Author Topic: The Thief Review Resurrection Thread: Preface (i.e., Read This Post First)  (Read 5531 times)

Offline Silver Sorrow

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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
#2: Bloodstone Prison
#3: Autumn In Lampfire Hills
#4: Lord Edmund Entertains!
#5: The Vigil
#6: The Order Of The Vine
#7: Shunned
#8: Seeds Of Doubt
#9: Curse Of The Ancients
#10: Mages Area
#11: The Secret Way

Thief 2
#1: The Inverted Manse
#2: TTGM: Errand Boy
#3: Saturio Returns Home
#4: Benny's Dead
#5: Art Of Thievery
#6: Calendra's Legacy
#7: The 7th Crystal
#8: Keeper Of The Prophecies, Book 1
#9: Island Of Iron Series
#10: Bloodsport
#11: Dyer's Eve
#12: Ominous Bequest
#13: Rowena's Curse
#14: Lord Fishkill's Curse
#15: Relic: Left For Dead
#16a: The Lord Ashton Series, Part 1
#16b: The Lord Ashton Series, Part 2
#17a: The Night Falcon, Part 1
#17b: The Night Falcon, Part 2
#18: The Curse Of The Falcon
#19: Lord Alan's Basement
#20: Lord Alan's Fortress
#21: The Enterprise
#22: Oracle of the Prophets
#23: Shore Leave & Up Shit Creek
#24: The Seven Sisters

Standalones
Thief Gold, part 1
Thief Gold, part 2
Thief 2: The Metal Age, part 1
Thief 2: The Metal Age, part 2
Thief: Deadly Shadows, part 1
Thief: Deadly Shadows, part 2

Further updates as events warrant.
« Last Edit: January 12, 2020, 12:21:39 PM by Silver Sorrow »
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Offline Silver Sorrow

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T1/G 001: Cult of the Resurrection
« Reply #1 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
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...]
« Last Edit: December 21, 2019, 11:55:04 AM by Silver Sorrow »
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Offline Silver Sorrow

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T1/G 002: Bloodstone Prison
« Reply #2 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
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...]
« Last Edit: December 21, 2019, 11:55:53 AM by Silver Sorrow »
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Offline Starfox

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Silver Sorrow and the big Oyster Dilemma...  :biglaugh: I missed those moments


Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world. -- A. Einstein

Offline Silver Sorrow

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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:
It is the scent of garlic that lingers on my chocolate fingers

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T1/G 003: Autumn In Lampfire Hills
« Reply #5 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. 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
French Version: Cheap Thief Missions
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 in the original Thief version, and/or The Shadow of Lord Rothchest, 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?!??"]
« Last Edit: December 21, 2019, 11:57:02 AM by Silver Sorrow »
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Offline Silver Sorrow

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T1/G 004: Lord Edmund Entertains!
« Reply #6 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
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...]
« Last Edit: December 21, 2019, 11:58:28 AM by Silver Sorrow »
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Offline Silver Sorrow

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T1/G 005: The Vigil
« Reply #7 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
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...]
« Last Edit: December 21, 2019, 11:59:12 AM by Silver Sorrow »
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Offline Silver Sorrow

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T1/G 006: The Order of the Vine
« Reply #8 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.

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
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.]
« Last Edit: December 21, 2019, 03:31:36 PM by Silver Sorrow »
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Offline Silver Sorrow

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T1/G 007: Shunned
« Reply #9 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
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]

[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.]
« Last Edit: December 21, 2019, 06:35:23 PM by Silver Sorrow »
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T1/G 008: Seeds Of Doubt
« Reply #10 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
Hints: at CTM
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.]
« Last Edit: December 22, 2019, 12:09:04 PM by Silver Sorrow »
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Offline Silver Sorrow

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T1/G 009: Curse Of The Ancients
« Reply #11 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
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...]
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Offline Silver Sorrow

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T1/G 010: Mages Area
« Reply #12 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
the "Regular" (hard) version at CTM
the French version at CTM
Walkthrough: at ttlg.com
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...]
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Offline Silver Sorrow

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T1/G 011: The Secret Way
« Reply #13 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

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.]
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Offline Silver Sorrow

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T2 001: The Inverted Manse
« Reply #14 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

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.]


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] 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...]
It is the scent of garlic that lingers on my chocolate fingers