the servants’ quarters, a storage room, a study hall, the courtyard, the front gates...and a fountain with fish. Of course. The upper floor contains the children’s room, Wellhofer’s office, the library, the game room, the music room, a couple of bedrooms, you get the idea. It’s a mansion. The only thing missing, really, is the ballroom and a vomitorium.

Although not overly grandiose, this mansion is nicely done. I wish had more to add to that in order to make a pointlessly ponderous paragraph here, but I don’t.

Oh, almost forgot: a subplot is revealed by a letter you find in the chapel; it seems that the children’s room is haunted. I won’t go into details as I’d like to preserve *some* of the surprises in store for you, but I will say that the haunters really didn’t like me. They didn’t really like the guards either, so it all works out in the end.

In snooping around, you’ll find out why Wellhofer wants Garrett out of the picture: He’s...oh, but that would be telling...ah, what the hell. Wellhofer has been eliminating thieves and other scum (hey!!) in an effort to get rid of anyone who might become interested in the Night Falcon. Garrett is his biggest concern, but also the most elusive. So that’s why he’s hunting you, and I’m sorry if I ruined it for you. Okay, I’m not really sorry.

But in the end, at least I got to meet Lord and Lady Wellhofer...nice couple, if a little unconscious.

So after a successful key and info hunt, you’re all done. You head for the front gates.

Things You Could Probably Live Without Knowing:

1) Like in the first mission, there’s no stuff to buy in the equipment store.

2) Note to self: don’t try to blackjack a giant spider from the front again. I’m still shaking. Something that big with that many legs that can leap over my head is clearly the work of the Trickster.

3) Like I mentioned previously, I didn’t really buy the whole mine area. The tunnels were just too regular (and perfectly rectangular), and the wall textures gave the impression of loose rock (structural stability, whereforeart thou?). The ancient graveyard or whatever in the mines just didn’t work for me, either...oh, sure it looked good, but it really didn’t make any real sense. The same thing goes for the wall between the mine and the chapel that opens with a button. That’s just weird. Maybe I just need to go lay down.

["Maybe"? There's no maybe about it. I'm at my best when I'm unconscious.]

4) Godforsaken spiders!

5) Enjoy hunting for little tiny rings. Yes, they’re back.

6) Ever get killed by a possessed teddy bear? So humiliating...

My Level Stats:
KO’s: 37
Kills: 7 (2 spiders, 2 zombies, 3 haunted playthings)
Loot: 8875 / 8915


The Hammerite Monastery
Gameplay: Humans, giant green lizards, giant dragonflies, vampires, vampire bats, ghost spiders; info-gathering / temple-looting / tomb-raiding / much necessary stealth

So here you are in town. Your goal this evening is to get to the Hammerite monastery and mess with a few things that the Hammers probably would prefer you left alone. You’ve found out through reading the notes you “borrowed” from Lord Wellhofer (just like you “borrowed” all his stuff and sold it to buy candy and pretentious Italian living room furniture) that the Night Falcon was a holy relic revered by a long-extinct order of silly English Kaaaaa-niggits called The Brotherhood of the Falcon, who wish you to know that if they still had working gastronomic systems, then they would be more than happy to fart in your general direction.

[Reference: Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica]

The Falcon is rumored to be in the ruins of the Brotherhood’s main fortress; two magic stones are required to liberate the statue, and that’s why you’re breaking into the monastery: in the tombs beneath the place is a magic stone that belonged to King Gerhard the Cruel (formerly William of the Tall Trousers). Your job is to get into the tombs and get that stone.

And while you’re down there, grab the scepter belonging to the evil wizard Edmund (aka, “The Black Vegetable”)**...and while visiting the monastery, steal the weapons collection. And steal the notes belonging to a priest who’s come up with some new weapons. And mow the garage and wash the lawn! Um...

[** The Black Adder joke. I make several of those here, so I won't make a note of it every single time.]

So choose wisely from the equipment store and hit the town. Oh...you’re already there. That makes things easier. The town is crawling with cops, so it doesn’t pay to skip and jump through the streets singing “Cop Killer” Also, references to smelling bacon are strictly prohibited, although to clear the streets in a hurry you might try shouting something about a crisis at Ye Olde Donutte Hole.

The town is nice, but you’re not here for a lengthy stay. Get to the gates and...huh. Closed. There should be a switch around here somewhere. It seems that there’s a problem with ferocious breasts in the countryside chasing people, and...ah, I’m sorry. That’s ferocious *beasts*. Anyway, they’re these big green lizard things that look like a burrick after getting caught in a pants press and bombarded with gamma rays. Also of note are the giant dragonflies (or whatever) that will shoot bug swarms at you if you’re not careful. Oh, it’s a FUN night to be out, isn’t it?

And it gets even better later on. Enjoy the scenery while you can, kid. Since it isn’t feasible to walk right up to the monastery’s front gates and claim that you’re here to inspect the foundations for possible demonic possession,* it’s probably better to find an alternate way inside...and you’ll find one eventually. Find it? Good.
[* “You see that there? That there’s Beelzebub in the mortises. That means high energy bills...not to mention massive horsefly infestations and your kids’ heads spinning around. You want to get that taken care of before your foundations crack and you get disembodied voices shouting at you to ‘GET OUT!”]

So you’re inside, and...hey, female Hammers! Cool! But they have to take a forced nap just like the guys, so club away. Nice monastery...lots of gold laying around, and the place is just so pleasing to the eye, it’s a shame that everyone inside must die. Or not...perhaps you play differently than I do. The problem here is that you really won’t have a whole lot of clues to help you out; some of the questions posed to you the player have obscure answers, at best. Okay, here it is: you need the Holy Hammer to open the way to the tombs...the problem is that the thing is well-hidden, and the clues are just not obvious by any means. So strap on your psychic helmet and...

FYI, if you get stuck there is that walkthrough I mentioned. I had the damnedest time finding that hammer.

So with the monastery in flames and everyone dead and/or dying -- again, perhaps you play differently than I do -- it’s time to make your way into the tombs. So grab that Holy Hammer and get down there. Woo...tombs. Lots of spider webs, and...what the holy murcielago are those things??

Oh. Vampires. Great. And their little furry flying friends, bats. Joy unspeakable.

You may want to kill the vampires. You may want to kill the bats. Let me caution you against being an idiot. The vampires can take a lot of damage, and the bats explode upon dying.** Here’s my advice: sneak. Put out the torches and sneak. Sneak, sneak, sneak. It’s easier than it seems, but you will need a LOT of patience. Be aware that the monsters are also very twitchy and will freak and start searching if you put out a torch when they’re in the same room with it, so be careful. Leave them alone, because making a scene is just asking for trouble and a reload.
[** What?!?]

[I think the question should have been: "Why?!?"]

This is the part of the mission that I dread the most, really; I admit that being forced to rely upon my stealth skills is fun...but those of you with weak constitutions (“he’s going to walk into me he’s going to...AAAAGGH!!”) will want to take it easy. After I finished the mission, I found that I was short about 400 loot...but I wasn’t going back in there to search for tiny rings on coffins. That’s just *insane*.

Speaking of insanity, one obstacle to my progress was in the form of a ghost spider...an arachnid apparition, if you will. Flashbombs (FIVE!) took care of him. Further on, I came across...oh, don’t tell me that’s blood. Please just let it be a big pool of cherry Kool-Aid...hey, there’s the stone! Grab it and get out of this madhouse.

Now that’s done, let’s move on. I think there’s another stone you have to steal...

Things More Important Than You Or Me:

1) The equipment store has stuff for sale! This is true for each mission from now on.

2) The dagger you start out with is essentially the model from “Calendra’s Legacy.” I would have preferred something with more REACH, perhaps, but... At least it makes you less visible when drawn, anyway.

3) I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I could live above an ancient tomb filled with vampires; I believe that would make me just a tad nervous.

4) Exploding bats?!?

5) What exactly does a vampire feed on in an ancient tomb, anyway? Maybe that big pool of blood is the key...although that brings up another question: where did all that blood come from? Is this the secret agenda of the Red Cross: vampire-appeasement?

[Maybe that's why they're always begging for blood.]

6) After walking through the door/window that opens with the Holy Hammer, you can just drop it...you won’t need it after that.

7) The stats say I killed 6 things. I killed 3 dragonflies, 2 spiders, 2 bats, 1 ghost spider, and...waitaminit...that’s 8! Do the bats not count? I’ll just put down 8 in the Kills total anyway.

My Level Stats:
KO’s: 30
Kills: 8 (3 dragonflies, 2 spiders, 2 bats, 1 ghost spider)
Loot: 8124 / 8514

END OF PART ONE
Title: T2 017: The Night Falcon Series, Part 2
Post by: Silver Sorrow on December 31, 2019, 10:23:37 AM
PART TWO


The Cathedral
Gameplay: Humans, zombies; just passing through town / cathedral rob / info & loot gathering / crypt-creeping / zombie massacre / magic sword obtainment

Oh, boy. More Hammer stuff. After your harrowing ordeal in the tombs beneath the Hammerite monastery, you were feeling a bit under-abused. So you decided to sneak into the Hammers’ cathedral just to let the intolerant bastards beat you bloody...you kinky little minx.

Perhaps the local cathedral has info on where you can find a clue as to the whereabouts of the second magic stone. You still don’t know where the actual ruins are, but all in good time...maybe you could find a colorful local character and ask him for directions to the area in question. Or not. In addition to standing around and going “golly-gee!” at the pretty cathedral, you might want to pick up a couple of supplementary treasures. One of them is a valuable artifact -- which looks to be a palantír -- and the other is a magic sword...holy, makes bearer less visible when drawn, the usual stuff. It goes without saying that the sword’s in the cathedral crypts...enjoy the zombies.

You start out in town (typically lovely), but much like an Ex-Lax milkshake you’re just passing through...but don’t forget to steal everything in sight, either. A short walk later, and you’re at the first set of gates that let you know that there’s a definite Hammer presence in the area. Eventually you’ll get to the cathedral and its bounty.

Nice cathedral, by the way...not massive in an “Insurrection” sort of way, but it’s large enough to keep all your stuff there if you wanted. Good layout, lots of tile, not too crowded...I like it! The only drawback is that there aren’t a whole lot of clues to shed light on how to go about completing your tasks while you’re in there. The difficulty of the artifact hunt, specifically, depends basically on just how clairvoyant you are. Where would someone hide something like that? It’s up to you to figure it out. The location of the Hammer treasury is easier to figure out, but finding the sword in the crypts may elude some people. It baffled *me* at first, but then again...oh, never mind about my mental processes. The brackish well of my self-esteem is low enough as it is.

You’ll come across the secret of where the second stone is, if you look hard enough. From your readings, you discover that the Brotherhood of the Falcon were visited one day by the evil wizard Edmund (“Your head is as empty as a eunuch’s underpants!”), who wanted to buy the Night Falcon. They refused...actually, they told him to sit on his scepter and spin...and he left in a snit. So it was inevitable that strange things began happening and some of the knights went mad and began attacking their brethren with clever taunts concerning hamsters and elderberries.

[Reference: Genesis 1:32, the Alan Parsons translation.]

The besieged knights responded with brave retorts centering around the concept of the evil sons of a silly person boiling their bottoms, but to no avail. They managed to seal off the Night Falcon with two magic stones -- provided by a very unhappy acolyte* -- and dispatch couriers bearing the stones to two recipients: King Gerhard the Cruel (who was a friend to the Brotherhood) and the Hammerites (who are friend to no one). The knights eventually fell and were cursed themselves, doomed forever to walk (or skip or jump or line-dance, whatever) the halls of their formerly glorious fortress. Boo-hoo. The Hammers, true to their nature, sealed their stone away in a mysterious tower.
[* Rim shot.]

So with the cathedral and crypt emptied of their secrets and riches, it’s time to see a man about a tower.

A Lackadaisical Attempt At A List Of Interesting Things:

1) The windows in the house near the beginning of the mission are just incredible. Beautiful effect.

2) When I first got to the cathedral, I scouted the perimeter (read: “I followed behind the patrolling Hammers and hurt them”); upon happening by the very back of the building, I heard someone clear his throat...I looked up and saw a stained glass depiction of the Master Builder. As I was in the process of hiding a body, it was an uncomfortable situation. “Um...I’m sorry?” I sort-of-apologized to the window. Of course, what I heard was the high priest inside the building, but still...a jolt nonetheless.

3) I love the Hammers. “And the Builder said--” [WHACK!] “--HFFFF!” [thud]

4) Huh...I hadn’t really paid attention to my dagger’s anti-undead qualities. Very useful...although as I had whined about previously, I was hoping for something with a little more reach.

5) Speaking of daggers, I was thinking about the supposed dagger in Thief 3. Not a bad idea, but you know? I’d prefer a Scottish Claymore. Four-and-a-half feet of Highlander steel! Yeah! But knowing Garrett, he’d get a hernia just looking at it, so maybe a dagger’s more appropriate.

[Thief 3's dagger. I don't want to talk about it.]

My Level Stats:
KO’s: 24
Kills: 9 (all zombies)
Loot: 6427 / 6527


The Mysterious Tower
Gameplay: Humans, (un)dead things, spiders, a ghost spider, bats; town-rob / sewer-trek / church-search / crypt-creep (again) / tower scrutiny / fence-meeting

Another town, or is it the same town? Who knows? You...you have your own problems. You need to get into that so-called “mysterious” tower and get the second stone, but how? There isn’t an obvious way in, so maybe the local Hammer church will have some sort of clue. Ah...Hammers again. And to think I had missed them in Thief 2...now I wish they’d all go away.

While you’re out, you might as well pick up a couple of additional items. Lord Hafner has a valuable bracelet, while the pharmacist -- who is a person of questionable ethics -- has an antique navigation globe, although to his credit, he’s not doing weird electricity experiments on Headcrabs.** So when you’re done wrecking the local economy and you’ve completed all of your tasks, head for the local inn and wait for your fence in his room. But watch out...the inn’s right across the street from the police station, and a few of the boys in blue are getting totally ‘faced...so it may be more prudent to use the side door.

[** Kind of an odd reference...I was referring to the scientific experiments on various alien lifeforms in the "Questionable Ethics" chapter of Half-Life.]

Dear prudence. Being prudent isn’t always fun. Hell, John had to practically beg prudence to come out and play, so to hell with that. Me, I’m going in through the front door, but in my own special way. Who’s seen the thief? Not you or I...

[Geez. Okay: The Beatles, "Dear Prudence" and Genesis, "Your Own Special Way." (Which, in turn, is partly based on Christina Rossetti's poem, "Who Has Seen The Wind?"]

Anyway, you’ll find in your reading that Lord Hafner’s supposedly looking for the Night Falcon too, which is probably one of the reasons that Lord Wellhofer’s trying to ruin him. You know, I probably could have taken care of the whole Wellhofer problem a couple of missions back...but nooooooooooo! I have to be careful to not anger the Gods of no-kill goals. *grumble*

Oh, well. Be a man and just get through it, that’s what I always say. Actually, I *don’t* always say that, but I always say “that’s what I always say” even though I don’t always say whatever it is that I’m saying, so...oh, I give up. Moving on.

The town is very nice; it’s also a bit more convoluted than what’s usual in this pack so far, what with so many things to do and having to actually think about how to get to certain places. Rope arrow up to an overlook, infiltrate the church via the sewers, and so on. This mission really isn’t all that large, really, but the space is put to very good use. One of the best examples of how textures and space are used effectively is the bookshop.

The gameplay is also somewhat better than in the previous missions; I got to use the “lure a bunch of idiots with a noise arrow then gas-arrow them when they clump together searching” bit that I love so very, very much *three* separate times. Beautiful. The Hammer crypt, what with its very nasty inhabitants, allowed me to try out my brand new magic sword. I don’t quite know what to call the new dagger-carrying Haunt-like monsters, although the model is a DeDx model called “Revenant,” I believe...so I’ll just call them Revenants if they show up again. I still wonder where they hide their rocket launchers, though...*
[* A tribute to those of us who remember Doom 2. For the rest of you...lick me.]

So let’s see...I have two magic stones -- no, I won’t show them to you -- a lot of loot, my blackjack has fallen apart thanks to all the notches I’ve been cutting into it, I have a firm purpose (find ruins, steal holy bird statue), and now...now, I must put on leather chaps and dance the night away. Or maybe I’ll just grab a candle and make amusing shadow puppets until the drugs wear off. (“Abraham Lincoln’s coming to kill me! MOTHEEEERRRRR!!”)

[Now this one is obscure, even for me. When we were kids, one of my cousins told me about a nightmare he had, where a miniature ghostly Abraham Lincoln climbed down the shelves of his closet and came after him. Whole family's nuts.]

And Now For The Part You’ve Not Been Waiting For:

1) While I like the new sword, the arm attached to is a little on the odd side. Just use your block key to see what I mean.

2) Be on the lookout for Colin Mochrie, weaponsmith!

[I guess because the NPC looked like improv comic Colin Mochrie.]

3) The pharmacist is a little shady for a guy whose main job is to hand out Viagra to the flaccid townsfolk.

4) Four Hammers and one cop on one gas arrow...not too shabby, but I top that later at the inn: I got six cops on a gas arrow there. I’ve done better, but it’s still fun.

5) When the interior of your home is all wood, the Fire Marshal suggests using large torches for all of your lighting needs.

6) Bats *hate* bright flashes of light. That is all the hint you need. Oh, and stand back.

7) Judging by the sign on the inn, I’d say it’s called the “Bleeding Sword Through A Burrick’s Head Inn.”

8) 18 knockouts seems a bit low, considering how many I put down. Let me figure this out...from what I can remember, I KO’d at least 32 people, give or take one or two. Perhaps the gas arrow usage is the culprit...I did use gas arrows to KO 14 various persons, so yeah, that’s about right. I’ll adjust for that in the final totals, even though -- time travel note -- I used gas arrows in almost every mission on groups of live AI. This skews my true totals royally...

9) Speaking of skewed math, the Kills total is screwy again. I killed 12 things, but it only reports 8. So again, I’ll put down what I counted, which is 12. I guess maybe frogs and bats still don’t count?

My Level Stats:
KO’s: 18 (really, 32)
Kills: 12 (2 spiders, 2 bats, 2 frogbeasts, 5 Revenants, 1 ghost spider)
Loot: 6045 / 6165


Christmas Presents
Gameplay: Human, snow burricks; sled ride / town-rob / frostbite / info-gathering

Walkin’ in my winter underwear.

[MST3K reference.]

Just like in the sixth mission in the Lord Ashton series, I’m free once again to give people nasty concussions and leave them respirating weakly in snow drifts. They’ll be just fine...I imagine. And a winter map is just perfect for someone running a fever (hello), but never mind that now. You have quite the shopping list of things to collect, so it’s time to stop dancing in stilettos in the snow* and get moving.
[* But of course, you never understood why Fish had to go.]

[Reference: Marillion, "Kayleigh."]

First, enjoy a brisk sled ride to town -- watch out for the snow burricks -- and go to the weapons dealer. He has the equipment you will need for your trip to the ruins, although he wasn’t exactly holding it for *you*...not that it matters. Next on the list is a painting in the town museum by Sir Hrothgar called “The Enchanted Forest,” a charming little portrait of what lurks in the darkest thickets, eating slow children. Then make your way to the Golden Sun inn, where a renowned antiques dealer is staying. He has a valuable trinket called “The Golden Falcon” which he hopes to sell for a nice price; both Lord Wellhofer and the curator of the museum are very interested, but you figure that you need it more than they do, what with your current obsession with falcons.

Last on your list is a visit to the construction offices owned by Lord Wellhofer for a map that will tell you where the ruins are. Needless to say, while you’re doing these things you shouldn’t forget to liberate the townsfolk of their hard-earned cash. This is your own special way of Christmas shopping, and for the sake of what’s left of your soul, I’m glad there aren’t any Salvation Army Santas for you to roll for a few quarters.

[How To Avoid The Salvation Army: when leaving the store, wait for an older individual or (better yet) couple to exit; hang back a bit, and when they're talking to the bell-ringing person in the Santa suit, you can quietly slip by, unnoticed. But according to some, God notices...so deal with that however you must.]

You’ll find out that Lord Wellhofer wants to lead the second expedition to the ruins himself. The first expedition ended in failure, and in typical blue-blood fashion he berates the commoners involved for their incompetence. Oh, for a bloody revolution, huh? Like I mentioned before, I should’ve (de)capped this guy when I had the chance.

You’ve seen part of this town before; the construction offices are in a previously-inaccessible area. The new bits expand upon the town nicely, and it all comes together in the author’s usual style of visual magnificence. I have no complaints about the scenery whatsoever. Of special note are the glass windows: incredible.

Between the eye candy and the live AI aspect of the gameplay, I do believe we have a winner here; this is one of my favorite maps in the pack for good reason. I especially enjoyed my trip to the museum, where I expanded my mind with the transcendent beauty of human expression...so I decided to take all the art home and make my own museum. Who needs to by a “Lil’ Curator Beginner’s Museum” kit, anyway? All I need is a bunch of art and a place to put it all...and a loot bag the size of a dump truck.

If you get the chance, drop by and see my most popular exhibit, “Elvis Art And You,” currently on display until next February 23rd. Other exhibits include “Unwanted Treasures: Stuff Rejected From The Titanic Exhibit,” “Squealing And Covered In Various Fluids: Montages Of Still Scenes From The Films Of Jun Kusanagi” (21+ admission only, please), “Stop Touching Me!: A Tribute To Siblinghood,” “Unheralded Riches: The Elusive Beauty Of Armpit Hair,” and “Now Worthless: Formerly Fine And Valuable Paintings Reduced To Toilet Paper Because Your Stupid Four-Year-Old Wiped His Boogery Hands On Them.”

And don’t forget! This May 30th is the last day for these fine exhibitions: “Slime Trails Into The Sunset: The Experimental Slug-Oriented Western Art of Frederic Remington,” “Nazi Punks F*** Off! A Tribute To Inviting Nazi Punks To F*** Off,” “Shrimpwrecked! A History Of People Losing Control At A Red Lobster,” “He Sleeps With The Fishes: A Graphic History Of Gruesome Mafia Hits,” “Stuff They Drained Out Of My Colon,” and “Golden Obsession: The Naked Asian Chick As Objectified By Socially-Retarded Geeks.”

[I had more fun with that section than I probably should have.]

[Oh, and a small tribute there: February 23rd is my dad's birthday, and May 30th is my mother's.]

This mission shouldn’t prove to be too much of a challenge; no undead, not too many guards, etc. But it wasn’t the gameplay that got me, no...it was the bakery. Thanks to the six whole gingerbread houses, the five fully-decorated cakes and the eighteen large donuts I ate, it was inevitable that the cops would find my bloated corpse in a snowdrift, obviously the victim of the dreaded “sugar jams.”

Since you obviously have more self-control than I, you’re good to go. You’ve done everything worth doing and then some, so it’s time to leave town the way you came in.

Head Injury Theater Presents...Things I Found Amusing While Bleeding:

1) Is this sled safe?

2) Why do teddy bears insist on tormenting me??

3) The inn’s acoustics were a bit unnerving; either that or the guard upstairs had cinderblocks strapped to his boots. While standing downstairs in the front hall, I could hear him clomping around up there, stomping on roaches or something.

4) One of the guards in the construction offices was intangible; my blackjack passed right through him. He was susceptible to a gas mine, however. Upon experimenting a little, I found that if one aims a fire arrow (or a gas arrow if you don’t want to kill him) at his feet, he will be affected. The whole thing was just a fluke, I think.

My Level Stats:
KO’s: 34
Kills: 0
Loot: 6711 / 6781


The Brotherhood of the Falcon
Gameplay: 1 human (cop), snow burricks, ice beasts, Knight Haunts, vampires, bats; snow-walking / backstabbing various things / castle-creeping / vampire-killing / searching / finding / leaving

All right...this is it. You’re on the wintry verges of making the Night Falcon yours, and all you have to do is navigate a snowy landscape, brave the dangers presented by various weird creatures, infiltrate the castle ruins and deal with Knight Haunts, vampires and bats, figure out how to the get the NF, grab it, and then leave. Simple, right?

Oh, yeah. Sure. Pfffft. No problem. Okay, so this mission proved to be something of a pain, but I liked it anyway. The challenge was there, and I more or less stomped on everyone (or “everything,” as was the case). The first time I played, I wanted to hurt myself and everyone around me, but now that I know how to deal with various problems, only a slight elevation of nervous adrenaline was the result, not to mention a marked reduction of my typical interjections in such cases, “Oh, for the love of...” and “Son of a...” for example.

Thanks to my holy sword, I was able to finally take care of those stinkin’ vampires...and their possessed former-Knight friends, too. I still don’t understand the presence of the vampires, but it’s not mine to reason why.

[I'm guessing that it did indeed make sense in the story's context, and I was just being my usually inattentive self.]

The castle is in ruins, yes...I’ve always liked the “abandoned castle/other residence” style of mission (see “Crom’s Blade,” for an excellent example), and this mission doesn’t disappoint. Granted, the castle itself isn’t extravagantly huge, but it serves its purpose. Perhaps one-third of the mission involves traveling to the castle, and you’ll come across many snow burricks and a few icebeasts along the way. At least there weren’t any spiders.

Plenty of relics and other treasures litter the castle and the countryside...I did manage to miss about 400 in loot; in my defense, it was well-hidden. I guess you could say that in Christine’s missions, your attention is divided evenly between looking at your surroundings and looking at the ground. I don’t regret this, as I like good scenery and money, although not in that order.

But you...you. Did you enjoy yourself? The Night Falcon is yours. You’ve left a trail of concussed people and broken demons and other heavily-violated monsters behind you...so what’s next? Well, see...the Night Falcon may not be entirely kosher, you follow? So join me -- as I am coming apart -- next time in my review of Christine and Ar-Zimrathon’s “The Curse of the Falcon.”

The Note List To End All Note Lists...In This Review, At Least:

1) Not that it matters, but I did see two snowmen.

2) Again, the Kill total was off a bit. I don’t blame the author for this, as the game can be a little funny sometimes. It says I killed 24 things, but...okay, here’s the list as far as I can recall: 3 rats, 5 icebeasts, 7 Knight Haunts, 9 bats and 9 vampires. Granted, the bats can be explained as another form of the vampires when they receive too much damage (or something like that), so 24 makes sense. But I’m guessing that killing the *vampires* counts as a kill, but not the bats, which are supposedly the other form of the vampires...as they weren’t counted as kills in the other missions. Anyone have some aspirin?

3) Anyway, I won’t count the bats as kills in this mission. I’m not *that* desperate for attention.

My Level Stats:
KO’s: 20
Kills: 24
Loot: 4701 / 5101


Campaign Summary?
Well-planned, beautiful missions; solid gameplay; the .avi cutscenes were a nice touch (the music made them worthwhile); wonderful textures. Even though the missions themselves may not have been perfect 5/5 material by themselves, the package is worth that designation.

Annoyance Rating:
2 out of 10 [minor problems, some tough situations, twitchy AI]

Campaign Score:
5 out of 5

My Campaign Stats (cumulative):
Expert Skill
KO’s: 214 (off by perhaps 5 to 10 souls, thanks to the gas arrow thing)
Kills: 63 (probably a little off, due to the bats not counting as kills)
Loot: 49,302 / 50,712

[...next...]
Title: T2 018: The Curse Of The Falcon
Post by: Silver Sorrow on January 03, 2020, 03:00:02 PM
[I don't remember writing this review, nor do I remember posting it at the Hangar. Ah, well. You can find the Hangar version archived at Southquarter (http://www.southquarter.com/christine/reviews/FluchDesFalken-Review.html), complete with screenshots. Thanks to those fine folks. Also, there seem to be a few differences between that version and what I'm posting here, but I don't have the energy to reconcile the two.]


The Curse of the Falcon

Game: Thief 2
Title: The Curse of the Falcon
Author: Christine Schneider & Ar-Zimrathon (Sven Grünig)
E-mail: N/A
Homepage: http://www.southquarter.com/christine/
Filename: Fluch-des-FalkenV2.zip
Filesize: 23.5mb
Other Languages Supported: German
Download: Cheap Thief Missions (http://thiefmissions.com/info.cgi?m=Fluch-des-FalkenV2)
Walkthrough: At Southquarter (http://www.southquarter.com/christine/pageM010.html) (Click on the link to the mission you need help solving.)
Score: 4.75 / 5

Note: You know the drill...custom recolors, health shields, what have you. This mission pack has a few things I didn’t do, so try to work it out for yourself.

[Whatever.]

Abstract:
No bat for you! [Meaning, no "Bats!" Abstract.]

And now for the recently-discovered list of rejected VH1 "Behind The Music" episodes... you know it's true, because you read it on the internet.

"GWAR: When The Music Became More Important Than The Costumes"
"Jethro Tull: The Band No One Will Admit To Liking" [Pfffft. I admit it. Tull is awesome.]
"Motley Crue: Pamela Anderson Was Yoko Ono In Disguise"
"radiohead: Who The Hell *Are* We Again?" [I never understood the clamor over these guys. Same thing with Coldplay.]
"Henry Rollins: From Obscurity To Obscurity"
"Smashing Pumpkins: After 'Gish', We Sucked" [Truth.]
"Genesis: We Were Replaced By Pod People In 1978!" [No comment.]
"Yes: Oh, GIVE IT UP, ALREADY!" [Just kidding.]
"Britney Spears: Not Even Playboy Is Interested Anymore" [The thing is, Britney is still hot. Is Playboy even relevant anymore?]
"Mariah Carey: The Deranged Diva Reveals Exactly When She Lost Her Friggin' Mind"
"Christina Aguilera: Proof That Clones Are Fundamentally Defective"
"The Moody Blues: Our Children's Children's Children Want To Put Us In Nursing Homes"
"The Beatles: All Of The Talented Ones Are Dead" [But I kid Ringo.]
"The Rolling Stones: On Life Support Since Your Dad Was A Kid"
"Elvis Presley: My Daughter Married A WHAT?!?" [Heh.]
"Eminem: When America's Sweetheart Was Outed By The Gay KKK"
"Jennifer Lopez: From The Butt Implants To The All-Night Coke Jags, The Most Untalented Person In The Entire World Speaks Out"
"Elvis Costello and Lou Reed: We're Musically Important, But No One Knows Why" [Still wondering.]
"Cher: 178 Years Old And Still A Babe!"
"Dolly Parton: Look...Just Take Your Shirt Off, Already!" [Never gonna happen.]

[Until I found the review that was archived at Southquarter, I had completely forgotten that this Abstract existed, as it wasn't in my original review for some reason. Here it is, restored.

Value judgement: some of them are good, but most are just out of date and/or stupid. Some things should just stay lost, I guess.]

The Basics:
Equipment Store: No/Yes
Skill Settings: Yes
Map/Automap: Yes/No
Puzzle Difficulty: Mild
General Difficulty: Medium
New Stuff: Yes
Gameplay: Covered in the individual entries

Briefing/Story?
Well. The Night Falcon, which took you seven missions to steal, is cursed. Typical. It seems that after you stole it, you began having horrific nightmares of fire and destruction...you know, the usual stuff. You put them down to your habit of eating an entire bag of barbecue pork rinds before bed time, but even though they contributed somewhat (especially the thing with the knife and the blood and the laughing), they weren’t the real cause. It’s the Falcon, alright.

Recently, you’ve been summoned by an old Keeper friend, Lars (who eschews all knowledge or connection to the surname “Ulrich” and, by the way, is not a stupid, loathsome, sawed-off Danish runt of questionable musical talent*), who informs you of the curse and asks for you to meet him. So this is where you start, in town. Details are forthcoming in the individual missions.
[* Not to imply that I have any particular individual in mind who shows a distinct tendency towards being a stupid, loathsome, sawed-off Danish runt of questionable musical talent, no. Heaven forbid!]

[I...wow. I have no idea what I had against Lars Ulrich, but that's just cruel. Sorry, Lars.]


Onward!
Only two missions this time. I have mixed feelings about this: on the one hand, I wish there were more missions...on the other, I’m running out of paper in my notebook. My extensive, yet hastily scribbled notes in my serial killer-like handwriting, in conjunction with another seven-or-eight mission campaign, would have depleted my notebook of paper; subsequently, I would have been forced to venture out to buy another notebook.

This I avoid with all due diligence, as general-item stores -- such as Walgreens or Eckerd’s** -- confound me. Ostensibly they’re drug stores, dedicated to refusing your prescription needs because your insurance sucks. Since they can’t make money that way (rich elderly women with Valium addictions notwithstanding), they choose to add all kinds of additional features to your shopping experience: film developing, food, greeting cards, magazines, makeup, hygiene things, baby stuff, office supplies, rock-climbing equipment, strip-mining accessories, rare exotic animals, human genome cloning facilities, a cyclotron that doubles as a babysitting device (jingle: “Watch ‘em twirl! It’s Cyclo-TRON!”),*** anti-grav shafts connected to the International Space Station, a 137-screen theater-plex, and on Thursday nights they flood the Coliseum out back and re-enact epic naval battles.

[** No longer in existence.]

[*** That would make an excellent Christmas gift for the profligate breeders in your life.]

So it’s not surprising that I inevitably get lost within moments of entering the store and end up forgetting exactly what I was there to buy. They eventually find me, wandering the aisles and scanning various items, a cloud of impenetrable existential dread enveloping me. “That’s not it,” I mutter to myself, shuffling off to the next Aisle of Plenty,** a bag of Rold Gold pretzels doing an imperfect job of staving off my hunger as I wander uncertainly over to the toothpaste section, a ridiculous yet all-too true concept that I only wish I were making up.**
[** See the deadly nightshade grow, indeed.]

[Reference: Genesis, "Aisle Of Plenty."]

[** We Americans are so goddamn picky that we need and entire aisle dedicated to fifteen thousand different varieties of JUST ONE THING. And it's only gotten worse in the decade or so since this review.]

And don’t ask me to describe the hellish torments I put myself through just to buy a pen.

So as you might have gathered before I derailed the review completely with an unnecessary description of yet another of my many glaring societal deficiencies, there are only two missions to be played. Each one is medium in size, so they should keep you plenty busy, unless you have five brains and enjoy multi-tasking.

Anyway, here I go. I played on Expert all the way, just to make you all jealous. Yeah, fear THIS...this this that this is.


Snow Flurry
Gameplay: Humans, icebeasts; town map / sneaking / you know the rest

On your journey to meet Lars, you might as well make a few stops and...well, let’s not beat around the burning bush (“Moses! Get the fire extinguisher!”): you need to steal a lot of stuff to meet your ever-growing loot needs. The all-night partying, the weekend coke jags, the endless purchases of anything Bea Arthur-related on eBay...you just can’t keep up with all your expenses, not even if you take that fry-guy gig down at Tiki Taco (featuring South Seas ambience with a south-of-the-border menu). So it’s off to unburden the town of its riches yet again.

And a nice town it is. It’s snowing, too...and hey, there’s a snowman! Hey, what a snowman! Pray for the snowman, because I have fire arrows. Oops. There lies the snowman...well, *melts*, rather. Despite all this, what they say about a snow year being a good year filled with the love of those who lie so deep is still very much true.

[Reference: Genesis, "Snowbound."]

The problem is, it’s a little tougher to KO everyone this time; for one thing, most of the AI are positioned in such a way that sneaking up on them is an interesting challenge...the lights are bright, but at least I had that magic sword to help with visibility. For another thing, I counted three non-KO cops (for those not in the know, they’re the guys who have large helmets and cannot be blackjacked). While I normally decry the very existence of non-KO AI (unless there are gas arrows or mines in the mission that I may employ to my profitable advantage), I found that I could take care of them with just a little bit of effort.

Speaking of solving such problems without involving bloodshed and long, drawn-out murder trials, there’s the gas elixir, a new item in your arsenal. It’s only drawback is that it makes a loud, godawful crashing sound when connecting with your target, alerting everyone within a six mile radius. Oh, and I had one gas arrow. So let’s see: three AI against two items. Clearly, I would have to work on this a little. I ended up hitting one with the gas elixir and getting the other two to chase me; I jumped onto a countertop in a store and then gas-arrowed them. Problem solved!

Of course, this may be a flagrant rejection of everything Thief stands for, but that’s okay. I’ve cracked all good people on their heads each day; so satisfied, I’m on my way. *sigh* Go ahead...go ahead and speak to me of summer and long winters longer than time can remember, but please...even though you’ve seen me, please don’t say a word.

[Reference(s): Yes, "I've Seen All Good People" and "Starship Trooper."]

The other AI are not a problem, although again, you may have to use your magic sword’s stealth enhancement to sneak up on them. Stupid guards and their need for light! Why, back in my day, all guards were totally blind and found you via a combination of sonar and their heightened sense of smell! Then they’d eat a bunch of bugs and throw up!

Oh, and I should mention the Fire Oil, your other new offensive weapon. It’s like a contact grenade. I guess that’s it for your new tricks, then. Er...to be concise, these two trinkets were introduced in “The Night Falcon,” so don’t think I had forgotten to mention them. Actually I had, but let that be our little secret.

It would be needless of me to go on and on about the visuals in this mission. Attempting to describe it would be a waste of time (as if the rest of this review wasn’t a waste anyway). So trust me: it all looks pretty good.

You will pick up some info on the history of the Night Falcon along the way. Apparently the Brotherhood of the Falcon were descendants of people who originally lived in Mereska, City of Flames. (Next door to Old Navy, down the street from Wal-Mart, adjunct to Hell itself.) Mereska, by the way, was supposedly located far below the surface of the earth, only accessible through a magic portal. The Night Falcon itself came from the holy fires in the Cathedral of Mereska; it was a gift to the people from the goddess Runya, She-Bitch Of The Tingly Tongs (or not)...the NF is rumored to be able to show its owner hidden treasures and evoke powerful creatures; although with my luck I’d summon something that would want to violently mate with me before eating my skull.

Well, that’s all fine and good, but there was some sort of horrible catastrophe that destroyed Mereska -- possibly due to someone microwaving a poodle -- and the survivors fled to the surface. They moved to a city which was shortly thereafter destroyed by an earthquake. You ever get the feeling that Someone is trying to tell you something?

At a certain point, it will become clear that you have to find the portal that will take you to Mereska...the only problem is that the portal needs five stones to activate it. You already have two, which you used to access the Night Falcon. So that leaves the other three (hooray for math!), which are actually close by. It seems that some workers building a new wall in the municipal park came across some old ruins and found three interesting stones, as well as a solid gold box of some sort with Seraphim on the lid. Snakes were everywhere. They tried to examine the box, but after 12 workers were zapped with Holy Wrath, the other guys grabbed the stones and ran.

[Not sure what a Raiders of the Lost Ark reference was doing in there...]

The mayor sold these stones to an antiques dealer, Daron Tarmesk. So you need to find where Tarmesk keeps the stones (In his wife’s purse! HA! Get it? Never mind, it was stupid.) and then get to the ruins in the park. The portal is supposed to be in the ruins, and you need to use it. See, the wizard Edmund (“I wouldn’t pass water over this city!”) [Another reference to "The Black Adder."] cursed the Falcon in addition to the Brotherhood, which means that as the current holder, you’re cursed as well. Sorry, but that’s just the way the falcon squawks...or whatever it is falcons do when squeezed experimentally. Your goal is to find the holy fires in the Cathedral of Mereska and cast the Night Falcon into them; that should cleanse the statue of the curse. Easy as pie.

Right?

A List Of Things That Didn’t Really Warrant An Entire Paragraph

1) Falcons! Well...they looked like blackbirds, anyway. I was hoping they’d take these broken wings and learn to fly, but you know how it is with birds.

[Reference: The Beatles, "Blackbird." The lengths I'll go to make a joke...]

2) Lord Wellhofer’s put a bounty worth 5,000 on you. That’s great, but 5,000 *what*, exactly? Dollars? Yen? Raisins? We need a standard form of believable currency for this game instead of the generic “gold.”

3) The upstairs guards in Tarmesk’s house have a definite problem with the stairs.

4) Call me picky, but the wooden houses with the giant torches mounted on the walls? A fire hazard, at best. So I lit a fire. Isn’t it good, Norwegian wood?*
[* I know, I used that gag in the “The Night Falcon” review...so what are you gonna do about it, huh??]

[Reference: The Beatles, "Norwegian Wood."]

5) There are werewolves in the park, Mawgojzeta...but I only hear the sound of dancing bears.** Oops...no. Sorry! I mean, there are *icebeasts* in the park, three of them to be exact. If I killed them with fire arrows, the kill total only showed two kills...but if I killed them with my sword (and magic helmet),*** all three would show. Strange.

[** Reference: Fish, "Goldfish & Clowns."]

[*** Reference: Elmer Fudd.]

6) This review originally reflected the initial release version of this mission; the second version had some improvements...and although I may be imagining it, the AI seemed less twitchy.

7) That’s a *great* Easter Egg.

8) Here’s an irrelevant side note for you: I’ve given up on helping with the more obscure of the musical references (they abound in this review, for some reason), since no one gets them anyway...I admit, this may be partially my fault. Find ‘em yourself to win absolutely nothing.

[I've pointed them out. Sadly, this is the sum extent of my contribution to society. Useless then, useless now. Never change, Silver.]

My Level Stats
KO’s: 50
Kills: 3 (icebeasts)
Loot: 8637 / 9277


Mereska - City of Flames
Gameplay: Zombies, Succubi, spiders, Skullys; ruins / nasty winged things / avoiding the extra-crispy treatment / holy fire purification / exiting stage left

This is the ruined town where the Mereskan survivors had fled. Zombies roam the area, but they’re no problem, thanks to my magic sword.* Take a look around. Great, huh? The tumbled-down buildings and general atmosphere of an earthquake-stricken town is picturesque, in a weird way. You know what I mean.
[* Thankfully, Gary Lockwood and Estelle Winwood were nowhere to be found, although I was contacted briefly by an entity calling itself “Basil Rathbone.”]

[Reference: 1962's The Magic Sword.]

A bit of exploring is required, since the doors to the church are locked and require a key. Shouldn’t be a problem, right? Just keep looking. Uh-huh. Try over that way. Huh. You about done there? We really should be going. *sigh* Look, do you need a walkthrough? Do want me to hold your hand? Oh, goody. You found it. Now open the church and get inside. It’s colder than hell!** Out here it is. Cold, I mean.
[** I had a friend back in high school who once pointed out that the contradictory nature of our (Western) society is best exemplified by the fact that we accept both “hot” and “cold” to describe Hell. A tad too philosophical for fifth-hour Geography perhaps, but we had nothing else to talk about. Oh, there was that geography thing, sure...but I already knew where Norway was located on the map, so I didn’t have a whole lot of homework. Ya gotta love the American educational system.]

Nice little church. Very clean! When I design my future bathroom, I want it to be just like this: pristine white marble tiles, stained glass windows, spacious, and plenty of seating. Now read the book on the altar...oh my, that IS unpleasant, isn’t it? You need to move on, but how? Look around, kid. I don’t have all day.

[For some reason, a bathroom with "plenty of seating" still cracks me up. I don't expect many people to find it even remotely funny, but it'd be nice to stumble across ONE person who appreciates it.]

So now we’re at the portal, and...yeah use the stones. Interrupt all you want, just go ahead and do whatever tickles your stupid fancy. No, go ahead! Now step through the portal. I hope you die.

What? Oh, nothing. Just talking to myself. Now you’re in for a visual treat. Lava, partially-submerged buildings, fire vampire demon chicks patrolling...aka, “Succubi.” No, I wouldn’t do that...I--oh, GOOD one! Reload, stupid. Now, don’t you...dammit, what is WRONG with you?? Oh, I see. You want to kill them. Well listen up, porcupine: that ain’t gonna happen. You don’t have enough gear to make it work. The only reliable way to kill them all is to get close and use your sword...and I tell you from experience, you don’t want to do that. No, really. Okay, fine...go ahead and try it. I’ll be right here, waiting.

Are you happy now? Got it out of our system, have we? Good. Now try stealth. That’s right, sneak by them. There are several of these fine fiery ladies around, but if you’re careful and quiet (try to minimize the sounds you make jumping from surface to surface!), then you shouldn’t have any problems. Remember to use your sword for visibility purposes...the Succubi guard treasure, and you need it.

Okay, we’re past that now. That was fun, wasn’t it? Oh, you’re such a wet blanket. Buck up, because the rest of it’s not even half as difficult, unless you’re some kind of idiot...

Oh, there you go. Running into those spiders like that. Need I say it? Idiot! And don’t--! Oh. What a mess. Those things are called Skellys or Skullys or whatever...I know. I didn’t name them, so don’t blame me. Don’t get killed again...is that such a tough request? So beyond them, we finally come to...the cathedral. Holy sugar! That’s one big façade. Door’s unlocked...entre vous, Mr. Gillie. Comfortable, Mr. Gillie? [From The Comedy Of Terrors.] Up there...that’s an odd picture to have in a church. Oh. That must be Runya. Put your eyeballs back in their sockets, kid. Over there...that must be the holy flame. You know what to do next, right? Good.

...well??

DO IT!!

Okay, that’s done. Frankly, I was expecting more resistance on Expert, weren’t you? I kind of expected a bunch of Haunts to charge into the room and I’d scream like a schoolgirl and run away in a random direction. But this is fine by me...no frazzled nerves, no change of underwear required. So now you’ve removed the curse from the Night Falcon, you can head for that convenient portal accessed via the convenient doors that just conveniently opened up in a convenient manner.

[The Hangar version of this review featured a very strange aside here, something to do with...hell, I don't know. Here it is, and don't say I didn't warn you.]

[This has nothing to do with it, but what is the deal the Japanese have with dressing up women as schoolgirls and having them show off their panties? It's creepy. Not to say that it isn't fun, no... it's a universal truth that all erotic things are at least somewhat creepy. Take smearing yourself with palm kernel oil before watching Casper with Christina Ricci... better yet, never mind.]

[I mean, what the hell??]

Bottom line: this mission isn’t really all that difficult if you keep your head and don’t do anything stupid. You have plenty of equipment (assuming you bought the right gear in the equipment store) and stealth on your side, so it’s not a problem.

Let’s recap this campaign. First mission: medium in length; some minor problems with taking out the AI, but nothing too difficult; cool Easter Egg; nicely done. Second mission: medium, but could stand to be a tad larger; the locations feel too convenient in relation to each other. The opposition is fairly easy to overcome (if you sneak by the Succubi, that is), with no resistance at all at the very end...but on reflection, I think the AI placement is logical, as this mission isn’t huge and would be quite cramped with more monsters. Together, these missions are fine for an evening’s pleasant diversion. You know...once you’re finished slouching under windows and stealing infants and replacing them with your own hellish offspring. Or was I thinking of a ghoul’s pleasant evening?

[Lovecraft's version of ghouls, anyway...]

Christine and Ar-Zimrathon have put together a nice capper to the Night Falcon series (unless they plan MORE)...worthy of download and fun to play. Enjoy!

The End Of These Lists...Finally!

1) Equipment store!

2) Whoops. The Mereskan priests were screwing around with the Night Falcon and summoned Runya’s servants, the Succubi. My question is, why would anyone want to summon a Succubus, or worse, Succubi? I mean, sure...the name is titillating, but they’ll eventually do something unspeakably horrible to you and your soul, so I think it’s safest just to subscribe to certain magazines instead. "Wingéd Demon Sluts Illustrated" and "Busty Bodacious Beelzebabes!" for a start, then moving on up to "Fiery Maidens Whipped Into Lust" when you're ready for that sort of thing.

3) Speaking of titillation: the Succubi patrol the place sounding as if they have miniature portable Sybian devices installed and drilling away. If you're unsure what a Sybian device is, ask your pastor.

4) More kill-count weirdness. The stats say I killed 35 things, but I didn’t. I killed 3 zombies, 2 rats, 3 Skellys/Skullys/whatEVERs and 8 spiders. Now, I didn’t exactly impress my teachers with my math skills (my Trigonometry teacher was particularly contemptuous), but I only get 16 from that. I think I’ll go lay down now.

5) Aren’t you glad you spent all that money on gas arrows? Hmph.

6) That’s it for the series! Probably! I’m outta here!

My Level Stats
KO’s: 0
Kills: 35 (really, 16)
Loot: 3327 / 3627

Summary?
Two missions full of grace, help me win this Thief footrace.

Annoyance Rating:
Medium in the first mission, mild in the second.

Score:
4.75 out of 5

[...next...]
Title: T2 019: Lord Alan's Basement
Post by: Silver Sorrow on January 03, 2020, 09:12:57 PM
[The return of the "Bats!" Abstract. I know you've missed it. I know.]


T2: Lord Alan’s Basement

Game: Thief 2
Title: Lord Alan’s Basement
Author: Andrea Aleotti
E-mail: N/A
Homepage: N/A
Filename: Basement2.zip
Filesize: 3.93mb
Download: Cheap thief Missions (http://thiefmissions.com/info.cgi?m=Basement2)
Score: 4 out of 5

Note: You know the drill...custom skins, HUD, what have you. But it’s mine...all mine! Thanks to epithumia for invaluable info that I needed to create my own cool health shields.

[And that should mean nothing to you.]

Abstract: The Bats Return!
[Bats! Part 15]
...Grilled Bat with Olive Oil, Lemon, and Mint, Bat Salad with Toasted Cumin Vinaigrette, Grilled Nectarines with Bat-Balsamic Glaze, Bat Picadillo Empanadas with Chipotle Salsa, Sweet Corn and Bat Tamales, Bat and Black Bean Guacamole Tostadas, Seared Bat Tostadas with Avocado Salsa, Bat and Lime Tostadas, Smoked Gouda and Caramelized Bat Quesadillas...
[TO BE CONTINUED!]

The Basics:
Movie Briefing: No
Equipment Store: Yes
Skill Settings: Yes; Hunt, Action, Sneak
Map/Automap: Yes/Yes
Puzzle Difficulty: Medium
General Difficulty: Medium
New Stuff: Yeah.
Gameplay: Humans, spiders, some undead; basement navigation / silver-seeking / loot-scavenging / minor gymnastics / swimming / crypt-creeping / key-collecting / etc.

Story?
Once again, you are Garrett, Master Wood-Framer. Wait, no...you’re a Master Thief. Four months ago, a large amount of silver disappeared from the City bank; your investigations have led you to Lord Alan, music lover (despite the fact that his ownership of every Björk recording known to mankind is scathing evidence to the contrary) and Thieves Guild member. The guy even has a court musician, Randy Newman, who irritates the hell out of everyone with his award-winning, critically-acclaimed, abysmally-stupid songs spanning a wide variety of subjects, including his puzzling love of Los Angeles and why short people have no reason whatsoever to live.

Wait, this has just been handed to me...okay. It seems that Lord Alan’s court musician is Maestro Andreas, who in addition to the Lord Alan gig is also the lead guitarist for Sepultura. Anyway, you’ve obtained a map of the basement, where you suspect the silver is hidden. “A map of a basement????” you ask, with far too many question marks. “Must be a pretty big basement,” you figure. You have no idea...but you’re about to be enlightened.

Onward!
This is the Thief 2 version of a mission originally released for Thief 1/Gold. Improvements abound, including a yummy nougat center surrounded by rich milk chocolate.

Perhaps I have been misinformed. Anyway, for the purpose of this review, I played on the middle setting, “Action,” because...well, let me explain. “Hunt” (or, “Normal”) is typical gameplay. “Action” (or, “Hard”) panders to my particular style of gameplay, which is “blackjack everyone”; that’s even one of the goals: blackjack everyone. “Sneak,” however, is everything that its name implies and then some. You’re not to KO *anyone* (in addition to the ubiquitous no kills thing). Almost-ghosting, in other words. This may be the ideal difficulty for people without lives (no offense to lifeless ghosters), but as someone who is fitting in quick Thief sessions during breaks in painting his house (the interior: peach...I was not consulted, nor have I any say in the matter), I prefer not to make my existence any more arduous than it should be.

[It's funny how "peach" paint can look pink under most lighting conditions. If I ever sell this house, I'll have to repaint the fucking thing. Great color choices, mom.]

So I went with the middle setting. Hey, I love hitting people in the head! It’s what makes America great, along with grandma’s peach cobbler and Janet Jackson flashing the nation.* There is a further goal in support of the blackjack everyone  approach, which asks you to try and not let any bodies be discovered. I’m not sure what to make of this, but I’m willing to try.
[* Yes, it was a staged, cynical attempt to breathe some sort of life into her failed, sad little career, and yes, that was such a stupidly huge outcry over such an unremarkable little booby.]

[We finally get a good look at what Janet's been teasing us with all those years, and what we received was just...ordinary. Of course, the reality could never hope to live up to the fantasy. Perhaps this is why kids ignore the toy and play with the box it...y'know, this has the potential to turn into an unpleasant little double-entendre, and I'm not going there. So never mind.]

Speaking of optional goals, you’re also (optionally) tasked with finding the Horn of Quintus and the Hand of Glory, the two most sought-after items in FM-dom. One of these days I hope someone recolors the Horn of Quintus and simply calls it “The Horn of José,” or something similar. I also have some innovative ideas concerning “The Pancreas of Lukewarm Blessing,” but I’ll keep those to myself for the moment.

So let’s take a look inside this place and see what’s going on. First problem, though: getting in. You’re given two choices, and one of them is not a healthy one...scream all the way down if you must. Reload and take the other entrance. Okay, now you’re in a crawlspace. This route you take to get to the Basement itself is something to remark upon; I’m not sure exactly what is to be proved by this cramped maze of passages populated with spiders, but I suppose I shouldn’t ask questions at this point. Indeed, if this mission were to be hastily and somewhat inaccurately described, it would be “you are in a maze of twisty passages, all alike.”

[From the text game Adventure. I've used that elsewhere before...and I probably will do so again.]

The Basement proper is labyrinthine; passages everywhere, populated by guards and servants. There’s even a few head-scratchers to make your visit far more puzzle-y than you would normally expect from your average basement. This Basement, in short, could be the ideal relocation place for the population of western Europe, you know, if they got tired of the bland food and being so close to eastern Europe.

["bland food," said the blithering idiot who has to drink a goddamn gallon of milk to counteract the burning torment of simple black pepper. Sorry, western Europeans.]

While the layout may be confusing to the first-time player, there are several ways to get just about anywhere. Can’t figure out the buttons ‘n’ levers combo to get the grates open near the beginning? Stack some crates in front of a certain window and crawl through. Can’t find a key to open a door? Look around; the key may be in a completely different part of the place, on a table somewhere else, or even on someone’s belt. If there’s one thing this mission taught me, there’s always a way around an obstacle, and if not, you need either a key or a secret lever. On reflection, that’s true of most respectable missions, so I don’t even know why I brought it up in the first place.

The visuals in general really aren’t that awe-inspiring -- it is a basement, after all -- but several areas are most impressive: the multi-colored crypt, the insanely complicated wooden structure that you need to climb to exit the mission, the bizarre tableaux here and there which really have no function other than to make you hug the wall nervously, the pipe organ, and so on. These elements break up the monotony of the overall dark, dank stone-and-brick construction.

There is plenty of secret loot stashed all over the place...in wall niches, at the end of endless corridors, underwater...everywhere. You’ll need to find a good chunk of it before you can get out, so it’s a good idea to keep your eyes open. Of course, you’re really here to find that big silver payoff, so keep looking for that. And speaking of which, just what is that Maestro Andreas guy up to, anyway?

You’ll find out eventually. If you like this sort of mission then you’ll like this mission, and I don’t think I’m going out on a limb by saying that. I liked it, even though basements and garages make me nervous. I’ve seen spiders in my own garage that make those big green mothers look almost kitten-ish in comparison...that is, if a kitten with eight legs and giant mandibles could still be called a kitten. Ugh. I think I’ll skip dinner tonight.

So apart from running through dark brick halls and looking for cash, what else is there? Well, there’s the next part, Lord Alan’s Fortress...

Summary?
Basement exploration and being confounded by many, many keys. Good stuff!

Annoyance Rating:
Low

Score:
4.25 out of 5

My Level Stats:
Skill: Action (Hard)
KO’s: 17
Kills: 8 (spiders, undead things)
Loot: 5096 / 5178

[...next...]
Title: T2 020: Lord Alan's Fortress
Post by: Silver Sorrow on January 04, 2020, 12:51:37 PM
[Well...this is one of the Great Unfinished reviews that have been languishing on various hard drives since inception. I don't feel the need to ever finish it, but I am posting it for two reasons: it fills the #19 slot, and it completes that goddamn Bats! series.]


T2: Lord Alan’s Fortress

Game: Thief 2
Title: Lord Alan’s Fortress
Author: Andrea Aleotti
E-mail: N/A
Homepage: N/A
Filename: Fortress_v1a.zip
Filesize: 12.5mb
Download: Cheap Thief Missions (http://thiefmissions.com/info.cgi?m=Fortress_v1a)
Lootlist: At CTM (http://thiefmissions.com/lootlists/Fortress_v1a.html)
Other Languages Supported: French, German, Italian
Score: [BLANK]

Note: This time, the only things that belong to me are Garrett’s arms and the cop skins. The rest of what you see is what you get.

[Preach it, man.]

Abstract:
[Bats! Part 16]

...and sometimes, if we were lucky, just plain bat.

[I would like to thank all of you for the death threats issued at my person due to this overlong running gag. For your sake, it ends now. Heal well and try not to dwell on past bats.]

[The Bats! premise is now dead. Here it lies.]

The Basics:
Movie Briefing: Yes
Equipment Store: Yes
Skill Settings: Yes; Action, Thief, Sneak
Map/Automap: Yes/Yes
Puzzle Difficulty: [BLANK]
General Difficulty: [BLANK]
New Stuff: Yes, indeedy-do
Gameplay: [BLANK]

Story?
Yes, it’s time once again for “Let’s Find Out What Garrett’s Doing Now!” I’m your host, Silver J. “Frequent Wink” Martindale. Garrett returns to Lord Alan’s place of residence to steal “The Cube.” That’s it. That’s it?? What *is* this The Cube that this is, exactly? What does it mean? Should I be concerned that at any moment, Erno Rubik could lunge at me from the shadows and thrash me severely with a colorful stick in defense of his masterwork, this The Cube? Will I have to sneak by hordes of fanatical The Cube devotees, who have all pledged their very souls to some nutcase with a weird beard and a cigar fetish?

These questions and more (if they exist) will be answered in the order that I get to them. Please stay on the page. Your readership may or may not be very important to me.

[The tone, it seems to me, is "I'm never gonna finish this review, so to hell with it."]

Onward!
So once again, we’re back at Lord Alan’s place. We’re not going in through the basement this time, so you can leave your radon detector behind. This evening, your goal is to get something called The Cube (see my needlessly goofy questions above regarding this object), and...and...well, that’s it. What, no trolling for strange treasures and other happy shit? I guess not.

First off, let’s get started by choosing a difficulty. I usually go for the hardest setting, but this time I’ll go with medium, which is called “Thief.” Why? Because of the KO limit on Expert (or, “Sneak”), that’s why. Your pate-crushing has been limited to 7 individuals, and I don’t know about you, but Silver don’t play dat...uh...that. So I’ll stick with unlimited bonkables and no kills...a fair trade-off, I’d say.

Allow me to mention the visibility gem and the health shields. What you see in the screenshots [...screenshots?] are not mine, so take that as you will. I liked the fact that the left side of the gem was replaced by a numerical indicator of how visible you are, in addition to the gem. The health shields themselves, I really don’t know what they are...flowers? They have a nice translucent effect, anyway.

But moving forward. If getting into the actual basement in the previous mission was something of a time-consumer, then the trip to get inside this fortress is a truly epic undertaking...so to speak. You won’t be stuck in a station wagon with Clark, Audrey and Rusty...and Ellen...dear, sweet, bounteous Ellen**...but you may wish you were after trudging through all the shin-deep water you can stand, and then some. This is an *extensive* water/sewer system, to say the least. This answers the question, “so how the !!#$%!! do I get inside??” so you should probably ignore the two previous sentences.

[** Reference: National Lampoon's Vacation.]

Okay, maybe I was wrong: maybe you DO go in through the basement, but not the one that you know from the last...one...hmmmm. Is is possible to have *two* basements?

There are a couple of ways to get inside the fortress proper, and the choice is yours; but you must weigh your decision against the possibility of being chased all over (this) Creation by guards if you screw up. And speaking of guards...no wonder they’re disgruntled. Have you see their outfits? Let’s hire the color blind to design the uniforms...it gives them something to do and us something to laugh about. No, but seriously: they are a colorful, *welcome* distraction to the usual guard drudgery.

My feet hurt. Big place, huh?

Puzzles!

[And that's where I stopped. What remains is template stuff.]


Summary?

Annoyance Rating:

Score:

My Level Stats:
Skill: Thief (Hard)
KO’s:
Kills:
Loot:

[I don't think I finished the next review, either.]
Title: T2 021: The Enterprise
Post by: Silver Sorrow on January 04, 2020, 03:32:27 PM
[I'm not sure what I was thinking here. Since I had reviewed a package containing episodes 2 and 3, I guess I was going back to finish up the rest of the series in individual installments. I hit my head a lot as a child.

Anyway, this one is unfinished.]


T2: A Keeper of the Prophecies, Episode 1: The Enterprise


Game: Thief 2
Title: A Keeper of the Prophecies, Episode 1: The Enterprise
Author: frobber (Ken Ramsley)
E-mail: N/A
Homepage: N/A
Filename: Enterprise22a.zip
Filesize: 48.1mb
Download: Cheap Thief Missions (http://thiefmissions.com/info.cgi?m=Enterprise21a)
Or...: You can get the full campaign pack which includes this mission at CTM (https://thiefmissions.com/m/KOTP-Episodes1-9) as well.
Score: [BLANK]

Note: You know the drill...custom skins, HUD, what have you. But it’s mine...all mine! Sorta! Thanks to epithumia for invaluable info that I needed to create my own cool health shields.

[No. Screen. Shots. EVER.]

Abstract:
[BLANK]

The Basics:
Movie Briefing: author’s logo & a “to be continued” clip
Camvator Sequence: No
Equipment Store: No
Skill Settings: Yes
Map/Automap: Yes/No
Puzzle Difficulty: Mild
General Difficulty: Mild
New Stuff: Yes
Gameplay: Humans...mostly; corporate infiltration / uncovering somewhat questionable working conditions / lack of business ethics / crimes against humanity and OSHA / convoluted goings-on / many, many guards

Story?
Yes, once again...you’re Garrett. In the time since you put your foot in the Trickster’s ass and made the bastard hop, you’ve been spending your time in a state of advanced stupefaction. Blitzed. Soused. Soaked. Bombed. ‘Faced. You’ve been three sheets to the wind and seeing pink whales. You get the idea. Okay, maybe not drunk to such an alarming degree...I mean, you’re not straining rubbing alcohol through week-old bread to get a buzz, but neither are you stone sober, either. Look...let’s just drop it, okay?

Anyway, besides partaking of the crushed grape and ripping off the locals, you’ve also made the acquaintance of a woman named Alisha, whose character profile deserves more detail than I have the patience to devote to typing it. She’s been nagging you to go get the new mechanical eye the Hammerites have made for you, but you’re not too keen on having anything to do with them. All you want, you keep telling people, is to avoid cubicle life and live the way you want...which may include imparting severe cranial trauma to others, but only on a purely recreational basis.

But if things were that simple, this would be a very boring game.

Onward!
This is the author’s remake of his original mission for Thief 1/Gold. I could call it a “port,” but that would be understating the case greatly. There are so many new features and improvements bolstering the original vision that I say we forget the original and focus on this one entirely, okay? Great. No comparisons then, other than when necessary.

Also, this mission is intended as the first episode in the author’s “Keeper of the Prophecies” series, which means that I may have to edit my review of “Hallucinations” and “The Insurrection”...oh, that’s just fine. More work for me.

Anyway, this mission is divided into two parts: the first puts you in your apartment in The City, where you find motivation to break into The Enterprise (it’s a company, not a starship...just so you know); the second mission is your exploration of the place itself. The introduction, with the Celtic music and the rhetorical on-screen questions, is wonderful. The dark, moody atmosphere is set, and you’re ready to move forward.

[And that's where it ends. The rest is blank template stuff.]


Summary?

Annoyance Rating:

Score:

My Level Stats:
Skill:
KO’s:
Kills:
Loot:

[I think I finished the next review, but who cares?]
Title: T2 022: Oracle Of The Prophets
Post by: Silver Sorrow on January 04, 2020, 09:37:45 PM
[Huh. I actually finished this one, I think. I'm not sure why I never submitted it...maybe because I was going to try and finish the rest of the series? Who knows. Not I, and I'm me. I should know, right?]


T2: A Keeper of the Prophecies, Episode 4: Oracle of the Prophets


Game: Thief 2
Title: A Keeper of the Prophecies, Episode 4: Oracle of the Prophets
Author: frobber
E-mail: N/A
Homepage: N/A
Filename: Oracle_v1a.zip
Filesize: 40.8mb
Download: Cheap Thief Missions (http://thiefmissions.com/info.cgi?m=Oracle_v1a)
Or...: You can get the full campaign pack which includes this mission at CTM (https://thiefmissions.com/m/KOTP-Episodes1-9) as well.
Score: 4.5 / 5

Note: You know the drill...custom skins, HUD, what have you. But it’s mine...all mine! Okay, just the arms and HUD in this mission. But thanks to epithumia for invaluable info that I needed to create my own cool health shields.

[Really tired of saying "no screenshots!"]

Abstract:
I think I cover it in the Story section, albeit inadvertantly.

[Translation: at some point I go off the rails and babble dementedly for no reason at all.]

The Basics:
Movie Briefing: No
Camvator Sequence: Two
Equipment Store: No
Skill Settings: Yes
Map/Automap: Noooo...
Puzzle Difficulty: Ever puke up your own skull?
General Difficulty: Momma said there’d be days like this...I never liked her [One of Caleb's idling comments in Blood 2.]
New Stuff: Believe it, child
Gameplay: Sheer panic

Briefing/Story?
At the very end of your harrowing adventure in the Hammerite Cathedral (See: Episode 3, “The Insurrection”) -- or perhaps, unlike me, you did the right thing and avoided any confrontations -- you managed to get to the Precursor device that would take you to “the other side of time” before the Hammers could destroy it. And that’s where you are right now...and although it all looks bleak and forbidding, it still beats sitting in the drive-thru of McDonald’s in a 20 year-old Subaru with a broken air conditioner in the blazing heat, waiting for the 257 separate teenage princess dipshits in their brand new red Corvettes/SUVs/whatevers to get their small Diet Cokes. You want to kill them, kill them all, but it’s so freaking hot that you decide instead that you just want to go home and lie down in a dark room with an ice pack the size of France on your head. Oh, but Heather and Kiki and Bippi and Shitti and all those other hideous mutant freaks of evolution gone horribly wrong just HAD to order their small Diet Cokes at the window instead of getting their pimply emaciated fake tan asses out of their cars -- which daddykins bought for them, by the way -- to go inside to order. Oh, no...that’s TOO DAMNED HARD to do, so they’re just SITTING in front of you with the fumes from their all-American gas-guzzlers and the godforsaken sun making you want to throw up all over yourself, and you hope someday...someday they’ll die horribly, and you pray to God Himself that you’ll have a front-row seat when it happens. You hope it’s messy, and you hope they suffer. Suffer for eons. You envision a bunch of kids using their intestines for jumprope. You imagine feral dogs burrowing into their abdominal cavities and chowing down.

[This may be the going-off-the-rails bit I referred to earlier.]

Oh, well *finally*...the minimum wage asswipe retardo with the bad English gives Susie Sunshine her stupid damn stinking Diet Coke (and you hope that the Aspartame will give her incurable cancer), and she just sits there. What is she DOING?? She’s just sitting there! You honk your horn, and the little bleached-blonde IQ-disadvantaged cretin gives you the finger and roars off. You hope it’s a particularly nasty form of incurable cancer. You get your order and drive home, where you find that the clueless Laotian chick on the window screwed up your order and gave you three fish sandwiches and an apple pie (four of the same thing, really) instead of your Quarter Pounder and fries. You hate fish. You curse Laos and its people. You curse your own country for having such lax immigration laws as to let Laotians in. You try to kick the cat, but she’s too fast for you. You kick the stereo and knock over your CDs. You stomp viciously on all the crappy music you thought was SO great before you stupidly left the house today. You fall on the floor, alternately screaming and weeping bitterly, thrashing and cursing like a drunken sailor being castrated. You crawl to a dark corner where you sit, hugging your knees and crying to yourself. You’re still hungry.

[This may have happened. I'm not sure. It's all a blank.]

[If I may explain this calmly? Thank you. Sitting in the drive-thru of McD's in a 1984 tan Subaru with a busted air conditioner in August behind some teenage chick in her brand new sports car that daddy bought her, waiting for the idiot working the window to hand her a small drink? That happened. The Laotian chick at the window? That happened. In fact, I knew her. I went to high school with her. She had the worst English, and they put her to work on the window. (However, THAT actually occurred twelve years *before* the incident in question.) That's all I know for sure...the rest MAY be exaggeration, but again...it's just...blank. I blame heatstroke.]

So this is *way* better than that. You’re here because the Keepers have told you that coming here would be the only way of finding the cure for the poison that’s been slowly killing you. Since time doesn’t exactly exist here (as is the case, thank the Builder, with the concepts of “roller disco” and “Olivia Newton-John”), your pocket watch doesn’t work...but the poison’s stopped hurting you as well.

So drop your socks and grab your...um...socks, because the cure might be around here somewhere, probably guarded by a horde of Areola-class Orcs with the Pepper Spray of +20 Blinding, or whatever...hell, I don’t know. Just play it.

["So drop your socks and grab your..." is a quaint reversal of the "drop your cocks and grab your socks" saying that is military in origin, I think.

While I'm in a foul mood, I should point out that at this point, I usually have to endure someone asking me in a plaintive way, "oh...were you in the military?"

No. You don't have to have been in the military to know some of the things they say. Fuck off.]


Onward!

[Curiously, I originally constructed the review as a series of letters between me and various people. I have no idea why. I didn't really care for the end result, so I reworked it a bit. I seem to recall that I got sick of the damned thing and that's probably why I never submitted it to the Hangar.]

Dear Mom,

Please send more health potions as I am getting my ass kicked repeatedly on the other side of time.

All my best,
Silver



To Mr. Silver Sorrow:

As legal council representing Mrs. Sorrow, we insist that you refrain from referring to Mrs. Sorrow as “mom”; such familiarity is distasteful to her, as is your continued existence. Further attempts at contact will result in legal action.

James A. Bilderback, Attorney At Law
Bilderback, Cox and Mustafa



Dear Dad,

Mom’s threatened to sue me, can you believe it?? PLEASE send me some health potions and some flashbombs? I’m okay on fire arrows, though.

Your only (mis)begotten son,
Silver



RETURN TO SENDER


Dear Santa,

Could I please have some health potions and holy water for Christmas? Admittedly, I’ve been a rotten little trout of a boy, but geez...have a heart, willya? I promise I’ll even give Rudolph’s nose back...it just screws back on, right?

Hopeful and Merry,
Silver



Dear Idiot,

You deserve everything you get, you dumbass genetic misfire. Rot in hell, kid!

Miserable freak!
Santa



Dear Satan,

I humbly bask in Your Infernal Malevolence as I beg this one boon from Your fiery claw: a health potion or two, please? I’m not even gonna ASK for holy water.

Thanks a lot,
Silver



My Dearest Silver,

I’m sorry, but this I cannot do until you make good on your other debts. Have I received one soul in payment for my arrangement of Tia Carrere’s nude pictorial? I have not. Have I seen the masses bow to Me -- as you promised they would -- in return for Kiana Tom’s nude pictorial as well? Again, I have not. I am a nice guy, Mr. Silver, which is why I continue to grant your requests, even though I receive very little in the way of gratitude. In fact, I am still working on the Dolly Parton nude pictorial you so vehemently requested 35 years ago. I am only one Being, you know...I’m not...well, *Him*. These things take time. So what will it be? Dolly...or health potions? You decide.

Yours,
The Father Of Lies



Dear Jesus,

Mom’s suing me, dad’s gone AWOL, Santa hates me, and the Devil’s demanding payment for past services! What will I do??

Best,
Silver



Dear “Silver,”

And you are...?

Jesus



Dear Karl Urban,

You don’t know me, but--



Ah, to hell with it.

[I'd like to point out here that I find it amusing when someone finally gets the attention of a supremely powerful entity -- malignant or otherwise -- and then requests something that serves to underline just how stupid human nature can be. A chance at ultimate power? Nah...I'd rather have nude pictures of a celebrity! A cure for cancer? Screw that, I wanna be invisible and hang out in the women's locker room! Feed the hungry? What do you mean? I'M hungry! Give me free pizza forever! And so on.]

What’s a boy to do? Granted, this boy will never see the sunny side of 29 again, but you know what I mean. I’m dumped on this weird rock in the middle of Builder-knows-where, I have The Many breathing down my neck, and the gravity’s all screwed up! Help me, someone!

SLAP!

Thanks. I needed that. Based on personal experience, you will fall into one of two categories upon playing this mission; either you will freak out and experience an adrenaline high, or you will freak out and hate it with every fiber of your being. Me, I tended towards the latter, but...

...but upon playing it again, I actually *like* it now. I know, I know...I can hear the other denizens of the Haunt** readying their fire arrows -- as I had initially expressed some disappointment with the mission -- but upon a second playthrough, I enjoyed it. I knew what to do, I knew where everything was, and I knew what to expect. Granted, this takes away somewhat from the frantic pace of first-time terror, but that’s no big deal. Terror’s overrated, anyway...it’s omnipresent dread that *really* gets you. Some examples: Return to the Cathedral, The Inverted Manse, Robbing the Cradle, and “apple” juice made by Snapple. It doesn’t even *taste* like apples, goddammit! Um...perhaps that’s beside the point.

[** The Haunt Of Hilarity, that is.]

So here’s the deal: you’re on a gigantic rock with low gravity, you can climb up seemingly impossible slopes, and there are less-than-intelligent things roaming around that don’t like you very much. I could draw you some sort of smarmy real-world parallel here, but I’ll let you off easy this time with just one phrase: “Wal-Mart.” Well...except for the gravity thing. Quite the opposite, in fact. Is it just me, or does gravity actually *increase* in Wal-Mart until you’re dragging yourself through housewares by your bleeding, broken fingernails as the weight of several atmospheres crushes your lungs and removes every last shred of your will to live? Maybe it’s just me. Anyway, you have to find a way inside the rock -- unless you like being chased endlessly a la Benny Hill -- and you might investigate those glowing things near the bottom of the rock, just to give you a small nudge in the right direction.

Once inside, there are several “floors” (or “levels,” if you prefer) to investigate. There are some nasty things wandering around in here too, of course; laying around are crumpled notes with various clues on how to survive and proceed, as well as the bodies of a bunch of Hammerite explorers (who, by the way, resemble the crew of the Von Braun). [The ship in System Shock 2.] [Which ship? There were two.] [Shut up.] By gleaning what you can from the notes, you’ll come to understand that there is a slightly tricky procedure you must perform in order to leave this place.

Typical.

So what do you do? Well, considering that there are four zones -- red, blue, green, and white -- and three floors which you must explore in order to find out what the hell you’re supposed to be doing, the problem is not a simple one. I spent a lot of time just wandering, trying to remember if I visited each area before. I eventually hit upon the blatantly obvious navigational method of using the notes I found as markers. So the only problem remaining -- besides taking out the opposition -- was what, exactly, I should be doing.

This I will leave up to you. After all, if *I* can figure it out, then I’m guessing you will be able to do so as well. The clues are there, all you need to do is explore every inch of the place and put the clues together. But there’s always the problem of your errands being hindered by the inhabitants of wherever you are; in this case, you face the very real possibility of having your head handed to you by the cast and crew of “Baywatch”...

...ah, sorry. I meant to say “the evil creatures that populate this netherworld.” I mean, these creatures are hideous in nature and single-minded of purpose, so it’s easy to mistake them for David Hasselhoff, right? And here’s something that’ll keep you up at night, kids: remember the altered vampires in Blade 2, how their faces would open up revealing this hellish, glistening maw? Well, that’s what Pamela Anderson’s breasts do when you’re alone with her. Sleep well!

[However, I understand it's her personality that's much, much worse.]

[Who knew she even HAD a personality?]

[And that's goddamn enough about Pamela Anderson.]

Anyway, dealing with them is where the real fun comes in: experimentation! There ain’t nothin’ ah likes more’n experimentin’! Fire arrows are in abundance -- if you know where to look -- and some things don’t take kindly to gas arrows; there’s also a weapons cache on the lowest level, so let this otherworld be your laboratory, with the bad guys fulfilling the role of munitions testing (in)volunteers...you know, as opposed to your usual “volunteers,” tiny beagle puppies and baby bunny rabbits.

Or not. It’s up to you how you play; it’s said that Ghosting is possible, although I have better things to do than sneak by monsters. I mean, sure...if I had nothing with which to kill them, then yes: I would sneak (or simply quit and go do something else with my life...but what are the odds of that?). But I have all these wonderful toys of mass destruction and/or permanent disability, so why not use them? Again, it’s up to you. I assure you that it is possible to finish this mission on Normal...as for other skills, I’ll let YOU decide that. Me, I was happy just to get out of there alive.

And now, I feel it incumbent upon me to talk about the architecture. I also feel it necessary to use big, awkward words in an attempt to break out of the rut I’m currently inhabiting, but more on the futility of human aspiration some other time.

I don’t know how long it took frobber to put this thing together, and I can’t even begin to comprehend the effort behind it, but...wow. To you and me, it looks like a series of caverns...but if you think about it -- which I am attempting to do without the benefit of psychotropic antihistamines -- it must have taken a long time to pull this off. It’s beautiful in its scope (if not appearance), and if for nothing else, I bow to frobber for making something totally freaking bizarre. It may not be Xen exactly, but then again...that’s a good thing. I prefer lava and Psi Reavers to puke-colored water and Vorts any day of the week.

Elements from System Shock 2 (not to mention 2001: A Space Iliad...uh...*Odyssee*) are mixed together with spacey imagery and Thief’s textures to produce something that puts one in a slightly nervous frame of mind. It isn’t familiar, nor is it comforting. Cold, hard stone and evil things infest this world. However, I do thank frobber from the bottom of my black heart that he didn’t include any of Gong’s music. I hate Daevid Allen, and you should too.

[Space Prog. How I hate it.]

Camvator sequences bookend the mission; the first is an establishing thingamabob, and the second is a long, strange trip through Creation, ending, of course, with...

...well, that would be telling, wouldn’t it?

To summarize my impressions, I liked this installment. I didn’t at first, but it soon grew on me, once I realized that I could control my destiny to a certain extent (“destiny” in the sense of “being able to kill things while hiding in the shadows”). The gameplay isn’t so tough once you remember that you’re playing Thief and not SS2; what you know and what you can do in normal Thief-y settings will aid you here. So while this mission may be a controversial entry in the series, at the very least it isn’t boring.

Summary?
Large. Strange. Different.

Annoyance Rating:
High

Score:
4.5 out of 5

My Level Stats:
Skill: Normal (yes, I’m a wuss)
KO’s: 0
Kills: 21
Loot: 850/1,000

[...now that I've read it, I think the whole thing just might be an Abstract with a tiny bit of review thrown in. Just stomach-churning.]

[Bonus! Super-secret hidden obscure reference: The "Bilderback" in the law firm of Bilderback, Cox and Mustafa? A reference to actress Nicole Bilderback (https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0082169/?ref_=nv_sr_srsg_0). "Cox" refers to actress Nikki Cox (https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0185178/?ref_=nv_sr_srsg_0). And Mustafa? Well, he's just this guy, you know?

...okay, so that's just there for giggles.]
Title: T2 023: TTGM: Shore Leave & Up Shit Creek
Post by: Silver Sorrow on January 05, 2020, 01:24:31 AM
[Severely unfinished. I post it so as to not leave any gaps. Plus, the Johnny Cash references were amusing. Strangely, I actually added an Abstract even though the review itself is in a completely unfinished state, which is not how I usually do things.]


T2: The Trickster's Gem Mine: Shore Leave and Up Shit Creek

Game: Thief 2
Title: TTGM: Shore Leave & Up Shit Creek
Author: Belboz (Steven Hindley)
E-mail: N/A
Homepage: N/A
Filename: shorecreek1.zip
Filesize: 8.54mb
Download: Cheap Thief Missions (http://thiefmissions.com/info.cgi?m=shorecreek1)
Score: [BLANK]

Note: [Screenshots...oh, shut up.]

Abstract:
I recently saw the last hour of a documentary, called “Rising Low,” which focuses on a tribute to Allen Woody, deceased former bassist for Gov’t Mule. The tribute essentially dealt with the surviving members of the band getting various bass icons to play on various songs; for example, Chris Squire plays bass on one song, Tony Levin on another, Jack Bruce on yet another...you get the idea. It’s not like they ALL played on each song...that would be silly. Anyway, it’s a fairly interesting film, except for one glaring problem: Mike Gordon of Phish.

I really haven’t heard much of Phish’s material. I don’t really *care* to hear it.* So I wondered exactly who the spotty-looking putz with the 70’s mop & clothes was...then I noticed that the camera was pointed at him almost constantly, where he tended to drone on and on about the philosophy of playing bass...and I thought to myself: “Aha! He must be the filmmaker!” As I hadn’t watched the first half hour of the film, I had to work on instinct, and it turned out that I was right. Self-indulgent little creep...no offense, but hey: I’d rather hear Les Claypool burp the alphabet than someone whose band is a pile of steaming...never mind. I’ll get to the review now.
[* I suppose my animosity towards the existence of Phish goes back to pre-WWW searches in record stores, trying to get the hoseheads behind the counter to realize that there’s a difference between “Fish” (ex-Marillion singer) and “Phish.” Here’s a bitter little factoid: the death of proper spelling did not begin with the Internet, dear friends.]

[While I bear no particular animosity towards jam bands in general, I've just never seen the point of them.]

The Basics:
Movie Briefing: No
Camvator Sequence: No
Equipment Store: No
Skill Settings: Yes
Map/Automap: Yes/No
Puzzle Difficulty: Mild
General Difficulty: Medium
New Stuff: Yesiree
Gameplay: Covered in each section.

Story?
Again, covered in each section.

Onward!
This pack contains two missions in The Trickster’s Gem Mine (TTGM) series; the first installment was Errand Boy, which I have already reviewed. The basic plot of the series is that Garrett is on the trail of a mine filled with untold riches; the problem is actually getting there despite the obstacles and distractions along the way.

These then, are the second and third installments in the series, Shore Leave and Up Shit Creek. I just like saying that title: Up Shit Creek! [shakes head violently] One unique feature of Shore Leave is that there are *four* skill settings available: the standard three (Normal, Hard, Expert) and an unnamed fourth that you access via the Expert setting. Normally on Expert, there is a no-KO rule; by pushing a button in your starting room in the inn, you can disable this restriction and play with KOs enabled. This is how I played that mission, with KOs enabled. Why? Because I like hitting people, okay??


Shore Leave
Gameplay: Humans, bots, misc.; avoiding the cops / ripping off fellow thieves / warehouse infiltration / rooftop traveling / soul-restoring / stowing away

After getting to your room in Errand Boy, you were alerted that the cops were coming to arrest you. It may have something to do with the fact that everyone in that part of town was beaten into unconsciousness earlier and, as a result, were a little suspicious of the man in black who wasn’t wearing a very large ice pack on his head. While they’re stringing up a very confused Johnny Cash, you -- the other man in black* -- slip out of your room before the cops show up. Your goal now is to get to the dockyard and find a way to cross the river, then onward to the mine.
[* Coincidentally, you once backstabbed a man in Blackbrook just to watch him die.]

What I liked most about this first mission is the freedom to wander about as I please. It’s non-linear in nature, with only one rigid goal (two, if you choose not to KO anyone who’s not a thief on Expert), and that’s to find a way across the river. There are hidden objectives, of course, but they remain hidden until you finish the mission, reflecting what you accomplished. It’s this free-form approach to goal-tending (to borrow a metaphor) [...more of a pun, actually...] that makes this end of the scale so enjoyable. The other end, of course, is the rigidly multi-goaled mission that I enjoy as well.

The prime motivation to this mission is exploration. By exploring your surroundings thoroughly and sneaking into places where you’re not wanted, you’ll find small tasks that bear fruit upon your larger mission. For example, collecting the disembodied souls (contained in golden skulls with neato particle effects) of four dead members of the Brotherhood of the Sword and placing the souls on their crypts, a way will be opened into another part of the mission...a third possibility for completing the mission.

Yes, there are several ways of ending it, but I’ll leave that up to you to figure out.

[And that's where I stopped; the rest is just template crap. I could say that perhaps someday I'll revisit the series and finish the review, but I wouldn't bet money on that happening.]

My Level Stats:
KO’s:
Kills:
Loot:


Up Shit Creek

My Level Stats:
KO’s:
Kills:
Loot:

Summary?

Annoyance Rating:

Score:

My Total Level Stats:
Skill:
KO’s:
Kills:
Loot:

[Fear not: just one more FM review to go, then I'll post the full game reviews (T1/G, T2, TDP)...and that'll be that for Thief.]
Title: T2 024: The Seven Sisters
Post by: Silver Sorrow on January 06, 2020, 12:01:32 AM
[This was the last review I had finished, but never submitted. Dunno why. So I trimmed a bit and sanded off a few rough edges...I'm not sure if I'm going for a hedge or a semiprecious stone metaphor here. Regardless, what resulted...needed even more work. So I rewrote some of this weird beast, so now it's a bit more coherent than it was, even taking into into consideration the point where I went from a bizarre reference to Genesis' "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)" to a fried chicken-themed parody of "The Way We Were."

...now that I think about it, I can see why I kept it to myself. But at least I finished it.]

[Also of possible note is that the FM itself is really a mini-campaign, four missions (one short prologue and three "nights") in total, so I divide the review accordingly.]

[Finally, a sad note: Lady Rowena passed away in April of 2017 (Nightwalker's thread is here (https://www.ttlg.com/forums/showthread.php?t=146561)), so this is my tribute to her. Hopefully she can forgive me, wherever she is. And what better way to finish up my FM reviews than with her final mission? (Granted, there was a posthumous release of a mission she was working on at the time of her passing -- and completed by Yandros -- but this was the last FM she finished.)]


T2: The Seven Sisters


Game: Thief II: The Metal Age
Title: The Seven Sisters
Author: Lady Rowena
Filename: SevenSisters,The_v2.zip
Filesize: 95.2mb
Download: Cheap Thief Missions (https://thiefmissions.com/m/SevenSisters#m)
Loot List: at CTM (https://thiefmissions.com/lootlists/SevenSisters.html)
Score: 5 / 5

Note: The readme warns about possible crashes if using custom content when loading the last mission in the pack, so watch out. The warning was very clear, in fact...frankly, I feared for my life.

Note #2: Despite the dire warnings of death, dismemberment, and various other uncivilized things occurring to my person, I used my own visibility gem instead of the one supplied with the FM. It's not a dig at Lady Rowena, it's just that I'm used to my custom vis gem. It's pitch black when I'm completely invisible, so most other vis gem replacements I find to be an uncomfortable fit. Meaning, it's a bit hard to gauge exactly how visible I am...I admit that I'm weird, so don't give me any shit.


Abstract
After some effort, the old wooden door popped open suddenly, startling them both. Jason raised the powerful flashlight and shined it into the opening, revealing dusty wooden steps leading downwards. He and Brenda glanced at each other and then gazed down the steps in shared dread. Jason shrugged and began to descend cautiously. Brenda hesitated for a moment, then crowded close behind him. The age-worn steps groaned under their weight, but held.

The air was musty, but breathable; this place had not seen human use in some time. The steps ended on a bare concrete floor. A short, narrow passage lay before them; they crept slowly down the passage and into a low-ceilinged room. Jason, his muscles cramping with tension, jerkily shined the light into the corners first, then along the walls...his mind could barely deal with the horror of what was on them. He tore his gaze away when Brenda gasped. She pointed over his shoulder at what was in the middle of the room.

It was large platform...a table of some sort. And though dusty, they could still make out that its surface was green felt. It was all too much for them. Wood paneling on the walls...dusty sports memorabilia...a pool table...

"Brenda," Jason groaned in utter despair, "this is a Man Cave."

Brenda screamed.


Briefing/Story?
You're off to visit your old friends, Basso and Jenivere. You remember them, right? Sure you do. Nice couple. After you helped Basso rescue Jenivere from the clutches of Lady Rumsford, they married and moved to a small town, called East Fording (a much nicer community than West Whacking), which is close to The City. Basso has opened a locksmith shop there, and you suppose Jenivere engages in housewifery -- whether desperate or not isn't made clear -- so she is probably fulfilled somehow. Basso sent you a letter, inviting you to spend some time with them, and after considering all of your options (including plans for a messy suicide involving an industrial meat grinder), you said "what the hell" and accepted. Since this is supposed to be a vacation, you left your thieving tools at home.

You blockhead.

Basso also mentioned in a letter that there have been a couple of cases of plague in town, and the town council has imposed a curfew. Enh, no big deal...just a touch of plague here and there, that's all. It should be cleared up by the time you arrive, but if not, there's a secret way into town. It was once used by smugglers, and it leads to Basso's storage hut. From there you can use the back door to get into their home. You make a mental note to ask Jenivere how she likes having you as her back door man.

[Wink wink, nudge nudge.]


Onward!


Prologue: Oh, Geez...I Forgot My Water Weenie!

Aieeeeee!

>splash<

Welcome to the executive VIP entrance to the town of East Fording. It could have been worse, though: it could've been the community lagoon after the big chili cook-off. So. Get inside Basso's house and drip all over his parquet floors, because you're sopping wet and none too happy about it. Your cloak is shrinking up to the size of a handkerchief and your pants are chafing your danglies something awful.

>squish squish squish<

What's this? A sign of a struggle? Interesting. There's a note. That's interesting, too.

Yes, indeed. Very interesting, that note.

Maybe you should read it, chucklehead.

Yes...yes. That IS interesting. And perhaps intriguing, as well. So...the plague isn't just a passing thing, eh? Well. You guess you know what you'll be doing for the next couple of days, right? That's right: you're gonna find a cure for this plague, rob the town blind, and hopefully find some sort of medicinal powder to sooth your chafed red raw tender bits. Not the idyllic vacation you expected, but it's better than listening to Jenivere expound on the virtues of doing laundry and ironing while Basso regales you with dramatic and humorous tales of the locksmithing trade. You ask yourself, and often, just why the hell do you hang out with these people?

But first, you'll take a look around Basso's house. Yup, there's Jen in the basement. She seems different somehow; you've never been married, so you don't know for sure if her behavior is abnormal for a married woman. Giving her the benefit of the doubt, you assume that this is not normal behavior and take notes on how she acts. So now you can tell a plague victim from a regular person, right? Good. That'll come in useful.

Well, time to turn in. Big night tomorrow.

>squish squish squish<

No towels, huh? I guess I'll just drown the bedbugs, then.


Night One: If They Find You On A Dark Street Trying To Pick Their Locks, They're Gonna Send You Home To Mother In A Cardboard Box!
[Reference: Pink Floyd, "Run."]

Now that you're awake, it's time to gather up your stuff...well, you need to tap a kidney first. All done? Did you give it a good shake? We can't have you running off with wee-wee stains in your codpiece now, can we? Do you remember your Peepee Song? Together, now:

Pee for The City, Pee for Karath-Din
Pee for the place I kidnapped Cavador in
And shake twice for Viktoria!


All set? Fantastic. Let's get to work. On your first night here in town, you'll want to check out every place that you possibly can, and note where everything is. You won't be able to get into as many places as you like, but that's okay: patience is a virtue. Or so they tell me.

Since you only have your triangle lockpick (that's the silver one, Beavis), you'll note that some doors can only be partially picked open. This is to let you know that this location will be available for exploration when you come back tomorrow night; similarly, some doors are locked tight and cannot be opened this night.

However, there were several times during play that I gave up all hope of ever reaching a seemingly unreachable area, only to find that either I'd get there eventually, or a little more imaginative thinking was required on my part (meaning that I was in serious trouble). So if something *seems* inaccessible, that's not proof that it *is* inaccessible. No, don't worry: it's not as confounding as it sounds. Or maybe it is. I can't really quantify degrees of confounding anymore, which is the fault of some other incident entirely.

My point here is that you gotta use that thing you call a brain to get through this one. I suffered terribly, but that's because I'm an idiot. You fine folks out there likely won't have as many problems as I did. You'll have to put a few pieces together to get the whole picture, and you will not, repeat NOT breeze through this one in fifteen minutes...well...unless you find the taco launcher easter egg and get to the blue flag before...

...no, thinking of something else. Never mind.

Like I implied before, this sorta-recon mission will allow you to get a clear idea of the town's layout and note the points of interest on the way to your ultimate doom (thy flesh consumed, indeed). And it's quite a layout, mind; once you think you've seen everything, there's something else. The town will open its hand to the patient thief, but will remain a closed fist for the impetuous bungler.

Hey, that was cool. Look, ma! I'm WRITING! Or at least typing, anyway.

Among the sights you'll see are an old Hammer cathedral, a new Mechanist cathedral, several houses you may enter and plunder, an extensive canal system (yay! canal water! yum!), a prison, a couple of shops and pubs, and so on. You'll be able to interact with the various locals (that is, beat them into a coma) such as guards, the City Watch, thieves, Mechanists, commoners both plague-ridden and not, a couple of ghosts, several bats, and more.

In addition to the things that grasp at their sentience with varying degrees of success, there are plenty of crooks and nannies...um...nooks and crannies...to explore, which sounds dirty no matter how you say it. (Cooks and trannies? Books and fannies? Tooks and Bagginses?) Add to that cramped passages, wide open streets, and loads of opportunities to find out it feels like to have a sword unzip your guts. It's disgusting I know, but I maintain that the thief who understands the unpalatable downside to thievery is a cautious thief.

In that vein, there are a couple of particularly tricky areas that require a bit of thought to solve. Unfortunately, I am totally unprepared for such horrors. So sometimes this thing hurt. A lot. But I found with patience (ouch!), tactical thinking (ow! quit it!), rationality (I said quit it, goddamnit!), amd not just a little luck (agghhh...make the hurting stop!), I was able to muddle through somehow.

Sometimes, just finding another way to approach the problem is necessary...and I mean that in a literal, physical sense: just backtracking and finding another route will let you more easily solve the conundrum of too-alert guards looking too closely at where you want to go. I mean, such circuitism doesn't work all the time, but just enough to make you feel like a friggin' genius when you do pull off some sneaky maneuver. Didn't see that coming, did you Mr. Guard? Tee-hee.

In these missions, I was determined to beat the living shit out of every...I mean, I endeavored to render everyone unconscious that I possibly could. Why? BECAUSE THERE'S SOMETHING WRONG WITH ME. Also, it makes getting around easier when I remember that I forgot to do something on the other side of the map. But more altruistically (or so I tell myself), it cuts down on the chance that some idiot guard might kill either Basso or a plague victim...which you're actually more interested in curing than seeing how many pieces you can cut off them before they drop dead.

This is a sprawling, somewhat well-worn town that works very well with what makes Thief great (that is: sneaking). It's intricate, it's wonderfully-made, and it's not a place where you want to be caught unawares. As I may or may not have mentioned (probably not), you'll eventually stumble across a few plague victims in your wildly popular sold-out tour of the sticks, and you can either 1) kill them and fail the mission (not advisable), 2) avoid them, or 3) cure them. Since you have to figure out *how* to cure them, it's best to go with #2 until you discover the cure...

...which brings up the subject of the cure itself. It isn't anything elaborate, but finding enough of it may be a problem; do not worry, as there is enough to go around by the end of the mission. But you'll have to LOOK for it. Bummer. Well, what did you expect? Everything in one little room? Nothing is easy, thief.

Despite my distaste for spoiling everything about the mission, I will tell you that you'll most likely want to cure Jenivere as soon as possible; this will make it easier for Basso when he comes home later. While I understand that many men claim their wives are out to get them, it's true in this case. Also, it checks off one of the most important goals early on, and who doesn't like that?

So once you've scouted out the place and run a few errands, it's time to head back to Basso's and get a good day's sleep, you pale thing you.

A Literary Quote Related To Something In The Mission: "For the love of God, Montresor!"

[You'll know it when you hear it.]


Night Two: Yeah, I'm From Around Here. I Live Over In South Fuck You.

Ah, back at it. It's the same town, but a few things have changed since last night. Different guards patrol the streets, certain areas are controlled by other types of enemies, etc. Basso has thoughtfully provided you with all of the important keys you acquired the previous night, on a keychain. You tried to thank him by kissing Jenivere full on the mouth, and she responded by kicking you in the nuts and throwing your ass down the stairs. Such a sweet girl.

[This brings up a particular sore point I have with the Thief games: keys. You added them one by one, and your inventory became stupidly cluttered, making it hard to find the key you needed...a few FMs made use of a keyring system, which was absolutely brilliant. However...picking up keys doesn't automatically add them to the keyring, so...oh, well.]

Tonight you won't be visiting the same places, exactly, and although you won't be able to get into every place you broke into previously, you will be able to access a few areas you couldn't before. This includes the Mayor's house, the private estate of some inbred noble (watch out for his REALLY alert archers), the brothel (it's the friendliest place in town! usually! but not tonight!), and other locales. Your goal this evening is to find several of the key participants in this little drama in your quest to find the source of this nasty plague and kill him/her/it/whatever it may be.

There are a lot of really nice touches here. For example, some of the people you might have blackjacked last night may be plague victims now (I counted perhaps three); some of them might even be dead owing to various reasons. It gives the impression of a living city, where things can change from day to day. Unlike real life, where the only thing that changes are the excuses I concoct to avoid...blech...people.

Wouldn't you know it, there's great art all over the place, too. Okay, I admit that what I consider "great" is probably not what others would say about it, but since I hate people in general, I don't care what they think of my taste in art. I know what I like and I like what I know -- where's that sitar coming from?? -- getting better...in your...wardrobe...

Me? I'm just a game reviewer. You can tell me by the way I type.

*sigh*

Alas. Still, it's funny how some songs will spontaneously pop out when given the right trigger. I mean, okay. For example. It may have been my particular disposition at the time of playing, but I kept associating songs with the unconscious AI, because most of them had names. For example, I picked up a guy named Larry, and then I heard Lou Reed in my head (NEVER a good thing):

I've been told that you've been bold
With Harry, Mark, And John


And it got worse. I clubbed and picked up a guy named Long, and...

It's been a long long long time,
How could I ever have clubbed you
When I loved you


And when I knocked out a bunch of cops in the street...

Have you seen the little piggies, lying in the streets
And for all those little piggies, all they hear is tweets
Because of con-cus-sions


...I decided to take a break. There's only so many songs you can have stuck in your head at one time, and these were crowding out the ones I WANTED stuck in my head, a playlist that is perfectly fine without any bonus tracks from The Beatles, thank you very much.

Adam one-nine, we got a 2112 in progress...that's a Major Silver Digression, over.

Roger that, Foxtrot Zebra Boobies. Don't let him sing about Kentucky Fried Chicken to the tune of "The Way We Were," over.

Too late! oh god the horror...

Chicken
In a bucket by the couch
Crispy-crunchy deep-fried chicken
With biscuits and slaw

Scattered napkins
And the grease we left behind
All the bones in a great big pile
It was finger-lickin' good


It was when that Brian Adams song started --

Look between my thighs
And you will see--


-- that I started screaming. I haven't stopped screaming since. I gotta get another hobby.

I'm sorry. I kinda wandered off into the weeds, didn't I? There's some lovely foliage over here...

Well, anyway.

[Oh, where to begin? Ah: the beginning. Okay. From "I know what I like" to "...the way I type" is in reference to Genesis, "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)"; next is Lou Reed, "Satellite Of Love"; then the Beatles, "Long, Long, Long"; and the Beatles again, with "Piggies"; then Barbra Streisand, "The Way We Were"; finally, Bryan Adams, "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You."]

Again, you're tasked with curing a few of the afflicted citizens, and you can even attempt to cure all of them, if you're into that sort of thing. There's even a couple of side quests you can do to make some extra cash. Besides your overarching goal, you'll be able to wrap up a few loose ends from yestereve, such as finding out why a certain cat is yowling in a certain basement, tracking down Judge Fowley's daughter, rescuing a burrick, as well as curing a few more plague victims, among other activities. It promises to be another full night. When you're done screwing around, meet Basso by the West gate to take the final step towards putting an end to this madness once and for all.


Night Three: Jerry May Have Been A Race Car Driver, But Jesus Built My Hotrod
[Care to guess? No? Okay. Primus, "Jerry Was A Race Car Driver" and Ministry, "Jesus Built My Hotrod."]

[And NO, I don't know what the hell I mean.]

This all seems familiar...

...splash!...

Ah, yes. I missed being unceremoniously dropped into the drink. So wrinkly. I'm going to look like a pink prune wearing a black napkin before this whole thing is over. I'm disgruntled and I'm wet.

>squish squish squish<

This mission is the culmination of all your work the previous two nights, and like before, it pays to remember the important points of what you will read in the course of the mission. There are three individuals you must track down, and coincidentally, there are three major areas that you must brave in order to reach them. Isn't it funny how that works out?

One of them can be found hanging out with a band of thieves in an old abandoned mill. Another can be found in a Pagan-controlled neck o' the woods. Once you finish with them, it's time to find the third one, which is a journey in itself. Along the way you will meet many odd entities that don't want to meet new people, as well as bumping into some old friends you hoped you had left behind in Thief 1. The third individual is the most important one, the fulcrum to this teeter-totter of prophecy (whatever), and it's not going to be as easy as walking through the front door and shouting "HERE I AM!" The bad guys will be all over you like a Kardashian on an NBA team.

In addition to your dreams of silent murder, you'll run into several decidedly different lifeforms that may or may not test the limits of your patience, stamina, and/or aim. It's all well and good merely sneak by them, but if you want to kill them all, I suppose that's possible. Builder only knows why you want to make things harder on yourself, but it's certainly an option. There are no kill restrictions on any level of difficulty in this last mission, but that's because the humans you do meet are bad guys, pretty much.

Any problems I had with this campaign were pretty much centered on this last mission. For one thing, it's a tricky little bastard, with some decidedly confounding situations; for example, the area with the Pagans is possibly *too* well-lit, meaning that one has to be quick to find those shadowy spots before the (silent) archer girls pincushion your ass. The only indication of whether or not they've seen you is the creak of their bows. But that part *is* doable.

Let me back up a bit: shadows are something of a problem in this mission; finding a good hiding space isn't all that easy and your resources (depending on skill) are limited. If I were to give an example -- and you know that I live for giving examples -- I would mention that it's somewhat tough (as in, "a slaughterhouse is 'somewhat tough' on a cow") to gather up much-needed moss arrows (I leave it up to you to find out which foes are susceptible to them) without alerting certain nasty things that are NOT affected one stinkin' bit by moss arrows.

...which is not to say that I'm not impressed with the idea of using the moss arrows as an offensive weapon; it's not often that Garrett's passive tools are used offensively. Yeah...great. But could I please have more water arrows? I ran out at some point and I HATE when I run out of water arrows--

Okay, okay. Shut up about the water arrows.

So you've visited the mill (the location I liked the most), plundered the forest and caverns, and now you're staring at the last name on your To Kill list, and you're wondering: is it as easy as shooting 'em with a broadhead?

I'm not telling you. You'll just have to read the notes you find in the mission to make up your own mind how to proceed. While I won't tell you what to do, I will suggest that you avoid any action that will render you extra crispy. Still, you can't deny the fact that with the liberal application of eleven herbs and spices, you'd be quite delicious.

So it's over. What have you learned, Dorothy? Yes, that's right: Lady Rowena put together one of the greatest FM packs you'll ever see in your pathetic little lifetime. So play and enjoy!

Unless you're afraid.

Sissy.

Summary?
Maps good. Make Silver happy. Get maps. Play maps. Maps make you happy too. 'less you sissy.

Annoyance Rating:
Low, but...well. Let's just say that I had a few rage-induced meltdowns that would not have made my parents proud.

Score:
5 out of 5.

The Grace Scale
[She didn't say. Actually, since I knew this would be my last full Thief review for an indefinite time, I concocted an elaborate voicemail message where she quits and hops the fence, never to be seen again. But i figured, who gives a crap? So here we are. Graceless and crapless.]

[And that's it for the Thief FM reviews. Next up, the reviews of the three full games.]
Title: Standalone: Thief Gold, part 1
Post by: Silver Sorrow on January 08, 2020, 08:09:12 PM
[I think I posted this on the Hangar. I can't bring myself to care.]


Thief Gold

Title: Thief Gold
Developer: Looking Glass Studios
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Official Site: N/A
Price: [Depends. You can get it at GOG (DRM-free!) for under $10.]
Number of Maps/Missions: 17 (including the Training and Blooper missions)
Score: 5 / 5

[DELETED: an incredibly out-of-date note on how hard it is to find the game. It isn't, now.]


I’ve Been Through The Suburbs In A Ford With No Name
[Reference: America, "Horse With No Name."]

Once upon a time, there was a game called “Thief: The Dark Project”. It sold well enough to warrant Gold version, and this is it. Most people I’ve talked with concerning Thief fall into two categories, as defined by the following comments:

“Thief? Great game!”

“Thief? What’s that?”

So we can see by my exhaustive research that everyone who plays Thief becomes a huge fan, and that’s God’s honest truth. As far as I know.

Anyway, Thief Gold -- which is the focus of this review, btw -- is essentially Thief: The Dark Project with all kinds of bug fixes, improvements, etc., as well as three new missions.

[Certain people -- they know who they are -- contend that Gold ruins certain aspects of the original game (for example, the elemental key hunt that has now been split into four separate missions) with its "improvements." I do not disagree, as I see their point. But I don't let it keep me up at night...no, I leave that to my legion of anxieties. Things such as what if "The Hokey Pokey" really IS what it's all about?]


WHOOOOO AAAAARE YOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOUUUU!?!?!
[Reference: I'm not sure, exactly what the original source was, although I was thinking of an MST3K bit where Tom Servo screamed that question in response to some external stimuli. I'll make a guess and say that it goes back to The Who's "Who Are You?"]

Your name is Garrett. No last name or distinguishing scars...yet. [Foreshadowing.] You’re a thief of unparalleled talents, and you’re up to your neck in all kinds of trouble. The time is uncertain; some indications point to a bizarrely warped medieval Europe. Other things -- curious technology, magic -- hint at other possibilities. Whatever the case, your concern is the present. A murky past lay behind you and an uncertain future awaits you, at least as far as you care. You were an orphan when the Keepers -- a secretive group dedicated to knowledge and “keeping the balance” between Chaos and Order,* not to mention their odd obsession with underage sheep (probably) -- discovered you when you tried to pick a Keeper’s pocket (a handful of used condoms, three wooden nickels and a tiny vial of Xia Xiang perfume**).
[* So what about the balance between Capitalism and Socialism? Is that handled by the Gippers? And is the balance between granny-panties and g-strings overseen by the Peekers?]

[** "Xia Xiang" was a perfume made by Revlon. The reference means something to me, but I'm not telling. For the sake of the joke, I should've said something like "a gallon-sized bottle of Axe Body Spray."]

You learned from them, but soon became disillusioned over their ways and direction; plus, they had some odd idea that you are some sort of important figure in their prophecies, not to mention the games of grab-ass in the showers were getting too serious for your liking. So you left them and struck out on your own...by putting your skills to (bad) use as a thief. You’ve gained some notoriety, both good and bad, as a master thief and everyone wants a piece of you. The crime bosses want a cut, the dominant religious fanatics want you dead, the guards want their dinner** (unless you show up...then they want you dead, too), and the nobles want your head on a stick.

[** One of those inside jokes for those who have played the game already; you know, the guard grumbling about no one bringing him his dinner? Yeah, that guy.]

Which means that every night out is a joy...the adrenaline rush of breaking into repositories of wealth and carting off valuables in your Bottomless Loot Bag Of Holding is always a good reason to risk the danger of bloodthirsty guards and dogma-spewing, sledgehammer-carrying nutcases. After a couple of big jobs, your unsurpassed skills attract the attention of an eccentric nobleman, who has a difficult job for you...and that’s where things become intriguing. What follows is a lengthy quest to acquire what he wants, and the consequences of taking the job.

The story is mostly revealed through between-mission cutscenes and briefings, which are done in a uniquely artistic style not related to FMV...which is a good thing. Although if Angela Harry ever decides to show up again as a bra-less Jan Ors in cutscenes, then I embrace FMV wholeheartedly.

[That was in reference to Angela Harry as Jan Ors in Star Wars: Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II. She wasn't wearing a bra. As if it fucking matters.]


“...Miss Baby Was All Right Until Junior Turned Her Head Back Around...”
[That was the punchline to a Brother Dave Gardner joke. I'm not sure why I thought it was relevant to Thief.]

Thief is quite different from your usual run ‘n’ gun games, and at first, I had a little trouble with it. But I soon became enthralled by the whole experience, and once I got used to the idea that I wasn't some sort of gun-toting god, I actually began to enjoy myself. Of course, I sucked at first...but I was having *fun*, you see...even though I was a terrible sneak and got my ass kicked in the late-game “Escape!” mission, it was happy-fun time in The Fortress of Sorrowtude.** My purchase of Thief Gold, then Thief 2 (via eBay)*** soon followed, and the people around me began to praise my obsession with a game that didn't feature deafening explosions as a substitution for conversation.****

[** Huh. I've used that idiot joke more than I had realized...]

[*** This was back before you could acquire them digitally, so if you wanted a full game you had to either pirate the thing and spend, what, DAYS downloading it, or find a hard copy somewhere.]

[**** Half-Life.]

This is not a game for the twitchy and impatient. I just want to state that right up front, because if you’re the type who is a little nervous about not being able to shoot someone at every single opportunity, this game will drive you *nuts*. It’s a game of stealth and sneaky behavior. You’re not encouraged to kill; you’re not a murderer, but you can defend yourself, if need be...no, you’re a thief. And not one of these present-day thieves who pound down a ton of crystal meth and slaughter a family of four and rape the living room furniture, no. You’re a professional who knows his limitations, and if you’re female, suspend your disbelief. Because Garrett is all man, despite the girly wrists. For one thing, you suck at sword fighting. For another thing, you’re not a particularly fast runner. Also, you can’t take a whole lot of damage before dying. To top it all off, you’ll be facing situations that include humans, the undead, perversions of nature (“Look out! It’s the Yokobeast!”), and spiders up the wazoo.*
[* Ouch.]

[Btw, "Yokobeast" was obviously in regards to Yoko Ono. I still don't know why I thought referring to her was relevant in any way. For the timeframe, "Britneybeast" would have been more appropriate...as would "Mariahyeti" or "The Abominable Aguilera From The Hoary Depths of Mediocrity." Not that I have anything against any of them.]

But wait! All is not lost...there are your strengths to consider: you can disappear in shadows, you’re an excellent pickpocket and lockpick, you’re pretty handy with a blackjack, you have an amazingly versatile arsenal of arrows at your disposal, and you have a marvelous singing voice...you’ll be ahead of your foes with just these advantages. But let’s not forget about all the helpful inventory items at your disposal, from lockpicks to flashbombs to explosive mines to health...you’re not exactly a walking arsenal, but you’re no one to be messed with.

But your primary thought is of lucre...wealth...loot...swag. ..moola...payola...cash...you get the idea. [At least, I hope you do.] Your prime motivation is enriching yourself beyond your wildest dreams of avarice, which is something we all want. But how many of us are willing to break into some rich guy’s home and steal everything in sight? Okay, yes: according to statistics, quite a lot of us...but never mind that. And you, as Garrett, are willing to place yourself in some extraordinarily dangerous circumstances to acquire wealth aplenty. This is not just limited to robbing nobles’ homes, but also includes creeping through zombie-infested crypts, corrupted cathedrals, lost cities, wizards’ fortresses, thieves’ hideouts, and other places intended to make you old before your time. Curiously, LGS omitted a mission wherein Garrett breaks into a Wal-Mart and demolishes the Lawn & Garden department with a weed-whacker, but the game fares okay without it.

[I'd buy that DLC...]


There Is No Safe Seat At The Feast
[Reference: Rush, "Anagram (for Mongo)."]

Garrett is an enigmatic character at best; beyond his love of the job, he’s also in possession of a monster ego and a serious stylistic flair. After all, what ordinary madman would wear hard-soled boots into a mansion *crammed* with tiled floors when he’s there to rob it unnoticed? But beyond that, we’re not privy to every single detail of his life or intentions; for all we know, he’s a consummate professional dedicated to gold only...but we do glimpse some other aspects of his personality. For one thing, we know he’s a cynic. His acerbic comments on a noble’s library (“I wonder if he reads them, or if it’s just for show?”) shows his contempt for the wealthy class, while his determination to teach a local crime boss a lesson for attempting to kill him, reveals a deep streak of stubborn independence. He works alone and owes no one allegiance. Even his former teachers, the Keepers, find him difficult to deal with, yet they manipulate him in their own way.

And Garrett is easy to manipulate in the end; appeal to his pride or ego, or even try some reverse psychology on him. He’s all too human, and it’s a tribute to his skills and resilience that he’s survived so long. But not that he’s a monomaniacal, egocentric monster, no -- he does show compassion towards his fellow man at times (how else would you explain the mission failing upon killing a guard on Expert skill, this reviewer asks bitterly?); however, I’m of the impression that’s the exception rather than the rule. But by Thief 2, a little more light is shed on his personality, and he turns out to be a more sympathetic character (relatively speaking) than the first game allowed. I’m just hoping that we won’t have to see him cry in Thief 3.

[We didn't.]


It’s A Little Box That Goes “Ping”
[Reference: I have no idea.]

But beyond the story, there’s the little matter of actually playing the game. Let’s start with what you see on the screen. Right. Close the fake Mariah Carey porn clip and open Thief, you knob. Your HUD in Thief is pretty straightforward; you have health, weapon currently selected, a gem that tells you how visible you are, and a space for cycling through your inventory.

Your health is represented by a row of little red and white shields at the bottom left. Obviously, the more shields the better. In the bottom middle (“I thank you from the middle of my bottom”)** is a curious thing called a “Visibility Gem”. It has one function, and that’s to tell you how visible you are to the AI. Black (really, dark green) is excellent. White is bad. Very bad. And since your job is based on not being seen, keep it dark.*** Stick to the shadows.

[** I've used that before. I'm not explaining it again.]

[*** Reference: Genesis, "Keep It Dark."]

There isn’t anything on the bottom right...until you hit your TAB key. Then you can see your inventory, one item at a time. When you draw a weapon, an icon will float over your health on the left. Otherwise, the rest of the screen is all yours. Should you get an onscreen message, it’ll be at the top middle. Very unobtrusive.

Sometimes, you’ll be called upon to read things (scrolls, books, what have you), and that’s handled by mode-switching over to the document. You know, that horrible “clunk” sound the monitor makes, which in turn makes some of us extremely nervous, because this is the only really good monitor we have and if this one breaks then it’s back to the 15-year-old 14” monitor. Maybe it’s just us, by which I mean “me”. Anyway, it gives you the chance to actually read it (and effectively pausing the game in the process). In other games, usually, you have to be a speed-reader, since the text is in-game and will fade out whether you’re through or not. Deus Ex assuaged this problem somewhat, but you couldn’t move at all. While this switch-to-reading mode may seem quaint, it’s actually fairly useful.

[On modern monitors -- that is: LCD flatscreens, etc. -- the mode-switching isn't quite so noticeable...]

Sometimes, you get lost. Really, really lost. That’s why you have a map. Like reading, the map takes you out of the game; usually, you have an automap, which highlights where you’ve been and where you are in a particular mission. It’s not incredibly useful, but it does clear up *some* locational confusion. One of the most useful features of the map is, if all else fails, it works as a “pause” proxy. For some reason, hitting “pause” in Thief (as well as System Shock 2 and Thief 2) minimizes the game and puts you back at the desktop. Which is fine by me (I have great wallpaper), but it may put the novice off balance.

Wonder what you’re doing here? Hit your Objectives hotkey, and you’ll be taken to a screen that tells you what you should be doing (if not *how* you should be doing it), as well as whether or not you’ve actually accomplished anything. If you have, then this fact will explain the green checkmark in the boxes by each objective. Accomplishments of goals are unheralded, but acquiring new goals will be marked by a chime in-game. In Thief 2, achieving a goal is marked by a chime, which really should have been the case in this game....but let’s not split leg hairs, shall we?

Like in real life (especially if you’re into "discount" pharmaceuticals), when there’s an object you want to pick up, or a door that you want to open, it simply lights up when you center it in your view. Merely “use” it (that is, live in its house and eat all of its food) and something will happen. If it’s a door or a chest, it will open (if not, you probably need to pick the lock or use a key); if it’s an object, you can pick it up, either adding it to your inventory, in the case of keys, food, loot, etc., or it will keep your hands busy, such as in the event of a body or a shovel. This is all demonstrated in the training mission, so you need no further explanation from me on the subject.

[Needless to say.]


Amongst Our Weaponry Are...
[Reference: Monty Python, of course.]

“So how come I turn invisible in the dark?” you ask. Good question. “Because”, that’s how come. Hey...don’t try to pin your notions of reality upon this game; it has its own rules and its own sense of realism. Garrett is a guy who has learned, through years of training by the Keepers, to move unnoticed among others. Altruistically, this was supposed to be so he could observe...but realistically, he’s using it to get rich. Hell, I’d do the same thing in his place. More importantly, I’d take to shadowing Dana Carvey and delivering a nasty, crushing THWACK with a 2x4 to the back of his rotted, malformed skull whenever he least expected it. [Note to Mr. Carvey’s lawyers: I’m just kidding! Probably!]

[I guess I had a grudge against Dana Carvey. No, I don't know why. I don't currently dislike him, so...who knows what zephyr fanned my incomprehensible rage?]

What are we looking at, exactly, in terms of weapons and using them? Well, read on...you ain’t got nothin’ else to do.

An important facet of gameplay is the Equipment Store: you get to buy your essential tools before each mission...and how much money you have to buy equipment largely depends on how much loot you stole in the previous mission. So getting every single bit of loot possible means that you *may* be able to afford all of those extremely useful water arrows. But be aware that you cannot “save” money; use all of your available gold on equipment, because it doesn’t carry over. Some of your weaponry is standard for all missions -- blackjack, sword, compass, lockpicks, etc. -- so you don’t have to buy those in every single instance. And even if you don’t have any money (maybe you ran like hell for the exit and forgot to pick up any loot?), the basics for survival are provided. But be smart: grab as much as you possibly can...you are a thief, after all.

Overall, your manipulated weaponry (meaning, “stuff you swing or load”) is limited to a blackjack, a sword, and a bow. While the sword and blackjack are self-explanatory, your bow is the most versatile tool on your person. (Where you put it when not using it is beyond me, but I try not to ask those kinds of questions anymore.) From ordinary broadheads to noisemakers, you’ll be ready for just about anything. Probably. Let’s look at all of your weapons, shall we? SHALL WE!?!

[I must have sat here for ten minutes, cudgeling what's left of my brain, trying to remember where the hell I got that "SHALL WE!?!" thing. Finally, it came to me: Pee-Wee's basement meeting with his friends after his bike was stolen in Pee-Wee's Big Adventure. Great. Now I remember...and as a result, I have given myself a headache. Well done, Silver.]

Your sword is nothing really special; it’s a sword, which is just a really big knife. You cut things with it. Good for backstabbing, slashing banners and breaking things. And since you’re not a swordsman by any stretch of the imagination -- the sword fighting controls are clumsy and awkward on purpose -- then you’ll have to think of another way to kill or disable someone, should the need arise. How about...creeping up behind them and backstabbing them? You sneaky bastard...well, since you’re about as strong as Eddie Deezen,** you have to rely on dirty tactics...Garrett’s spindly little arms would snap just *looking* at Rune’s Dwarven axe.***

[** And as far as timely and relevant references go, you can't beat an Eddie Deezen jab.]

[*** The Dwarven Axe in Rune was really big.]

However, as you progress, you’ll find that it isn’t feasible to just sneak up on a guard and chop his head off (which isn’t something you can actually do, but it’d be cool); your actions have consequences, and a dying guard makes a hellacious racket. Attracting attention to yourself is *not* a good idea. But there are ways to take someone out, and not even have to kill them...introducing the blackjack. Essentially, a blackjack is just a leather-covered piece of metal [or wood] used as a bludgeoning device, but more importantly, it’s a quiet way to silence someone. Say you don’t want a potentially belligerent guard to be breathing down your neck if you screw up...how about blackjacking the poor sod? He turns his back and whap! Visions of sugarplums...one crack to the base of his skull and you’re free to loot the place silly. Your blackjack is your friend. It is your confidante. Take it out...feel the blackjack...caress the blackjack...until it becomes a living, breathing extension...of yourself.

[Reference: Tackleberry from Police Academy 4: Citizens In Training. "You want to become one with the gun. Feel the gun...caress the gun...until it's a living, breathing, vibrating extension...of yourself."]

Your arrows are myriad and specialized. For the simple things in life, I give you the broadhead arrow, a straightforward steel-and-wood weapon; one fired at high velocity to an unaware guard’s back will make him deader than Bill Clinton’s political career.** Water arrows, possibly one of the most useful arrow types in your quiver, put out torches and remove blood stains, and when combined with holy water, they are a bane to the undead. The fire arrow is Thief’s version of the rocket launcher...highly pyrotechnic, very loud, and useful for killing things definitively; use it on a human and they’ll hate you forever...if they survive.* Also useful for gibbing zombies and lighting torches, if you’re into that sort of thing.
[* A benefit I could see from the inclusion of the GHOUL engine to Thief would involve hitting a guard with a fire arrow and watching his arms fly off. But you’ll just have to use your imagination in such cases.]***

[** Or, more accurately, deader than anyone who knows too much about the Clintons' nefarious deeds...]

[*** I had to look that one up...because I can't remember shit. Anyway, the GHOUL damage model engine was used in Soldier of Fortune.]

Walking across noisy floors is a snap, thanks to moss arrows! And when you can’t reach your victim for some reason, a gas arrow (manufactured by Taco Bell)** will put them to sleep for a long time [i.e., the remainder of the mission]; it has a small blast radius, to use an FPS term, and anyone in that radius will be gassed. I like to have at least seven hundred of these in my quiver, but since they’re hard to come by, at most you’ll have between one and four normally. Drawback: they don’t work on the undead. Trust me...I found that out the hard way.

[** Taco Bell's an easy target for gas-related jokes. I wish I didn't have such *personal* knowledge of what Taco Bell can do to one's digestive system, but...oh, well. I love Tex-Mex, but it hates me.]

The rope arrow. Shoot one into a wooden or earthen surface (stay away from metal, stone, etc., as you’ll make a huge racket and lose an arrow), and a thin rope will deploy. You can then climb it. Finally, we have the noisemaker arrow, which when shot will distract the AI, making them curious enough to follow the irritating noise, usually something by Ravi Shankar. I never said guards were smart, but if you hear sitar music twanging just out of sight, you’ll want to stop it as soon as possible, too.

Ah...this just in: according to everyone in the universe, the noisemaker does NOT play sitar music, and we apologize for the mistake. It really plays the theme from “Titanic”. “We’ll stay...FOREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEV ER this way...”

So what else is there? Well, I could cover your inventory in depth...but I won’t. There’s too much to cover. So in a generalized way: in your inventory you can have things like explosive mines, gas mines, flashbombs (for temporarily blinding people for purposes of blackjacking or getting away), holy water vials, health vials, speed potions, breath potions for when you’ve been underwater too long, your lockpicks, the keys you find, a running tally of how much loot you have, et cetera.


[End of Part One.]
Title: Standalone: Thief Gold, part 2
Post by: Silver Sorrow on January 09, 2020, 01:39:27 PM
[Part Two.]


Who Are These People, And Why Have They Eaten My Grandparents?
[No reference, just a throwaway line.]

The AI in Thief may not be the sharpest knives in the drawer, but they sure beat the hell out of Quake’s dumbass monsters. They’re sound-sensitive, but they don’t have great peripheral vision. They’ll search for you, but they might wander away from you if they don’t know where you are. They’re easily fooled, but most of them are deadly if they catch you.

[I'm not sure why I felt the need to compare the AI from two completely different games.]

First off, we have the humans. Humans are divided into “armed” and “unarmed” (aka “innocents”); any human who has a weapon or can launch a magical attack is considered “armed”. In general, these include guards, Hammerites, other thieves, Mages, etc.

Guards are merely hired muscle, their presence intended to scare away and/or protect and/or patrol an area or building, carrying either swords or bows. The Hammerites (aka “Hammers”) are the dominant religious group in the City; they worship the Master Builder. Their symbol is the hammer (but of course), and their warriors carry sledgehammers, while their priests throw magic hammer projectiles. Their sworn enemy is...well, just about anything they don’t like. That includes thieves like you, lawbreakers in general, the Trickster and his minions (more on them below), and chicks who don’t put out.

[Rim shot.]

The thieves are a part of the “have-nots with swords” sub-strata of society; they exist to be a pain in the ass to the nobility (or so they claim). Since you’re an independent operator, the thieves’ guilds see you as a threat to their operations...you’re bad for business, in other words, and they’ll attack you on sight. The Mages (aka, the Hand Brotherhood) are a group of foreigners living on the outskirts of the city, who study and practice elemental magic: Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Snot. They’re not fun to cross, but they are fun to slow-dance with. Under the “etc.” category, of course, are those who would be categorized at “etc.” Don’t make me come over there.

The “unarmed” humans are your nobles, servants, etc. They’re the AI whose job it is to make an unholy racket if they see you. Your best bet is to KO them as soon as possible, because they’re damn jumpy. On the higher skill settings, you’re not allowed to kill them, which only makes things more frustrating if one of them pisses you off. It’s amazing how much fun it is to throw one into fire or water.

Then there are the non-human AI; these range from wildlife to the undead to unnatural creatures, but let’s take a gander at the undead first, hoping none of their dangly bits fall out and cause us unnecessary emotional damage.

You have your basic zombie, who is, of course, living-disadvantaged. A zombie is a former human, reanimated by means unclear...there’s no established answer to the dilemma of zombie reanimation. They’re virtually invulnerable to everything except fire and holy water, although you can whale away at them with your sword to render them sort of unconscious. Just don’t get near them, or they’ll hop up and come after you again. Their weak spot is the area where their spine meets their pelvis; a single fire arrow will blow them to bits, and two holy water arrows will do the same. Flashbombs and mines will work on the undead in general as well. Oddly, zombies can drown. Weird, huh?

My favorite monster is the truly frightening Haunt. The Haunt is the possessed body of a Hammerite warrior, although they carry swords instead of hammers. When idle (or patrolling), they whisper upsetting things (“April 15th! April 15th!”),** and when alert, their demented laughter scares the living bejesus out of you, causing you to have an unfortunate biological catastrophe in your BVDs. They’re quick on their feet, expert swordfighters, and tough to kill (or...kill *again*?). You’re better off backstabbing them or avoiding them completely, which I hate doing...it makes me nervous leaving them standing. They’re not as susceptible to fire arrows or holy water as the zombies, so the best means of killing them remains a backstab...although the [explosive] mine is quite effective against them, as are a couple of flashbombs.

[** For our friends in foreign lands: April 15th is the day on which we Americans are required to file our income taxes or face harsh penalties from a faceless bureaucracy dedicated to blowing all that money on free handouts to illegal aliens rather than, say, helping homeless veterans.]

The last of the undead is the Apparition. He’s more of a ghost than a corpse, but let’s not split football helmets (I’m running out of these things). Apparently, the Apparition is either an evil spirit taking the appearance of a Hammerite priest, or the ghost of a Hammerite priest turned evil...it’s never really clear, and you can bet that any sensible explanation will be just as confusing. I get a headache just thinking about it. You run into a ghost -- Brother Murus -- in the Haunted Cathedral, and he’s not like the Apparitions at all. Bizarre. (I have a possibly stupid and overly obvious theory about this, but it’d be giving too much of the plot away to mention it here.) [Sorry, I don't remember this theory.] Anyway, like the Hammer priests, they throw magic at you; but they throw skulls instead of hammers. The Apparition is pretty tough to kill if he knows you’re there; he’s fast on his feet as well. The best idea is to backstab twice, or if he knows you’re there, just keep swinging and don’t give him a chance to retaliate. They’re resistant to holy water, and it takes more than a couple of flashbombs or mines to kill them.

The wildlife aren’t any better, really. Burricks are lizard-like bipeds, looking a bit like dinosaurs; they belch a gas that does some serious damage, so don’t be around when they start burping at you. I hate burricks with a passion...as far as I’m concerned, the only good burrick is one that’s been thoroughly de-metabolized. Then you have spiders, which aren’t like anything in your grandma’s tool shed. These babies are *huge*. The small white ones are about the size of a cat, while the big green ones are about the size of a Shetland pony. There is a highly dangerous red variety with projectile attacks, but they fall under the “unnatural” category. These “normal” ones just bite and jump over your head which sends these huge freaking chills up my spine just thinking about it.

I kind of wonder how the Frogbeasts fit in, since it makes no evolutionary sense for a frog to explode at will. Enh, maybe they fall into the “unnatural” category as well. Also a mystery are the Craymen, who have pincers for arms and communicate in a chittering tongue. I don’t know what they are exactly, or how they fit into the food chain, but they’re interesting.

Fire elementals are floating balls of flame; they hate everything and will shoot fiery projectiles at you, so be alert...they die when hit by a water arrow. The Fire Shadow, on the other hand, was an addition made to Thief Gold, and the theory is that their purpose is 1) to provide yet another mysterious entity, and 2) provide fire arrows. You hit them with a couple of water arrows and they’ll run off, leaving a fire crystal. They return after a while, so you can repeat the process. But watch out...they have defenses, too.

In the unnatural creatures category, we have the [aforementioned] Chaos spider. He’s just like the green spider in size and shape, except he’s a nasty red. He’ll also shoot webs and some sort of magic projectile at you, so it’s best to get the jump on this one. I hate these things. Also of note are the Bugbeasts -- giant green praying mantis-type major pains in the ass who shoot bug swarms at you -- and the Apebeasts (aka Ratmen), who carry swords and are the infantry in the Trickster’s army.

And just who is the Trickster, anyway? From all accounts, he’s a nature god of myth, a lover of chaos, demonized by the ascetic Hammerite order. Just like how parents of the 1950’s saw Elvis, in other words. [Huh??] To them, he represents the old days of chaos and scattered disunity of humanity; so obviously, the Master Builder and the Trickster were great adversaries. The history is rather unclear on the surface, but what is clear is that the Hammers are dominant now; they keep watch against the return of the Trickster and try to quash the adherents to the Pagan lifestyle...for good reason, as it turns out. Those Pagans can drive you NUTS with their stupid recycling drives.

[It all goes to the same landfill anyway, so why bother?]


Almost, But Not Quite, Entirely Unlike Doom
[Reference: Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy.]

Ask any Thief fan what Thief *is*, exactly. You’ll get a variety of answers ranging from “it’s a game, stupid!” to “it’s a First Person Sneaker”. Sneaker? Yes, that makes sense. Although, not to split watermelons or anything (I’m coming to the end of these things, so you can rest easy), it does fall squarely within the First Person Shooter genre of games; its differences with the more traditional FPS games make it stand out, but it’s still an FPS. Reasoning? It’s in First Person. You can shoot things (except you use arrows, rather than guns). Conclusion? It’s an FPS. You can disagree all you want, but know that I will come to your home and beat the living crap out of you if you start whining at me about it.** I do NOT want to hear it. You never saw this much dissent when Heretic*** introduced a crossbow and an elven wand...we didn’t call that game a First Person Keebler [Elves] Commercial, did we? No! What makes Thief different is its style and methods.

[** Naaaaaah.]

[*** Probably because only eight people played Heretic.]

What Thief doesn’t have is an annoying hub-based map system to cut down on map sizes. It doesn’t *need* such a system. Whereas in Quake engine-based games (HL included) where the maps are kept small due to the inefficiencies of the engine, Thief’s maps can get downright huge, a credit to the relative elegance of the Dark engine. Needless to say, this goes far towards that immersion thing, as the constant map-changing of other games tends to remind the player that he or she isn’t really in the game’s world at all. You’re just someone who’s trying to slough off the stresses of a day, and that’s why you have a grenade launcher...then the next map loads, and you’re so overcome by the sudden despair of your meaningless, pathetic existence that you jam your cheap ballpoint pen deep into your eye socket. Thief will circumvent that. Theoretically.

[I might point out that the maps could be big, but they were kind of sparse; detail was kept to a minimum and physical objects were as well. The Dark Engine suffered like most engines when a lot of things needed rendering.]

From nobles’ houses (anyone else know what Julia Nickson** is doing now?) to infested crypts, from Haunted Cathedrals to underground lairs, from a den of thieves to an opera house, Thief will give you a good reason to strangle the cat and get that divorce you’ve always wanted. Not that I’m condoning such behavior, no...but it’s nice to have the obstacles out of your way.***

[** Julia Nickson is an actress who had a role in the TV mini-series "Noble House."]

[*** DO NOT strangle the cat. It will be your only friend after the divorce.]

Whereas other games may put you in the dubious position of being stealthy, Thief actually makes it fun. There’s a lot to be said for patiently waiting for a guard to walk by, then leaping out of the shadows and bashing his head in. It’s gratifying and, most of all, better than *not* leaping out of the shadows and bashing his head in. Which brings up the concept of “ghosting”, which is a self-inflicted style of gameplay that entails not being seen, not causing a commotion, etc. I’m sorry...that may be fun for others, but I’m not so far removed from my kill-everything-that-moves roots that I would even *consider* letting an armed guard walk around while I’m in the area. To mangle a phrase by Caleb: everybody, if they don’t die, at least sleeps soundly.

[Caleb (from the Blood series); the line was "Everybody dies!" Great fun.]

Additionally, it kind of ruins your stealthy intent when the guards keep stumbling across the bodies you’ve left behind. It makes sense to pick them up -- the bodies, not the guards -- and put them in a dark corner. There’s a good boy.

[Well...you *can* pick up the guards, you just have to render them unconscious first.]

The missions themselves show great variety. My favorite of the bunch is “Return to the Cathedral”, which has been known to cause bladder problems and a nervous twitch in most adults. Other standouts include the freaky mansion in “The Sword”, going undercover as a Hammerite acolyte in “Undercover”, stealing through “The Lost City” (which comes off badly next to its original version in The Dark Project; they messed with the AI found there -- replacing the Craymen with Mages -- and it doesn’t work as well), stealing through an opera house in “Song of the Caverns”, breaking *into* a Hammerite prison in “Break from Cragscleft Prison”, looting haunted tombs in “Down in the Bonehoard”, robbing your thieving contemporaries blind in “Thieves’ Guild”, meeting the Mages in “The Mage Towers”, escaping from horrid things after events turn against you in “Escape”, allying with former enemies in “Strange Bedfellows”, taking it to the MAN -- or something that walks like one, in a certain sense -- in “The Maw of Chaos”...plus, there’s a Blooper Mission to play, if you like messing with config files.

There’s a lot to do in Thief, needless to say. Although the learning curve is tempered a bit by the training mission (“A Keeper’s Training”), it still takes several missions to fully get the hang of playing.


“Thass ri’, ossifer...I’m jus’ out for my mornin’ constipational...*hic*”
[Reference: no clue whatsoever.]

Thief lets you experience a new form of getting onto high places: you can mantle. Essentially, mantling is facing an object higher than your waist, say, a wall, then jumping at it and holding down your jump key (or just facing it while standing against it and holding down the jump key). If everything goes right, you’ll pull yourself up to the higher level. This is a great feature...I wish Half-Life had mantling, then I wouldn’t have to screw around with the crouch-jump to get atop a lousy crate.

And speaking of crates, Thief has crates. Many crates. According to International Law, every single FPS game must, repeat MUST, include crates. But whereas Doom’s crates were decoration and HL’s were usually full of useful items, Thief’s crates are mostly useful for stacking...if you stack them right, you get a banana. Or not. [Not.] But their only real use -- besides something to make a noise with or stumble over -- is for getting into hard-to-reach places when you have no rope arrows or surfaces to use them on...you can stack the crates. But it takes some practice to get it right.

Leaning left and right as well as forward is also implemented. Lean around corners to see what’s coming, lean forward over the lip of a ledge to see what’s below...after a while, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.

Here’s the drawback to all this great movement stuff: as someone who cut my teeth on Doom and other shooters, I found Garrett’s running speed to be maddeningly slow. “Run” is a relative term, only marginally faster than HL’s “walk”; if you switch between the two games often (as I do), be prepared for a period of serious adjustment. You do get used to it, but if you’re as impatient as I am, you might find yourself grinding your teeth and needing crowns and probably a root canal or two. Not that I am bitter. Strafe-running speeds Garrett up slightly, and learning his particular brand of bunny-hopping can launch you along at a ridiculous velocity...but if taken normally, Garrett runs about as fast as my six-times-great grandmother, who really isn’t doing all that many quick, darting movements anymore.

[Because she, as you have no doubt surmised, is rather astoundingly dead.]

However, since your footsteps make noise and making noise is a Bad Thing, you’ll come to rely on his slow gait, as moving quickly makes more noise. Besides the turtle-pace of his “walk” mode, the shift key can make Garrett “creep”...and with practice, you can creep across noisy surfaces without making any noise.

Which is academic, because like every FPS game, you have no feet. Look down...no feet! Oh sure, you *hear* your feet (and so do others, damnably),** but they're not visible to the naked eye. This obvious lack of visible locomotion brings to mind visions of a flying torso, hell-bent on stealing everything in your home from your grandmother’s wedding ring to all your cheese. But it may be a blessing in disguise: what if you *could* see your feet? Is there a guarantee that you would like your shoes? And if you hated them, how difficult would it be to change them, aside from ripping the game apart in search of the appropriate files? Too many uninteresting questions, very little inclination to answer them. Just mark Garrett as “the Invisible Man experiment that went half-right”.

[** I still find it somewhat confounding that the AI can go clopping along over tile floors with nary a batted eyelash from the guards, but I take one lousy step on the same tile floor and everyone loses their goddamn minds. I mean, how can they tell??]

Swimming is really no picnic either; it’s a bit awkward. It does make sense, really...I mean, you’re in a cloak, you’re carrying God knows how much loot and inventory, arrows, a sword, blackjack...so it’s no wonder you swim like you have two broken legs. And you can’t use your weapons underwater, either...but that really makes no difference as there aren’t any real underwater hazards in the game besides drowning. But here’s where Garrett shines: he can hold his breath for quite a while. While the Quake 2 Marine and HL’s Gordon “Slutty Red Lipstick” Freeman obviously suffer from chronic asthma (10 seconds, tops), Garrett can wait them out.

[The comparisons and references to other contemporary games certainly tell Thief's age. And mine, come to think about it.]


A Few Words For The Dead
[Reference: Huh. I think it's...yes, it's Marillion, "A Few Words For The Dead."]

And now for a note about the difficulty levels. There are three skill levels: Normal, Hard, and Expert. The higher the skill, the less you have to work with to achieve *more*. You have less health and fewer things to buy in the equipment store (or just less cash to buy them), but you usually have more goals to accomplish and tighter restrictions on whom you can kill.


Time For A Sweaty Group Hug!
[Reference: none, as far as I know...]

Thief has no multiplayer. Let me repeat that: NO MULTIPLAYER. Hell, the game deserves a full five points for that aspect alone!

If you’ve ever read any online reviews of Thief -- see [link to a defunct website] for a couple of snippets -- then you’ll understand that almost every other game reviewer out there is a snippy prick. “No multiplayer! Phooey!” Some people enjoy MP, and I’m fine with that...however, condemning a game for lack of online play is just stupid, repeat STUPID. Let’s face it: Thief is a great game without it...*because* of it.

[Multiplayer in itself is a stupid waste of time, anyway.]

The developers weren’t trying to develop two different games at the same time -- which is what happens when you try to develop two or more different modes of play for one game -- which means that I don’t have half of a game I’ll never play sitting on my hard drive. I want an immersive game that has nothing to do with interacting with real people; my computer is my way of escaping real life, and I have no desire to be reminded how stupid the human race is during MY time. So I don’t play online.


Hello? Is It Me You’re Looking F--THUMP!
[Reference: Lionel Richie, "Hello"...being thwacked on the noggin in the middle of his soulful interrogation of a woman.]

The most important thing in Thief is *sound*. The largest file in the Thief directory is the sound archive, which is over 168mb, meaning that it isn’t enough just to have all the guards ask “what was that?” with no variation, no...a lot of thought and sweat was put into making Thief not only immersive in storyline and gameplay, but also in making it believable to your ears. Those of us who were numb to the sound of our footsteps in other games had to rethink what we were doing.

[Apparently, 168mb dedicated to the sound archive was a big deal to me.]


Hmmm...Should I Call Terminex Or The Orkin Man?
[In other words, which exterminator should I call to kill all these damned bugs?]

I won’t go into the myriad bugs that people have mentioned over the years since this game has been available. I’ve experienced only a few myself, but there are those out there who have had some serious problems. I don’t know the cause of these, other than Thief can get fairly touchy when certain variations are introduced. In fact, Thief seems to have a different bug for each and every system out there...it’s really quite an impressive feat when you think about it. Thankfully, the bugs I experience once in a while are very mild compared to some of the huge whacked-out bugs that have plagued some players.

[Although I had no idea how buggy a game could be until I installed Morrowind...]


Mantle The Roof?? YOU CAN’T MANTLE THE ROOF!
[Reference: Laurence Olivier in Beneath The Valley Of The Ultra-Vixens...I mean, Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men.]

So why should you try Thief out? I know, I know...I had the same questions when I first played it: what makes this game so special? Why should I spend time with this, instead of my beloved FPS games, or engaging in random acts of unkindness with bound and unwilling cheerleaders? Well, for one thing, it’s different. If you’re like me -- and I know I am -- then you know the boredom that sets in around the ten millionth bad guy killed with a rocket launcher. The same old thing over and over again.

[The same could be said of killing cheerleaders.]

Thief is set apart, not for its seemingly pacifist nature (which isn’t accurate at all), but for the way it puts you into a curious set of circumstances and forces you to use your gray matter to figure a way to go about accomplishing your goals. The graphics may not be the best in the world, but they’re adequate. I know I’ve left a few things out, as there’s so much in this game to experience; as you can tell, it’s one of my favorite games...a far cry from the time I dismissed it as “boring” due to my inborn impatience, I would say.

In the end, Thief is a lengthy, enjoyable game with a somewhat difficult learning curve. But if you give it a chance, you’ll find the fun in it.

[Or not. It really isn't for everyone.]


...And The Envelope Please, Ms. Aniston...Yes, Yes, Nice Thighs...
[Yes, she does have lovely legs.]

Five out of five. It’s great.


System Requirements:
Minimum:
P200 without hardware acceleration
P166 with 3D card
32mb RAM
DirectX 6 (included)
Intel Indeo video codec (included)
Win95/98
100% DirectX6-compliant sound card
4x CD-ROM drive
60mb hard drive space

Maximum:
PII-300 without hardware acceleration
PII-266 with 3D card
64mb RAM
DirectX 6 (included)
Intel Indeo video codec (included)
Win95/98
100% DirectX6-compliant sound card
8x CD-ROM drive
200mb hard drive space

Comment: You’ll find that Thief Gold takes up more hard drive space than 200mb.

[And in an age where a single game can take up most of a terabyte, that means very little.]

[So...that's done. Next up, Thief 2.]
Title: Standalone: Thief 2: The Metal Age, part 1
Post by: Silver Sorrow on January 09, 2020, 06:42:08 PM
[Another that was probably posted on the Hangar, blah blah blah.]


Thief 2: The Metal Age

Title: Thief 2: The Metal Age
Developer: Looking Glass Studios
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Official Site: N/A
Price: [Try GOG; you can probably find it for under $10.]
Number of Maps/Missions: 15
Overall Score: 5 / 5

[DELETED: An extremely out-of-date note about how hard you'll have to look to find the game. At the time, I had to track it down on eBay. Now, you can get a digital copy cheaper than lunch at McDonald's.]

Note: I’ve already covered the technical stuff of the Thief series more or less in depth in my Thief Gold review...so now I’m free to play with adjectives and adverbs.


Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends...
[Reference: Emerson, Lake & Palmer, "Karn Evil 9 1st Impression, Pt. 2."]

You ask, “Why should I play Thief 2?” Look, I’m not saying that you *should* play it. Believe me, you’re assuming far too much when you immediately conclude that I’m expecting you to play this game, just on my word. In fact, I don’t WANT you to play it! Because judgmental, conclusion-jumping morons such as yourself have no business playing such a great game as Thief 2. You might as well take your non-opposable thumb out of your mouth and shove it RIGHT UP YOUR--

Um...look, can we just start over?

Hello, I’m Silver J. Sorrow, leader of the Amish Army. I’m here to tell you about Thief 2: The Metal Age, the greatest game to feature both “Thief 2” and “The Metal Age” in its title at the same time. Read on, MacStuff.

[I have no intention whatsoever of trying to untangle that weird mass of references, even if I could.]


...I Had To Hear Your Wondrous Stories...
[Reference: Yes, "Wondrous Stories."]

Well, Garrett’s back. Why? *Because*, that’s why! You slimy little--

Sorry. All these stupid questions are really getting me down; it’s even more depressing when I realize that I’m the one asking them of myself.

...ahem...

*Anyway*, Garrett is back in this installment of the Thief trilogy. And guess what?** You are Garrett! Again! Yes! You’ve robbed nobles, looted undead-infested tombs, defeated the Trickster of legend, found out that Darth Vader is your father and exposed yourself to Harlee McBride** (she gives you a “six”). Then again, maybe not. But it’s been a year since you’ve had your eye plucked out by an eggplant masquerading as a woman, and the Mechanists have risen to power.
[** Don’t answer that.]***

[** Harlee McBride is an actress, mostly known for Young Lady Chatterley, Young Lady Chatterley II, and being married to Richard Belzer.]

[*** Butt-nugget.]

The Mechawhats?? The Mechanists, fool. Y’see, an ex-Hammerite priest named Karras (who was last seen being launched out of a window and down a flight of concrete steps)** had broken away from the Hammers and started his own splinter group, Toad the Wet Sprocket. Er...the *Mechanists*. In the past year, the Mechanists have become quite the trendy religion, due in no small part to their courting of the nobility’s favor, as well as their wonderful toffee-based confections. Karras has based his new version of the Builder’s worship on the forge and the gear, instead of the hammer and the swift kick in the ass for which the Hammers were known. They’re very popular, despite the gauche turquoise and gold outfits.

[** Reference: uh...oh, right. Father Damien Karras, from The Exorcist.]

On the other side of this odd little coin is the City Watch, commanded by Sheriff Gorman “Oh God mother, blood! Blood!” Truart.** Apparently, there isn’t a loose conglomeration of hired guards keeping the City safe anymore (if that were the case in the first game...I seem to remember reading something about a City Watch, but I can’t remember where); there’s now a well-organized police force with brutal beatings as your reward for farting in public. Your respect of them as opponents to your dreams of lucre is tempered somewhat by the fact that they’re dressed like goofuses. Yes, the boys and girls in blue with the big funny hats are on the lookout for you and your ilk.

[** Reference: That one took me a moment. Norman Bates, from Psycho Gorman...Norman...you get it, right?]

Waitaminit...*girls*?? Yes, women have broken through the glass ceiling (with the help of the Black & Decker Glass Ceiling Breaker 9000) and are now toting swords and/or bows along with the guys...which makes it that much more fun to go a-blackjacking. They make the funniest sounds when conked on the sconce. Viva la Equality,** as you now face the prospect of running from women.

[** I think I was just mangling languages on purpose. I think French would have been "vive la égalité", while Spanish would have been "viva la igualdad," I think. Google translation says so, anyway.]

Women guards...what’s next? Left-handed Azerbaijani lesbian paraplegic guards in wheelchairs? I tell you one thing: if some guard in a wheelchair is wheeling after me and calls me a taffer, they’re going in the ditch, buddy. I don’t care anymore. I’m out of control and no one’s gonna stop me!

[Reference: Fred Stoller's "Thrillseeker" sketch.]

But I exaggerate. I like the female guards, and I like putting a well-placed arrow into their backs even better. Take that as a compliment, ladies...thanks to Equal Opportunity, I treat the female guards just as I treat the male guards...with unbiased viciousness.

So with the City being swamped with an overload of order and Affirmative Action, the thief’s life has become quite chancy. The City Watch is cracking down hard on thieves and their enablers (teddy bears with fencing operations),** and you’re reduced to doing amateur-type jobs just to keep body and spirit intact, at the ironic cost of potentially having body and spirit forcibly removed via a sword up the woofter*** for breaking and entering.

[** That's what I love about reviving these reviews years later: staring blankly at some line of text for minutes at a time, wondering just what, pray tell, I meant. Like the Psycho reference, this one took me a moment to remember. In this case, it's a reference to something the youngest daughter (Madeline Zima, "Gracie") on Fran Drescher's show "The Nanny" said to her teddy bear. She was saying she's codependent and her teddy bear is the enabler. I don't usually expect the reader to pick up on this crap right away, but even I have to admit that this one was just a tad out there.]

[*** Ass. It means "ass." I was being clever. Or something.]

In short, things have become tough. You have the dipstick Mechanists and their gear fixation on one side, and the City Watch fascists on the other...what’s left? Well, the Keepers are bitching about too much order, and you’re obviously their leg-man again. Well SCREW the Keepers, you just want to break into some rich noblewoman’s house and steal her gold-plated “back massager” collection for resale to Lord Liberace, but nooooooooooo! They keep pulling the strings, don’t they? Well, they can just take their prophecies and shove them deep in Sphinct-or where the shadows lie,** because you’ve had enough.

[** Reference: a play on Tolkein's Mordor. I hurt my arm patting myself on the back for that one.]

And it isn’t just thieves who have problems, no...the Pagans** are having trouble with the Mechanists, in a classic Earth versus Technology struggle that you see on the Toob** today, only less annoying. I mean, I’d rather hear a Pagan say “Sneaksie friend!” than look at Ralph Nader, who appears to have been living in a refrigerator carton beside a 7-11 for the past decade. Anyway, the Mechanists are up to something in their campaign against the Pagans, and the City Watch is involved somehow.
[** aka, People Against Goodness And Normalcy. Preliminary talks with Christopher Plummer in the role as their leader fell through, so now they’re kind of generalized and vague as characters. Where did I put my goat leggings?]***

[** Meaning, "television." We used to call it "the boob toob," for some reason. Work it out for yourself. Hint: Farrah Fawcett.]

[*** A needlessly enormous Dragnet (the movie) reference.]

So it’s no great surprise that the mystery deepens, events soon spin right out of your control, and you’re forced to join forces with a very unlikely ally. The story unfolds from there, as if you couldn’t guess.

Oh, and it’s “The City”. Not “the city”, but “The City”. The City hasn’t been named in the series, and I’m not too sure why. Perhaps it’s a literary device...whatever. All I know is the last time I fooled around with a literary device, I cut the wrong wire and hundreds of people died.

[Boom!]


Does This Bilinear Filtering Make My Pixels Look Fat?
[No, your fat pixels make you look fat. Duh.]

Whereas the original Thief game relied heavily on gameplay and story to bolster the merely okay graphics, Thief 2 shines. Colored lighting, smooth textures, lovely, moving skies, guards with noses...it’s all good. And how about some weather effects? Snow, rain, fog...well, okay, fog in *theory*, since my video card can’t render it. And one of the mid-game missions even has a gorgeous falling leaves effect. Garrett, despite his reduced circumstances, now has some meat on his bones. Remember what his arms looked like in Thief? Spindly little things with delicate little girly wrists. Now, he’s a man. And a man needs more detailed forearm sheaths, I believe. At any rate, his arms now look believable, and the AI aren’t so scarecrow-ish now.

And thanks to variation in the models, they don’t all look the same, either. Now they have more detailed faces...but you’ll run into their twins before long, really. The environments they walk around in are also dramatically improved, visually; however, they sometimes may seem a little bland compared to the stark grittiness of the previous game. This is negligible, as the user-made community can -- and has -- done beautiful things with the new textures, which are rich and quite attractive to the eye. There’s an Art Deco theme here, and I like it.

[Some people hated it. I don't care.]

I might add here that instead [of] Thief’s “man on a quest”, Garrett instead tries the Sam Diamond route. “The last time that I trusted a dame was in Paris in 1940. She said she was going out to get a bottle of wine. Two hours later, the Germans marched into France.” Okay, maybe not...this game doesn’t have James Coco screaming “I’m not a Frenchie, I’m a Belgie!”

Trivia Question: What movie am I talking about? The answer’s at the end of the review, but it doesn’t answer the question: “and, *who cares* what movie I’m talking about?”

[Answer: no one.]

But all that aside, Garrett becomes a detective...he’s tracking down evidence, he’s sneaking around to get dirt, he’s infiltrating places to find out things...what the hell is going on here?? Okay, okay...deep breath. Exhale. It’s been mentioned that Thief III will be featuring more thieving and less detecting, so that’s good news.

[I'm not sure who mentioned that, but it wasn't entirely wrong.]


It’s Got A Great Beat And I Can Achieve World Domination To It
[Reference: "American Bandstand."]

“Is that thou, Friend?” THUMP “Ooog...” thud

Ah...the sound, the sound. As in Thief, the sound is where Thief 2 excels...from stealthy footsteps to cops bitching about paperwork, you’ll be immersed in no time. And sound is all-important to the Thief experience, as we all know. However, if you didn’t know, then I’ll give you a mulligan on that one.

Stephen Russell, that multi-talented rascal, is back as not only Garrett, but he also reprises his roles as the dumb guard (aka Benny in this game...hear his hilarious scene in “Blackmail”), a Hammerite and one of the servants. In addition to those, he now takes on the role of Karras, to which he adds an oddly Truman Capote-ish quality. Compare the two:

[Or, I think more accurately, Truman Capote mixed with Droopy (the dog).]

Capote: “That’sth not writing, that’sth typing.”

Karras: “Praisthe Karrasth! ...and the Builder.” (yes, he actually says that)

See? I am vindicated. Also back on board are Dan Thron (his guard #1 was one of my favorites of all the voices) and a few others. Now, it’s obvious that quite a few of the voice actors were employees of the company, but they did such a great job in the first game, why not bring ‘em back for more?

Indeed. The sounds show the same beautiful attention to detail as the first game. In fact, the biggest file in the Thief 2 directory is, like the first game, the sound archive...this time clocking in at over 323mb.

[As if that number was impressive NOW.]

In addition to the two original Thief guards (someone’s replaced the pseudo-English accent of Guard #2 -- “Owe-kaye yew taffa, ai-yul foind yew!” -- with a more accessible enunciation), there are three new voices, one of them female. And to sit in the shadows and listen to them is even more fun than it was in the first game.

“Someday I’m not gonna be a guard anymore. I’m gonna be...a manor lord! And I’m gonna hire lotsa guards to make *them* go on patrols and night watch. And I’m gonna sneak up on them and say...‘Didn’t you hear something?’ and watch ‘em jump.”

[Of course, I completely failed to mention the brilliant person behind all that lovely sound, Eric Brosius.]


It Knows Where We Are...Quick! Into The Clown Suit!
[Reference: not a clue.]

Besides being a gifted harpsichordist and a model of perfect polydactyly,** Karras has forged a new way of worshiping the Builder, as well as a new way of annoying the shit out of the player, namely the Builder’s Children. The Children are, essentially, robots. They clank along, spewing Mechanist dogma and providing one of two functions: tattling on the player or killing the player.

[** A somewhat obscure reference to the novels' version of Hannibal Lecter.]

The former comes in the form of “Eyes”, the rarely-seen (and indestructible) child-like bot (which I won’t cover...he’s so rare, it’s negligible), and the ever-present worker bots. An “Eye” is just a camera with a butt-ugly face, sometimes with a ballistic turret nearby (more on them in a moment); Eyes have stages of alertness: if they see you, they focus on you and their light turns yellow...which is your cue to find some darkness to hide in. If they continue to see you, an alarm goes off and bad things happen. The worker bots, on the other earlobe, are ‘bot shorties who do nothing but clank around and make you wish you bought stock in Tylenol. Their visual apparatus is usually turned off, but they can hear you. When they hear you, their eye pops open and they run off to alert someone, be they a guard or a combat bot.

*Combat* bot?! Yes, combat bot. These suckers can be quite frightening in the right context. They have a cannon. Kind of like Clint Eastwood, except for the perpetual squint. Then again, they only have one working eye, so...never mind. They fire cute little bombs -- round, with a fuse, like in old movies -- that can really ruin your day. Another brand of bot is the spiderbot, which really doesn’t show up until the final mission. I’ll let you stumble onto that one on your own. Just don’t let it know you’re there...you’ll soon know the true meaning of the phrase “Gillette: The Best A Man Can Get”.** Linked to an Eye sometimes is a turret, which is just what it sounds like. Turrets fire anything from gears to bombs to arrows, and aren’t too picky about shooting through whoever or whatever gets in their way.

[** Because it shoots razor-sharp gears at you.]

[There's also a turret linked to a pressure plate in the Bank mission, but I won't elaborate on that because I'm still bitter about the whole thing.]

Fortunately, the Builder’s Children are vulnerable to variables on fire and water, and it’s up to you and your fine detective work to find out what, exactly, will kill them. Translation: my fingers are tired from all this typing.

[What I meant: fire arrows will kill them (it may take more than one, depending on type); a water arrow to the boiler door on the combat/worker/spider bots' backs will incapacitate them indefinitely (one for the workers, two for the rest), as will a gas arrow, btw.]

Live AI (and a couple of requisite undead) round out the cast. You have guards, cops, thieves, pirates, servants, civilians, whores, pagans, spiders, apes, frogs, will ‘o the wisps, rats, several Hammer Haunts, Ents (you think I’m joking),** and...and...uh...I think I’m out of AI.

[** I was, actually; they're "treebeasts," though. Not towering like Ents, but still pretty big next to Garrett.]

Thankfully, there are no Bugbeasts, Craymen, Mages or red spiders, and the Hammers are so sparse in presence that they bear little mention. *sigh* I miss them, really. I prefer their stern, intolerant worldview to the condescending fascism of the Mechanists. They make me nostalgic for my upbringing in the Southern Baptist church.


I Hunted him Down...And Killed Him
[Reference: Tom Servo, MST3K.]

What’s new with the weapons here? Besides the increased complexity of the models, not much. Everything from the last game makes a fine return, with updates in appearance...except for Constantine’s sword. This threw me for a loop, really. Why would Garrett not have such a perfectly useful tool as that magic sword?

[Lengthy, Meandering, Somewhat Incoherent Rant On Possible Theories Concerning The Absence Of Constantine’s Sword Deleted]

But the question comes up again: why, in the name of good chicken gravy, would Garrett get rid of a sword that was so useful? Granted, the only thing it did was to not make him more visible with it drawn...but that’s an incredible advantage in this game.

[Useless, Slightly More Coherent Paragraph Concerning The Further Absence Of Constantine’s Sword Deleted]

So we’re left with an unanswered question with no satisfying answer: where the bleeding crap did Constantine’s sword go??

Oh, and the only new [arrow] in this game is the vine arrow, which replaces the rope arrow later in the game. It can stick to metal grates, blah blah blah. Whoopee. Well...that’s useful in the final mission, so I guess it’s okay.


Yes, That *IS* Sunshine In My Pocket And I *AM* Glad To See You!
[Reference: um...can I get back to you on that? Oh, never mind.]

More thought was given to the new items than the weapons. This time around, you can pick up an invisibility potion, which turns you into Calista Flockhart. Although you turn completely invisible when you turn sideways, you unfortunately stumble around like you have a severe head wound and no coordination, whining “Where did my body go? Why is my head so enormous? Why am I so hideous to the eye? Why did they cancel my loathsome show? Waaaaaaaaaaahhh!!”

[I'd ask if anyone remembers Calista Flockhart, but I already know that no one does, not even that guy she married, Harrison Whatsisname.]

Or something like that.

The slow-fall potion is a way to get down from high places without snapping both ankles like matchsticks. This is useful, as Garrett is a total wussy and can’t handle a fall of over six inches without whimpering like a stupid freaking baby. Ow, I huwt my widdle feeties! Sissy. Why in my day, we Doom Marines could fall a virtual mile and not even flinch!

[I think there was even a Doom .wad where that was a feature.]

In addition (huh...I almost typed “in addiction”) to these fine potions are the hand-held weaponry. For one, the almost-useless flashmine (useless to me, anyway), which works on the general principal of the mine, but when it goes off, no one dies...which is no fun at all. They’re just blinded for a few seconds, giving you time to either get away (you pansy) or beat the crap out of them with something, like a blackjack (my preferred method). Speaking of flashy-thingies, the flashbombs and the flashmines work on the Builder’s Children as well, immobilizing them for a couple of seconds.

The frogbeast egg is an item you’ll get later in the game. Essentially, it’s an egg with a frogbeast inside. A complicated concept I know, but try to keep up with the group. Whereas frogbeasts were your enemies in Thief, here they will ally with you and go after your opponents. Just don’t be too close to them when they explode. And here’s a hint for the bloodthirsty: when you have frogbeast eggs and a no-kill objective...use the eggs. The kill(s) won’t count against you! Woo-hoo!

Oh, and this is almost so important I forgot to mention it: since Garrett’s vision has been effectively reduced to about 70 to 80%** -- the aforementioned eye-plucking incident from Thief -- the Hammers (Karras, specifically, who engineered it) had given him a new mechanical eye, which you could see in the ending cutscene of Thief. Now, Garrett can zoom in on far away things. But not only that, Garrett can pick up an item called a Scouting Orb, which he can throw to see things remotely. For instance, you can throw it around a corner and see what’s coming down the hallway. But the most important part is that you can throw it...and see what Garrett looks like!
[** Actual Facts Department: contrary to popular myth, losing an eye doesn’t reduce your vision by half. Each eye’s field of vision is fairly wide, and the two eyes work together -- in fact they overlap -- to add depth perception and somewhat reliable peripheral vision (which is virtually nil in Thief’s AI). So losing an eye just reduces your available vision somewhat while wreaking havoc on your depth perception until you get used to it.]

[Wow, that was...unnecessary.]


[End of Part One.]
Title: Standalone: Thief 2: The Metal Age, part 2
Post by: Silver Sorrow on January 09, 2020, 11:04:46 PM
[Part Two.]


The Parchment Was Marked With the Locations Of The Lost Weasel Mines Of Toledo
[Reference: I. Don't. KNOW.]

So there you are, listening to Basso tell you that he’s sprung the lock on the back door for you. Look around, look at the sky, lust for the moon, trip over a gopher hole and pull a groin muscle. Curse colorfully and limp into the Rumsford mansion, where your adventure begins.

The Dark Engine is wonderful for rendering huge, complex maps with no irritating level changes and little framerate destruction (assuming the poly’s aren’t too high)...and it’s put to good use here, where you will do all sorts of things from breaking into a mansions to breaking into a seminary. No, no...*seminary*. It’s like a church school and NOT a sperm donation depository...still, the song remains the same: after five o’clock, please make all donations in the rear.**
[** Oops.]

There’s a difference in this game, though. Where Thief centered on a shadowy, exceedingly medieval setting, replete with cathedrals and castles and that terrific horrors-of-the-ages stuff, Thief 2 instead focuses on comparatively contemporary settings -- mansions, buildings, city streets, forest walk-a-thons -- and as a result appears, on the surface, to come off slightly the lesser for it.

However, since Thief dealt largely with the workings and atmosphere of the past, Thief 2 looks to immerse the player in a frightening vision of a bland, yet (relatively) technological, future. The Mechanists are the future; they’ve left the crudity of the hammer behind for “the majesty of the gear” (I suppose that’s better than the “obsequiousness of the catamaran”, or whatever). Of course, they’re also not too well-inclined towards the human condition -- as you will find out -- but give them a couple hundred years and they’ll be developing test tube babies with no problem. That is, if the entire known world isn’t engulfed in an apocalyptic cloud of...er...play the game and you’ll see. Add to that the iron fist of the City Watch, and what do you have? A well-oiled, well-ordered future that may include book burnings and bar codes tattooed on people’s foreheads, that’s what.

[(Pointing at bar code) "Hey, look: Ethiopian family portrait!" Grandfathers are great, aren't they?]

So this is, potentially, far more frightening to me as an individual than any old haunted tomb. I could go down there with holy water and fire arrows...but how do you deal with the loss of your humanity? You throw on your cloak and your BIG NOISY BOOTS and do some spying on the Power Principals, Karras and Truart.

[I meant the loss of your individuality. "Humanity" can fuck off, for all I care.]

Instead of a training mission like you had in Thief, Thief 2 dumps you in the middle of the action, but with helpful comments from Garrett and onscreen information about particular items or objects (i.e., how to open a door using a key, or how to put out a torch with a water arrow). This goes on for the first three missions on Normal skill only, as they figure you already got the hang of the game if you play on Hard or Expert.

The maps flow easily with the plot, which is a relief. When you need to tromp through a forest, then by the Builder, you get a forest through which to tromp to your little heart’s content. Like jumping from roof to roof and stealing people blind via their windows? Look no further. One map, in fact, is dedicated to this. Like picking up a plasma rifle and exploding an imp into a bloody mess of guts and fluids? Well, you’re going to have to wait until Doom 3. Sorry, that’s just the way it goes.

However, for the nostalgic out there, once in a while you’ll be able to visit an old crypt or tomb. It isn’t that often -- at least twice, in fact -- but you do get to meet the Haunt again. Oh man, I do like the Haunt. What I would’ve liked even more in Thief 2 is a mission centered on visiting a haunted place (like the Disney Haunted House...where the most frightening thing is the bleak possibility of being crushed by freaked-out Japanese tourists...true story).** I guess what I really wanted was another Return To The Cathedral, but a little different.

[** Gather ye 'round th' fire an' listen, kids...aye, 'twas the summer of '89. Me family an' I had just landed 'pon the shores of fair Disneyland. We braved the tide o' short tourists from foreign lands an' made our way to th' Haunted House. Aye, an' thar we found a fair seethin' o' small Orientals a-crowdin' each other in a room o' portraits. Th' lights went down and one wisp o' a lass from Japan clung to me mum's purse strap, she was so afeared o' th' dark. 'twere an experience, lads: cameras a-clickin', bodies a-pressin'...my only regrets 'r that I didn't becomes a man that day with th' help o' a distracted lady o' th' Pacific Rim. But I guess that's what happens when yer mum raises ye to NOT be a casual ravager o' wenches.]

But if you really want that sort of thing, there are a couple of fan missions for Thief 2 that render such a mission most admirably, so I really don’t miss the omission as much as I should. Miss miss miss. I never get tired of saying that. Missmissmissmissmiss.

But qualms aside, you do get to see a variety of places and situations: a previously-abandoned island complete with lighthouse and an homage to 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, mansion after mansion after mansion (and, irritatingly, the same mansion twice in a row), a cathedral filled with Builder’s Children, fleeing from the cops through the city streets, robbing a bank...there are quite a few highly-enjoyable missions to be had in Thief 2, and they’re so much the better when you ignore the not-so highly-enjoyable ones.

What’s that? What do you mean, you ask? Okay, first off? Stop asking questions disguised in my voice. It confuses me. Anyway, a couple of the missions are kneecapped by bugs...or simply the presence of the missions themselves. Two of the very late-game missions deal with the exact same setting, a mansion. In the  first, “Casing the Joint”, you’re supposed to simply map out the mansion without being seen, and find a secret door that would help you out for when you come back to loot the place (with a reason, I suppose, in keeping with the plot). This map has a few small annoying bugs here and there, but nowhere near as many as the next mission, “Masks”...which is, again, the same mansion.

“Masks” is a free-for-all in terms of progression, as you can thump anyone you want and be seen by the whole household, setting off all the alarms...but it has some goofy things going on. It certainly feels that these two maps were horribly rushed; in fact, they shouldn’t even *be* together...from what I understand, there were plans for a Thief 2 Gold, and there was supposed to be either a mission in between these two, or the removal of “Casing The Joint” entirely. (I’ve also heard other things, but let’s not devolve into conjecture.) However, that didn’t happen...so now we’re left with a mission in which the sitting guards get stuck in their chairs when they stand up.

[I'm not sure how likely it was, but I've heard that Thief 2 Gold would have resolved these issues, but the company (LGS) went tits-up right after the game was released. So no T2G was ever made.]

In fact, this game has a few errors; one deals with AI set in certain positions, like sitting in a chair. If you render them unconscious and throw them in a corner, when you come back they’ll still be unconscious in the corner, but in the sitting position. Sometimes the AI patrol routes are just screwed up completely, with a guard getting stuck and walking into a light post for all eternity (fortunately for him, I was there to punch his ticket and save him from starvation), or a bot walking into a ladder and walking and walking and...you get the idea.

[tldr; PATHFINDING ISSUES. Don't have to gild the fucking lily every single time, dude.]

Some problems are with the terrain; when I was running through the game to take screenshots, for example, I kept getting stuck on rocky walls in one mission. In another, I was trying to swim through a narrow passage and got stuck; the same mission saw me getting stuck in doorframes as I leaned into the room. In the Bank, I once crouched in a doorway to disappear (one of the benevolent bugs in the Thief series), and became stuck. Really stuck. So upon jumping, I found myself launched across the room into the waiting cannon of a combat bot. Fun times, indeed. And even more fun is the fact that I used “stuck” so many times in this paragraph that Stuckey’s is now sponsoring my participation in the Boston Strangulation-thon.

[Stuckey's was a chain of roadside diners. They're long gone now.]

Despite the problems, it remains a fun game. I just wish Garrett ran a little faster without having to resort to speed potions (see my Thief Gold review for a more comprehensive rant on the subject)...my teeth are worn down, I tell you. Grind grind grind...“FASTER!!”

[I completely forgot to mention bugs with the rope arrows, which persist into the realm of the fan missions [FMs]. For example, one of the most fun things is to jump for the rope...and bounce right off, falling to your death. And so on.]


“I Don’t Talk ‘Round Corners...It’s Right Between The Eyes”
[Reference: Genesis, "Down And Out."]

Ghosting, sneaking, outright mayhem...it’s your choice, really. Well, depending on the mission. Usually in the Thief series, playing the highest skill level, expert, means that you aren’t going to get to use your sword that much. The idea being that since you’re a master thief, violence is unnecessary. So on expert, you have to put your primal urges on hold and try some élan, for once...unless you’re sadistic and like using other AI as a shield against angry archers...in which case, welcome to my world.

It’s tough, I know. The temptation to run up behind a guard and slash through his collarbone is strong, yes...but we must persevere and use our native talents: stealth, trickery, deviousness and a reliance on that “hiding in shadows” thing that impresses the babes. On the other two skills, relenting to base vindictiveness is not really a problem, usually. However, the idea -- which is carried over from Thief -- is that you are not a walking tank, and you aren’t supposed to go head-to-head (or, in German, “aunsausprachensiezuhmeinswuellerenkaputenblahblahblahblech zum aunsausprachensiezuhmeinswuel lerenkaputenblahblahblahblech ”) with danger.** Very rarely in Thief 2 will you be *forced* to face adversity with sword drawn. It’s possible to pretty much sneak through most of the levels without being seen, but I ask...where’s the fun in that?

[** In case you were wondering, I was implying that German is an unwieldy language most suited to issuing commands to attack dogs. In that, I admire it.]

I mean that as a personal preference, of course; to each his own style of gameplay, and more power to them. In the right context, sneaking and ghosting are highly rewarding; for example, take the third mission, “Framed”, where you must break into the police station and frame one of the officers. No one can know you’ve been there (more or less...you won’t fail on being seen, but it jars against the concept if you’re being chased all over the place), no one must be KO’d or killed (on expert), etc. It is possible to play this mission completely stealthy, and it’s a great ride.

On the other hand, the previously-mentioned (and reviled) mission, “Casing the Joint”, has a similar concept, except you fail upon being seen. I’m not too happy with this set of circumstances, and I think this map should’ve been omitted for a better mission. We’re going back in the next mission anyway...why torture us?? However, I must qualify my statements by saying that “Casing...” isn’t a *terrible* mission, just...redundant.

Some missions are just out-and-out happy fun candy. The “First City Bank And Trust” mission, for example, finds you breaking into a huge bank to find a recording with which to blackmail Sheriff Truart. It’s one of my favorite missions, along with the subsequent map, “Blackmail”, which adds an interesting twist to the storyline near its end.

[Playing through this game again years later, I find that the Bank mission is far less enjoyable now...]

One of the original Thief missions, “Assassins”, had you trailing a pair of your would-be killers back to Ramirez’ mansion. This dilemma is expounded (and confounding) in “Tracing The Courier”, which places you in the unenviable position of following first a police woman (starring Angie Dickinson),** then another individual, all over the town in your quest to get to the bottom of the mystery (“I thank you from the mystery of my bottom”)*** surrounding you.

[** Angie Dickinson played "Pepper Anderson" on the TV show "Police Woman" in the 1970's.]

[*** Goddammit, how many times did I use that stupid joke??]

Other fine missions include the aforementioned forest romp (“Trail of Blood”), the stealing-across-the-rooftops map (“Life of the Party”, which is one of my favorites, and was the map in the Thief 2 demo, albeit with some dramatic differences), one mission in which you’ve been ambushed and must sneak around the city to your apartment (called “Ambush!”, needless to say), an outright warehouse-robbery mission (“Shipping...and Receiving”), a return to an old familiar place (“Kidnap”), and others.

Speaking of old familiar places, there are at least four missions in this game in which you revisit the same place twice...the aforementioned “Casing The Joint” and “Masks”, and “Ambush!” and “Tracing The Courier”. I don’t think I’m complaining overmuch, but I’d like to see a little variety in my surroundings sometimes. Yes, by the second time around I know the area in question, but do I really benefit from this knowledge? Am I being, well, ripped off by revisiting earlier maps, albeit with different objectives? It’s not so much annoying as it is slightly disappointing; I dunno...I was really expecting a bit more after the joy ride of Thief. What would’ve been nice is following the courier through a completely different part of the city, but...oh, well.

However, the remainder of the game (as in “the other parts of the game where I’m not retracing my !!#$%!! steps”) is excellent. The final mission, “Sabotage at Soulforge”, is by far the most complex, and by association, one of the most reviled. I can sympathize, as it’s a resource hog and can be quite frustrating at times. But with a year or so of experience, I’ve come to think of it as a breeze to finish. It still takes me a good two hours to finish on expert (which includes the time I spend in the confounding process by which I have to make new mines), and sometimes the surprises happen and kill me. As a side note, some of this mission reminded me of System Shock 2 in places...

[Appropriate, as LGS made both games using the same engine.]

And in the end, as in Thief, there is no clichéd, overblown, apocalyptic big-weapon battle with the ubiquitous 12,000-foot-tall boss bearing dual rocket launchers and a big honkin’ cup of boiling McDonald’s coffee; the ending is the result of an application of devious behavior, paying off beautifully.

Some people have griped about the rather abrupt ending of the final cutscene...but you always get people complaining about everything, so I’ve learned to tune them out, which I’m trying to do with those people who stand right beside me as I’m writing a review and they carry on a conversation until I’m forced to shout CAN’T YOU SEE THAT I’M TRYING TO WRITE HERE?? and they get all mad and...okay, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to dump on you. Really.

[If I am allowed a moment of honesty here: I wish, with every fiber of my being, that person was standing beside me now, driving me crazy. But ALIVE and in great health, I mean. You have to be specific, just in case there's a Monkey's Paw nearby.]

Besides that, Thief 2 is great.


Do You Come Here Often? Would You Like To?
[Dirty joke.]

As in the original Thief, the vile, clammy presence of multiplayer is thankfully absent in Thief 2. The game benefits from this, not having to suffer the ignominious fate of most bifurcated games, namely, the futile efforts of a desperate developer trying to please two audiences at once. I cite the example of Valve software, who are so unsatisfied with the incredible success of the singleplayer side of Half-Life, that they are now releasing patch after patch after patch intended to break the SP game and promote the MP facet. It’s been backfiring on them, as every MP patch breaks the *previous* MP patch, and we can only assume from such distressing evidence that the Powers That Be at Valve aspire to be Micro$oft, Jr.

[An excerpt from How To Tell If Someone's Stupid (A Comprehensive Guide): "When the subject of a video game arises, the truly stupid individual's first question will be some variation upon 'Is there multiplayer?'"]

But back to Thief 2. [Tangential Rant Deleted] ...and I spurn multiplayer as I would spurn a rabid dog.

[Reference: Rowan Atkinson, "Rowan Atkinson Live."]

Some interesting news (“interesting” in the sense of “stupid”) is that Ion Storm may be adding multiplayer to Thief 3. Many ([Especially Insulting, Overly Offensive Aside Deleted]) see it as a happy set of circumstances, but I’m not so sure. [Extremely Graphic Imagery Deleted] ...stuffing their hands into salad shooters and... [Curiously Coprophilial-Themed Paragraph Deleted] ...molesting tapirs for pennies.

I hate to be pessimistic about it, but [Extraordinarily Negative Views On Multiplayer Communities And Thief Deleted], and I cringe at the thought of 14 year-olds screaming “i BL4KJ$K J00!!111! J00 F4GG0T!!1!!1”

[My loathing of online culture and the human race in general isn't that obvious, is it?]


This Is The End For You, Doctor Nefarioso!
[Reference: not a clue. Not a single goddamn clue.]

I wasn’t too thrilled with Garrett becoming a detective. I had thought this game was about being a thief, but apparently I’m also supposed to solve great mysteries and tail people back to their hideouts. All I’m missing is a .44 and Veronica Lake. Otherwise, there is a lot to enjoy with Thief 2, as long as you don’t let the emphasis on the investigative side of things bring you down. Where I prefer Thief for its storyline and atmosphere, I prefer Thief 2 for its graphics and potential. That said, it’s a fun game, and I look forward to Thief 3.

[It wasn't as good as the first two games (at least gameplay-wise), but the story was excellent. And the Shalebridge Cradle mission? Yow.]

[I should point out here that I've come to delight in the notion of Garrett-as-detective; there are a few FMs that take that angle, and they are some of my favorites. Also of note is "Calendra's Legacy," which imagines Garrett being more like Mel Gibson's character in Payback, which is also enjoyable.]

I know that once again I’ve left out a few hundred interesting things, but I think you can figure them out for yourselves. I hope.

And finally, although “taffer” is just a made-up word, it’s still a fun epithet to hurl at my cat.


The Envelope Please, Ms. Hahn...And Put Those Things Away!
[Reference: Jessica Hahn, the former secretary of the disgraced Jim Bakker, had a lovely set of bolt-on boobs.]

5 out of 5. Where it’s weak, the advantages make up for that.


System Requirements
Minimum:
PII-266 (or equivalent)
Win95/98
48mb RAM
DirectX 7 (included)
DirectX 7-compliant sound and video cards
3D accelerated video card
4x CD-ROM drive
250mb hard drive space

Maximum:
PII-400 (or equivalent)
Win95/98
64mb RAM
DirectX 7 (included)
DirectX 7-compliant sound and video cards
3D accelerated video card
8x CD-ROM drive
600mb hard drive space (!)
EAX 2.0 or A3D 2.0 compliant sound card

Comment: If you’re playing anything less than a PII-450 with an aging video card (like me), be prepared for a bumpy ride in a couple of missions.

[Of course, we're way beyond such meager specs nowdays...but who gives a crap, right?]

Answer to Trivia Question: Neil Simon’s “Murder By Death”. You’re welcome.

[Good God, what a friggin' slog. Ah, well...just the review of Thief: Deadly Shadows remains.]
Title: Standalone: Thief: Deadly Shadows, part 1
Post by: Silver Sorrow on January 11, 2020, 11:30:44 AM
Thief: Deadly Shadows


Review: Thief: Deadly Shadows
Lameness of Title: Moderately Lame
Developer: Ion Storm Austin
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Reviewed By: Silver J. Sorrow, A Close Personal Friend Of [YOUR NAME HERE]
Price: Try GOG; you can probably find it for under $10.
Score: 4.25 out of 5.00
ESRB Rating: Mature 17+ (Blood, Violence and Explicit Use of “Taffer” And Its Variations)

[DELETED: three entire paragraphs dedicated to the subject of screenshots...how hard they were to take for the original review and what third-party program is best for taking them. Whoopty-doo.]


Abstract: In Search of Kelly Randall
In case you’ve been living somewhere besides this rock I’m under, Ms. Randall played the part of “Gayle” in the 1990 more-or-less-a-comedy flick, Ninja Academy. Other than her more...um...interesting scenes, the movie was kind of a blur to me. That happens when you have the fast-forward button taped down. Anyway, this movie proved to be her first and last, and she has since disappeared into the mists of complete obscurity.

Okay, maybe that isn’t quite true, at least from an existential standpoint. I mean, life doesn’t begin and end with Hollywood, despite what hundreds of useless celebrities would have you believe. There are many other things in life besides a lovely young maiden washing herself on camera, although admittedly very few of these activities are as noble. In this respect, perhaps she had abandoned the vapidity of celebrity (as such) for a more vital role as a vibrant, dynamic whirlwind of benevolence in whatever community she has chosen to grace with her sweet, sweet a...uh...self. Yes. You know: taking care of the homeless, feeding the hungry, helping wounded puppies, etc. This is assuming she’s alive, however...for all I know, she could be residing in a shallow grave out west somewhere. I can’t believe I just typed that.

Personally, I like to think she’s still kicking, an inspiration to the lives she touches. And even if she isn’t in attainment of the highest heights of community activism...hell, even if she spends the majority of her waking hours in a wine-fuelled daze, slumped in front of the TV as soap operas drift by, barely raising a flicker of interest in her eyes, I’m sure she’s the best darned whatever she is that she could be. And I mean that.

In short: Kelly Randall, where are you?

[No comment.]


Acronym Key
DXIW: Deus Ex: Invisible War
T1/TDP: Thief: The Dark Project
TG: Thief Gold
T2: Thief 2: The Metal Age
PUMA: People for the Unethical Mistreatment of Animals


Good Evening, Clarice
[Reference: Hannibal Lecter. But you knew that, didn't you?]

Welcome to the Official Silver Sorrow Review of Thief: Deadly Shadows, the only game to win the coveted Palm d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Or, as James T. Kirk would say, “KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!!!” In this review, I will attempt to explain to the reader (that’s you) the intricate workings of the Thief storyline in exhaustive detail, as well as quash all rumors of my demise at the hands of disgruntled cuckolds. Or maybe I’ll just do a bunch of bulletpoints and drink my lunch.

*hic*

As other brave souls connected to this site are doing their own reviews of this better-than-average game, I feel that if we cannot match other sites in terms of intelligence, then at least we’ll have them beat in the sheer number of TDS reviews.

[Uh...I know Doc Brown published his review of TDS, but I'm not sure anyone else did. I. Don't. Remember.]

For the sake of argument, let’s assume that this is the best game to come out this year...until Doom 3...and since we are assuming that it’s good -- if you haven’t assumed this yet, you will be given additional time to assume -- I will now point out a few things, good and bad, without worrying about besmirching the good name Thief. So read on...unless you’re reading this review backwards, in which case you should keep going up. When you hit the top, turn off your anti-virus software and start clicking banners...try it, it’s fun! Ad-banner roulette...gotta love it.


SecuROM, SUCK ON THIS!
[I hate DRM. SecuROM was probably the most irritating of the lot.]

Possibly the only completely unforgivable change to the Thief series embodied by this package is the stupid copy protection. As in Unreal 2 and DXIW, we’re treated to the moronic CD security that is SecuROM, a deplorable device designed to muck up your system in a no-frills kind of way. While I can’t legally endorse the use of no-CD cracks, I encourage you to think for yourself (for once) and come to your own moral conclusion: should you suffer the slings and arrows of paranoid game companies, or should you find a fix before the offending software hoses up your computer? You decide. As CD protection does nothing to hinder piracy or illegal copying, it’s no wonder it’s still in use by monolithic corporations increasingly out of touch with their customers. (Eidos, take a bow.)

[So GOG was a huge blessing, of course.]


We Put The “Menu” In “Menudo”
[Menudo was a Puerto Rican boy band.]

That’s one butt-ugly menu screen, isn’t it? A kind of bilious green...but slap my rear and call me Peggy, I liked it. I think. Maybe not. I should poll all the voices in my head and present my findings. Sure. I’ll get right on that.


That’s Interesting...My Interface Is Victorian Ironwork
[No reference, just an observation.]

Thanks to the dual-development of this game for the PC and the soul-sucking evil that is the XBox (not that I am biased), TDS has quite a few irritating interface problems. The most glaring on first glance is the absence of a slider for adjusting mouse sensitivity; this is easily handled via tweaking the values in the default.ini file, but we shouldn’t have to resort to such measures in a perfect world. Welcome to imperfection...here’s your noose.

Many of the things that others are irritated by -- arrow trails, loot glint, etc. -- I can live with, up to a point. The blue Saran wrap around the frobbable objects is something I do NOT want to live with. Anyway, I liked the HUD...mostly; the compass around the visibility gem is marvelous, as are the disappearing health icons. I’ve not sure about the weapon and equipment icons, but I suppose I can live with those as well. Overall, I would like the visibility gem and the other elements to be a tad smaller, so I’ll most likely be tweaking those. I’m a HUD minimalist at heart.

The size of the screen font was definitely chosen with the television in mind. They are quite large and garish, much like Margaret Cho.** However, I’ve come to accept this, as I find myself squinting at the screen lately. Time for an eye exam, I guess...but on reflection, I like the idea of large print games.

[** Sorry, Ms. Cho. I love you just the way you are.]

The bottom line is that it’s clear that Ion learned NOTHING from the complaints concerning DXIW, as far as customizable settings go. May the idiots who consolized this game be stricken with black spots and purple stripes...pink hearts...yellow moons...orange stars...green clovers...

[Hands off me lucky charms, ye bastards!]


Things Your Mother Warned You About
[Reference: who knows?]

You’re in the game, right? Good. Now look down. What do you see? Yes...ground, good. That’s good. But what else? That’s right: you can see your body! Garrett’s body, I mean. Why would they put YOUR body in the game? That’s silly!

And hey! You can see yourself in third person! How much fun can one person have, anyway?! I like the third person for peeking around corners, since the lean function is crappy; most of the time, I’m in first person mode. Seriously: looking back at the various forums, can you *believe* how much bile was spewed all over the place due to the so-called “controversy” of the third person option? That’s the beauty of the internet: it really puts you in touch with people who shouldn’t be in touch with anybody.


On The Next Episode Of Thief: The Animated Series...
[Reference: not a friggin' clue. Yet another head-scratcher.]

Now. Let’s get the story out of the way. I’d say that the story is excellent; as it’s closing out a trilogy, it HAS to be good, right? Right. Now let’s hope someone tells George Lucas that. To recap the entire series...would be folly. So forget that.

The short version of TDS’s story, sans spoilers: Garrett stumbles into a strange mess involving the Keepers and the glyphs and prophecies and then stuff happens from there. Of course, there’s a lot more than that going on, but I’m keeping mum. Who am I to divulge anything remotely useful in a review?

I liked that the story had a bit more subtlety than the previous game (T2, for those of you with linearity problems); its pacing was more like that of T1/G. TDS takes its time in letting us soak up the atmosphere and introduces seemingly disparate elements one at a time, which needless to say, tie together quite nicely. I can’t remember the last time I actually smiled after finishing a game. Additionally, at least it has a definite, *satisfying* ending. This is of course in dramatic contrast to standard practice, which is to end games on a depressing bummer, a disappointing anticlimax, or an irritating and/or ridiculous cliffhanger.

Also, I have to say that this installment is the funniest in the series, even taking into account the massive yet hilarious trauma the Trickster suffered when the fake Eye blew up in his crotch (as seen in T1/G...and on “America’s Funniest Groin Injuries”). That was probably a spoiler, but who cares? Anyway, from the slapstick fun of throwing an oil flask on the docks (quote: “splash!”) to the catch-you-unaware one-liners tossed off by random passerby (“Did that guy have *leaves* in his pockets??”), there’s plenty of humor to be found.


A Streetcar Named Larceny
[Reference: I dont care.]

The distinctive Thief-tastic cutscenes/cinematics are back, although they’re somewhat uneven in places. As they are an integral part to the Thief Immersion Factor™, they have to be done right. And they are...mostly. Garrett’s appearance, for example, may be wildly different from one cutscene to the next; apologists may point out that we never really know decisively what Garrett looks like, but that’s a copout. You can’t have a wax-mannequin Garrett in one scene (resembling a Muppet more than a human being), a hard-bitten, scarred-up Garrett in another, and a boyish-looking Garrett in yet another. Bottom line: DECIDE ON A LOOK. Me, I like the scar...but I think the purple mohawk was going a bit too far.

Despite this, the cutscenes are great. They have to be, since they’re all we get in the way of movies; the between-mission briefing movies of the previous installments have been ditched for various reasons (and don’t ask me what those reasons are...my laughter will drown out your cries**), so the cutscenes are given precedence here in propelling the plot along. I have no problem with this.

[** Reference: Marillion, "Three Boats Down From The Candy."]

One plus is that the movies use Bink! video, which guarantees (I think) that they’ll actually work. T1 and T2 used the .avi format, which has always been the turf being fought over by opposing gangs of codec geeks (the Blips and the Cruds, I believe). The downside is the inevitable flood of idiots who want exhaustive details on how to play the movies outside the game and post thread after thread asking for help. Ever heard of Google? USE IT!


The AI, The Missions, And A Half-Naked Vietnamese Woman On The Hood Of My Car
[I'd ask, once again, what the blippity-bloopity crap is my deal, but at this point it's academic.]

[Note: We regret to inform you that the half-naked Vietnamese woman scheduled to be draped over the hood of our car for this section has been abducted by Space Marmosets and taken back to their homeworld near the Pleiades to be their queen. As we were short on time, we could not find a suitable replacement model and we were left with nothing to drape over the hood of our car. So we bought a tarp. It’s really working out for us.]

[Note: We apologize for the preceding note.]

[The note in question was an excruciatingly complex chunk of bewildering nonsense; eons ago, Doc Brown gave me advice on how to make it better. So I took that advice and adjusted the note accordingly. Thanks, Doc. If I've learned anything over the years, it's how to be a better editor of my own "writing."]

Still here? Good. The missions are your main impetus for buying the game (Thief: Deadly Shadows...remember?), so is it worth buying the game just for them? I would say “yes.” Then again, I also say “zigackly” and “ferpectly” when tired, but that’s beside the point.** I’d also throw caution and my pants to the wind and say that there isn’t a clunker mission in the bunch. Contrast that to T2’s filler missions...hell, compare that to MOST games on the shelves, especially the ones touted as the “best FPS game(s) since Half-Life.”

[** For those who may have wondered when I used the terms "ferpectly" and "zigackly," wonder no more. They go back to Goscinny & Uderzo's Asterix and the Laurel Wreath.]

But it isn’t just missions; much of your time will be spent on the City streets in pursuit of various activities such as buying equipment, fencing loot acquired in missions and mugging innocent bystanders. After a while, it becomes apparent that a LOT of time is spent in the streets. One can’t help but speculate that in addition to the missions, the developers decided to eke out the gameplay...if only just a tad...with the streets. Just one of those unfounded suspicions, I suppose.

[You really do spend a lot of time on the streets.]

Let’s get the City out of the way before I go any further. We -- the players -- were led to believe that the City would be a large, opportunity-rich environment for the enjoyment of would-be thieves; it was made clear that TDS was inspired by the openness and non-linearity of GTA III. Let me puncture that particularly festive balloon with a disappointed “blah.” The City, in reality, is a claustrophobe’s nightmare; it’s cramped and not very interesting. The “multitude” of side-missions (meaning, the small distractions that have nothing to do with the overall plot) that were promised don’t really add up to a respectable number, and most of them aren’t very interesting either. A City Watch captain is extorting a bottle of wine from the local pub; your landlord is paying off a blackmailer and hides the money in a certain place. Whoopty-crap.

These “quests” (and I use that term loosely) are just a way of getting more money in your pocket. Several are amusing and/or interesting, but not worth jumping up and down in uncontrollable glee over. So while cramped and more or less visually nondescript, the City streets will pad out your gameplay nicely. In fact, it seems that most of the time you’re running from one end of town to the other...like it was planned that way, or something...

One important (or not) note about the City: a couple of the story-specific missions take place in the City; meaning that you can leave these areas and return to the streets at any time, although I can’t imagine why you’d want to do this without accomplishing your goals unless you were running low on equipment and/or health and/or GUTS...ya flamin’ sissy!

As I mentioned earlier, the missions are on the whole, well done; not a bad mission to be found. They may be tough (which is probably due more to the eccentricies of Garrett’s movement than anything else), but they’re not insanely difficult. This is more than I can say for such games as Far Cry (winner of the coveted Silver Sorrow’s “Middling FPS Retread Of The Year” award). I had very few problems even on Expert,** but it’s because this game is very much Thief, despite the myriad changes and design gaffes forced upon the game by principals who Just Don’t Understand The Game They’re Making. To single out specific individuals would be unwarranted. So let’s ignore the specter of doubt.
[** With good reason, as it turns out: there’s a serious AI bug, which has been addressed in the v1.1 patch. I talk about this further in a couple sections down thataway.]

I hate getting into specifics of certain missions; but several of them must be singled out as noteworthy of our highest praise. I liked all of the missions, which is a rarity for me...I hated certain missions in each of the other games in the series (“Casing The Joint,” for example), so I think I’m onto something here. Here’s a taste:

It is Ape Law: you cannot write a TDS review without mentioning the infamous “Robbing the Cradle” (aka “Good Old-Fashioned Nightmare Fuel”), in which Garrett must explore...and survive...an orphanage-turned-insane asylum (which caught fire at one point...) in pursuit of information relating to the main story. As the man himself puts it, “If there’s a way to cram more misery into one building’s history, I can’t think of it.”

Since T2 was missing a scary mission -- which was a relief to all the whiny widdle babies who had wet their widdle Pampers after pwaying the big scawwy wevels in T1/G, waaaaaah -- “Wobbing the Cwadle” ...uh... “Robbing the Cradle” brings back the sweaty palms and uncontrollable trembling that we knew so well from “Return to the Cathedral.” Or that may be my slavish crack addiction getting the better of me. Anyway, the audio (plus the AI) enhances the experience almost beyond endurance; while I’m usually level-headed even on the most atmospheric missions (like hell I am), this one made me jump more than usual.

While “Cradle” is an especial high point of the TDS experience, it certainly isn’t the only brilliant mission. Take “House of the Widow Moira,” for example, a mission that finds Garrett breaking into a seaside mansion in search of a certain item. The score (that’s “music” to all you musically-retarded induhviduals) is simply gorgeous; it put me in mind of the more contemplative of Gabriel Knight III’s piano pieces. It fits perfectly with the beautiful mansion and the sense of loss (explained in the mission); in short, it’s a beautiful, melancholic mission. In a surprising twist, it may even force you into a moral dilemma when it comes to loot-gathering...and you’ll even want to do nasty things to the money-grubbing leeches infesting the mansion as well.

[I sure can cram a lot of shit into a couple of paragraphs, eh?]

Other standouts include the Hammerite cathedral (“Saint Edgar’s Eve”); “Now THAT’S a cathedral!” I remarked to myself. Yes, I talk to myself. There were flying buttresses and everything. Primo! The Museum (“Still Life With Blackjack”) is a terrific mission, a spot of normal thieving before the Big Finale. I think I’ll stop with these examples because my fingers are very tired from typing right now.

[I believe the Cathedral mission was designed by David Riegel, who also created the fan missions "Cult of the Resurrection" and "The Inverted Manse."]

Oh, okay...a couple more: “Killing Time,” in which Garrett tinkers with the local clocktower, is a masterpiece of massive machinery. This remains one of my favorites. “Pagan Sanctuary” is terrific, with its highly-detailed depiction of a place that’s gone to the weeds, taken over by the Pagans. It’s also somewhat difficult, which makes it all that more interesting.

The final mission, “Endgame,” is quite good as well. No, no more spoilers from me.

Each mission is divided into at least two separate areas, connected by loading zones; you can travel between the areas as often as you like. Now, some people disparage the loading zones, but really: so what? We’re dealing with a new engine here, and it also has to be optimized for Mr. Gates’ rapidly aging console whatchamacallit. Of course, there’s also the standard headache of getting respectable performance out of Ion’s games on mid-level systems, so it’s reasonable to expect that they would carve the levels up into manageable chunks.

Yes, I remember that most other Unreal engine games have massive missions without loading zones, many of them outdoors. But here’s the problem: take the ridiculous overkill (for Thief) of the Havok physics engine, throw in a spectacularly useless lighting engine, add in a million little details, and...ah. Your framerates are now negative numbers and your video card is this close to wiping out all life as we know it.* So they cut the levels up...and they even work.
[* Because of the small plutonium slugs used to power the fan. What, you didn’t know about that?? You’d better get yourself to a radiologist, pronto!]


It May *Look* Like Intelligence, But It’s Artificial
[Reference: how many ways can I say "I don't know"?]

I’ve heard and read so much about how brilliant the AI is, but I’m not too impressed, really. I mean, yes...the AI is smart[-ish] and can distinguish certain things from other things and so on, but let’s face it: if they were really smart, they’d REALLY look for you...and find you...instead of just mumbling something about checking over by the chair. They recognize things, but then again, so do most six year olds.

Okay, the AI really isn’t stupid. Seriously, it’s quite a bit more on the ball than most games, and is even a marked improvement over the previous games in the series...although not by much: T1 & T2’s AI was pretty good to begin with.

[That is to say, comparitively so; they were not exactly Rhodes scholars.]

Besides the question of the AI’s perceived smartness...smartivity...what ever, I have one problem with the AI’s *existence*: I hate the fact that the City Watch respawns. It’s particularly bad in The Docks and in the Old Quarter. *Especially* down by the docks...one appeared right out of thin air and went on patrol. Sloppy. I HATE respawning AI. It’s stupid and should be stopped RIGHT NOW. With force, if necessary.

Perhaps you recall my review of No One Lives Forever 2 and my problems with its stupid handling of respawning AI. The well of bitterness is deep, my friends.

[You most likely do not recall my NOLF2 review. It was posted on the Hangar many moons ago. I'll be reposting it soon enough.]

In the streets, the AI come in two varieties: armed (City Watch, Hammerites, Pagans) and unarmed (aka, “those dirty son-of-a-bitching snitches”). A subset of the armed variety encompasses the thugs, who will generally leave you alone. With all this in mind, it’s sometimes a mind-numbing chore to get from one area of town to another, which you need to do in order to progress with the story. As with any errand, no matter how big or small, your main obstacle on the streets is people...just like real life, they’re always in the way.

The City Watch (damn them all to Perdition) patrol the town and hate you, but the citizens will leave you alone unless you do something really stupid. I’ll leave that to your imagination. Some of them carry valuables, so pickpocketing is encouraged. Most carry their loot on their belts, which only goes to show that while the people of this world/time/place can create a mechanical eye that really works, they are absolute primitives when it comes to pocket technology. Of course, due to a strange design decision, you practically have to stand on their [CENSORED]ing heels to pickpocket them, but remember that they don’t actually have pockets in the first place. This whole thing makes me very tired and very cranky.

Some of the NPCs wear jewelry, and you have to “mug” them, i.e., wave your dagger at them. That’s not a metaphor. I’ve never gotten this to work; my dagger is apparently ineffectual (that’s not a metaphor either), so I would just beat the shit out of them and pick their possessions up off the ground.

You can now ally yourself with the Hammers and Pagans, by the way. You can ally with either, both, or neither. It’s your choice, but the smart thief will make friends with both factions, mostly because it makes getting around the City a little easier. I only regret not being able to somehow form an uneasy truce with the City Watch, as they would sometimes top fighting larger threats (no spoilers here) and come after *me*...and I’d have to kill them. Sad, but necessary.**
[** Okay, not *sad*, as I hated them and chuckled with malevolence as I fired arrow after arrow into them, but...]

What? Run away from them...instead of killing them? Are you *serious*??

So getting past all of these armed idiots is your recurring nightmare. You can do this by either killing them (much noise and screaming and bleeding and crying), KOing them (the City Watch respawn, so this is pointless in the long run) or by sneaking by them (recommended). Sometimes, it’s just more satisfying to put an arrow in someone’s throat, and you can do that if you wish. There are no killing restrictions on the streets, although you might want to avoid killing members of the factions you’ve allied yourself to, as they don’t really like that sort of thing...you understand.

In the missions themselves, however, *everyone* hates you. Just like in the previous games, yes...you’ll have to watch out for the ubiquitous guards and various unarmed “innocents” (I’ve been skimming through their diaries, however, and utterly reject the notion of their innocence).** In some missions, you’ll face more...interesting...lifeform s, although once again, the Powers That Be have denied us the opportunity to rob from the Valley of the Nymphomaniac Amazon Vixens of the Moon.**
[** A good subtitle for that mission: “They’ll [CENSORED] You...To Death!”]

[** Dear god...buried that one, didn't I? Okay, it was in reference to Marillion's "Emerald Lies."]


[End of Part One.]
Title: Standalone: Thief: Deadly Shadows, part 2
Post by: Silver Sorrow on January 11, 2020, 09:06:01 PM
[Part Two.]


My Amazing Inflatable Shirt And Other Miscellaneous Stuff
[Reference: Again, I'm drawing a complete blank.]

Possibly the best feature of the game is the audio. From the footsteps to the music, this game shines like no other. I can’t say enough about it, but I might as well try...even though this review’s size is reaching proportions that James Clavell could only dream of.

As for the participants in your aural fun:

1) Stephen Russell is top form as Garrett, as well as his other roles (the dumb guard, a Hammerite, etc.), and he manages to make the cynical thief come to life even more vibrantly than in the preceding games, if that’s possible.

2) Returning to the role of the smart guard (and a certain “rock” we all know, among others) is Dan Thron...I knew they’d get Stephen Russell back as Garrett, but my biggest hope was always that Dan Thron would return.

3) Terri Brosius -- a woman who wears many hats (or so I assume) -- does a bang-up job as Shodan, and...wait...okay, never mind. Her role is plot-intensive, so I won’t spoil it.

4) Eric Brosius is a god, okay? Give him lots of money, game companies!

5) Et cetera.


1,001 Nasty Things To Do With A Dagger
[Reference: "Mad Magazine"? "Cracked"? One of those. Something about primers for the urban kids. "1,001 Nasty Things To Do With A Switchblade," I think it was called.]

In keeping with Murphy’s Law, your inventory and the available equipment have been truncated. Once again, thanks to the demands of the XBox -- where the first X = Pandora’s -- we find ourselves at the mercy of limitations so someone with a gamepad won’t get confused by all the options and have an aneurysm. Good riddance anyway.

Not that I’m complaining...much...but the inventory has been severely streamlined and limited; no more scrolling through seventeen thousand items, no. You’re limited to a handful of items, and things like keys, loot, special items and lockpicks aren’t kept in inventory anymore, but in some alternate-dimension inventory that you can’t access. You just have to take the game’s word for it that they’re available when you need them.

So, much of the useful (albeit non-essential) equipment from the preceding games are gone -- most notably the speed potions and rope arrows -- as well as the one piece of equipment that would have made a great deal of difference in gameplay: the gas mine. You do get an exploding mine, something that makes a hell of a lot of noise and kills your adversaries. I would have liked to be able to trap people with non-lethal means, which is possible with the new gas bomb, but I consider this weapon a last resort defense and thus nowhere nearly as satisfying.

A note about the absence of rope arrows in the game: This is the one omission that has had everyone turning their Fruit of the Looms into fudge factories and has kept the Prilosec people rolling in cash. However, since there are very few places in-game where a rope arrow would be useful, it doesn’t really matter if they’re in there or not. Personally, I think the people who were screaming the loudest about the absence of the rope arrows never had problems with rope arrow bugs...therefore, I’m not too broken up over their absence. If I want to use rope arrows, I’ll fire up the other two games.

The additions to your equipment include oil flasks (good for starting fires and causing the AI to pratfall), gas bombs (like flashbombs, but with KO gas), climbing gloves (useful, but poorly implemented) and holy water flasks (negating the need for holy water arrows).

The idea of climbing gloves in an interesting one. Although nice, it isn’t done very well. You can climb up some walls, but not others; apparently the devs felt that Garrett being able to climb up any wall he wanted...well...that isn’t good. So let’s limit him a bit, huh? You can’t climb around corners and you can’t climb over obstructions such as most ledges, either.

Which brings up the subject of ladders: despite being interesting (as in how you climb them), you’re severely limited in the ways you can dismount. You can 1) go all the way to the top whereupon Garrett automatically clambers onto the next level, 2) go all the way to the bottom and keep pressing the down/backwards key until he detaches from the ladder, or 3) hit your jump key and suffer the consequences of falling straight down. There is no way to jump from the ladder onto, say, a level to the side of the ladder.

I had mentioned earlier that the adulterated lean function, which in its unadulterated state was one of the most useful aspects of the other games, was crappy. Well, it is. It makes more sense to flip over to third person mode and check around corners instead of straining Garrett’s groin muscles. Some of us, and by that I mean me, have given up checking around corners altogether and simply run around corners all willy-nilly to collide with very surprised guards. Then the dagger comes out and the combat begins. So you gotta be careful, thanks to the de-improved lean function.

One other major change deals with Garrett’s choice of blade: the dagger. Some bemoan, others applaud. I can go either way on the issue; since I rarely get into fights with the AI, I usually have no cause to whip it out [screams from the townsfolk]** and so it really doesn’t matter to me. I like the preparing-to-backstab and backstabbing animations, so that made the transition easier. I think a compromise could have been made, however: put the sword back in, and let the player choose between that and the dagger. Or let the player choose both...or neither. That way everyone would be happy...for about five seconds. Then they’d find something else to complain about.

[** Blazing Saddles.]

As a side note, some of the objections I’ve seen to the dagger are ludicrous: some don’t want the dagger, or any sort of weapon at all, as they claim it interferes with their concept of the game...so they get on the message boards and piss and moan about having to carry a dagger around, eventually asking if there’s a tweak for this, etc. Okay. This is easily fixed without digging into the game’s guts: DON’T USE THE FUCKING DAGGER.


Ms. PacMan Keeps Dying...Why?
[I was never any good at the Pac-Man family of games.]

Apart from being able to select your desired level of difficulty in the missions, the rest of the game is perpetually stuck on the Normal setting; that is, when in the City streets you can kill anyone and everyone and not fail. While in missions, however, the most restrictive of the no-kill objectives is the directive to avoid killing non-combatants (i.e., servants, etc.). Oh, how far we’ve fallen.

I’ll explain that. Yes, you’re welcome. In the previous games, killing on Expert was an immediate failure of the mission; while I didn’t really agree with that wholeheartedly (I prefer to be able to defend myself if cornered), I certainly understood the reasoning behind such dictates. But in keeping with the console crowd, the stringent anti-killing measures have been softened considerably. Considering that many of the missions are largely free of non-combatants, this restriction doesn’t really have any great impact.

While I’m on the subject of useless goals, let’s look at the typical goals of a mission on the Expert setting. Previously when you played on Expert, the mission would be expanded somewhat; sometimes areas inaccessible on lower skills would be opened, more difficult goals would be assigned, the loot goals would be higher, the AI would be tougher and increased in number, and so on. However, having played through all of the missions both on Normal and Expert, I had no real problems whatsoever...the missions were almost exactly the same, with some minor differences.

Here are the Expert-only goals, in addition to the other goals specific to each mission: find 3 special loot items, don’t kill any non-combatants, and find 90% of the loot. That’s it. Since I am a map scourer, I usually found 96% of the loot (on average) as well as all of the special loot, and I avoided killing anyone...on Normal! I’m not bragging, no...I’m merely pointing out that once you get used to the movement and gameplay, you’ll find the missions no tougher than Lord Bafford’s Scepter on Normal.

I was hoping that we’d get expanded missions, etc. on Expert, but hope in one hand and crap in the other and see which piles up first, huh?

I suppose that for some people, that extra guard on Expert makes a world of difference, but I didn’t find that a problem at all. I’m not calling for more difficulty; I’m just saying that it’s irritating to realize that each mission is basically the same, regardless of difficulty.**  I mean, come on: the very first time I played the Bloodline Opal mission, I walked out with 94% of the loot and all three special loot items, all without killing anyone. Playing on Expert, I had to deal with an extra guard or two, but they were no problem even though their senses were supposed to be heightened.
[** In light of the AI bug, that remark makes more sense than I had thought possible.]

The AI bug, for those of you who were wondering, is something that will probably haunt Ion Storm forever...especially since it occurs on the XBox version, which does not lend itself to patching. Specifically, the bug applies to the AI upon loading a saved game. For example: You start a mission on the Expert skill. You save your game at some point. You eventually screw up and have to reload. Upon reloading, the heretofore heightened senses of the AI will revert to the settings found on the Normal skill level, essentially making the mission Normal with a higher loot goal. It’s a little more complicated than that (just like everything else in life), but that essentially it. Some people were distressed by this problem (who, of course, had to paste frowny-faces all over their posts to convey how saddened they were by such a MONUMENTAL problem [/venomous sarcasm]), and even though I don’t blame them, it’s not something that I let keep me awake at nights, for Azura’s sake.

All you need to know is that the v1.1 patch (supposedly) fixes the problem as well as a few other things that are extraordinarily minor. So download it and shut up about the stupid AI bug, already!


In The Rays Of The Sun, I Am Longing For The Darkness
[Reference: Opeth, "Closure."]

Lighting? It’s there. Shadows, colored light, other cool stuff. No need to get a stiffy over it, since we’ve seen this in DXIW. Well done, even though the vaunted hot-shit lighting engine is unnecessary. Moving on.


More Bugs Than The Russian Consulate
[Reference: none, just observing again.]

I am reminded of a quote by Professor Bobo (Kevin Murphy): “I found the motherlode of deer ticks!” [MST3K]

To offset my own boredom (thirteen MS Word pages and counting!), how about a list? I LOVE lists!

1) Thugs in the street eschewed the use of scabbards and chose instead to carry their swords, by the tips, in their armpits. I wouldn’t recommend the armpit as a place to store your cheese sandwich, much less your sword.

2) The purple spot thingy that remains onscreen after you put away your weapon. A little irritating, but nothing major.

3) The Museum: go to the second-floor in the Tesero Hall (outdoor) garden area. Inspect the large windows. Notice anything? That’s right: the windows aren’t actually attached to the walls!

4) Sloppy brushwork abounds, as you can see glimmers of weird light through the cracks in walls, the ground...

5) There are more bugs, but I think this is becoming a more negative exercise than I had envisioned, so to hell with it.


Ragdoll?? But I HATE Aerosmith!
[Reference: Aerosmith, "Ragdoll."]

My biggest complaint with this game has to do with the ragdoll physics. The tech fanboys may love it, but I loathe ragdoll physics...at least in Thief, that is. While it works nicely in such games as Painkiller and Far Cry (but even in those, it isn’t perfect), here it is a stupid, pointless concept that kills immersion with its ridiculous handling of bodies. Smack someone on the head with the blackjack, and what do you get most of the time? Someone who *folds backwards*, giving the impression that their spine is a Slinky™. Sometimes it works fine, but that’s the exception; the general rule is arms twisted backwards, legs akimbo, torsos bent in half, pretzel spines...it’s a travesty.

Look: the technology didn’t work right in Unreal 2, it was an embarrassment in DXIW, and it’s an eyesore here. A couple of months ago, while I was playing Thief 2, someone passing by my desk remarked on how natural the AI responded when you KOed them. (I get opinions like that all the time, although the comments are usually confined to the disparagement of my wallpaper.) This week: that same person, upon witnessing my blackjacking of a guard in TDS said, and I quote, “That’s stupid.” And they were right. It is stupid.

Oh, here come the pro-ragdoll people. “I think it looks neat!” they proclaim. And that’s okay; they’re entitled to their opinions. But keep in mind that we’re also the species who invented puce leg-warmers and embraced a cigar-chomping shill for a certain pudding conglomerate as “America’s Dad,” and it will all make sense.

[Bill Cosby's embrace of Jell-O Pudding Pops turned out to be the least of his sins...]

The so-called “realism” of ragdolling isn’t really all that realistic at all. Ragdolling theorizes that bodies are made up of rubber tubing; an explosion will send a body flying merrily across the room, where it will hit a wall and crumple in an amusing postion, or just flop around for a while as it tries to find a place to rest. That’s realism, all right.

I know Eidos wanted to keep the rating reasonable, but I would have liked to see bodies...well...come apart...realistically. Hit a guard with a fire arrow and watch his arms fly off? Now THAT’S funny! Bodies bleeding, falling apart, and otherwise leaving a nasty mess...sheer entertainment. But I suppose there would be some sort of opposition to that idea...some people are just like that, I guess.

My point? The ragdoll physics blow. Get rid of ‘em.


This Strange Engine
[Reference: Marillion, "This Strange Engine."]

Was the Unreal 2 engine the right engine for TDS? For the time, yes: it’s a wonderful renderer of...um...stuff...and it plays well; the engine really isn’t to blame for any shortcomings. Blame the XBox and Eidos. The Unreal engine -- and here I am using that as a generic term as there are several iterations of the engine floating about and I hate those anal-retentive weiners who jump on every damned thing you say with some sort of pedantic clarification until you shotgun their fucking kneecaps -- is great at taking care of outdoor-oriented games...the original Unreal, for example. It’s not the Far Cry engine, but so what? We don’t need to be able to see for miles (and miles and miles and miles and miiiiiiiiiiiiles),** although that would have been nice.

[** Reference: The Who, "I Can See For Miles."]

No, I take that back. If nothing else, the CryEngine would have been perfect for this game. The City is a big place, and being able to walk from one side to the other without too many loading zones would have been simply astounding. While I’m blueskying, I hope Bethsoft uses the CryEngine for their next installment of the Elder Scrolls...just to get rid of that “Loading Area” crap.

[They didn't. They used the same horribly aging engine up through Fallout 4. IDIOTS.]

Anyway, the only problem is that the Unreal engine is a system hog, and the outdated specs of the XBox cannot handle very much in the way of “things going on”...which is a common console problem anyway. So the solution is to cut the map sizes down considerably and add low-quality textures to the game. Hooray! Problem solved!

The drawback (not the only one, no) is that since these nimrod factories -- the game companies, that is -- expect to garner most of their revenue from the sales to the console crowd, the PC-specific audience is usually left with a substandard product that isn’t very good in terms of playability and looks.

It’s a tribute to the ingenuity of the developers that TDS rises above the limitations placed upon it. However, this only makes me wonder how great the game could have been without those limitations, and I can only sympathize with the people involved in the development of this potentially wonderful game, who had the misfortune of gazing at several years’ worth of inspiration and hard work being funneled down into XBox-friendly size. Kneecapped again. I won’t even go into the massive lay-offs (aka, “the final kick in the ass”), as it’s too damned depressing. Eidos...whatta company.

[Good riddance.]

So if you’re ever involved in the development of a game -- hell, even if you have an interesting *idea* for a game -- it’s better just to keep it to yourself. Stay home and see how many household items you can cram up your ass, because it’s better to do it to yourself than let Corporate America do it for you.


The Much-Promised List Of Pros And Cons! You Lucky Bastard!
And now for a Pro and Con list because...well, because I’m tired of editing this thing down into anything less than novella length.

In The Happy Corner:

- Thoroughly enjoyable missions.

- Excellent audio: voice acting, atmosphere, music, etc.

- Terrific models (except for the female civilians, who are odd).

- Great story.

- Atmospheric and engrossing.

- No rope arrows! [no rope arrows = no rope arrow bugs.]

- Garrett’s footsteps are more tolerable now...walking on tile isn’t as mind-numbing as it used to be.

- No swimming! Swimming is overrated anyway. Breath potions, awkward movement, and you just KNOW some ass-clown wants to put killer fish in the water.

- Shooting a member of the City Watch has never been more satisfying. Let’s put a Glock in the next game to make it even MORE fun. Or an RPG! The City streets awash in the blood of guards? I can live with that.

- Legitimate copies of the game have the required password (located in a readme file in the content\t3\books subdirectory) to disable the virus bomb hard-coded into the game itself; pirated copies, sadly, do not have this password.

- Naked breasts everywhere! Bouncing and jiggling happily away! All colors, all shapes, all sizes!

- The Rabbit finally gets his Trix.

[I don't remember which of those I made up. Just assume they're all totally real.]


...And In The Frowny Face Corner:

- Not as interesting the third time around. I only bring this up because I had to play through three times to get good screenshots. And speaking of which...

- Taking screenshots is an exercise in frustration.

- Quite a few bugs that should have been taken care of before release.

- Garrett’s awkward, jerky movement. As I’ve said elsewhere, if someone could please bring back the “camera with an arm attached” movement that the gaming intelligentsia (as such) were sneering at, I would be much obliged.

- The ragdolling effect, at least in this game, can be likened to a dog cleaning its unmentionable areas.

- Wall-climbing with the climbing gloves is a poorly-implemented affair.

- No rope arrows; the damnable limitations of the climbing gloves make rope arrows a nostalgic enigma, bugs and all.

- No swimming...literally. Apparently Garrett’s forgotten how to swim since T2, so a leap off the docks is very, very bad.

- There isn’t a sure-fire way to tell if bodies are alive or dead by picking them up, as in the previous games’ “unconscious body” or “corpse” descriptions.

- You can’t crouch while carrying bodies, and you apparently need 500 feet of clear space (minor exaggeration) before you can dump ‘em.

- While crouched, you don’t have footsteps; nor do your feet make noise while you’re lugging bodies.

- Out of the box, the lean function isn’t all that useful. And since leaning is laughable, you’ll probably end up running into guards more often than you like.

- Setting fire to the AI isn’t as much fun as in some other games.

- Sadly, the mission where Garrett visits Little Hanoi and gets his rocks off with a group of highly skilled “pleasure workers” has been omitted from the US release.

- Yes, the Rabbit gets his Trix, but the scene where he takes a colorful dump into the Trix boxes before the kids wake up...well, that’s just *disturbing*.

[Yes, I listed the absence of rope arrows and swimming in both lists. Confounding, isn’t it?]


Wait...Let Me Sum Up
[Reference: I'm...not sure. It was a Mel Brooks movie, I believe.]

Fun!


The Envelope Please, Ms. Randall
[In regards to Kelly Randall from the Abstract.]

4.25 out of 5


Technical Garbage

Minimum:
Something a little better than what you’re running now.

Recommended:
Something more than you can afford.

Supposedly Will Not Run With:
Win95/98/CE/ME/NT...say it fast, it’s funny!
Laptop systems.
Etch-A-Sketch.
Anything you’re running at this moment.

[And that's that for the main Thief stuff. Stick around for bonus material and some general just-screwin'-around crap I had laying around.]