Author Topic: The Thief Review Resurrection Thread: Preface (i.e., Read This Post First)  (Read 5532 times)

Offline Silver Sorrow

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T2 016: Lord Ashton Series, Part 2
« Reply #30 on: December 30, 2019, 12:57:10 PM »
PART TWO


Revenge

Gameplay: Humans, burricks, a fire elemental; stealing a bunch of stuff / revenging yourself upon the woman who done you wrong / hey Garrett where you goin’ with that sword in your hand? / I'm goin' down to stab my old lady / you know I caught her betrayin' me to The Man /

After your infamous break from prison in which 168 innocent souls lost their lives, you decided to teach your betrayer, Lady Helena, a lesson she’ll never forget: you’re going to kill her. That should be pretty memorable. Unfortunately, everyone is on the lookout for your face, so it wouldn’t do any good to cut around the edges and peel it off, masquerading around town as a non-threatening Haunt. So you’d probably better stick with that stealth thing people keep talking about.

Yes, I said Lady Helena was responsible for your incarceration. This answers the question I was dancing around in the previous mission review. So much for attempting plot preservation. Anyway, she was being blackmailed by Truart and she turned you in. Seems Truart found some fascinating (read: hot) letters she wrote to a man who isn’t her husband, and wouldn’t her husband find them interesting? So into the clink *you* go.

That’s where you stand. Not in jail, that was the last mission. Situationally, I mean. Find Lady Helena and kill her. But first, you gotta get in to get out.* The key to the front gates of her mansion is in the possession of her husband, who spends a lot of time at the Hotel Maritime getting sloshed. If you can’t figure THAT hint out, you really should be playing something easier. It goes without saying that the town’s crawling with cops (more or less), and you shouldn’t be smiling about it, unless you’re like me and enjoy hitting people. If they catch you, they won’t merely consent to strip you of your dignity in a series of highly-invasive cavity searches, no; they’ll simply kill you and kick your corpse repeatedly. Are you gonna stand for that? No!
[* The tickler may take his stickleback, but the carpet crawlers still heed their callers.]

[Admittedly Obscure Reference: Genesis' "Carpet Crawlers" from The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway.]

The problem here is that you have to find a way to GET to Lady Helena. Scouring the town for cash and info is good, but there comes a point when you have to suck it up and put ‘er down. Ouch. Just got hit in the face with a few potential double-entendres. And another one by complete accident. I'm not trying to do a Tera Patrick** impression, it just sorta happens. What happens online stays online, my little bubbling cutie-poos.

[** Tera Patrick is a porn star. She gets hit in the face a lot with...you know what? Never mind. Not important.]

This map really isn’t all that big; there are essentially four main areas -- by the bookshop where you start, the front of the hotel, the back of the hotel, Lady Helena’s estate -- so this map will tick by fairly quickly if you know what you’re doing.

Yes, this mission is somewhat short and lacking in dozens of people walking around the streets, but hey! It’s raining! What can you expect? The other day I saw some woman nearly kill herself running to her car just to avoid a light sprinkling of rain. Jeebus Xmas, people! It won’t make you melt! When they say “acid rain,” it doesn’t mean sulfuric acid!

[And they do the same thing when they're driving in wet conditions, apparently attempting to dodge the invidual drops of rain. My opinion of humanity -- already very low -- drops even more in bad weather.]

Anyway.

So you’ve assaulted everyone worth assaulting in the hotel, you have the mansion key, and you’ve strained your eyes mercilessly (hey, that rhymed!) looking for tiny gold rings worth 100 gold each. Now you need to get to Her Ladyship’s estate. After alerting both guards with your subtle way of opening the gate, you’re inside. Nice place! Have you stolen everything that isn’t nailed down? Good! Now find Lady Helena and make her squeak...um...but before you try that, you might have noticed by now that you don’t have a sword. Sure, you could probably turn her into a pincushion, but wouldn’t you feel better with a sword, just in case you run out of arrows?

You may remember Constantine’s sword from the original Thief. Yes, it was a magic sword that didn’t make you any more conspicuous than your blackjack when drawn. No one at LGS thought it important enough to explain its absence in Thief II, which means -- naturally -- that the sword is still the subject of endless (and tiresome) (and stupid) debate. However, it’s explained in this mission that you sold the sword to Lady H. a while back and you’ve missed it ever since. So find it on her estate and kill her (I cannot stress that point enough). But watch out! She’s not entirely helpless, and she’s made friends with a fire elemental.

So she’s dead, right? Great! Now go to the side door by the front gates and meet your friend Leon. All done? Terrific. Onward we march to the next mission.

But first, ponder over my ubiquitous list of quaint and curious forgotten (or not) lore:

[We seemed to be missing #2 here. It's not on the main site review, either...but I found it in Southquarter's preserved version of the review. And then I realized that somehow I screwed up the list entirely when I reposted it for the Foxhole, and that #2 was shifted to #1 (erasing that one) and omitting a second entry entirely. So I've restored the list to how it should have been (with some minor tweaks). Once again, my thanks to the fine folks at Southquarter.]

1) The drunk guard at Lady Helena's: Kyle Kartan. I suppose the author really meant "Katarn," but I got the gist anyway.

2) In the building by the iron gates leading to Lady Helena’s estate, there is a small burrick pen. In the pen is a secret door which is opened by a torch holder. I don’t mind giving away this information, because the rooms in that building appear to have no purpose whatsoever besides a higher view of the area. No loot, no equipment...nothing but a table with a lamp on the uppermost floor. Strange.

3) My only advice in getting past that gate that blocks your goal of getting to the mansion is this: an arrow. You could use a broadhead, sure. But wouldn't a moss arrow make less noise? Hmmmm? Well...unfortunately, the only moss arrows I found are in Lady Helena's estate...beyond the gate. Oh, well. So you make a little noise. Big deal.

4) Lady Helena’s kitchen is quite impressive.

5) Do they have photography in the Thief world? No? Then how did my (Garrett’s) picture get on the wanted posters? Maybe they just found a Thief box somewhere and used that.

Level Stats
KO’s: 31
Kills: 2 (a fire elemental, Lady Helena)
Loot: 6888 / 6958


In Search of Leon

Gameplay: Humans, a fire elemental; infiltration / more stealing / searching / finding

After shattering the hopes, dreams and lives of the citizenry during your last rampage, you took a long, extraordinarily libertine vacation touring the fleshpots of Southeast Asia. And although the trip was worth suffering through the lingering physical after-effects, you returned with enough mental scarring to keep a convention of psychoanalysts busy for years...needless to say, you’ll never look at a ping-pong ball in quite the same way again. When your genitalia finally swelled to the size of a maritime craft, you took your massive injections of penicillin like a man and hobbled (gingerly) home.

This would go far to explain why Garrett runs like a man suffering from advanced syphilis.

Anyway, once home you sift through your mail (eight offers for a City Express card, three flyers from a lawn-mowing service, pizza coupons, subscription offers to “Harper’s Thievery,” and “Teen Thief,” et cetera) and find a letter from Madame Kira -- remember her from the second mission? -- asking you to steal a valuable book from Sir Hrothgar von Hagen...who may also know something about your missing buddy, Leon.

Yes, Leon. He’s gone missing in his quest to pick up that stupid book, and it’s your job to get into some rich nutcase’s castle and find both Leon and the book. Typical Christine visual wizardry abounds, although the guards are a bit confused sometimes and get stuck in doorways. Maybe they’re amazed.

...I mean maybe they're amazed by the mission, not at the way you love me all the time.

[Paul McCartney. Wings. "Maybe I'm Amazed."]

Once again it’s another mansion rob, this time in the form of a castle. The author exceeds at these sort of missions, so you’ll feel comfortable here...probably. I make no assumptions about your comfort. Although this mission features roughly the same amount of game time as the previous mission, it has more secret areas and loot bonanzas. I especially liked the architecture and texturing -- the pillared main hall was quite interesting* -- and can’t help but note that this castle looks very clean, much like Paul’s grandfather.**
[* Reminding me, strangely enough, of the storage rooms of Marlinspike Hall in Hergé’s Tintin book, The Secret of the Unicorn.]

[** The Beatles. A Hard Day's Night. The movie. Was I on some sort of Beatles kick at the time?]

So now you’re inside, what do you do? Mistreat everyone, yes...that’s a given; but you really need to find that book and Leon. From your investigations, Leon’s been captured and has been resisting interrogation; he’s still alive, but how much do you want to bet he’s unconscious and that you’ll have to sling him over your shoulder and stagger out of there? They’ve tied his shoelaces together, the bastards!

[Referring to Rowan Atkinson's character in Hot Shots! Part Deux.]

Although this mission is relatively short, it is very much enjoyable. But just when you think the series is over, here comes another one! Yee-haw!

Hey! How about another list of stuff?

1) They say three on a match is bad luck, but I consider three on a flashbomb to be quite stylish.

2) Sir Hrothgar?? I suppose I’ll have to beat the snot out of Grendel too, while I’m at it. Typical.

[You know, Grendel? King Hrothgar's bane? From Beowulf? Read a BOOK, people!]

3) Sir Hrothgar’s son Andre wants to be a musician. Oh, the horror! Look on the bright side, though: at least he doesn’t want to be a dancer. I'll stand on my tippy-toes and stretch out my hand to pluck a star from the sky and put it in my pock-- oh, poopie. Leotards don't have pockets!

[It's interesting to note that I'm not on drugs.]

4) In addition to being a scruffy, immature musician of questionable talent -- not to mention being a prolific collector of teddy bears -- Sir Andre is being set up to court Lord Ashton’s daughter, Carla. He’s probably not interested, as groupies are more fun, after all. There’s always one who can show up with a bucket of dead fish and make it an erotic experience...as opposed to a cold, clammy, and fundamentally creepy nightmare. Then again, that can be highly erotic too, if it's done right.

5) The loot totals get smaller and smaller with each installment in the series...not a value judgment or anything, just an observation.

6) Sir Hrothgar has an interesting collection of heraldic shields. One bears a basilisk...or is it a tricked-out chicken? Another depicts an eagle about to snicker-snag on a duck. (See the screenshot.) Hmmm...

[You'll just have to use your imagination.]

Level Stats
KO’s: 31
Kills: 1 (fire elemental)
Loot: 6231 / 6471


The Secret of Sir Stefan

Gameplay: Humans, burricks; town map / sewer-swim / thieves’ hideout

After your escapade to rescue Leon and retrieve a magic book for Madame Kira, you shook any pursuing heavily-armed employees of Sir Hrothgar’s by detonating a small, “dirty” thermonuclear device, ultimately wiping out thousands of souls in a flash and causing the rest to suffer and die of various excruciating fallout-related illnesses. All’s fair in love and thievery, after all.

Or maybe you just dreamed it.

Anyway, now that you’re Madame Kira’s errand boy, she wants you to pick up a couple of interesting items (you’ve traded in one demanding harridan for another...how nice): the Mystic’s Soul and the Mystic’s Heart. Perhaps you remember these items from the original Thief. If not, then don’t worry: they’re large gems and NOT icky organic things that require fireplace tongs and a Hazmat suit to handle.

The Mystic’s Soul was in the hands of the Mechanists until a couple weeks ago, meaning that it’s all sweaty and smells of fuel oil. One of Madame Kira’s boys managed to steal it, but not without alerting everyone this side of Hell. He managed to get rid of it before being caught though, and it hasn’t been found yet. The Mystic’s Heart is reputedly in the possession of Sir Stefan, supposedly an upstanding weapons dealer, but he’s really a big fat jerk and the head of the local thieves’ guild, although he looks great in spangled tights and stiletto heels as he trolls for rich johns. Not that you’ve previously picked him up by mistake while visiting a bad part of town or anything, no.

It’s just a matter of (secret) record that the hideout is secret -- what, you want everyone to know where you’re hiding?? -- but you’ll find it, or your name isn’t...uh...

In addition to these two baubles, you’ll need to stop by Lady Irmgard’s and relieve her of a valuable harp. Oh, and Sir Hrothgar’s idiot son, Andre, is staying with her; he pretty much ran away from home when he learned he was to be married to Lady Carla. Not that I blame him, as she resembles a Halle Berry Halloween mask stretched over a half-deflated volleyball. Well, maybe that’s my fault. The skin I modified for the noblewoman model didn’t come out all that well and I didn't really care enough to fix it.

[Texturing is easy. But only talent makes it look good.]

Well, that pretty much covers the mission. Find one gem, get the harp, infiltrate the secret thief hideout for the other gem, and get out. Pretty straightforward, yes. The only problem you’ll face is twitchy AI; specifically, thieves who have pounded down so many Triple Mocha-Coke Insaneccinos that they’re like really big black hummingbirds with swords (but with hands to hold those swords, you know?); this makes the thieves’ hideout a bit more difficult than you’d think. The rest of the AI prove to be no problem at all, although the fish in the waterways kept resorting to ramming speed and slowed me down.

This mission is another town mission, albeit a little larger and more detailed than the previous four missions. The streets are cozy and quaint, with plenty of detail to keep your eyes busy while you skulk about. There really is nothing too much out of the ordinary -- for this author, anyway -- but the very act of getting the Mystic’s Heart can be quite fun if you have fire arrows. I hate burricks.

So what’s next? Another mission!

But first, I’d like to sing a little song about the inscrutable...

1) Lady Irmgard is hot! Well...okay, so I gave the skin Lynda Carter’s face and cleavage. That probably explains it.

[A bit of texture work that went right.]

2) I’ve managed to club Sir Andre twice now, and I want to hit him again. Is that wrong?

3) Andre can’t sleep without his teddy bear, I guess.

4) Who owned the thieves’ hideout before the thieves moved in? Judging by the stained glass designs, Satan.

Level Stats
KO’s: 42
Kills: 3 (burricks)
Loot: 6582 / 6727


A Winter’s Night

Gameplay: Humans; snow / town / jeweler’s shop / apartment-hunting

Snow! I wanna wash the blood off my hands and sword with snowwwwww...

[I'm dreaming of a red Christmas...]

[Okay, okay. It's "Snow," from White Christmas. You know the scene: four clowns sitting on a train, singing joyously about the benefits of frostbite. Great movie, otherwise.]

Welcome to the town of New Bungwich. Maybe that isn’t the name. There was a lot of snow on the sign. Anyway, the ground is covered with a fresh blanket of snow, and you’re extremely broke. You’re in town to “acquire” a valuable diamond and find some guy’s weapons cache, not to mention a warm place to stay.

See, it’s a winter wonderland out there, although I’ve always wondered how hypothermia can be classified as a wonderful thing. More Hollywood propaganda, I imagine. All I know is that if I see Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye in Santa suits I’m running like hell in the opposite direction.

[For good reason: both of them have been dead for years. They're obviously zombies.]

You might have noticed that I’m running out of relevant things to say about the missions. I can’t really help it. Mansion, town, prison, town, castle, town, and now town again. The next mission is a mansion, and it’s getting a little mind-numbing because I REALLY should have taken a day’s break between missions instead of playing through them all in one day. Still, this is a good (if short) mission with plenty of swag and head-busting to do. And it’s free, so I don’t have anything to complain about, do I?

I also don’t have that much to say about it beyond its beauty and that it's one of my favorite missions in the campaign, so let’s move on to the final mission.

Continue-us Interruptus:

1) I’m sure all those people I left in the snowdrifts with bleeding head wounds will be just fine.

2) When I opened the door to the pub (I had put out the nearby torch so I wouldn’t be seen), the lady bartender freaked and ran straight for the exit. You know, if you’re THAT jumpy...

3) Hey, there’s a snowman! Hey, what a snowman. They say a snow year's a good year filled with the love of all who lie so deep...but since I'm all out of love, I tried to mug him of his corn-cob pipe, button-nose and both eyes made from coal. But the bastard just wouldn’t give them up, so I had to fire-arrow him. Pray for the snowman.*
[* Genesis. ...And Then There Were Three. You're welcome.]

[Specifically, the song "Snowbound."]

4) Garrett is now squatting on prime real estate. Maybe he should have taken all that loot he’s gathered up so far and buy a nice studio apartment downtown?

Level Stats
KO’s: 17
Kills: 0
Loot: 5642 / 5692


The Wedding of Sir Andre

Gameplay: Humans, a baby burrick (Rest In Pieces); mansion rob / crashing a wedding party / stealing cake / eating all the cake / getting sick / tummy ache / praying for death or an ipecac / the end of the series (probably)

So here you are, standing in front of the mansion belonging to one Lady Gertrud “Stein” Ashton, Lord Ashton’s mother, and you are impressed. This mansion deserves its own zip code. Big mansion like that? Why, it’d probably take a nuke to destroy! Luckily, you have a few of those, thanks to your Russian connections.

Again, maybe you dreamed it.

But it seems that so far, the Ashton family and the von Hagen clan have survived the walking catastrophe that is Garrett. You just can’t leave these people alone, can you? You won’t be happy until they’re covered in sores and begging in the streets! God, I admire you. And by “you” I mean “Garrett.”

But until then, you have to get inside the mansion and steal a few specific items. One of these is a scepter belonging to Lady Ashton, although it looks more like a wizard’s staff than a scepter. As if I knew what I was talking about. Another is a very special and rare weapon that’s the property of the captain of the guards, Oskar Denton. *Another* item is the gift that Lady Barbara -- Sir Stefan’s widow -- is going to present to the happy (?) couple; she’s been known to give extravagant gifts, but judging by the wrapping, it’s something circus-related. Yet another item of interest is the wedding ring ordered by Sir Andre, which is in the possession of Sir Ar-Zimrathon, who is witness to the marriage. ANOTHER guest, George Foreman, has this amazing steam-powered grill that has been scientifically proven to drain money from your wallet. So I made that up. Even so, it’s still quite a list.

So how do you get in there? Me, I decided suavely on the side door, and right off the bat I cracked Lady Barbara’s skull. Baby won’t you let me be your side door man?** Anyway, there’s a letter in her rooms thanking her for coming in spite of “unfortunate happenings.” Hey, what do you know? I’m an unfortunate happening! But I’m sure you knew that already. It seems that Sir Stefan met with a tragic end, and even though you never touched him, you’re a suspect in the rotten bastard’s death. Okay, so maybe you gassed him (with an arrow!) like I did. We are subtle and efficient, are we not? It’s not like we routinely take a carving knife and cut our victims from ass to appetite. Not in Thief, anyway.

[** As far as I can tell, I was referring to Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love."]

So! That’s a lot of tile, huh? This mission is the culmination of the series, and what better way to celebrate that fact than to put every single bit of tile in the world in your mansion? I don’t think I have that many moss arrows. But really, I do like the *color* of the tile, a kind of mauve...in fact, there’s one bathroom done in mauve that I liked quite a bit...uh...but mauve’s a totally fruity color and completely unsuitable for a manly man like me! A man in tights, yessss, but...

[Reference: Robin Hood: Men In Tights.]

Let’s see: how to describe this place, other than “big”? Standard synonyms include: ample, capacious, colossal, enormous, gigantic, huge, hulking, humungous, immense, jumbo, mammoth, massive, monstrous, ponderous, prodigious, substantial, vast, walloping, whopping, and other words that are suitable to the task. This is a place that could house England if they got behind on the rent and were evicted. In short, it’s a rather large dwelling. Again, not as big as the mansion in Art of Thievery, but I won't hold that against it.

Features include many rooms and quite a few bathrooms, two indoor pools (which can double as toilets in the case of emergencies), two staircases, enough carpeting upstairs to keep the Persians rich for centuries (who needs all that icky oil, anyway?), and a LOT of tile; perhaps I’ve mentioned it before. There’s also a zillion little trinkets laying around, so feel free to line your pockets. My only regret is that the kitchen wasn’t as needlessly (yet pleasingly) elaborate as in previous missions.

So it’s a straightforward mansion-rob with a couple of interesting features (Oskar Denton’s special weapon, for example); nothing bizarre or totally out of the ordinary, but Holy Shiitake does it look fantastic. Normally, I like these mansion missions to have a few bizarre secrets (as in the mansion in “Shining Standards” for example, which had a ratio of roughly four secrets for every guard), but this is fine as-is.

You know, a normal person would probably feel a little guilty about robbing a couple of families gearing up for a wedding, but then again, I’m not exactly normal. I even stole the wedding cake. See, I’m the Banquo at their banquet, their fifteen stone first-footer, hell...I’m the thirteenth at the table! In summary, I’m the uninvited guest.*
[* With apologies to Marillion.]

[Perhaps I should be apologizing to the reader instead. Anyway, reference: Marillion, "The Uninvited Guest."]

So with the mansion emptied of loot and the people inside dreaming of little stars and twittering birdies, you should make your way back to the main gates. You’ve never eaten so much cake in your life, and you think you’re gonna-- NO! Not in the fish pond! Arrrrrrrrgh...

The Last Interruption:

1) Sir Andre was three sheets to the wind, not that I blame him; Lady Carla isn’t exactly Catherine Bell...or even Yoko Ono, for that matter.

[Those timely and relevant references just keep coming!]

2) The guards on patrol tended to clump together; perhaps they’re all agoraphobic?

3) That song that plays when you frob the mandolins in this pack? I now hate that song for all eternity.

4) Lady Ashton had a baby burrick as a pet. I stress “had.”

5) Doughnuts! Or, in the American parlance, “donuts.” I weep for my country.

6) Beautiful wedding cake. And it’s interesting to note that Garrett can eat that much cake without throwing up. I know I can’t.

7) So we meet again, Mr. Bear...or shall I call you “Teddy”?

8) When I went into Sir Ar-Zimrathon’s room to get the ring, I decided to unlock the far door on the other side of the room and take care of the archers on the parapet, but one of the archers, who was apparently standing right in front of the door with his face to it (!?!), started yelling and took aim. I scooted out of the room without injury and flashbombed him when he followed. Surprised the hell out of me. I don’t recall making any noise to alert him, so maybe he got misplaced after a reload. He should have been roughly twenty feet away and looking the other way, but sometimes weird things happen.

9) Allow me a pun: Captain Denton’s secret weapon should let me give my foes a serious “shock” to their “systems”! Great. Now I feel dirty and ashamed, and not in a good way.

10) Even though I clubbed or gassed (arrows, son, arrows) everyone else into unconsciousness, I left Lady Nightwalker alone. After all, who else will help me if I get into trouble? I hope she appreciates my kindness.

[The reference is to Nightwalker at the TTLG forums, the nicest person imaginable.]

11) Although this place is much bigger than Lord Ashton’s, it only has, what, about 60% the loot of that mission?

12) Speaking of loot, I came up about 195 short. Though that doesn’t seem to be a lot, it’s still enough cash for the Ashtons & von Hagens to buy a few broadheads and get their bloody revenge upon me. This disturbs me.

Level Stats
KO’s: 47
Kills: 1 (a burrick)
Loot: 7905 / 8100

Campaign Summary?
Visually stunning maps, but with some repetitive gameplay after a couple of missions: serious medical problems are inevitable if you try to play them all in one sitting, so good luck with that. A fine series.

Annoyance Rating:
Mild.

Campaign Score:
5 out of 5

Campaign Stats:
Expert Skill
KO’s: 299
Kills: 21 (only one human, Lady Helena)
Loot: 63,776 / 64,676 (900 short! Crud!)

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

Offline Silver Sorrow

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T2 017: The Night Falcon Series, Part 1
« Reply #31 on: December 30, 2019, 09:18:00 PM »
[While I had this review up at the Hangar, I never did post it on the Foxhole. You can find the Hangar's version at Southquarter, complete with screenshots. Some of them are even amusing. Many thanks to Brethren, Christine, et al.]

[Due to character restrictions, I've split this review into two posts.]


T2: The Night Falcon Series


Game: Thief 2
Title: The Night Falcon
Author: Christine Schneider
E-mail: N/A
Homepage: http://www.southquarter.com/christine/
Filename: Night-Falcon-EnglishV2.zip
Filesize: 168mb
Download: Cheap thief Missions
Walkthrough: At Southquarter (Click on the link to the mission you need help solving.)
Score: 5 / 5

Version Note: This review was written before the latest version was released; some issues I’ve mentioned here have probably been fixed with the new version.

Ever-Present Custom Stuff Note: You know the drill...custom skins, HUD, what have you. This campaign adds a few custom models and skins to the mix, so don’t hurt yourself trying to sort out what is or isn’t mine.

[Need I say the words?]

Abstract:
Naaaaah. Still short on bats...but if you really want bats, then play this campaign. There are bats aplenty. This is my chance to stock up, so...

The Basics:
Equipment Store(s): Yes
Skill Settings: Yes
Map/Automap: Not really
Puzzle Difficulty: Fluctuates
General Difficulty: Medium; Medium-Hard in later missions
New Stuff: but of course
Gameplay: I cover that in the individual entries


Onward!
Seven missions. Wow. This series, from what I gather, was supposed to part of an elaborate scheme on the part of German FM authors to destroy my free time completely. Although the project fell apart, Christine put together what she had already finished and modified the overall campaign and story; the full explanation is in the text file, so forgive my oversimplification and/or sludging of the facts, whatever they may be. Despite its truncated nature, this campaign still managed to keep me off the streets and out of trouble quite nicely, the arson charges notwithstanding.

[Burn down one orphanage and it's like you're typecast for life. Hey, I like burning down OTHER things too, y'know...]

One of the things (besides the .mis files themselves) that shoots the filesize up to staggering heights is the presence of .avi cutscenes; that’s perfectly fine by me, as they are a thoughtful touch to the overall experience. Those of you still on dial-up connections may feel otherwise, and I more or less feel your pain. [Mostly less.] Anyway, although they really don’t provide any relevant info to the missions, they do show off the next mission a little...nice music, too. But you know Windows...if I watch anything with Media Player (a pox upon it!) before playing Thief, the game will skip the cutscenes. This can be fixed by the codec thingamawhatsit on one of the game CDs,* but even so I find that a reboot before playing will let me see the movies.
[*  I’ve probably already mentioned this before, but I hate the whole codec thing. Some people like THIS one, some like THAT one, and it’s such a big bunch of techno-weenie bullshit that it HAS to have its reality-challenged combatants, just like the whole Mac versus PC thing...who gives a bleeding crap, anyway??]

[Thankfully, media players such as VLC takes care of such things so neo-Luddites such as myself don't have to mess with them.]

Okay. For the purpose of this review, all missions were played on Expert skill; I’m following the format I put together for my review of the author’s Lord Ashton series (gameplay, mission story, stats, etc.), so if you’ve read that, then...well, I apologize. But it should seem familiar, anyway.

Storyline Note: Before you start cracking skulls in each mission, read your diary. This will give you background info and an explanation of your goals.


A Shopping Walk
Gameplay: Humans, a zombie, a Haunt; walking / looting / info gathering

You’re broke. Your landlord is threatening to toss you out on your blackjack if you don’t make the rent tomorrow, so tonight you’re skulking out to make a bit of profit off the town, as well as your landlord. You’re going to filch his house key and steal his stuff, including his gold pocket watch, a treasured family heirloom. While you’re out, it might be a good idea to check out the Hammerites and see what they’re up to; it never hurts to know what’s going on. Unless you’re Bill Clinton...then you have to deny everything when everyone knows you know and YOU know you know, but you can’t let THEM know that you know that they know you know what you know, you know?

[And should they know too much? Have them killed in such an incompetent manner that it's blindingly obvious that you were responsible in some way.]

So take a look around your house -- nice! -- and grab your equipment, because you have lots of things to do and less time to do them in. Look *very* carefully around the kitchen fireplace...I’ll give you that one for free.

[Mel Brooks trademark line: we have much to do and less time to do it in.]

So you’re outside. I suppose you’re now living in the nice section of town (after all the cash you scraped up in the Lord Ashton series, it’s no wonder); there are a couple of friendly cops patrolling, and they won’t bother you as long as you don’t do something stupid...

...but you know me. Fortunately, I avoided their wrath for this review. Beyond those two clowns, you’ll find out that the rest of the cops really don’t like you at all. In fact, they’re eager to take you in for some reason, as revealed by a nice little parley between two of the fascist oinkers--uh, fine men and women in blue. This means that it’s time, once again, to slap on your Sam Spade hat (was it a fedora? a porkpie? a tricorn?) and do a little digging for info. And while you’re at it, find out why your fellow thieves are disappearing; the Hammers suspect that Lord Wellhofer is behind the disappearances, but they’re puzzled as to why. This means that you’ll eventually have to take to trip to his place of residence, but first...go get some cash.

This mission requires you to explore, and explore you will. The title, in fact, puts me in mind of Richard Bachman’s (aka Stephen King) “The Long Walk”...for obvious reasons. But I don’t mean all of that in a disparaging way, oh no...I love big town missions with plenty of opportunities to riffle through others’ private property, even though they blister my mouse’s little feet.*
[* After a equipment-changing operation, he’s entirely optical now and doing just fine...he’s even gotten over the humiliation of losing his little ball.]

You’ll soon find out that the general size of the town is roughly that of three of the author’s town maps in her Lord Ashton series. It’s easy to miss things and overlook loot, but if you’re not in a hurry and can explore thoroughly, your diligence will be rewarded with helpful items. And take a look at the scenery while you’re at it; Christine knows the value of eye candy. The architecture has all of these interesting little features that you really won’t catch if you’re in a hurry.

The AI, on the other hand, are a little...well, they’re odd sometimes, being pretty twitchy on the whole. I KO’d a cop roughly twenty feet from a female cop, and she went on full alert. I’m not complaining, as it does add a touch of (unintended?) realism. Look at the Hammers...I mean, I’d jump too if a door opened by itself.

Okay, so whom did you steal from? I don’t know about you, but I hit the fishmonger, the theater, the weaponsmith, a pub, an innocent lamppost (there were coins on the ground nearby, I just assumed they belonged to it), a bank, a few citizens, a couple of cops, the Hammer church, a crypt, a carpenter, the police station...just about everyone had something to (involuntarily) donate to a (un)worthy cause. I got roughly 2,000 more loot than the goal required, so that leaves plenty of cash to support my pudding habit...but just barely.**
[* I miss Hunt’s little metal cans of pudding. Sure, as a kid I lost a lot of blood thanks to those sharp-edged lids, but I still prefer that peril over these oh-so-safe plastic containers you get nowadays. Maybe the pudding reacted with the metal, who knows? It just *tasted* better. Or maybe it’s just psychological. Can anyone tell me why I feel like crying whenever I think back to lunch in kindergarten? Ah, no...never mind. I really don’t want to know.]

[The show "Stranger Things" created a wave of nostalgia for pudding in cans...but nothing ever came of it. Just as well, as I just know that it wouldn't be as good as I remembered it.]

So with the town poorer and you richer, it’s time to pay a visit to Lord Wellhofer’s mansion. I guess I’m about to find out where all the cowboys...uh...*thieves* have gone.

The List Of Things:

1) Your equipment’s somewhere in your house at the beginning, so check the downstairs thoroughly. I’ve read comments from people who are puzzled as to why Garrett has to search for secrets in his own home in some FMs, and I question this as well...up to a point. I find it’s easier to just accept it...don’t make waves! Anyway, earlier I said to search the fireplace; it’s pretty obvious that there’s something in there, but it’s not so obvious how to proceed from there. Check the walkthrough (linked waaaaaay above) for details if you get stuck...or just ask me on the Thief section of the forums. I’ll be glad to help...strangely enough.

[No, don't ask me. I don't remember.]

2) Read the recipe book by the sink for the truth behind the health potions. If it’s all the same to you, I’ll avoid personal injury in the future, thank you. *shudder* Although...since I did come up through the American school system, I shouldn’t have any problems with horrible concoctions, as I am used to standard public school cafeteria food. Something that’s always bothered me, though: why did the fried chicken have hair growing out of it?? This question has plagued me since the 4th grade.

[And why were there never any stray dogs in the neighborhood? But at least the dinner rolls were excellent.]

3) Minor spoiler ahoy! Jumping from that ladder into the room with your weapons stash is an exercise in frustration. Be patient.

4) Loot and helpful equipment are hidden in the darnedest places, so be observant. I meaningfully mention the weapons shop.

5) Speaking of loot, it seems to be more consistent than in the Ashton missions. Meaning...well, you know what I mean if you’ve read my review of that campaign. So if it looks like loot, then it very likely is loot, and if it doesn’t, then... Exception: you can’t pick up the looty-like things in your own house, but that’s just common sense; it is your stuff, after all.

6) That’s an interesting way to get into a bank...

7) That’s one terrific fountain. With fish, too!

8) I’m guessing that, with most of the structures in the town built of stone, the guy with the wooden house must be the local carpenter. Ya think?

9) The zombie in the Hammer crypt doesn’t want to stay down after being backstabbed...the little rotting bastard hopped right up and came after me. And like an idiot, I had already opened the secret door that would allow me to go further into the crypt, so I woke up the Haunt when I fire-arrowed the zombie and he chased me. Fast guy...I guess we now know what happened to Jim Thorpe after he died.

[Jim Thorpe became a Haunt? Naaaaah. Usain Bolt, maybe, but not Mr. Thorpe.]

10) My only real complaint with the AI is that the Haunt in the Hammer crypt refused to chase me all the way outside; he just stopped near the top of the spiral stairs and made disturbing gestures at me.*** Too bad, really...I find that a Haunt on the loose in a town full of nervous nellies is very funny, indeed.
[*** “Don’t you...don’t you moon me! You put that bony butt back in your pants, mister!”]

11) I considered throwing the Haunt’s body into the water supply just to see if anyone noticed the decidedly...peculiar...bouque t that would result, but I decided against it because it would be wrong. Okay, stop laughing. Honestly? It was just so inconvenient to carry the thing all the way to a well or the canal.

[If it's a long trek to poison the town's water supply, remember to hydrate, kids. But hydrate before you poison the water. Just sayin'.]

12) Tonight at the Nokia Community Theater: fresh from his acclaimed performance in the local drunk tank, it’s Richard Burton! Tickets still available. Please buy in bulk. We beg of you.

[I'm not familiar with Broadway's current alcoholics, so I had to reach back into history and came up with: Richard Burton. Yessir, when it comes to timely references, I'm on it like Pharaoh on the Israelites, man.]

13) I have no idea who or what the third kill in the stats refers to; I recall only killing a zombie and a Haunt. File it under “Who Knows?” I guess. On reflection however, I have “nokillgoal” enabled (because I make my own rules), so maybe a human AI died. I don’t know. I’m too tired to care anymore.

14) The final loot tally is 8709, but the walkthrough says 8809.

My Level Stats:
KO’s: 37
Kills: 3 (1 zombie, 1 Haunt, 1 unknown)
Loot: 8419 / 8709


Lord Wellhofer
Gameplay: Humans, spiders, zombies (only 2), haunted toys; mansion robbing / info-gathering

The diary you stole from the Hammer priest detailed the Hammers’ shadowing of Lord Wellhofer. It seems that in addition to making nefarious people disappear, he’s also been searching for some valuable artifact called the Night Falcon. (They also mentioned his tendency to troll for male prostitutes, but that’s just a given.) Night Falcon? Huh. Well, you don’t know what it is or what it does (maybe it’s a cappuccino maker that flies), but you want to make it yours. But the info is in Wellhofer’s mansion, and it’d be wrong to break in and...

...waitaminit, that gives me an idea! Why not? Why not combine peanut butter with fish? Um...never mind. There’s a problem with getting into the place, though: since the way is closed, you’ll need to go through the mines and find the place where the workers accidentally broke through the wall of Wellhofer’s chapel. Needless to say, the mine’s been deserted, thanks to two giant spiders...and you without any broadheads or thermal detonators. So if you like sparring with spiders, you’re in luck. Personally, I’d rather brave the front gates totally naked and unarmed except for a sprig of parsley and carrying a sign declaring “GUARDS SUCK!”

While you’re down there trying not to get eaten and doing a good job of totally freaking out, you might try to find some sort of ancient gravesite or whatever that’s rumored to have a mysterious dagger that might come in useful later on. 2 zombies patrol the place, but fret not: you’re armed with only a sword and a blackjack...and moss arrows! Run away in fear, zombies!

Me, I wasn’t really convinced by the mine (more on that in the notes below), except for one area...but then again, I’m picky about things like that. Anyway, so now you’re in the chapel. All right...tile floors! And twitchy guards! Hooray! This mission presents something of a challenge; the stationary guards are placed so that it’s a little tough to sneak up on them, while the mobile guards -- upstairs in particular -- patrol in brightly-lit areas. Talk about rude! But with a little patience and a willingness to lure them into dark corners, they shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

Well...since you’re currently in the mansion’s basement, take a look around. The guards’ quarters are here, there’s the electrical room, the chapel, the sparring room, the armory, the dungeon...hey, this Wellhofer guy is sick! Sebastian Medina sick! Whoosh...whoosh...you’ll see what I mean. At least you now know what happened to all of your thiefy colleagues.

[Vincent Price's charater, Sebastian Medina, from 1961's The Pit And The Pendulum.]

Take the stairs up, and you’ll be on the ground floor. Here you’ll find the dining room, the kitchen, the bathroom, the servants’ quarters, a storage room, a study hall, the courtyard, the front gates...and a fountain with fish. Of course. The upper floor contains the children’s room, Wellhofer’s office, the library, the game room, the music room, a couple of bedrooms, you get the idea. It’s a mansion. The only thing missing, really, is the ballroom and a vomitorium.

Although not overly grandiose, this mansion is nicely done. I wish had more to add to that in order to make a pointlessly ponderous paragraph here, but I don’t.

Oh, almost forgot: a subplot is revealed by a letter you find in the chapel; it seems that the children’s room is haunted. I won’t go into details as I’d like to preserve *some* of the surprises in store for you, but I will say that the haunters really didn’t like me. They didn’t really like the guards either, so it all works out in the end.

In snooping around, you’ll find out why Wellhofer wants Garrett out of the picture: He’s...oh, but that would be telling...ah, what the hell. Wellhofer has been eliminating thieves and other scum (hey!!) in an effort to get rid of anyone who might become interested in the Night Falcon. Garrett is his biggest concern, but also the most elusive. So that’s why he’s hunting you, and I’m sorry if I ruined it for you. Okay, I’m not really sorry.

But in the end, at least I got to meet Lord and Lady Wellhofer...nice couple, if a little unconscious.

So after a successful key and info hunt, you’re all done. You head for the front gates.

Things You Could Probably Live Without Knowing:

1) Like in the first mission, there’s no stuff to buy in the equipment store.

2) Note to self: don’t try to blackjack a giant spider from the front again. I’m still shaking. Something that big with that many legs that can leap over my head is clearly the work of the Trickster.

3) Like I mentioned previously, I didn’t really buy the whole mine area. The tunnels were just too regular (and perfectly rectangular), and the wall textures gave the impression of loose rock (structural stability, whereforeart thou?). The ancient graveyard or whatever in the mines just didn’t work for me, either...oh, sure it looked good, but it really didn’t make any real sense. The same thing goes for the wall between the mine and the chapel that opens with a button. That’s just weird. Maybe I just need to go lay down.

["Maybe"? There's no maybe about it. I'm at my best when I'm unconscious.]

4) Godforsaken spiders!

5) Enjoy hunting for little tiny rings. Yes, they’re back.

6) Ever get killed by a possessed teddy bear? So humiliating...

My Level Stats:
KO’s: 37
Kills: 7 (2 spiders, 2 zombies, 3 haunted playthings)
Loot: 8875 / 8915


The Hammerite Monastery
Gameplay: Humans, giant green lizards, giant dragonflies, vampires, vampire bats, ghost spiders; info-gathering / temple-looting / tomb-raiding / much necessary stealth

So here you are in town. Your goal this evening is to get to the Hammerite monastery and mess with a few things that the Hammers probably would prefer you left alone. You’ve found out through reading the notes you “borrowed” from Lord Wellhofer (just like you “borrowed” all his stuff and sold it to buy candy and pretentious Italian living room furniture) that the Night Falcon was a holy relic revered by a long-extinct order of silly English Kaaaaa-niggits called The Brotherhood of the Falcon, who wish you to know that if they still had working gastronomic systems, then they would be more than happy to fart in your general direction.

[Reference: Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica]

The Falcon is rumored to be in the ruins of the Brotherhood’s main fortress; two magic stones are required to liberate the statue, and that’s why you’re breaking into the monastery: in the tombs beneath the place is a magic stone that belonged to King Gerhard the Cruel (formerly William of the Tall Trousers). Your job is to get into the tombs and get that stone.

And while you’re down there, grab the scepter belonging to the evil wizard Edmund (aka, “The Black Vegetable”)**...and while visiting the monastery, steal the weapons collection. And steal the notes belonging to a priest who’s come up with some new weapons. And mow the garage and wash the lawn! Um...

[** The Black Adder joke. I make several of those here, so I won't make a note of it every single time.]

So choose wisely from the equipment store and hit the town. Oh...you’re already there. That makes things easier. The town is crawling with cops, so it doesn’t pay to skip and jump through the streets singing “Cop Killer” Also, references to smelling bacon are strictly prohibited, although to clear the streets in a hurry you might try shouting something about a crisis at Ye Olde Donutte Hole.

The town is nice, but you’re not here for a lengthy stay. Get to the gates and...huh. Closed. There should be a switch around here somewhere. It seems that there’s a problem with ferocious breasts in the countryside chasing people, and...ah, I’m sorry. That’s ferocious *beasts*. Anyway, they’re these big green lizard things that look like a burrick after getting caught in a pants press and bombarded with gamma rays. Also of note are the giant dragonflies (or whatever) that will shoot bug swarms at you if you’re not careful. Oh, it’s a FUN night to be out, isn’t it?

And it gets even better later on. Enjoy the scenery while you can, kid. Since it isn’t feasible to walk right up to the monastery’s front gates and claim that you’re here to inspect the foundations for possible demonic possession,* it’s probably better to find an alternate way inside...and you’ll find one eventually. Find it? Good.
[* “You see that there? That there’s Beelzebub in the mortises. That means high energy bills...not to mention massive horsefly infestations and your kids’ heads spinning around. You want to get that taken care of before your foundations crack and you get disembodied voices shouting at you to ‘GET OUT!”]

So you’re inside, and...hey, female Hammers! Cool! But they have to take a forced nap just like the guys, so club away. Nice monastery...lots of gold laying around, and the place is just so pleasing to the eye, it’s a shame that everyone inside must die. Or not...perhaps you play differently than I do. The problem here is that you really won’t have a whole lot of clues to help you out; some of the questions posed to you the player have obscure answers, at best. Okay, here it is: you need the Holy Hammer to open the way to the tombs...the problem is that the thing is well-hidden, and the clues are just not obvious by any means. So strap on your psychic helmet and...

FYI, if you get stuck there is that walkthrough I mentioned. I had the damnedest time finding that hammer.

So with the monastery in flames and everyone dead and/or dying -- again, perhaps you play differently than I do -- it’s time to make your way into the tombs. So grab that Holy Hammer and get down there. Woo...tombs. Lots of spider webs, and...what the holy murcielago are those things??

Oh. Vampires. Great. And their little furry flying friends, bats. Joy unspeakable.

You may want to kill the vampires. You may want to kill the bats. Let me caution you against being an idiot. The vampires can take a lot of damage, and the bats explode upon dying.** Here’s my advice: sneak. Put out the torches and sneak. Sneak, sneak, sneak. It’s easier than it seems, but you will need a LOT of patience. Be aware that the monsters are also very twitchy and will freak and start searching if you put out a torch when they’re in the same room with it, so be careful. Leave them alone, because making a scene is just asking for trouble and a reload.
[** What?!?]

[I think the question should have been: "Why?!?"]

This is the part of the mission that I dread the most, really; I admit that being forced to rely upon my stealth skills is fun...but those of you with weak constitutions (“he’s going to walk into me he’s going to...AAAAGGH!!”) will want to take it easy. After I finished the mission, I found that I was short about 400 loot...but I wasn’t going back in there to search for tiny rings on coffins. That’s just *insane*.

Speaking of insanity, one obstacle to my progress was in the form of a ghost spider...an arachnid apparition, if you will. Flashbombs (FIVE!) took care of him. Further on, I came across...oh, don’t tell me that’s blood. Please just let it be a big pool of cherry Kool-Aid...hey, there’s the stone! Grab it and get out of this madhouse.

Now that’s done, let’s move on. I think there’s another stone you have to steal...

Things More Important Than You Or Me:

1) The equipment store has stuff for sale! This is true for each mission from now on.

2) The dagger you start out with is essentially the model from “Calendra’s Legacy.” I would have preferred something with more REACH, perhaps, but... At least it makes you less visible when drawn, anyway.

3) I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I could live above an ancient tomb filled with vampires; I believe that would make me just a tad nervous.

4) Exploding bats?!?

5) What exactly does a vampire feed on in an ancient tomb, anyway? Maybe that big pool of blood is the key...although that brings up another question: where did all that blood come from? Is this the secret agenda of the Red Cross: vampire-appeasement?

[Maybe that's why they're always begging for blood.]

6) After walking through the door/window that opens with the Holy Hammer, you can just drop it...you won’t need it after that.

7) The stats say I killed 6 things. I killed 3 dragonflies, 2 spiders, 2 bats, 1 ghost spider, and...waitaminit...that’s 8! Do the bats not count? I’ll just put down 8 in the Kills total anyway.

My Level Stats:
KO’s: 30
Kills: 8 (3 dragonflies, 2 spiders, 2 bats, 1 ghost spider)
Loot: 8124 / 8514

END OF PART ONE
It is the scent of garlic that lingers on my chocolate fingers

Offline Silver Sorrow

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T2 017: The Night Falcon Series, Part 2
« Reply #32 on: December 31, 2019, 10:23:37 AM »
PART TWO


The Cathedral
Gameplay: Humans, zombies; just passing through town / cathedral rob / info & loot gathering / crypt-creeping / zombie massacre / magic sword obtainment

Oh, boy. More Hammer stuff. After your harrowing ordeal in the tombs beneath the Hammerite monastery, you were feeling a bit under-abused. So you decided to sneak into the Hammers’ cathedral just to let the intolerant bastards beat you bloody...you kinky little minx.

Perhaps the local cathedral has info on where you can find a clue as to the whereabouts of the second magic stone. You still don’t know where the actual ruins are, but all in good time...maybe you could find a colorful local character and ask him for directions to the area in question. Or not. In addition to standing around and going “golly-gee!” at the pretty cathedral, you might want to pick up a couple of supplementary treasures. One of them is a valuable artifact -- which looks to be a palantír -- and the other is a magic sword...holy, makes bearer less visible when drawn, the usual stuff. It goes without saying that the sword’s in the cathedral crypts...enjoy the zombies.

You start out in town (typically lovely), but much like an Ex-Lax milkshake you’re just passing through...but don’t forget to steal everything in sight, either. A short walk later, and you’re at the first set of gates that let you know that there’s a definite Hammer presence in the area. Eventually you’ll get to the cathedral and its bounty.

Nice cathedral, by the way...not massive in an “Insurrection” sort of way, but it’s large enough to keep all your stuff there if you wanted. Good layout, lots of tile, not too crowded...I like it! The only drawback is that there aren’t a whole lot of clues to shed light on how to go about completing your tasks while you’re in there. The difficulty of the artifact hunt, specifically, depends basically on just how clairvoyant you are. Where would someone hide something like that? It’s up to you to figure it out. The location of the Hammer treasury is easier to figure out, but finding the sword in the crypts may elude some people. It baffled *me* at first, but then again...oh, never mind about my mental processes. The brackish well of my self-esteem is low enough as it is.

You’ll come across the secret of where the second stone is, if you look hard enough. From your readings, you discover that the Brotherhood of the Falcon were visited one day by the evil wizard Edmund (“Your head is as empty as a eunuch’s underpants!”), who wanted to buy the Night Falcon. They refused...actually, they told him to sit on his scepter and spin...and he left in a snit. So it was inevitable that strange things began happening and some of the knights went mad and began attacking their brethren with clever taunts concerning hamsters and elderberries.

[Reference: Genesis 1:32, the Alan Parsons translation.]

The besieged knights responded with brave retorts centering around the concept of the evil sons of a silly person boiling their bottoms, but to no avail. They managed to seal off the Night Falcon with two magic stones -- provided by a very unhappy acolyte* -- and dispatch couriers bearing the stones to two recipients: King Gerhard the Cruel (who was a friend to the Brotherhood) and the Hammerites (who are friend to no one). The knights eventually fell and were cursed themselves, doomed forever to walk (or skip or jump or line-dance, whatever) the halls of their formerly glorious fortress. Boo-hoo. The Hammers, true to their nature, sealed their stone away in a mysterious tower.
[* Rim shot.]

So with the cathedral and crypt emptied of their secrets and riches, it’s time to see a man about a tower.

A Lackadaisical Attempt At A List Of Interesting Things:

1) The windows in the house near the beginning of the mission are just incredible. Beautiful effect.

2) When I first got to the cathedral, I scouted the perimeter (read: “I followed behind the patrolling Hammers and hurt them”); upon happening by the very back of the building, I heard someone clear his throat...I looked up and saw a stained glass depiction of the Master Builder. As I was in the process of hiding a body, it was an uncomfortable situation. “Um...I’m sorry?” I sort-of-apologized to the window. Of course, what I heard was the high priest inside the building, but still...a jolt nonetheless.

3) I love the Hammers. “And the Builder said--” [WHACK!] “--HFFFF!” [thud]

4) Huh...I hadn’t really paid attention to my dagger’s anti-undead qualities. Very useful...although as I had whined about previously, I was hoping for something with a little more reach.

5) Speaking of daggers, I was thinking about the supposed dagger in Thief 3. Not a bad idea, but you know? I’d prefer a Scottish Claymore. Four-and-a-half feet of Highlander steel! Yeah! But knowing Garrett, he’d get a hernia just looking at it, so maybe a dagger’s more appropriate.

[Thief 3's dagger. I don't want to talk about it.]

My Level Stats:
KO’s: 24
Kills: 9 (all zombies)
Loot: 6427 / 6527


The Mysterious Tower
Gameplay: Humans, (un)dead things, spiders, a ghost spider, bats; town-rob / sewer-trek / church-search / crypt-creep (again) / tower scrutiny / fence-meeting

Another town, or is it the same town? Who knows? You...you have your own problems. You need to get into that so-called “mysterious” tower and get the second stone, but how? There isn’t an obvious way in, so maybe the local Hammer church will have some sort of clue. Ah...Hammers again. And to think I had missed them in Thief 2...now I wish they’d all go away.

While you’re out, you might as well pick up a couple of additional items. Lord Hafner has a valuable bracelet, while the pharmacist -- who is a person of questionable ethics -- has an antique navigation globe, although to his credit, he’s not doing weird electricity experiments on Headcrabs.** So when you’re done wrecking the local economy and you’ve completed all of your tasks, head for the local inn and wait for your fence in his room. But watch out...the inn’s right across the street from the police station, and a few of the boys in blue are getting totally ‘faced...so it may be more prudent to use the side door.

[** Kind of an odd reference...I was referring to the scientific experiments on various alien lifeforms in the "Questionable Ethics" chapter of Half-Life.]

Dear prudence. Being prudent isn’t always fun. Hell, John had to practically beg prudence to come out and play, so to hell with that. Me, I’m going in through the front door, but in my own special way. Who’s seen the thief? Not you or I...

[Geez. Okay: The Beatles, "Dear Prudence" and Genesis, "Your Own Special Way." (Which, in turn, is partly based on Christina Rossetti's poem, "Who Has Seen The Wind?"]

Anyway, you’ll find in your reading that Lord Hafner’s supposedly looking for the Night Falcon too, which is probably one of the reasons that Lord Wellhofer’s trying to ruin him. You know, I probably could have taken care of the whole Wellhofer problem a couple of missions back...but nooooooooooo! I have to be careful to not anger the Gods of no-kill goals. *grumble*

Oh, well. Be a man and just get through it, that’s what I always say. Actually, I *don’t* always say that, but I always say “that’s what I always say” even though I don’t always say whatever it is that I’m saying, so...oh, I give up. Moving on.

The town is very nice; it’s also a bit more convoluted than what’s usual in this pack so far, what with so many things to do and having to actually think about how to get to certain places. Rope arrow up to an overlook, infiltrate the church via the sewers, and so on. This mission really isn’t all that large, really, but the space is put to very good use. One of the best examples of how textures and space are used effectively is the bookshop.

The gameplay is also somewhat better than in the previous missions; I got to use the “lure a bunch of idiots with a noise arrow then gas-arrow them when they clump together searching” bit that I love so very, very much *three* separate times. Beautiful. The Hammer crypt, what with its very nasty inhabitants, allowed me to try out my brand new magic sword. I don’t quite know what to call the new dagger-carrying Haunt-like monsters, although the model is a DeDx model called “Revenant,” I believe...so I’ll just call them Revenants if they show up again. I still wonder where they hide their rocket launchers, though...*
[* A tribute to those of us who remember Doom 2. For the rest of you...lick me.]

So let’s see...I have two magic stones -- no, I won’t show them to you -- a lot of loot, my blackjack has fallen apart thanks to all the notches I’ve been cutting into it, I have a firm purpose (find ruins, steal holy bird statue), and now...now, I must put on leather chaps and dance the night away. Or maybe I’ll just grab a candle and make amusing shadow puppets until the drugs wear off. (“Abraham Lincoln’s coming to kill me! MOTHEEEERRRRR!!”)

[Now this one is obscure, even for me. When we were kids, one of my cousins told me about a nightmare he had, where a miniature ghostly Abraham Lincoln climbed down the shelves of his closet and came after him. Whole family's nuts.]

And Now For The Part You’ve Not Been Waiting For:

1) While I like the new sword, the arm attached to is a little on the odd side. Just use your block key to see what I mean.

2) Be on the lookout for Colin Mochrie, weaponsmith!

[I guess because the NPC looked like improv comic Colin Mochrie.]

3) The pharmacist is a little shady for a guy whose main job is to hand out Viagra to the flaccid townsfolk.

4) Four Hammers and one cop on one gas arrow...not too shabby, but I top that later at the inn: I got six cops on a gas arrow there. I’ve done better, but it’s still fun.

5) When the interior of your home is all wood, the Fire Marshal suggests using large torches for all of your lighting needs.

6) Bats *hate* bright flashes of light. That is all the hint you need. Oh, and stand back.

7) Judging by the sign on the inn, I’d say it’s called the “Bleeding Sword Through A Burrick’s Head Inn.”

8) 18 knockouts seems a bit low, considering how many I put down. Let me figure this out...from what I can remember, I KO’d at least 32 people, give or take one or two. Perhaps the gas arrow usage is the culprit...I did use gas arrows to KO 14 various persons, so yeah, that’s about right. I’ll adjust for that in the final totals, even though -- time travel note -- I used gas arrows in almost every mission on groups of live AI. This skews my true totals royally...

9) Speaking of skewed math, the Kills total is screwy again. I killed 12 things, but it only reports 8. So again, I’ll put down what I counted, which is 12. I guess maybe frogs and bats still don’t count?

My Level Stats:
KO’s: 18 (really, 32)
Kills: 12 (2 spiders, 2 bats, 2 frogbeasts, 5 Revenants, 1 ghost spider)
Loot: 6045 / 6165


Christmas Presents
Gameplay: Human, snow burricks; sled ride / town-rob / frostbite / info-gathering

Walkin’ in my winter underwear.

[MST3K reference.]

Just like in the sixth mission in the Lord Ashton series, I’m free once again to give people nasty concussions and leave them respirating weakly in snow drifts. They’ll be just fine...I imagine. And a winter map is just perfect for someone running a fever (hello), but never mind that now. You have quite the shopping list of things to collect, so it’s time to stop dancing in stilettos in the snow* and get moving.
[* But of course, you never understood why Fish had to go.]

[Reference: Marillion, "Kayleigh."]

First, enjoy a brisk sled ride to town -- watch out for the snow burricks -- and go to the weapons dealer. He has the equipment you will need for your trip to the ruins, although he wasn’t exactly holding it for *you*...not that it matters. Next on the list is a painting in the town museum by Sir Hrothgar called “The Enchanted Forest,” a charming little portrait of what lurks in the darkest thickets, eating slow children. Then make your way to the Golden Sun inn, where a renowned antiques dealer is staying. He has a valuable trinket called “The Golden Falcon” which he hopes to sell for a nice price; both Lord Wellhofer and the curator of the museum are very interested, but you figure that you need it more than they do, what with your current obsession with falcons.

Last on your list is a visit to the construction offices owned by Lord Wellhofer for a map that will tell you where the ruins are. Needless to say, while you’re doing these things you shouldn’t forget to liberate the townsfolk of their hard-earned cash. This is your own special way of Christmas shopping, and for the sake of what’s left of your soul, I’m glad there aren’t any Salvation Army Santas for you to roll for a few quarters.

[How To Avoid The Salvation Army: when leaving the store, wait for an older individual or (better yet) couple to exit; hang back a bit, and when they're talking to the bell-ringing person in the Santa suit, you can quietly slip by, unnoticed. But according to some, God notices...so deal with that however you must.]

You’ll find out that Lord Wellhofer wants to lead the second expedition to the ruins himself. The first expedition ended in failure, and in typical blue-blood fashion he berates the commoners involved for their incompetence. Oh, for a bloody revolution, huh? Like I mentioned before, I should’ve (de)capped this guy when I had the chance.

You’ve seen part of this town before; the construction offices are in a previously-inaccessible area. The new bits expand upon the town nicely, and it all comes together in the author’s usual style of visual magnificence. I have no complaints about the scenery whatsoever. Of special note are the glass windows: incredible.

Between the eye candy and the live AI aspect of the gameplay, I do believe we have a winner here; this is one of my favorite maps in the pack for good reason. I especially enjoyed my trip to the museum, where I expanded my mind with the transcendent beauty of human expression...so I decided to take all the art home and make my own museum. Who needs to by a “Lil’ Curator Beginner’s Museum” kit, anyway? All I need is a bunch of art and a place to put it all...and a loot bag the size of a dump truck.

If you get the chance, drop by and see my most popular exhibit, “Elvis Art And You,” currently on display until next February 23rd. Other exhibits include “Unwanted Treasures: Stuff Rejected From The Titanic Exhibit,” “Squealing And Covered In Various Fluids: Montages Of Still Scenes From The Films Of Jun Kusanagi” (21+ admission only, please), “Stop Touching Me!: A Tribute To Siblinghood,” “Unheralded Riches: The Elusive Beauty Of Armpit Hair,” and “Now Worthless: Formerly Fine And Valuable Paintings Reduced To Toilet Paper Because Your Stupid Four-Year-Old Wiped His Boogery Hands On Them.”

And don’t forget! This May 30th is the last day for these fine exhibitions: “Slime Trails Into The Sunset: The Experimental Slug-Oriented Western Art of Frederic Remington,” “Nazi Punks F*** Off! A Tribute To Inviting Nazi Punks To F*** Off,” “Shrimpwrecked! A History Of People Losing Control At A Red Lobster,” “He Sleeps With The Fishes: A Graphic History Of Gruesome Mafia Hits,” “Stuff They Drained Out Of My Colon,” and “Golden Obsession: The Naked Asian Chick As Objectified By Socially-Retarded Geeks.”

[I had more fun with that section than I probably should have.]

[Oh, and a small tribute there: February 23rd is my dad's birthday, and May 30th is my mother's.]

This mission shouldn’t prove to be too much of a challenge; no undead, not too many guards, etc. But it wasn’t the gameplay that got me, no...it was the bakery. Thanks to the six whole gingerbread houses, the five fully-decorated cakes and the eighteen large donuts I ate, it was inevitable that the cops would find my bloated corpse in a snowdrift, obviously the victim of the dreaded “sugar jams.”

Since you obviously have more self-control than I, you’re good to go. You’ve done everything worth doing and then some, so it’s time to leave town the way you came in.

Head Injury Theater Presents...Things I Found Amusing While Bleeding:

1) Is this sled safe?

2) Why do teddy bears insist on tormenting me??

3) The inn’s acoustics were a bit unnerving; either that or the guard upstairs had cinderblocks strapped to his boots. While standing downstairs in the front hall, I could hear him clomping around up there, stomping on roaches or something.

4) One of the guards in the construction offices was intangible; my blackjack passed right through him. He was susceptible to a gas mine, however. Upon experimenting a little, I found that if one aims a fire arrow (or a gas arrow if you don’t want to kill him) at his feet, he will be affected. The whole thing was just a fluke, I think.

My Level Stats:
KO’s: 34
Kills: 0
Loot: 6711 / 6781


The Brotherhood of the Falcon
Gameplay: 1 human (cop), snow burricks, ice beasts, Knight Haunts, vampires, bats; snow-walking / backstabbing various things / castle-creeping / vampire-killing / searching / finding / leaving

All right...this is it. You’re on the wintry verges of making the Night Falcon yours, and all you have to do is navigate a snowy landscape, brave the dangers presented by various weird creatures, infiltrate the castle ruins and deal with Knight Haunts, vampires and bats, figure out how to the get the NF, grab it, and then leave. Simple, right?

Oh, yeah. Sure. Pfffft. No problem. Okay, so this mission proved to be something of a pain, but I liked it anyway. The challenge was there, and I more or less stomped on everyone (or “everything,” as was the case). The first time I played, I wanted to hurt myself and everyone around me, but now that I know how to deal with various problems, only a slight elevation of nervous adrenaline was the result, not to mention a marked reduction of my typical interjections in such cases, “Oh, for the love of...” and “Son of a...” for example.

Thanks to my holy sword, I was able to finally take care of those stinkin’ vampires...and their possessed former-Knight friends, too. I still don’t understand the presence of the vampires, but it’s not mine to reason why.

[I'm guessing that it did indeed make sense in the story's context, and I was just being my usually inattentive self.]

The castle is in ruins, yes...I’ve always liked the “abandoned castle/other residence” style of mission (see “Crom’s Blade,” for an excellent example), and this mission doesn’t disappoint. Granted, the castle itself isn’t extravagantly huge, but it serves its purpose. Perhaps one-third of the mission involves traveling to the castle, and you’ll come across many snow burricks and a few icebeasts along the way. At least there weren’t any spiders.

Plenty of relics and other treasures litter the castle and the countryside...I did manage to miss about 400 in loot; in my defense, it was well-hidden. I guess you could say that in Christine’s missions, your attention is divided evenly between looking at your surroundings and looking at the ground. I don’t regret this, as I like good scenery and money, although not in that order.

But you...you. Did you enjoy yourself? The Night Falcon is yours. You’ve left a trail of concussed people and broken demons and other heavily-violated monsters behind you...so what’s next? Well, see...the Night Falcon may not be entirely kosher, you follow? So join me -- as I am coming apart -- next time in my review of Christine and Ar-Zimrathon’s “The Curse of the Falcon.”

The Note List To End All Note Lists...In This Review, At Least:

1) Not that it matters, but I did see two snowmen.

2) Again, the Kill total was off a bit. I don’t blame the author for this, as the game can be a little funny sometimes. It says I killed 24 things, but...okay, here’s the list as far as I can recall: 3 rats, 5 icebeasts, 7 Knight Haunts, 9 bats and 9 vampires. Granted, the bats can be explained as another form of the vampires when they receive too much damage (or something like that), so 24 makes sense. But I’m guessing that killing the *vampires* counts as a kill, but not the bats, which are supposedly the other form of the vampires...as they weren’t counted as kills in the other missions. Anyone have some aspirin?

3) Anyway, I won’t count the bats as kills in this mission. I’m not *that* desperate for attention.

My Level Stats:
KO’s: 20
Kills: 24
Loot: 4701 / 5101


Campaign Summary?
Well-planned, beautiful missions; solid gameplay; the .avi cutscenes were a nice touch (the music made them worthwhile); wonderful textures. Even though the missions themselves may not have been perfect 5/5 material by themselves, the package is worth that designation.

Annoyance Rating:
2 out of 10 [minor problems, some tough situations, twitchy AI]

Campaign Score:
5 out of 5

My Campaign Stats (cumulative):
Expert Skill
KO’s: 214 (off by perhaps 5 to 10 souls, thanks to the gas arrow thing)
Kills: 63 (probably a little off, due to the bats not counting as kills)
Loot: 49,302 / 50,712

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

Offline Silver Sorrow

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T2 018: The Curse Of The Falcon
« Reply #33 on: January 03, 2020, 03:00:02 PM »
[I don't remember writing this review, nor do I remember posting it at the Hangar. Ah, well. You can find the Hangar version archived at Southquarter, complete with screenshots. Thanks to those fine folks. Also, there seem to be a few differences between that version and what I'm posting here, but I don't have the energy to reconcile the two.]


The Curse of the Falcon

Game: Thief 2
Title: The Curse of the Falcon
Author: Christine Schneider & Ar-Zimrathon (Sven Grünig)
E-mail: N/A
Homepage: http://www.southquarter.com/christine/
Filename: Fluch-des-FalkenV2.zip
Filesize: 23.5mb
Other Languages Supported: German
Download: Cheap Thief Missions
Walkthrough: At Southquarter (Click on the link to the mission you need help solving.)
Score: 4.75 / 5

Note: You know the drill...custom recolors, health shields, what have you. This mission pack has a few things I didn’t do, so try to work it out for yourself.

[Whatever.]

Abstract:
No bat for you! [Meaning, no "Bats!" Abstract.]

And now for the recently-discovered list of rejected VH1 "Behind The Music" episodes... you know it's true, because you read it on the internet.

"GWAR: When The Music Became More Important Than The Costumes"
"Jethro Tull: The Band No One Will Admit To Liking" [Pfffft. I admit it. Tull is awesome.]
"Motley Crue: Pamela Anderson Was Yoko Ono In Disguise"
"radiohead: Who The Hell *Are* We Again?" [I never understood the clamor over these guys. Same thing with Coldplay.]
"Henry Rollins: From Obscurity To Obscurity"
"Smashing Pumpkins: After 'Gish', We Sucked" [Truth.]
"Genesis: We Were Replaced By Pod People In 1978!" [No comment.]
"Yes: Oh, GIVE IT UP, ALREADY!" [Just kidding.]
"Britney Spears: Not Even Playboy Is Interested Anymore" [The thing is, Britney is still hot. Is Playboy even relevant anymore?]
"Mariah Carey: The Deranged Diva Reveals Exactly When She Lost Her Friggin' Mind"
"Christina Aguilera: Proof That Clones Are Fundamentally Defective"
"The Moody Blues: Our Children's Children's Children Want To Put Us In Nursing Homes"
"The Beatles: All Of The Talented Ones Are Dead" [But I kid Ringo.]
"The Rolling Stones: On Life Support Since Your Dad Was A Kid"
"Elvis Presley: My Daughter Married A WHAT?!?" [Heh.]
"Eminem: When America's Sweetheart Was Outed By The Gay KKK"
"Jennifer Lopez: From The Butt Implants To The All-Night Coke Jags, The Most Untalented Person In The Entire World Speaks Out"
"Elvis Costello and Lou Reed: We're Musically Important, But No One Knows Why" [Still wondering.]
"Cher: 178 Years Old And Still A Babe!"
"Dolly Parton: Look...Just Take Your Shirt Off, Already!" [Never gonna happen.]

[Until I found the review that was archived at Southquarter, I had completely forgotten that this Abstract existed, as it wasn't in my original review for some reason. Here it is, restored.

Value judgement: some of them are good, but most are just out of date and/or stupid. Some things should just stay lost, I guess.]


The Basics:
Equipment Store: No/Yes
Skill Settings: Yes
Map/Automap: Yes/No
Puzzle Difficulty: Mild
General Difficulty: Medium
New Stuff: Yes
Gameplay: Covered in the individual entries

Briefing/Story?
Well. The Night Falcon, which took you seven missions to steal, is cursed. Typical. It seems that after you stole it, you began having horrific nightmares of fire and destruction...you know, the usual stuff. You put them down to your habit of eating an entire bag of barbecue pork rinds before bed time, but even though they contributed somewhat (especially the thing with the knife and the blood and the laughing), they weren’t the real cause. It’s the Falcon, alright.

Recently, you’ve been summoned by an old Keeper friend, Lars (who eschews all knowledge or connection to the surname “Ulrich” and, by the way, is not a stupid, loathsome, sawed-off Danish runt of questionable musical talent*), who informs you of the curse and asks for you to meet him. So this is where you start, in town. Details are forthcoming in the individual missions.
[* Not to imply that I have any particular individual in mind who shows a distinct tendency towards being a stupid, loathsome, sawed-off Danish runt of questionable musical talent, no. Heaven forbid!]

[I...wow. I have no idea what I had against Lars Ulrich, but that's just cruel. Sorry, Lars.]


Onward!
Only two missions this time. I have mixed feelings about this: on the one hand, I wish there were more missions...on the other, I’m running out of paper in my notebook. My extensive, yet hastily scribbled notes in my serial killer-like handwriting, in conjunction with another seven-or-eight mission campaign, would have depleted my notebook of paper; subsequently, I would have been forced to venture out to buy another notebook.

This I avoid with all due diligence, as general-item stores -- such as Walgreens or Eckerd’s** -- confound me. Ostensibly they’re drug stores, dedicated to refusing your prescription needs because your insurance sucks. Since they can’t make money that way (rich elderly women with Valium addictions notwithstanding), they choose to add all kinds of additional features to your shopping experience: film developing, food, greeting cards, magazines, makeup, hygiene things, baby stuff, office supplies, rock-climbing equipment, strip-mining accessories, rare exotic animals, human genome cloning facilities, a cyclotron that doubles as a babysitting device (jingle: “Watch ‘em twirl! It’s Cyclo-TRON!”),*** anti-grav shafts connected to the International Space Station, a 137-screen theater-plex, and on Thursday nights they flood the Coliseum out back and re-enact epic naval battles.

[** No longer in existence.]

[*** That would make an excellent Christmas gift for the profligate breeders in your life.]

So it’s not surprising that I inevitably get lost within moments of entering the store and end up forgetting exactly what I was there to buy. They eventually find me, wandering the aisles and scanning various items, a cloud of impenetrable existential dread enveloping me. “That’s not it,” I mutter to myself, shuffling off to the next Aisle of Plenty,** a bag of Rold Gold pretzels doing an imperfect job of staving off my hunger as I wander uncertainly over to the toothpaste section, a ridiculous yet all-too true concept that I only wish I were making up.**
[** See the deadly nightshade grow, indeed.]

[Reference: Genesis, "Aisle Of Plenty."]

[** We Americans are so goddamn picky that we need and entire aisle dedicated to fifteen thousand different varieties of JUST ONE THING. And it's only gotten worse in the decade or so since this review.]

And don’t ask me to describe the hellish torments I put myself through just to buy a pen.

So as you might have gathered before I derailed the review completely with an unnecessary description of yet another of my many glaring societal deficiencies, there are only two missions to be played. Each one is medium in size, so they should keep you plenty busy, unless you have five brains and enjoy multi-tasking.

Anyway, here I go. I played on Expert all the way, just to make you all jealous. Yeah, fear THIS...this this that this is.


Snow Flurry
Gameplay: Humans, icebeasts; town map / sneaking / you know the rest

On your journey to meet Lars, you might as well make a few stops and...well, let’s not beat around the burning bush (“Moses! Get the fire extinguisher!”): you need to steal a lot of stuff to meet your ever-growing loot needs. The all-night partying, the weekend coke jags, the endless purchases of anything Bea Arthur-related on eBay...you just can’t keep up with all your expenses, not even if you take that fry-guy gig down at Tiki Taco (featuring South Seas ambience with a south-of-the-border menu). So it’s off to unburden the town of its riches yet again.

And a nice town it is. It’s snowing, too...and hey, there’s a snowman! Hey, what a snowman! Pray for the snowman, because I have fire arrows. Oops. There lies the snowman...well, *melts*, rather. Despite all this, what they say about a snow year being a good year filled with the love of those who lie so deep is still very much true.

[Reference: Genesis, "Snowbound."]

The problem is, it’s a little tougher to KO everyone this time; for one thing, most of the AI are positioned in such a way that sneaking up on them is an interesting challenge...the lights are bright, but at least I had that magic sword to help with visibility. For another thing, I counted three non-KO cops (for those not in the know, they’re the guys who have large helmets and cannot be blackjacked). While I normally decry the very existence of non-KO AI (unless there are gas arrows or mines in the mission that I may employ to my profitable advantage), I found that I could take care of them with just a little bit of effort.

Speaking of solving such problems without involving bloodshed and long, drawn-out murder trials, there’s the gas elixir, a new item in your arsenal. It’s only drawback is that it makes a loud, godawful crashing sound when connecting with your target, alerting everyone within a six mile radius. Oh, and I had one gas arrow. So let’s see: three AI against two items. Clearly, I would have to work on this a little. I ended up hitting one with the gas elixir and getting the other two to chase me; I jumped onto a countertop in a store and then gas-arrowed them. Problem solved!

Of course, this may be a flagrant rejection of everything Thief stands for, but that’s okay. I’ve cracked all good people on their heads each day; so satisfied, I’m on my way. *sigh* Go ahead...go ahead and speak to me of summer and long winters longer than time can remember, but please...even though you’ve seen me, please don’t say a word.

[Reference(s): Yes, "I've Seen All Good People" and "Starship Trooper."]

The other AI are not a problem, although again, you may have to use your magic sword’s stealth enhancement to sneak up on them. Stupid guards and their need for light! Why, back in my day, all guards were totally blind and found you via a combination of sonar and their heightened sense of smell! Then they’d eat a bunch of bugs and throw up!

Oh, and I should mention the Fire Oil, your other new offensive weapon. It’s like a contact grenade. I guess that’s it for your new tricks, then. Er...to be concise, these two trinkets were introduced in “The Night Falcon,” so don’t think I had forgotten to mention them. Actually I had, but let that be our little secret.

It would be needless of me to go on and on about the visuals in this mission. Attempting to describe it would be a waste of time (as if the rest of this review wasn’t a waste anyway). So trust me: it all looks pretty good.

You will pick up some info on the history of the Night Falcon along the way. Apparently the Brotherhood of the Falcon were descendants of people who originally lived in Mereska, City of Flames. (Next door to Old Navy, down the street from Wal-Mart, adjunct to Hell itself.) Mereska, by the way, was supposedly located far below the surface of the earth, only accessible through a magic portal. The Night Falcon itself came from the holy fires in the Cathedral of Mereska; it was a gift to the people from the goddess Runya, She-Bitch Of The Tingly Tongs (or not)...the NF is rumored to be able to show its owner hidden treasures and evoke powerful creatures; although with my luck I’d summon something that would want to violently mate with me before eating my skull.

Well, that’s all fine and good, but there was some sort of horrible catastrophe that destroyed Mereska -- possibly due to someone microwaving a poodle -- and the survivors fled to the surface. They moved to a city which was shortly thereafter destroyed by an earthquake. You ever get the feeling that Someone is trying to tell you something?

At a certain point, it will become clear that you have to find the portal that will take you to Mereska...the only problem is that the portal needs five stones to activate it. You already have two, which you used to access the Night Falcon. So that leaves the other three (hooray for math!), which are actually close by. It seems that some workers building a new wall in the municipal park came across some old ruins and found three interesting stones, as well as a solid gold box of some sort with Seraphim on the lid. Snakes were everywhere. They tried to examine the box, but after 12 workers were zapped with Holy Wrath, the other guys grabbed the stones and ran.

[Not sure what a Raiders of the Lost Ark reference was doing in there...]

The mayor sold these stones to an antiques dealer, Daron Tarmesk. So you need to find where Tarmesk keeps the stones (In his wife’s purse! HA! Get it? Never mind, it was stupid.) and then get to the ruins in the park. The portal is supposed to be in the ruins, and you need to use it. See, the wizard Edmund (“I wouldn’t pass water over this city!”) [Another reference to "The Black Adder."] cursed the Falcon in addition to the Brotherhood, which means that as the current holder, you’re cursed as well. Sorry, but that’s just the way the falcon squawks...or whatever it is falcons do when squeezed experimentally. Your goal is to find the holy fires in the Cathedral of Mereska and cast the Night Falcon into them; that should cleanse the statue of the curse. Easy as pie.

Right?

A List Of Things That Didn’t Really Warrant An Entire Paragraph

1) Falcons! Well...they looked like blackbirds, anyway. I was hoping they’d take these broken wings and learn to fly, but you know how it is with birds.

[Reference: The Beatles, "Blackbird." The lengths I'll go to make a joke...]

2) Lord Wellhofer’s put a bounty worth 5,000 on you. That’s great, but 5,000 *what*, exactly? Dollars? Yen? Raisins? We need a standard form of believable currency for this game instead of the generic “gold.”

3) The upstairs guards in Tarmesk’s house have a definite problem with the stairs.

4) Call me picky, but the wooden houses with the giant torches mounted on the walls? A fire hazard, at best. So I lit a fire. Isn’t it good, Norwegian wood?*
[* I know, I used that gag in the “The Night Falcon” review...so what are you gonna do about it, huh??]

[Reference: The Beatles, "Norwegian Wood."]

5) There are werewolves in the park, Mawgojzeta...but I only hear the sound of dancing bears.** Oops...no. Sorry! I mean, there are *icebeasts* in the park, three of them to be exact. If I killed them with fire arrows, the kill total only showed two kills...but if I killed them with my sword (and magic helmet),*** all three would show. Strange.

[** Reference: Fish, "Goldfish & Clowns."]

[*** Reference: Elmer Fudd.]

6) This review originally reflected the initial release version of this mission; the second version had some improvements...and although I may be imagining it, the AI seemed less twitchy.

7) That’s a *great* Easter Egg.

8) Here’s an irrelevant side note for you: I’ve given up on helping with the more obscure of the musical references (they abound in this review, for some reason), since no one gets them anyway...I admit, this may be partially my fault. Find ‘em yourself to win absolutely nothing.

[I've pointed them out. Sadly, this is the sum extent of my contribution to society. Useless then, useless now. Never change, Silver.]

My Level Stats
KO’s: 50
Kills: 3 (icebeasts)
Loot: 8637 / 9277


Mereska - City of Flames
Gameplay: Zombies, Succubi, spiders, Skullys; ruins / nasty winged things / avoiding the extra-crispy treatment / holy fire purification / exiting stage left

This is the ruined town where the Mereskan survivors had fled. Zombies roam the area, but they’re no problem, thanks to my magic sword.* Take a look around. Great, huh? The tumbled-down buildings and general atmosphere of an earthquake-stricken town is picturesque, in a weird way. You know what I mean.
[* Thankfully, Gary Lockwood and Estelle Winwood were nowhere to be found, although I was contacted briefly by an entity calling itself “Basil Rathbone.”]

[Reference: 1962's The Magic Sword.]

A bit of exploring is required, since the doors to the church are locked and require a key. Shouldn’t be a problem, right? Just keep looking. Uh-huh. Try over that way. Huh. You about done there? We really should be going. *sigh* Look, do you need a walkthrough? Do want me to hold your hand? Oh, goody. You found it. Now open the church and get inside. It’s colder than hell!** Out here it is. Cold, I mean.
[** I had a friend back in high school who once pointed out that the contradictory nature of our (Western) society is best exemplified by the fact that we accept both “hot” and “cold” to describe Hell. A tad too philosophical for fifth-hour Geography perhaps, but we had nothing else to talk about. Oh, there was that geography thing, sure...but I already knew where Norway was located on the map, so I didn’t have a whole lot of homework. Ya gotta love the American educational system.]

Nice little church. Very clean! When I design my future bathroom, I want it to be just like this: pristine white marble tiles, stained glass windows, spacious, and plenty of seating. Now read the book on the altar...oh my, that IS unpleasant, isn’t it? You need to move on, but how? Look around, kid. I don’t have all day.

[For some reason, a bathroom with "plenty of seating" still cracks me up. I don't expect many people to find it even remotely funny, but it'd be nice to stumble across ONE person who appreciates it.]

So now we’re at the portal, and...yeah use the stones. Interrupt all you want, just go ahead and do whatever tickles your stupid fancy. No, go ahead! Now step through the portal. I hope you die.

What? Oh, nothing. Just talking to myself. Now you’re in for a visual treat. Lava, partially-submerged buildings, fire vampire demon chicks patrolling...aka, “Succubi.” No, I wouldn’t do that...I--oh, GOOD one! Reload, stupid. Now, don’t you...dammit, what is WRONG with you?? Oh, I see. You want to kill them. Well listen up, porcupine: that ain’t gonna happen. You don’t have enough gear to make it work. The only reliable way to kill them all is to get close and use your sword...and I tell you from experience, you don’t want to do that. No, really. Okay, fine...go ahead and try it. I’ll be right here, waiting.

Are you happy now? Got it out of our system, have we? Good. Now try stealth. That’s right, sneak by them. There are several of these fine fiery ladies around, but if you’re careful and quiet (try to minimize the sounds you make jumping from surface to surface!), then you shouldn’t have any problems. Remember to use your sword for visibility purposes...the Succubi guard treasure, and you need it.

Okay, we’re past that now. That was fun, wasn’t it? Oh, you’re such a wet blanket. Buck up, because the rest of it’s not even half as difficult, unless you’re some kind of idiot...

Oh, there you go. Running into those spiders like that. Need I say it? Idiot! And don’t--! Oh. What a mess. Those things are called Skellys or Skullys or whatever...I know. I didn’t name them, so don’t blame me. Don’t get killed again...is that such a tough request? So beyond them, we finally come to...the cathedral. Holy sugar! That’s one big façade. Door’s unlocked...entre vous, Mr. Gillie. Comfortable, Mr. Gillie? [From The Comedy Of Terrors.] Up there...that’s an odd picture to have in a church. Oh. That must be Runya. Put your eyeballs back in their sockets, kid. Over there...that must be the holy flame. You know what to do next, right? Good.

...well??

DO IT!!

Okay, that’s done. Frankly, I was expecting more resistance on Expert, weren’t you? I kind of expected a bunch of Haunts to charge into the room and I’d scream like a schoolgirl and run away in a random direction. But this is fine by me...no frazzled nerves, no change of underwear required. So now you’ve removed the curse from the Night Falcon, you can head for that convenient portal accessed via the convenient doors that just conveniently opened up in a convenient manner.

[The Hangar version of this review featured a very strange aside here, something to do with...hell, I don't know. Here it is, and don't say I didn't warn you.]

[This has nothing to do with it, but what is the deal the Japanese have with dressing up women as schoolgirls and having them show off their panties? It's creepy. Not to say that it isn't fun, no... it's a universal truth that all erotic things are at least somewhat creepy. Take smearing yourself with palm kernel oil before watching Casper with Christina Ricci... better yet, never mind.]

[I mean, what the hell??]

Bottom line: this mission isn’t really all that difficult if you keep your head and don’t do anything stupid. You have plenty of equipment (assuming you bought the right gear in the equipment store) and stealth on your side, so it’s not a problem.

Let’s recap this campaign. First mission: medium in length; some minor problems with taking out the AI, but nothing too difficult; cool Easter Egg; nicely done. Second mission: medium, but could stand to be a tad larger; the locations feel too convenient in relation to each other. The opposition is fairly easy to overcome (if you sneak by the Succubi, that is), with no resistance at all at the very end...but on reflection, I think the AI placement is logical, as this mission isn’t huge and would be quite cramped with more monsters. Together, these missions are fine for an evening’s pleasant diversion. You know...once you’re finished slouching under windows and stealing infants and replacing them with your own hellish offspring. Or was I thinking of a ghoul’s pleasant evening?

[Lovecraft's version of ghouls, anyway...]

Christine and Ar-Zimrathon have put together a nice capper to the Night Falcon series (unless they plan MORE)...worthy of download and fun to play. Enjoy!

The End Of These Lists...Finally!

1) Equipment store!

2) Whoops. The Mereskan priests were screwing around with the Night Falcon and summoned Runya’s servants, the Succubi. My question is, why would anyone want to summon a Succubus, or worse, Succubi? I mean, sure...the name is titillating, but they’ll eventually do something unspeakably horrible to you and your soul, so I think it’s safest just to subscribe to certain magazines instead. "Wingéd Demon Sluts Illustrated" and "Busty Bodacious Beelzebabes!" for a start, then moving on up to "Fiery Maidens Whipped Into Lust" when you're ready for that sort of thing.

3) Speaking of titillation: the Succubi patrol the place sounding as if they have miniature portable Sybian devices installed and drilling away. If you're unsure what a Sybian device is, ask your pastor.

4) More kill-count weirdness. The stats say I killed 35 things, but I didn’t. I killed 3 zombies, 2 rats, 3 Skellys/Skullys/whatEVERs and 8 spiders. Now, I didn’t exactly impress my teachers with my math skills (my Trigonometry teacher was particularly contemptuous), but I only get 16 from that. I think I’ll go lay down now.

5) Aren’t you glad you spent all that money on gas arrows? Hmph.

6) That’s it for the series! Probably! I’m outta here!

My Level Stats
KO’s: 0
Kills: 35 (really, 16)
Loot: 3327 / 3627

Summary?
Two missions full of grace, help me win this Thief footrace.

Annoyance Rating:
Medium in the first mission, mild in the second.

Score:
4.75 out of 5

[...next...]
« Last Edit: January 03, 2020, 03:04:27 PM by Silver Sorrow »
It is the scent of garlic that lingers on my chocolate fingers

Offline Silver Sorrow

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T2 019: Lord Alan's Basement
« Reply #34 on: January 03, 2020, 09:12:57 PM »
[The return of the "Bats!" Abstract. I know you've missed it. I know.]


T2: Lord Alan’s Basement

Game: Thief 2
Title: Lord Alan’s Basement
Author: Andrea Aleotti
E-mail: N/A
Homepage: N/A
Filename: Basement2.zip
Filesize: 3.93mb
Download: Cheap thief Missions
Score: 4 out of 5

Note: You know the drill...custom skins, HUD, what have you. But it’s mine...all mine! Thanks to epithumia for invaluable info that I needed to create my own cool health shields.

[And that should mean nothing to you.]

Abstract: The Bats Return!
[Bats! Part 15]
...Grilled Bat with Olive Oil, Lemon, and Mint, Bat Salad with Toasted Cumin Vinaigrette, Grilled Nectarines with Bat-Balsamic Glaze, Bat Picadillo Empanadas with Chipotle Salsa, Sweet Corn and Bat Tamales, Bat and Black Bean Guacamole Tostadas, Seared Bat Tostadas with Avocado Salsa, Bat and Lime Tostadas, Smoked Gouda and Caramelized Bat Quesadillas...
[TO BE CONTINUED!]

The Basics:
Movie Briefing: No
Equipment Store: Yes
Skill Settings: Yes; Hunt, Action, Sneak
Map/Automap: Yes/Yes
Puzzle Difficulty: Medium
General Difficulty: Medium
New Stuff: Yeah.
Gameplay: Humans, spiders, some undead; basement navigation / silver-seeking / loot-scavenging / minor gymnastics / swimming / crypt-creeping / key-collecting / etc.

Story?
Once again, you are Garrett, Master Wood-Framer. Wait, no...you’re a Master Thief. Four months ago, a large amount of silver disappeared from the City bank; your investigations have led you to Lord Alan, music lover (despite the fact that his ownership of every Björk recording known to mankind is scathing evidence to the contrary) and Thieves Guild member. The guy even has a court musician, Randy Newman, who irritates the hell out of everyone with his award-winning, critically-acclaimed, abysmally-stupid songs spanning a wide variety of subjects, including his puzzling love of Los Angeles and why short people have no reason whatsoever to live.

Wait, this has just been handed to me...okay. It seems that Lord Alan’s court musician is Maestro Andreas, who in addition to the Lord Alan gig is also the lead guitarist for Sepultura. Anyway, you’ve obtained a map of the basement, where you suspect the silver is hidden. “A map of a basement????” you ask, with far too many question marks. “Must be a pretty big basement,” you figure. You have no idea...but you’re about to be enlightened.

Onward!
This is the Thief 2 version of a mission originally released for Thief 1/Gold. Improvements abound, including a yummy nougat center surrounded by rich milk chocolate.

Perhaps I have been misinformed. Anyway, for the purpose of this review, I played on the middle setting, “Action,” because...well, let me explain. “Hunt” (or, “Normal”) is typical gameplay. “Action” (or, “Hard”) panders to my particular style of gameplay, which is “blackjack everyone”; that’s even one of the goals: blackjack everyone. “Sneak,” however, is everything that its name implies and then some. You’re not to KO *anyone* (in addition to the ubiquitous no kills thing). Almost-ghosting, in other words. This may be the ideal difficulty for people without lives (no offense to lifeless ghosters), but as someone who is fitting in quick Thief sessions during breaks in painting his house (the interior: peach...I was not consulted, nor have I any say in the matter), I prefer not to make my existence any more arduous than it should be.

[It's funny how "peach" paint can look pink under most lighting conditions. If I ever sell this house, I'll have to repaint the fucking thing. Great color choices, mom.]

So I went with the middle setting. Hey, I love hitting people in the head! It’s what makes America great, along with grandma’s peach cobbler and Janet Jackson flashing the nation.* There is a further goal in support of the blackjack everyone  approach, which asks you to try and not let any bodies be discovered. I’m not sure what to make of this, but I’m willing to try.
[* Yes, it was a staged, cynical attempt to breathe some sort of life into her failed, sad little career, and yes, that was such a stupidly huge outcry over such an unremarkable little booby.]

[We finally get a good look at what Janet's been teasing us with all those years, and what we received was just...ordinary. Of course, the reality could never hope to live up to the fantasy. Perhaps this is why kids ignore the toy and play with the box it...y'know, this has the potential to turn into an unpleasant little double-entendre, and I'm not going there. So never mind.]

Speaking of optional goals, you’re also (optionally) tasked with finding the Horn of Quintus and the Hand of Glory, the two most sought-after items in FM-dom. One of these days I hope someone recolors the Horn of Quintus and simply calls it “The Horn of José,” or something similar. I also have some innovative ideas concerning “The Pancreas of Lukewarm Blessing,” but I’ll keep those to myself for the moment.

So let’s take a look inside this place and see what’s going on. First problem, though: getting in. You’re given two choices, and one of them is not a healthy one...scream all the way down if you must. Reload and take the other entrance. Okay, now you’re in a crawlspace. This route you take to get to the Basement itself is something to remark upon; I’m not sure exactly what is to be proved by this cramped maze of passages populated with spiders, but I suppose I shouldn’t ask questions at this point. Indeed, if this mission were to be hastily and somewhat inaccurately described, it would be “you are in a maze of twisty passages, all alike.”

[From the text game Adventure. I've used that elsewhere before...and I probably will do so again.]

The Basement proper is labyrinthine; passages everywhere, populated by guards and servants. There’s even a few head-scratchers to make your visit far more puzzle-y than you would normally expect from your average basement. This Basement, in short, could be the ideal relocation place for the population of western Europe, you know, if they got tired of the bland food and being so close to eastern Europe.

["bland food," said the blithering idiot who has to drink a goddamn gallon of milk to counteract the burning torment of simple black pepper. Sorry, western Europeans.]

While the layout may be confusing to the first-time player, there are several ways to get just about anywhere. Can’t figure out the buttons ‘n’ levers combo to get the grates open near the beginning? Stack some crates in front of a certain window and crawl through. Can’t find a key to open a door? Look around; the key may be in a completely different part of the place, on a table somewhere else, or even on someone’s belt. If there’s one thing this mission taught me, there’s always a way around an obstacle, and if not, you need either a key or a secret lever. On reflection, that’s true of most respectable missions, so I don’t even know why I brought it up in the first place.

The visuals in general really aren’t that awe-inspiring -- it is a basement, after all -- but several areas are most impressive: the multi-colored crypt, the insanely complicated wooden structure that you need to climb to exit the mission, the bizarre tableaux here and there which really have no function other than to make you hug the wall nervously, the pipe organ, and so on. These elements break up the monotony of the overall dark, dank stone-and-brick construction.

There is plenty of secret loot stashed all over the place...in wall niches, at the end of endless corridors, underwater...everywhere. You’ll need to find a good chunk of it before you can get out, so it’s a good idea to keep your eyes open. Of course, you’re really here to find that big silver payoff, so keep looking for that. And speaking of which, just what is that Maestro Andreas guy up to, anyway?

You’ll find out eventually. If you like this sort of mission then you’ll like this mission, and I don’t think I’m going out on a limb by saying that. I liked it, even though basements and garages make me nervous. I’ve seen spiders in my own garage that make those big green mothers look almost kitten-ish in comparison...that is, if a kitten with eight legs and giant mandibles could still be called a kitten. Ugh. I think I’ll skip dinner tonight.

So apart from running through dark brick halls and looking for cash, what else is there? Well, there’s the next part, Lord Alan’s Fortress...

Summary?
Basement exploration and being confounded by many, many keys. Good stuff!

Annoyance Rating:
Low

Score:
4.25 out of 5

My Level Stats:
Skill: Action (Hard)
KO’s: 17
Kills: 8 (spiders, undead things)
Loot: 5096 / 5178

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

Offline Silver Sorrow

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T2 020: Lord Alan's Fortress
« Reply #35 on: January 04, 2020, 12:51:37 PM »
[Well...this is one of the Great Unfinished reviews that have been languishing on various hard drives since inception. I don't feel the need to ever finish it, but I am posting it for two reasons: it fills the #19 slot, and it completes that goddamn Bats! series.]


T2: Lord Alan’s Fortress

Game: Thief 2
Title: Lord Alan’s Fortress
Author: Andrea Aleotti
E-mail: N/A
Homepage: N/A
Filename: Fortress_v1a.zip
Filesize: 12.5mb
Download: Cheap Thief Missions
Lootlist: At CTM
Other Languages Supported: French, German, Italian
Score: [BLANK]

Note: This time, the only things that belong to me are Garrett’s arms and the cop skins. The rest of what you see is what you get.

[Preach it, man.]

Abstract:
[Bats! Part 16]

...and sometimes, if we were lucky, just plain bat.

[I would like to thank all of you for the death threats issued at my person due to this overlong running gag. For your sake, it ends now. Heal well and try not to dwell on past bats.]

[The Bats! premise is now dead. Here it lies.]

The Basics:
Movie Briefing: Yes
Equipment Store: Yes
Skill Settings: Yes; Action, Thief, Sneak
Map/Automap: Yes/Yes
Puzzle Difficulty: [BLANK]
General Difficulty: [BLANK]
New Stuff: Yes, indeedy-do
Gameplay: [BLANK]

Story?
Yes, it’s time once again for “Let’s Find Out What Garrett’s Doing Now!” I’m your host, Silver J. “Frequent Wink” Martindale. Garrett returns to Lord Alan’s place of residence to steal “The Cube.” That’s it. That’s it?? What *is* this The Cube that this is, exactly? What does it mean? Should I be concerned that at any moment, Erno Rubik could lunge at me from the shadows and thrash me severely with a colorful stick in defense of his masterwork, this The Cube? Will I have to sneak by hordes of fanatical The Cube devotees, who have all pledged their very souls to some nutcase with a weird beard and a cigar fetish?

These questions and more (if they exist) will be answered in the order that I get to them. Please stay on the page. Your readership may or may not be very important to me.

[The tone, it seems to me, is "I'm never gonna finish this review, so to hell with it."]

Onward!
So once again, we’re back at Lord Alan’s place. We’re not going in through the basement this time, so you can leave your radon detector behind. This evening, your goal is to get something called The Cube (see my needlessly goofy questions above regarding this object), and...and...well, that’s it. What, no trolling for strange treasures and other happy shit? I guess not.

First off, let’s get started by choosing a difficulty. I usually go for the hardest setting, but this time I’ll go with medium, which is called “Thief.” Why? Because of the KO limit on Expert (or, “Sneak”), that’s why. Your pate-crushing has been limited to 7 individuals, and I don’t know about you, but Silver don’t play dat...uh...that. So I’ll stick with unlimited bonkables and no kills...a fair trade-off, I’d say.

Allow me to mention the visibility gem and the health shields. What you see in the screenshots [...screenshots?] are not mine, so take that as you will. I liked the fact that the left side of the gem was replaced by a numerical indicator of how visible you are, in addition to the gem. The health shields themselves, I really don’t know what they are...flowers? They have a nice translucent effect, anyway.

But moving forward. If getting into the actual basement in the previous mission was something of a time-consumer, then the trip to get inside this fortress is a truly epic undertaking...so to speak. You won’t be stuck in a station wagon with Clark, Audrey and Rusty...and Ellen...dear, sweet, bounteous Ellen**...but you may wish you were after trudging through all the shin-deep water you can stand, and then some. This is an *extensive* water/sewer system, to say the least. This answers the question, “so how the !!#$%!! do I get inside??” so you should probably ignore the two previous sentences.

[** Reference: National Lampoon's Vacation.]

Okay, maybe I was wrong: maybe you DO go in through the basement, but not the one that you know from the last...one...hmmmm. Is is possible to have *two* basements?

There are a couple of ways to get inside the fortress proper, and the choice is yours; but you must weigh your decision against the possibility of being chased all over (this) Creation by guards if you screw up. And speaking of guards...no wonder they’re disgruntled. Have you see their outfits? Let’s hire the color blind to design the uniforms...it gives them something to do and us something to laugh about. No, but seriously: they are a colorful, *welcome* distraction to the usual guard drudgery.

My feet hurt. Big place, huh?

Puzzles!

[And that's where I stopped. What remains is template stuff.]


Summary?

Annoyance Rating:

Score:

My Level Stats:
Skill: Thief (Hard)
KO’s:
Kills:
Loot:

[I don't think I finished the next review, either.]
It is the scent of garlic that lingers on my chocolate fingers

Offline Silver Sorrow

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T2 021: The Enterprise
« Reply #36 on: January 04, 2020, 03:32:27 PM »
[I'm not sure what I was thinking here. Since I had reviewed a package containing episodes 2 and 3, I guess I was going back to finish up the rest of the series in individual installments. I hit my head a lot as a child.

Anyway, this one is unfinished.]



T2: A Keeper of the Prophecies, Episode 1: The Enterprise


Game: Thief 2
Title: A Keeper of the Prophecies, Episode 1: The Enterprise
Author: frobber (Ken Ramsley)
E-mail: N/A
Homepage: N/A
Filename: Enterprise22a.zip
Filesize: 48.1mb
Download: Cheap Thief Missions
Or...: You can get the full campaign pack which includes this mission at CTM as well.
Score: [BLANK]

Note: You know the drill...custom skins, HUD, what have you. But it’s mine...all mine! Sorta! Thanks to epithumia for invaluable info that I needed to create my own cool health shields.

[No. Screen. Shots. EVER.]

Abstract:
[BLANK]

The Basics:
Movie Briefing: author’s logo & a “to be continued” clip
Camvator Sequence: No
Equipment Store: No
Skill Settings: Yes
Map/Automap: Yes/No
Puzzle Difficulty: Mild
General Difficulty: Mild
New Stuff: Yes
Gameplay: Humans...mostly; corporate infiltration / uncovering somewhat questionable working conditions / lack of business ethics / crimes against humanity and OSHA / convoluted goings-on / many, many guards

Story?
Yes, once again...you’re Garrett. In the time since you put your foot in the Trickster’s ass and made the bastard hop, you’ve been spending your time in a state of advanced stupefaction. Blitzed. Soused. Soaked. Bombed. ‘Faced. You’ve been three sheets to the wind and seeing pink whales. You get the idea. Okay, maybe not drunk to such an alarming degree...I mean, you’re not straining rubbing alcohol through week-old bread to get a buzz, but neither are you stone sober, either. Look...let’s just drop it, okay?

Anyway, besides partaking of the crushed grape and ripping off the locals, you’ve also made the acquaintance of a woman named Alisha, whose character profile deserves more detail than I have the patience to devote to typing it. She’s been nagging you to go get the new mechanical eye the Hammerites have made for you, but you’re not too keen on having anything to do with them. All you want, you keep telling people, is to avoid cubicle life and live the way you want...which may include imparting severe cranial trauma to others, but only on a purely recreational basis.

But if things were that simple, this would be a very boring game.

Onward!
This is the author’s remake of his original mission for Thief 1/Gold. I could call it a “port,” but that would be understating the case greatly. There are so many new features and improvements bolstering the original vision that I say we forget the original and focus on this one entirely, okay? Great. No comparisons then, other than when necessary.

Also, this mission is intended as the first episode in the author’s “Keeper of the Prophecies” series, which means that I may have to edit my review of “Hallucinations” and “The Insurrection”...oh, that’s just fine. More work for me.

Anyway, this mission is divided into two parts: the first puts you in your apartment in The City, where you find motivation to break into The Enterprise (it’s a company, not a starship...just so you know); the second mission is your exploration of the place itself. The introduction, with the Celtic music and the rhetorical on-screen questions, is wonderful. The dark, moody atmosphere is set, and you’re ready to move forward.

[And that's where it ends. The rest is blank template stuff.]


Summary?

Annoyance Rating:

Score:

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

[I think I finished the next review, but who cares?]
« Last Edit: January 04, 2020, 09:38:40 PM by Silver Sorrow »
It is the scent of garlic that lingers on my chocolate fingers

Offline Silver Sorrow

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T2 022: Oracle Of The Prophets
« Reply #37 on: January 04, 2020, 09:37:45 PM »
[Huh. I actually finished this one, I think. I'm not sure why I never submitted it...maybe because I was going to try and finish the rest of the series? Who knows. Not I, and I'm me. I should know, right?]


T2: A Keeper of the Prophecies, Episode 4: Oracle of the Prophets


Game: Thief 2
Title: A Keeper of the Prophecies, Episode 4: Oracle of the Prophets
Author: frobber
E-mail: N/A
Homepage: N/A
Filename: Oracle_v1a.zip
Filesize: 40.8mb
Download: Cheap Thief Missions
Or...: You can get the full campaign pack which includes this mission at CTM as well.
Score: 4.5 / 5

Note: You know the drill...custom skins, HUD, what have you. But it’s mine...all mine! Okay, just the arms and HUD in this mission. But thanks to epithumia for invaluable info that I needed to create my own cool health shields.

[Really tired of saying "no screenshots!"]

Abstract:
I think I cover it in the Story section, albeit inadvertantly.

[Translation: at some point I go off the rails and babble dementedly for no reason at all.]

The Basics:
Movie Briefing: No
Camvator Sequence: Two
Equipment Store: No
Skill Settings: Yes
Map/Automap: Noooo...
Puzzle Difficulty: Ever puke up your own skull?
General Difficulty: Momma said there’d be days like this...I never liked her [One of Caleb's idling comments in Blood 2.]
New Stuff: Believe it, child
Gameplay: Sheer panic

Briefing/Story?
At the very end of your harrowing adventure in the Hammerite Cathedral (See: Episode 3, “The Insurrection”) -- or perhaps, unlike me, you did the right thing and avoided any confrontations -- you managed to get to the Precursor device that would take you to “the other side of time” before the Hammers could destroy it. And that’s where you are right now...and although it all looks bleak and forbidding, it still beats sitting in the drive-thru of McDonald’s in a 20 year-old Subaru with a broken air conditioner in the blazing heat, waiting for the 257 separate teenage princess dipshits in their brand new red Corvettes/SUVs/whatevers to get their small Diet Cokes. You want to kill them, kill them all, but it’s so freaking hot that you decide instead that you just want to go home and lie down in a dark room with an ice pack the size of France on your head. Oh, but Heather and Kiki and Bippi and Shitti and all those other hideous mutant freaks of evolution gone horribly wrong just HAD to order their small Diet Cokes at the window instead of getting their pimply emaciated fake tan asses out of their cars -- which daddykins bought for them, by the way -- to go inside to order. Oh, no...that’s TOO DAMNED HARD to do, so they’re just SITTING in front of you with the fumes from their all-American gas-guzzlers and the godforsaken sun making you want to throw up all over yourself, and you hope someday...someday they’ll die horribly, and you pray to God Himself that you’ll have a front-row seat when it happens. You hope it’s messy, and you hope they suffer. Suffer for eons. You envision a bunch of kids using their intestines for jumprope. You imagine feral dogs burrowing into their abdominal cavities and chowing down.

[This may be the going-off-the-rails bit I referred to earlier.]

Oh, well *finally*...the minimum wage asswipe retardo with the bad English gives Susie Sunshine her stupid damn stinking Diet Coke (and you hope that the Aspartame will give her incurable cancer), and she just sits there. What is she DOING?? She’s just sitting there! You honk your horn, and the little bleached-blonde IQ-disadvantaged cretin gives you the finger and roars off. You hope it’s a particularly nasty form of incurable cancer. You get your order and drive home, where you find that the clueless Laotian chick on the window screwed up your order and gave you three fish sandwiches and an apple pie (four of the same thing, really) instead of your Quarter Pounder and fries. You hate fish. You curse Laos and its people. You curse your own country for having such lax immigration laws as to let Laotians in. You try to kick the cat, but she’s too fast for you. You kick the stereo and knock over your CDs. You stomp viciously on all the crappy music you thought was SO great before you stupidly left the house today. You fall on the floor, alternately screaming and weeping bitterly, thrashing and cursing like a drunken sailor being castrated. You crawl to a dark corner where you sit, hugging your knees and crying to yourself. You’re still hungry.

[This may have happened. I'm not sure. It's all a blank.]

[If I may explain this calmly? Thank you. Sitting in the drive-thru of McD's in a 1984 tan Subaru with a busted air conditioner in August behind some teenage chick in her brand new sports car that daddy bought her, waiting for the idiot working the window to hand her a small drink? That happened. The Laotian chick at the window? That happened. In fact, I knew her. I went to high school with her. She had the worst English, and they put her to work on the window. (However, THAT actually occurred twelve years *before* the incident in question.) That's all I know for sure...the rest MAY be exaggeration, but again...it's just...blank. I blame heatstroke.]

So this is *way* better than that. You’re here because the Keepers have told you that coming here would be the only way of finding the cure for the poison that’s been slowly killing you. Since time doesn’t exactly exist here (as is the case, thank the Builder, with the concepts of “roller disco” and “Olivia Newton-John”), your pocket watch doesn’t work...but the poison’s stopped hurting you as well.

So drop your socks and grab your...um...socks, because the cure might be around here somewhere, probably guarded by a horde of Areola-class Orcs with the Pepper Spray of +20 Blinding, or whatever...hell, I don’t know. Just play it.

["So drop your socks and grab your..." is a quaint reversal of the "drop your cocks and grab your socks" saying that is military in origin, I think.

While I'm in a foul mood, I should point out that at this point, I usually have to endure someone asking me in a plaintive way, "oh...were you in the military?"

No. You don't have to have been in the military to know some of the things they say. Fuck off.]



Onward!

[Curiously, I originally constructed the review as a series of letters between me and various people. I have no idea why. I didn't really care for the end result, so I reworked it a bit. I seem to recall that I got sick of the damned thing and that's probably why I never submitted it to the Hangar.]

Dear Mom,

Please send more health potions as I am getting my ass kicked repeatedly on the other side of time.

All my best,
Silver



To Mr. Silver Sorrow:

As legal council representing Mrs. Sorrow, we insist that you refrain from referring to Mrs. Sorrow as “mom”; such familiarity is distasteful to her, as is your continued existence. Further attempts at contact will result in legal action.

James A. Bilderback, Attorney At Law
Bilderback, Cox and Mustafa



Dear Dad,

Mom’s threatened to sue me, can you believe it?? PLEASE send me some health potions and some flashbombs? I’m okay on fire arrows, though.

Your only (mis)begotten son,
Silver



RETURN TO SENDER


Dear Santa,

Could I please have some health potions and holy water for Christmas? Admittedly, I’ve been a rotten little trout of a boy, but geez...have a heart, willya? I promise I’ll even give Rudolph’s nose back...it just screws back on, right?

Hopeful and Merry,
Silver



Dear Idiot,

You deserve everything you get, you dumbass genetic misfire. Rot in hell, kid!

Miserable freak!
Santa



Dear Satan,

I humbly bask in Your Infernal Malevolence as I beg this one boon from Your fiery claw: a health potion or two, please? I’m not even gonna ASK for holy water.

Thanks a lot,
Silver



My Dearest Silver,

I’m sorry, but this I cannot do until you make good on your other debts. Have I received one soul in payment for my arrangement of Tia Carrere’s nude pictorial? I have not. Have I seen the masses bow to Me -- as you promised they would -- in return for Kiana Tom’s nude pictorial as well? Again, I have not. I am a nice guy, Mr. Silver, which is why I continue to grant your requests, even though I receive very little in the way of gratitude. In fact, I am still working on the Dolly Parton nude pictorial you so vehemently requested 35 years ago. I am only one Being, you know...I’m not...well, *Him*. These things take time. So what will it be? Dolly...or health potions? You decide.

Yours,
The Father Of Lies



Dear Jesus,

Mom’s suing me, dad’s gone AWOL, Santa hates me, and the Devil’s demanding payment for past services! What will I do??

Best,
Silver



Dear “Silver,”

And you are...?

Jesus



Dear Karl Urban,

You don’t know me, but--



Ah, to hell with it.

[I'd like to point out here that I find it amusing when someone finally gets the attention of a supremely powerful entity -- malignant or otherwise -- and then requests something that serves to underline just how stupid human nature can be. A chance at ultimate power? Nah...I'd rather have nude pictures of a celebrity! A cure for cancer? Screw that, I wanna be invisible and hang out in the women's locker room! Feed the hungry? What do you mean? I'M hungry! Give me free pizza forever! And so on.]

What’s a boy to do? Granted, this boy will never see the sunny side of 29 again, but you know what I mean. I’m dumped on this weird rock in the middle of Builder-knows-where, I have The Many breathing down my neck, and the gravity’s all screwed up! Help me, someone!

SLAP!

Thanks. I needed that. Based on personal experience, you will fall into one of two categories upon playing this mission; either you will freak out and experience an adrenaline high, or you will freak out and hate it with every fiber of your being. Me, I tended towards the latter, but...

...but upon playing it again, I actually *like* it now. I know, I know...I can hear the other denizens of the Haunt** readying their fire arrows -- as I had initially expressed some disappointment with the mission -- but upon a second playthrough, I enjoyed it. I knew what to do, I knew where everything was, and I knew what to expect. Granted, this takes away somewhat from the frantic pace of first-time terror, but that’s no big deal. Terror’s overrated, anyway...it’s omnipresent dread that *really* gets you. Some examples: Return to the Cathedral, The Inverted Manse, Robbing the Cradle, and “apple” juice made by Snapple. It doesn’t even *taste* like apples, goddammit! Um...perhaps that’s beside the point.

[** The Haunt Of Hilarity, that is.]

So here’s the deal: you’re on a gigantic rock with low gravity, you can climb up seemingly impossible slopes, and there are less-than-intelligent things roaming around that don’t like you very much. I could draw you some sort of smarmy real-world parallel here, but I’ll let you off easy this time with just one phrase: “Wal-Mart.” Well...except for the gravity thing. Quite the opposite, in fact. Is it just me, or does gravity actually *increase* in Wal-Mart until you’re dragging yourself through housewares by your bleeding, broken fingernails as the weight of several atmospheres crushes your lungs and removes every last shred of your will to live? Maybe it’s just me. Anyway, you have to find a way inside the rock -- unless you like being chased endlessly a la Benny Hill -- and you might investigate those glowing things near the bottom of the rock, just to give you a small nudge in the right direction.

Once inside, there are several “floors” (or “levels,” if you prefer) to investigate. There are some nasty things wandering around in here too, of course; laying around are crumpled notes with various clues on how to survive and proceed, as well as the bodies of a bunch of Hammerite explorers (who, by the way, resemble the crew of the Von Braun). [The ship in System Shock 2.] [Which ship? There were two.] [Shut up.] By gleaning what you can from the notes, you’ll come to understand that there is a slightly tricky procedure you must perform in order to leave this place.

Typical.

So what do you do? Well, considering that there are four zones -- red, blue, green, and white -- and three floors which you must explore in order to find out what the hell you’re supposed to be doing, the problem is not a simple one. I spent a lot of time just wandering, trying to remember if I visited each area before. I eventually hit upon the blatantly obvious navigational method of using the notes I found as markers. So the only problem remaining -- besides taking out the opposition -- was what, exactly, I should be doing.

This I will leave up to you. After all, if *I* can figure it out, then I’m guessing you will be able to do so as well. The clues are there, all you need to do is explore every inch of the place and put the clues together. But there’s always the problem of your errands being hindered by the inhabitants of wherever you are; in this case, you face the very real possibility of having your head handed to you by the cast and crew of “Baywatch”...

...ah, sorry. I meant to say “the evil creatures that populate this netherworld.” I mean, these creatures are hideous in nature and single-minded of purpose, so it’s easy to mistake them for David Hasselhoff, right? And here’s something that’ll keep you up at night, kids: remember the altered vampires in Blade 2, how their faces would open up revealing this hellish, glistening maw? Well, that’s what Pamela Anderson’s breasts do when you’re alone with her. Sleep well!

[However, I understand it's her personality that's much, much worse.]

[Who knew she even HAD a personality?]

[And that's goddamn enough about Pamela Anderson.]

Anyway, dealing with them is where the real fun comes in: experimentation! There ain’t nothin’ ah likes more’n experimentin’! Fire arrows are in abundance -- if you know where to look -- and some things don’t take kindly to gas arrows; there’s also a weapons cache on the lowest level, so let this otherworld be your laboratory, with the bad guys fulfilling the role of munitions testing (in)volunteers...you know, as opposed to your usual “volunteers,” tiny beagle puppies and baby bunny rabbits.

Or not. It’s up to you how you play; it’s said that Ghosting is possible, although I have better things to do than sneak by monsters. I mean, sure...if I had nothing with which to kill them, then yes: I would sneak (or simply quit and go do something else with my life...but what are the odds of that?). But I have all these wonderful toys of mass destruction and/or permanent disability, so why not use them? Again, it’s up to you. I assure you that it is possible to finish this mission on Normal...as for other skills, I’ll let YOU decide that. Me, I was happy just to get out of there alive.

And now, I feel it incumbent upon me to talk about the architecture. I also feel it necessary to use big, awkward words in an attempt to break out of the rut I’m currently inhabiting, but more on the futility of human aspiration some other time.

I don’t know how long it took frobber to put this thing together, and I can’t even begin to comprehend the effort behind it, but...wow. To you and me, it looks like a series of caverns...but if you think about it -- which I am attempting to do without the benefit of psychotropic antihistamines -- it must have taken a long time to pull this off. It’s beautiful in its scope (if not appearance), and if for nothing else, I bow to frobber for making something totally freaking bizarre. It may not be Xen exactly, but then again...that’s a good thing. I prefer lava and Psi Reavers to puke-colored water and Vorts any day of the week.

Elements from System Shock 2 (not to mention 2001: A Space Iliad...uh...*Odyssee*) are mixed together with spacey imagery and Thief’s textures to produce something that puts one in a slightly nervous frame of mind. It isn’t familiar, nor is it comforting. Cold, hard stone and evil things infest this world. However, I do thank frobber from the bottom of my black heart that he didn’t include any of Gong’s music. I hate Daevid Allen, and you should too.

[Space Prog. How I hate it.]

Camvator sequences bookend the mission; the first is an establishing thingamabob, and the second is a long, strange trip through Creation, ending, of course, with...

...well, that would be telling, wouldn’t it?

To summarize my impressions, I liked this installment. I didn’t at first, but it soon grew on me, once I realized that I could control my destiny to a certain extent (“destiny” in the sense of “being able to kill things while hiding in the shadows”). The gameplay isn’t so tough once you remember that you’re playing Thief and not SS2; what you know and what you can do in normal Thief-y settings will aid you here. So while this mission may be a controversial entry in the series, at the very least it isn’t boring.

Summary?
Large. Strange. Different.

Annoyance Rating:
High

Score:
4.5 out of 5

My Level Stats:
Skill: Normal (yes, I’m a wuss)
KO’s: 0
Kills: 21
Loot: 850/1,000

[...now that I've read it, I think the whole thing just might be an Abstract with a tiny bit of review thrown in. Just stomach-churning.]

[Bonus! Super-secret hidden obscure reference: The "Bilderback" in the law firm of Bilderback, Cox and Mustafa? A reference to actress Nicole Bilderback. "Cox" refers to actress Nikki Cox. And Mustafa? Well, he's just this guy, you know?

...okay, so that's just there for giggles.]
« Last Edit: January 04, 2020, 09:46:48 PM by Silver Sorrow »
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Offline Silver Sorrow

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T2 023: TTGM: Shore Leave & Up Shit Creek
« Reply #38 on: January 05, 2020, 01:24:31 AM »
[Severely unfinished. I post it so as to not leave any gaps. Plus, the Johnny Cash references were amusing. Strangely, I actually added an Abstract even though the review itself is in a completely unfinished state, which is not how I usually do things.]


T2: The Trickster's Gem Mine: Shore Leave and Up Shit Creek

Game: Thief 2
Title: TTGM: Shore Leave & Up Shit Creek
Author: Belboz (Steven Hindley)
E-mail: N/A
Homepage: N/A
Filename: shorecreek1.zip
Filesize: 8.54mb
Download: Cheap Thief Missions
Score: [BLANK]

Note: [Screenshots...oh, shut up.]

Abstract:
I recently saw the last hour of a documentary, called “Rising Low,” which focuses on a tribute to Allen Woody, deceased former bassist for Gov’t Mule. The tribute essentially dealt with the surviving members of the band getting various bass icons to play on various songs; for example, Chris Squire plays bass on one song, Tony Levin on another, Jack Bruce on yet another...you get the idea. It’s not like they ALL played on each song...that would be silly. Anyway, it’s a fairly interesting film, except for one glaring problem: Mike Gordon of Phish.

I really haven’t heard much of Phish’s material. I don’t really *care* to hear it.* So I wondered exactly who the spotty-looking putz with the 70’s mop & clothes was...then I noticed that the camera was pointed at him almost constantly, where he tended to drone on and on about the philosophy of playing bass...and I thought to myself: “Aha! He must be the filmmaker!” As I hadn’t watched the first half hour of the film, I had to work on instinct, and it turned out that I was right. Self-indulgent little creep...no offense, but hey: I’d rather hear Les Claypool burp the alphabet than someone whose band is a pile of steaming...never mind. I’ll get to the review now.
[* I suppose my animosity towards the existence of Phish goes back to pre-WWW searches in record stores, trying to get the hoseheads behind the counter to realize that there’s a difference between “Fish” (ex-Marillion singer) and “Phish.” Here’s a bitter little factoid: the death of proper spelling did not begin with the Internet, dear friends.]

[While I bear no particular animosity towards jam bands in general, I've just never seen the point of them.]

The Basics:
Movie Briefing: No
Camvator Sequence: No
Equipment Store: No
Skill Settings: Yes
Map/Automap: Yes/No
Puzzle Difficulty: Mild
General Difficulty: Medium
New Stuff: Yesiree
Gameplay: Covered in each section.

Story?
Again, covered in each section.

Onward!
This pack contains two missions in The Trickster’s Gem Mine (TTGM) series; the first installment was Errand Boy, which I have already reviewed. The basic plot of the series is that Garrett is on the trail of a mine filled with untold riches; the problem is actually getting there despite the obstacles and distractions along the way.

These then, are the second and third installments in the series, Shore Leave and Up Shit Creek. I just like saying that title: Up Shit Creek! [shakes head violently] One unique feature of Shore Leave is that there are *four* skill settings available: the standard three (Normal, Hard, Expert) and an unnamed fourth that you access via the Expert setting. Normally on Expert, there is a no-KO rule; by pushing a button in your starting room in the inn, you can disable this restriction and play with KOs enabled. This is how I played that mission, with KOs enabled. Why? Because I like hitting people, okay??


Shore Leave
Gameplay: Humans, bots, misc.; avoiding the cops / ripping off fellow thieves / warehouse infiltration / rooftop traveling / soul-restoring / stowing away

After getting to your room in Errand Boy, you were alerted that the cops were coming to arrest you. It may have something to do with the fact that everyone in that part of town was beaten into unconsciousness earlier and, as a result, were a little suspicious of the man in black who wasn’t wearing a very large ice pack on his head. While they’re stringing up a very confused Johnny Cash, you -- the other man in black* -- slip out of your room before the cops show up. Your goal now is to get to the dockyard and find a way to cross the river, then onward to the mine.
[* Coincidentally, you once backstabbed a man in Blackbrook just to watch him die.]

What I liked most about this first mission is the freedom to wander about as I please. It’s non-linear in nature, with only one rigid goal (two, if you choose not to KO anyone who’s not a thief on Expert), and that’s to find a way across the river. There are hidden objectives, of course, but they remain hidden until you finish the mission, reflecting what you accomplished. It’s this free-form approach to goal-tending (to borrow a metaphor) [...more of a pun, actually...] that makes this end of the scale so enjoyable. The other end, of course, is the rigidly multi-goaled mission that I enjoy as well.

The prime motivation to this mission is exploration. By exploring your surroundings thoroughly and sneaking into places where you’re not wanted, you’ll find small tasks that bear fruit upon your larger mission. For example, collecting the disembodied souls (contained in golden skulls with neato particle effects) of four dead members of the Brotherhood of the Sword and placing the souls on their crypts, a way will be opened into another part of the mission...a third possibility for completing the mission.

Yes, there are several ways of ending it, but I’ll leave that up to you to figure out.

[And that's where I stopped; the rest is just template crap. I could say that perhaps someday I'll revisit the series and finish the review, but I wouldn't bet money on that happening.]

My Level Stats:
KO’s:
Kills:
Loot:


Up Shit Creek

My Level Stats:
KO’s:
Kills:
Loot:

Summary?

Annoyance Rating:

Score:

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

[Fear not: just one more FM review to go, then I'll post the full game reviews (T1/G, T2, TDP)...and that'll be that for Thief.]
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Offline Silver Sorrow

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T2 024: The Seven Sisters
« Reply #39 on: January 06, 2020, 12:01:32 AM »
[This was the last review I had finished, but never submitted. Dunno why. So I trimmed a bit and sanded off a few rough edges...I'm not sure if I'm going for a hedge or a semiprecious stone metaphor here. Regardless, what resulted...needed even more work. So I rewrote some of this weird beast, so now it's a bit more coherent than it was, even taking into into consideration the point where I went from a bizarre reference to Genesis' "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)" to a fried chicken-themed parody of "The Way We Were."

...now that I think about it, I can see why I kept it to myself. But at least I finished it.]


[Also of possible note is that the FM itself is really a mini-campaign, four missions (one short prologue and three "nights") in total, so I divide the review accordingly.]

[Finally, a sad note: Lady Rowena passed away in April of 2017 (Nightwalker's thread is here), so this is my tribute to her. Hopefully she can forgive me, wherever she is. And what better way to finish up my FM reviews than with her final mission? (Granted, there was a posthumous release of a mission she was working on at the time of her passing -- and completed by Yandros -- but this was the last FM she finished.)]


T2: The Seven Sisters


Game: Thief II: The Metal Age
Title: The Seven Sisters
Author: Lady Rowena
Filename: SevenSisters,The_v2.zip
Filesize: 95.2mb
Download: Cheap Thief Missions
Loot List: at CTM
Score: 5 / 5

Note: The readme warns about possible crashes if using custom content when loading the last mission in the pack, so watch out. The warning was very clear, in fact...frankly, I feared for my life.

Note #2: Despite the dire warnings of death, dismemberment, and various other uncivilized things occurring to my person, I used my own visibility gem instead of the one supplied with the FM. It's not a dig at Lady Rowena, it's just that I'm used to my custom vis gem. It's pitch black when I'm completely invisible, so most other vis gem replacements I find to be an uncomfortable fit. Meaning, it's a bit hard to gauge exactly how visible I am...I admit that I'm weird, so don't give me any shit.


Abstract
After some effort, the old wooden door popped open suddenly, startling them both. Jason raised the powerful flashlight and shined it into the opening, revealing dusty wooden steps leading downwards. He and Brenda glanced at each other and then gazed down the steps in shared dread. Jason shrugged and began to descend cautiously. Brenda hesitated for a moment, then crowded close behind him. The age-worn steps groaned under their weight, but held.

The air was musty, but breathable; this place had not seen human use in some time. The steps ended on a bare concrete floor. A short, narrow passage lay before them; they crept slowly down the passage and into a low-ceilinged room. Jason, his muscles cramping with tension, jerkily shined the light into the corners first, then along the walls...his mind could barely deal with the horror of what was on them. He tore his gaze away when Brenda gasped. She pointed over his shoulder at what was in the middle of the room.

It was large platform...a table of some sort. And though dusty, they could still make out that its surface was green felt. It was all too much for them. Wood paneling on the walls...dusty sports memorabilia...a pool table...

"Brenda," Jason groaned in utter despair, "this is a Man Cave."

Brenda screamed.


Briefing/Story?
You're off to visit your old friends, Basso and Jenivere. You remember them, right? Sure you do. Nice couple. After you helped Basso rescue Jenivere from the clutches of Lady Rumsford, they married and moved to a small town, called East Fording (a much nicer community than West Whacking), which is close to The City. Basso has opened a locksmith shop there, and you suppose Jenivere engages in housewifery -- whether desperate or not isn't made clear -- so she is probably fulfilled somehow. Basso sent you a letter, inviting you to spend some time with them, and after considering all of your options (including plans for a messy suicide involving an industrial meat grinder), you said "what the hell" and accepted. Since this is supposed to be a vacation, you left your thieving tools at home.

You blockhead.

Basso also mentioned in a letter that there have been a couple of cases of plague in town, and the town council has imposed a curfew. Enh, no big deal...just a touch of plague here and there, that's all. It should be cleared up by the time you arrive, but if not, there's a secret way into town. It was once used by smugglers, and it leads to Basso's storage hut. From there you can use the back door to get into their home. You make a mental note to ask Jenivere how she likes having you as her back door man.

[Wink wink, nudge nudge.]


Onward!


Prologue: Oh, Geez...I Forgot My Water Weenie!

Aieeeeee!

>splash<

Welcome to the executive VIP entrance to the town of East Fording. It could have been worse, though: it could've been the community lagoon after the big chili cook-off. So. Get inside Basso's house and drip all over his parquet floors, because you're sopping wet and none too happy about it. Your cloak is shrinking up to the size of a handkerchief and your pants are chafing your danglies something awful.

>squish squish squish<

What's this? A sign of a struggle? Interesting. There's a note. That's interesting, too.

Yes, indeed. Very interesting, that note.

Maybe you should read it, chucklehead.

Yes...yes. That IS interesting. And perhaps intriguing, as well. So...the plague isn't just a passing thing, eh? Well. You guess you know what you'll be doing for the next couple of days, right? That's right: you're gonna find a cure for this plague, rob the town blind, and hopefully find some sort of medicinal powder to sooth your chafed red raw tender bits. Not the idyllic vacation you expected, but it's better than listening to Jenivere expound on the virtues of doing laundry and ironing while Basso regales you with dramatic and humorous tales of the locksmithing trade. You ask yourself, and often, just why the hell do you hang out with these people?

But first, you'll take a look around Basso's house. Yup, there's Jen in the basement. She seems different somehow; you've never been married, so you don't know for sure if her behavior is abnormal for a married woman. Giving her the benefit of the doubt, you assume that this is not normal behavior and take notes on how she acts. So now you can tell a plague victim from a regular person, right? Good. That'll come in useful.

Well, time to turn in. Big night tomorrow.

>squish squish squish<

No towels, huh? I guess I'll just drown the bedbugs, then.


Night One: If They Find You On A Dark Street Trying To Pick Their Locks, They're Gonna Send You Home To Mother In A Cardboard Box!
[Reference: Pink Floyd, "Run."]

Now that you're awake, it's time to gather up your stuff...well, you need to tap a kidney first. All done? Did you give it a good shake? We can't have you running off with wee-wee stains in your codpiece now, can we? Do you remember your Peepee Song? Together, now:

Pee for The City, Pee for Karath-Din
Pee for the place I kidnapped Cavador in
And shake twice for Viktoria!


All set? Fantastic. Let's get to work. On your first night here in town, you'll want to check out every place that you possibly can, and note where everything is. You won't be able to get into as many places as you like, but that's okay: patience is a virtue. Or so they tell me.

Since you only have your triangle lockpick (that's the silver one, Beavis), you'll note that some doors can only be partially picked open. This is to let you know that this location will be available for exploration when you come back tomorrow night; similarly, some doors are locked tight and cannot be opened this night.

However, there were several times during play that I gave up all hope of ever reaching a seemingly unreachable area, only to find that either I'd get there eventually, or a little more imaginative thinking was required on my part (meaning that I was in serious trouble). So if something *seems* inaccessible, that's not proof that it *is* inaccessible. No, don't worry: it's not as confounding as it sounds. Or maybe it is. I can't really quantify degrees of confounding anymore, which is the fault of some other incident entirely.

My point here is that you gotta use that thing you call a brain to get through this one. I suffered terribly, but that's because I'm an idiot. You fine folks out there likely won't have as many problems as I did. You'll have to put a few pieces together to get the whole picture, and you will not, repeat NOT breeze through this one in fifteen minutes...well...unless you find the taco launcher easter egg and get to the blue flag before...

...no, thinking of something else. Never mind.

Like I implied before, this sorta-recon mission will allow you to get a clear idea of the town's layout and note the points of interest on the way to your ultimate doom (thy flesh consumed, indeed). And it's quite a layout, mind; once you think you've seen everything, there's something else. The town will open its hand to the patient thief, but will remain a closed fist for the impetuous bungler.

Hey, that was cool. Look, ma! I'm WRITING! Or at least typing, anyway.

Among the sights you'll see are an old Hammer cathedral, a new Mechanist cathedral, several houses you may enter and plunder, an extensive canal system (yay! canal water! yum!), a prison, a couple of shops and pubs, and so on. You'll be able to interact with the various locals (that is, beat them into a coma) such as guards, the City Watch, thieves, Mechanists, commoners both plague-ridden and not, a couple of ghosts, several bats, and more.

In addition to the things that grasp at their sentience with varying degrees of success, there are plenty of crooks and nannies...um...nooks and crannies...to explore, which sounds dirty no matter how you say it. (Cooks and trannies? Books and fannies? Tooks and Bagginses?) Add to that cramped passages, wide open streets, and loads of opportunities to find out it feels like to have a sword unzip your guts. It's disgusting I know, but I maintain that the thief who understands the unpalatable downside to thievery is a cautious thief.

In that vein, there are a couple of particularly tricky areas that require a bit of thought to solve. Unfortunately, I am totally unprepared for such horrors. So sometimes this thing hurt. A lot. But I found with patience (ouch!), tactical thinking (ow! quit it!), rationality (I said quit it, goddamnit!), amd not just a little luck (agghhh...make the hurting stop!), I was able to muddle through somehow.

Sometimes, just finding another way to approach the problem is necessary...and I mean that in a literal, physical sense: just backtracking and finding another route will let you more easily solve the conundrum of too-alert guards looking too closely at where you want to go. I mean, such circuitism doesn't work all the time, but just enough to make you feel like a friggin' genius when you do pull off some sneaky maneuver. Didn't see that coming, did you Mr. Guard? Tee-hee.

In these missions, I was determined to beat the living shit out of every...I mean, I endeavored to render everyone unconscious that I possibly could. Why? BECAUSE THERE'S SOMETHING WRONG WITH ME. Also, it makes getting around easier when I remember that I forgot to do something on the other side of the map. But more altruistically (or so I tell myself), it cuts down on the chance that some idiot guard might kill either Basso or a plague victim...which you're actually more interested in curing than seeing how many pieces you can cut off them before they drop dead.

This is a sprawling, somewhat well-worn town that works very well with what makes Thief great (that is: sneaking). It's intricate, it's wonderfully-made, and it's not a place where you want to be caught unawares. As I may or may not have mentioned (probably not), you'll eventually stumble across a few plague victims in your wildly popular sold-out tour of the sticks, and you can either 1) kill them and fail the mission (not advisable), 2) avoid them, or 3) cure them. Since you have to figure out *how* to cure them, it's best to go with #2 until you discover the cure...

...which brings up the subject of the cure itself. It isn't anything elaborate, but finding enough of it may be a problem; do not worry, as there is enough to go around by the end of the mission. But you'll have to LOOK for it. Bummer. Well, what did you expect? Everything in one little room? Nothing is easy, thief.

Despite my distaste for spoiling everything about the mission, I will tell you that you'll most likely want to cure Jenivere as soon as possible; this will make it easier for Basso when he comes home later. While I understand that many men claim their wives are out to get them, it's true in this case. Also, it checks off one of the most important goals early on, and who doesn't like that?

So once you've scouted out the place and run a few errands, it's time to head back to Basso's and get a good day's sleep, you pale thing you.

A Literary Quote Related To Something In The Mission: "For the love of God, Montresor!"

[You'll know it when you hear it.]


Night Two: Yeah, I'm From Around Here. I Live Over In South Fuck You.

Ah, back at it. It's the same town, but a few things have changed since last night. Different guards patrol the streets, certain areas are controlled by other types of enemies, etc. Basso has thoughtfully provided you with all of the important keys you acquired the previous night, on a keychain. You tried to thank him by kissing Jenivere full on the mouth, and she responded by kicking you in the nuts and throwing your ass down the stairs. Such a sweet girl.

[This brings up a particular sore point I have with the Thief games: keys. You added them one by one, and your inventory became stupidly cluttered, making it hard to find the key you needed...a few FMs made use of a keyring system, which was absolutely brilliant. However...picking up keys doesn't automatically add them to the keyring, so...oh, well.]

Tonight you won't be visiting the same places, exactly, and although you won't be able to get into every place you broke into previously, you will be able to access a few areas you couldn't before. This includes the Mayor's house, the private estate of some inbred noble (watch out for his REALLY alert archers), the brothel (it's the friendliest place in town! usually! but not tonight!), and other locales. Your goal this evening is to find several of the key participants in this little drama in your quest to find the source of this nasty plague and kill him/her/it/whatever it may be.

There are a lot of really nice touches here. For example, some of the people you might have blackjacked last night may be plague victims now (I counted perhaps three); some of them might even be dead owing to various reasons. It gives the impression of a living city, where things can change from day to day. Unlike real life, where the only thing that changes are the excuses I concoct to avoid...blech...people.

Wouldn't you know it, there's great art all over the place, too. Okay, I admit that what I consider "great" is probably not what others would say about it, but since I hate people in general, I don't care what they think of my taste in art. I know what I like and I like what I know -- where's that sitar coming from?? -- getting better...in your...wardrobe...

Me? I'm just a game reviewer. You can tell me by the way I type.

*sigh*

Alas. Still, it's funny how some songs will spontaneously pop out when given the right trigger. I mean, okay. For example. It may have been my particular disposition at the time of playing, but I kept associating songs with the unconscious AI, because most of them had names. For example, I picked up a guy named Larry, and then I heard Lou Reed in my head (NEVER a good thing):

I've been told that you've been bold
With Harry, Mark, And John


And it got worse. I clubbed and picked up a guy named Long, and...

It's been a long long long time,
How could I ever have clubbed you
When I loved you


And when I knocked out a bunch of cops in the street...

Have you seen the little piggies, lying in the streets
And for all those little piggies, all they hear is tweets
Because of con-cus-sions


...I decided to take a break. There's only so many songs you can have stuck in your head at one time, and these were crowding out the ones I WANTED stuck in my head, a playlist that is perfectly fine without any bonus tracks from The Beatles, thank you very much.

Adam one-nine, we got a 2112 in progress...that's a Major Silver Digression, over.

Roger that, Foxtrot Zebra Boobies. Don't let him sing about Kentucky Fried Chicken to the tune of "The Way We Were," over.

Too late! oh god the horror...

Chicken
In a bucket by the couch
Crispy-crunchy deep-fried chicken
With biscuits and slaw

Scattered napkins
And the grease we left behind
All the bones in a great big pile
It was finger-lickin' good


It was when that Brian Adams song started --

Look between my thighs
And you will see--


-- that I started screaming. I haven't stopped screaming since. I gotta get another hobby.

I'm sorry. I kinda wandered off into the weeds, didn't I? There's some lovely foliage over here...

Well, anyway.

[Oh, where to begin? Ah: the beginning. Okay. From "I know what I like" to "...the way I type" is in reference to Genesis, "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)"; next is Lou Reed, "Satellite Of Love"; then the Beatles, "Long, Long, Long"; and the Beatles again, with "Piggies"; then Barbra Streisand, "The Way We Were"; finally, Bryan Adams, "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You."]

Again, you're tasked with curing a few of the afflicted citizens, and you can even attempt to cure all of them, if you're into that sort of thing. There's even a couple of side quests you can do to make some extra cash. Besides your overarching goal, you'll be able to wrap up a few loose ends from yestereve, such as finding out why a certain cat is yowling in a certain basement, tracking down Judge Fowley's daughter, rescuing a burrick, as well as curing a few more plague victims, among other activities. It promises to be another full night. When you're done screwing around, meet Basso by the West gate to take the final step towards putting an end to this madness once and for all.


Night Three: Jerry May Have Been A Race Car Driver, But Jesus Built My Hotrod
[Care to guess? No? Okay. Primus, "Jerry Was A Race Car Driver" and Ministry, "Jesus Built My Hotrod."]

[And NO, I don't know what the hell I mean.]

This all seems familiar...

...splash!...

Ah, yes. I missed being unceremoniously dropped into the drink. So wrinkly. I'm going to look like a pink prune wearing a black napkin before this whole thing is over. I'm disgruntled and I'm wet.

>squish squish squish<

This mission is the culmination of all your work the previous two nights, and like before, it pays to remember the important points of what you will read in the course of the mission. There are three individuals you must track down, and coincidentally, there are three major areas that you must brave in order to reach them. Isn't it funny how that works out?

One of them can be found hanging out with a band of thieves in an old abandoned mill. Another can be found in a Pagan-controlled neck o' the woods. Once you finish with them, it's time to find the third one, which is a journey in itself. Along the way you will meet many odd entities that don't want to meet new people, as well as bumping into some old friends you hoped you had left behind in Thief 1. The third individual is the most important one, the fulcrum to this teeter-totter of prophecy (whatever), and it's not going to be as easy as walking through the front door and shouting "HERE I AM!" The bad guys will be all over you like a Kardashian on an NBA team.

In addition to your dreams of silent murder, you'll run into several decidedly different lifeforms that may or may not test the limits of your patience, stamina, and/or aim. It's all well and good merely sneak by them, but if you want to kill them all, I suppose that's possible. Builder only knows why you want to make things harder on yourself, but it's certainly an option. There are no kill restrictions on any level of difficulty in this last mission, but that's because the humans you do meet are bad guys, pretty much.

Any problems I had with this campaign were pretty much centered on this last mission. For one thing, it's a tricky little bastard, with some decidedly confounding situations; for example, the area with the Pagans is possibly *too* well-lit, meaning that one has to be quick to find those shadowy spots before the (silent) archer girls pincushion your ass. The only indication of whether or not they've seen you is the creak of their bows. But that part *is* doable.

Let me back up a bit: shadows are something of a problem in this mission; finding a good hiding space isn't all that easy and your resources (depending on skill) are limited. If I were to give an example -- and you know that I live for giving examples -- I would mention that it's somewhat tough (as in, "a slaughterhouse is 'somewhat tough' on a cow") to gather up much-needed moss arrows (I leave it up to you to find out which foes are susceptible to them) without alerting certain nasty things that are NOT affected one stinkin' bit by moss arrows.

...which is not to say that I'm not impressed with the idea of using the moss arrows as an offensive weapon; it's not often that Garrett's passive tools are used offensively. Yeah...great. But could I please have more water arrows? I ran out at some point and I HATE when I run out of water arrows--

Okay, okay. Shut up about the water arrows.

So you've visited the mill (the location I liked the most), plundered the forest and caverns, and now you're staring at the last name on your To Kill list, and you're wondering: is it as easy as shooting 'em with a broadhead?

I'm not telling you. You'll just have to read the notes you find in the mission to make up your own mind how to proceed. While I won't tell you what to do, I will suggest that you avoid any action that will render you extra crispy. Still, you can't deny the fact that with the liberal application of eleven herbs and spices, you'd be quite delicious.

So it's over. What have you learned, Dorothy? Yes, that's right: Lady Rowena put together one of the greatest FM packs you'll ever see in your pathetic little lifetime. So play and enjoy!

Unless you're afraid.

Sissy.

Summary?
Maps good. Make Silver happy. Get maps. Play maps. Maps make you happy too. 'less you sissy.

Annoyance Rating:
Low, but...well. Let's just say that I had a few rage-induced meltdowns that would not have made my parents proud.

Score:
5 out of 5.

The Grace Scale
[She didn't say. Actually, since I knew this would be my last full Thief review for an indefinite time, I concocted an elaborate voicemail message where she quits and hops the fence, never to be seen again. But i figured, who gives a crap? So here we are. Graceless and crapless.]

[And that's it for the Thief FM reviews. Next up, the reviews of the three full games.]
It is the scent of garlic that lingers on my chocolate fingers

Offline Silver Sorrow

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Standalone: Thief Gold, part 1
« Reply #40 on: January 08, 2020, 08:09:12 PM »
[I think I posted this on the Hangar. I can't bring myself to care.]


Thief Gold

Title: Thief Gold
Developer: Looking Glass Studios
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Official Site: N/A
Price: [Depends. You can get it at GOG (DRM-free!) for under $10.]
Number of Maps/Missions: 17 (including the Training and Blooper missions)
Score: 5 / 5

[DELETED: an incredibly out-of-date note on how hard it is to find the game. It isn't, now.]


I’ve Been Through The Suburbs In A Ford With No Name
[Reference: America, "Horse With No Name."]

Once upon a time, there was a game called “Thief: The Dark Project”. It sold well enough to warrant Gold version, and this is it. Most people I’ve talked with concerning Thief fall into two categories, as defined by the following comments:

“Thief? Great game!”

“Thief? What’s that?”

So we can see by my exhaustive research that everyone who plays Thief becomes a huge fan, and that’s God’s honest truth. As far as I know.

Anyway, Thief Gold -- which is the focus of this review, btw -- is essentially Thief: The Dark Project with all kinds of bug fixes, improvements, etc., as well as three new missions.

[Certain people -- they know who they are -- contend that Gold ruins certain aspects of the original game (for example, the elemental key hunt that has now been split into four separate missions) with its "improvements." I do not disagree, as I see their point. But I don't let it keep me up at night...no, I leave that to my legion of anxieties. Things such as what if "The Hokey Pokey" really IS what it's all about?]


WHOOOOO AAAAARE YOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOUUUU!?!?!
[Reference: I'm not sure, exactly what the original source was, although I was thinking of an MST3K bit where Tom Servo screamed that question in response to some external stimuli. I'll make a guess and say that it goes back to The Who's "Who Are You?"]

Your name is Garrett. No last name or distinguishing scars...yet. [Foreshadowing.] You’re a thief of unparalleled talents, and you’re up to your neck in all kinds of trouble. The time is uncertain; some indications point to a bizarrely warped medieval Europe. Other things -- curious technology, magic -- hint at other possibilities. Whatever the case, your concern is the present. A murky past lay behind you and an uncertain future awaits you, at least as far as you care. You were an orphan when the Keepers -- a secretive group dedicated to knowledge and “keeping the balance” between Chaos and Order,* not to mention their odd obsession with underage sheep (probably) -- discovered you when you tried to pick a Keeper’s pocket (a handful of used condoms, three wooden nickels and a tiny vial of Xia Xiang perfume**).
[* So what about the balance between Capitalism and Socialism? Is that handled by the Gippers? And is the balance between granny-panties and g-strings overseen by the Peekers?]

[** "Xia Xiang" was a perfume made by Revlon. The reference means something to me, but I'm not telling. For the sake of the joke, I should've said something like "a gallon-sized bottle of Axe Body Spray."]

You learned from them, but soon became disillusioned over their ways and direction; plus, they had some odd idea that you are some sort of important figure in their prophecies, not to mention the games of grab-ass in the showers were getting too serious for your liking. So you left them and struck out on your own...by putting your skills to (bad) use as a thief. You’ve gained some notoriety, both good and bad, as a master thief and everyone wants a piece of you. The crime bosses want a cut, the dominant religious fanatics want you dead, the guards want their dinner** (unless you show up...then they want you dead, too), and the nobles want your head on a stick.

[** One of those inside jokes for those who have played the game already; you know, the guard grumbling about no one bringing him his dinner? Yeah, that guy.]

Which means that every night out is a joy...the adrenaline rush of breaking into repositories of wealth and carting off valuables in your Bottomless Loot Bag Of Holding is always a good reason to risk the danger of bloodthirsty guards and dogma-spewing, sledgehammer-carrying nutcases. After a couple of big jobs, your unsurpassed skills attract the attention of an eccentric nobleman, who has a difficult job for you...and that’s where things become intriguing. What follows is a lengthy quest to acquire what he wants, and the consequences of taking the job.

The story is mostly revealed through between-mission cutscenes and briefings, which are done in a uniquely artistic style not related to FMV...which is a good thing. Although if Angela Harry ever decides to show up again as a bra-less Jan Ors in cutscenes, then I embrace FMV wholeheartedly.

[That was in reference to Angela Harry as Jan Ors in Star Wars: Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II. She wasn't wearing a bra. As if it fucking matters.]


“...Miss Baby Was All Right Until Junior Turned Her Head Back Around...”
[That was the punchline to a Brother Dave Gardner joke. I'm not sure why I thought it was relevant to Thief.]

Thief is quite different from your usual run ‘n’ gun games, and at first, I had a little trouble with it. But I soon became enthralled by the whole experience, and once I got used to the idea that I wasn't some sort of gun-toting god, I actually began to enjoy myself. Of course, I sucked at first...but I was having *fun*, you see...even though I was a terrible sneak and got my ass kicked in the late-game “Escape!” mission, it was happy-fun time in The Fortress of Sorrowtude.** My purchase of Thief Gold, then Thief 2 (via eBay)*** soon followed, and the people around me began to praise my obsession with a game that didn't feature deafening explosions as a substitution for conversation.****

[** Huh. I've used that idiot joke more than I had realized...]

[*** This was back before you could acquire them digitally, so if you wanted a full game you had to either pirate the thing and spend, what, DAYS downloading it, or find a hard copy somewhere.]

[**** Half-Life.]

This is not a game for the twitchy and impatient. I just want to state that right up front, because if you’re the type who is a little nervous about not being able to shoot someone at every single opportunity, this game will drive you *nuts*. It’s a game of stealth and sneaky behavior. You’re not encouraged to kill; you’re not a murderer, but you can defend yourself, if need be...no, you’re a thief. And not one of these present-day thieves who pound down a ton of crystal meth and slaughter a family of four and rape the living room furniture, no. You’re a professional who knows his limitations, and if you’re female, suspend your disbelief. Because Garrett is all man, despite the girly wrists. For one thing, you suck at sword fighting. For another thing, you’re not a particularly fast runner. Also, you can’t take a whole lot of damage before dying. To top it all off, you’ll be facing situations that include humans, the undead, perversions of nature (“Look out! It’s the Yokobeast!”), and spiders up the wazoo.*
[* Ouch.]

[Btw, "Yokobeast" was obviously in regards to Yoko Ono. I still don't know why I thought referring to her was relevant in any way. For the timeframe, "Britneybeast" would have been more appropriate...as would "Mariahyeti" or "The Abominable Aguilera From The Hoary Depths of Mediocrity." Not that I have anything against any of them.]

But wait! All is not lost...there are your strengths to consider: you can disappear in shadows, you’re an excellent pickpocket and lockpick, you’re pretty handy with a blackjack, you have an amazingly versatile arsenal of arrows at your disposal, and you have a marvelous singing voice...you’ll be ahead of your foes with just these advantages. But let’s not forget about all the helpful inventory items at your disposal, from lockpicks to flashbombs to explosive mines to health...you’re not exactly a walking arsenal, but you’re no one to be messed with.

But your primary thought is of lucre...wealth...loot...swag. ..moola...payola...cash...you get the idea. [At least, I hope you do.] Your prime motivation is enriching yourself beyond your wildest dreams of avarice, which is something we all want. But how many of us are willing to break into some rich guy’s home and steal everything in sight? Okay, yes: according to statistics, quite a lot of us...but never mind that. And you, as Garrett, are willing to place yourself in some extraordinarily dangerous circumstances to acquire wealth aplenty. This is not just limited to robbing nobles’ homes, but also includes creeping through zombie-infested crypts, corrupted cathedrals, lost cities, wizards’ fortresses, thieves’ hideouts, and other places intended to make you old before your time. Curiously, LGS omitted a mission wherein Garrett breaks into a Wal-Mart and demolishes the Lawn & Garden department with a weed-whacker, but the game fares okay without it.

[I'd buy that DLC...]


There Is No Safe Seat At The Feast
[Reference: Rush, "Anagram (for Mongo)."]

Garrett is an enigmatic character at best; beyond his love of the job, he’s also in possession of a monster ego and a serious stylistic flair. After all, what ordinary madman would wear hard-soled boots into a mansion *crammed* with tiled floors when he’s there to rob it unnoticed? But beyond that, we’re not privy to every single detail of his life or intentions; for all we know, he’s a consummate professional dedicated to gold only...but we do glimpse some other aspects of his personality. For one thing, we know he’s a cynic. His acerbic comments on a noble’s library (“I wonder if he reads them, or if it’s just for show?”) shows his contempt for the wealthy class, while his determination to teach a local crime boss a lesson for attempting to kill him, reveals a deep streak of stubborn independence. He works alone and owes no one allegiance. Even his former teachers, the Keepers, find him difficult to deal with, yet they manipulate him in their own way.

And Garrett is easy to manipulate in the end; appeal to his pride or ego, or even try some reverse psychology on him. He’s all too human, and it’s a tribute to his skills and resilience that he’s survived so long. But not that he’s a monomaniacal, egocentric monster, no -- he does show compassion towards his fellow man at times (how else would you explain the mission failing upon killing a guard on Expert skill, this reviewer asks bitterly?); however, I’m of the impression that’s the exception rather than the rule. But by Thief 2, a little more light is shed on his personality, and he turns out to be a more sympathetic character (relatively speaking) than the first game allowed. I’m just hoping that we won’t have to see him cry in Thief 3.

[We didn't.]


It’s A Little Box That Goes “Ping”
[Reference: I have no idea.]

But beyond the story, there’s the little matter of actually playing the game. Let’s start with what you see on the screen. Right. Close the fake Mariah Carey porn clip and open Thief, you knob. Your HUD in Thief is pretty straightforward; you have health, weapon currently selected, a gem that tells you how visible you are, and a space for cycling through your inventory.

Your health is represented by a row of little red and white shields at the bottom left. Obviously, the more shields the better. In the bottom middle (“I thank you from the middle of my bottom”)** is a curious thing called a “Visibility Gem”. It has one function, and that’s to tell you how visible you are to the AI. Black (really, dark green) is excellent. White is bad. Very bad. And since your job is based on not being seen, keep it dark.*** Stick to the shadows.

[** I've used that before. I'm not explaining it again.]

[*** Reference: Genesis, "Keep It Dark."]

There isn’t anything on the bottom right...until you hit your TAB key. Then you can see your inventory, one item at a time. When you draw a weapon, an icon will float over your health on the left. Otherwise, the rest of the screen is all yours. Should you get an onscreen message, it’ll be at the top middle. Very unobtrusive.

Sometimes, you’ll be called upon to read things (scrolls, books, what have you), and that’s handled by mode-switching over to the document. You know, that horrible “clunk” sound the monitor makes, which in turn makes some of us extremely nervous, because this is the only really good monitor we have and if this one breaks then it’s back to the 15-year-old 14” monitor. Maybe it’s just us, by which I mean “me”. Anyway, it gives you the chance to actually read it (and effectively pausing the game in the process). In other games, usually, you have to be a speed-reader, since the text is in-game and will fade out whether you’re through or not. Deus Ex assuaged this problem somewhat, but you couldn’t move at all. While this switch-to-reading mode may seem quaint, it’s actually fairly useful.

[On modern monitors -- that is: LCD flatscreens, etc. -- the mode-switching isn't quite so noticeable...]

Sometimes, you get lost. Really, really lost. That’s why you have a map. Like reading, the map takes you out of the game; usually, you have an automap, which highlights where you’ve been and where you are in a particular mission. It’s not incredibly useful, but it does clear up *some* locational confusion. One of the most useful features of the map is, if all else fails, it works as a “pause” proxy. For some reason, hitting “pause” in Thief (as well as System Shock 2 and Thief 2) minimizes the game and puts you back at the desktop. Which is fine by me (I have great wallpaper), but it may put the novice off balance.

Wonder what you’re doing here? Hit your Objectives hotkey, and you’ll be taken to a screen that tells you what you should be doing (if not *how* you should be doing it), as well as whether or not you’ve actually accomplished anything. If you have, then this fact will explain the green checkmark in the boxes by each objective. Accomplishments of goals are unheralded, but acquiring new goals will be marked by a chime in-game. In Thief 2, achieving a goal is marked by a chime, which really should have been the case in this game....but let’s not split leg hairs, shall we?

Like in real life (especially if you’re into "discount" pharmaceuticals), when there’s an object you want to pick up, or a door that you want to open, it simply lights up when you center it in your view. Merely “use” it (that is, live in its house and eat all of its food) and something will happen. If it’s a door or a chest, it will open (if not, you probably need to pick the lock or use a key); if it’s an object, you can pick it up, either adding it to your inventory, in the case of keys, food, loot, etc., or it will keep your hands busy, such as in the event of a body or a shovel. This is all demonstrated in the training mission, so you need no further explanation from me on the subject.

[Needless to say.]


Amongst Our Weaponry Are...
[Reference: Monty Python, of course.]

“So how come I turn invisible in the dark?” you ask. Good question. “Because”, that’s how come. Hey...don’t try to pin your notions of reality upon this game; it has its own rules and its own sense of realism. Garrett is a guy who has learned, through years of training by the Keepers, to move unnoticed among others. Altruistically, this was supposed to be so he could observe...but realistically, he’s using it to get rich. Hell, I’d do the same thing in his place. More importantly, I’d take to shadowing Dana Carvey and delivering a nasty, crushing THWACK with a 2x4 to the back of his rotted, malformed skull whenever he least expected it. [Note to Mr. Carvey’s lawyers: I’m just kidding! Probably!]

[I guess I had a grudge against Dana Carvey. No, I don't know why. I don't currently dislike him, so...who knows what zephyr fanned my incomprehensible rage?]

What are we looking at, exactly, in terms of weapons and using them? Well, read on...you ain’t got nothin’ else to do.

An important facet of gameplay is the Equipment Store: you get to buy your essential tools before each mission...and how much money you have to buy equipment largely depends on how much loot you stole in the previous mission. So getting every single bit of loot possible means that you *may* be able to afford all of those extremely useful water arrows. But be aware that you cannot “save” money; use all of your available gold on equipment, because it doesn’t carry over. Some of your weaponry is standard for all missions -- blackjack, sword, compass, lockpicks, etc. -- so you don’t have to buy those in every single instance. And even if you don’t have any money (maybe you ran like hell for the exit and forgot to pick up any loot?), the basics for survival are provided. But be smart: grab as much as you possibly can...you are a thief, after all.

Overall, your manipulated weaponry (meaning, “stuff you swing or load”) is limited to a blackjack, a sword, and a bow. While the sword and blackjack are self-explanatory, your bow is the most versatile tool on your person. (Where you put it when not using it is beyond me, but I try not to ask those kinds of questions anymore.) From ordinary broadheads to noisemakers, you’ll be ready for just about anything. Probably. Let’s look at all of your weapons, shall we? SHALL WE!?!

[I must have sat here for ten minutes, cudgeling what's left of my brain, trying to remember where the hell I got that "SHALL WE!?!" thing. Finally, it came to me: Pee-Wee's basement meeting with his friends after his bike was stolen in Pee-Wee's Big Adventure. Great. Now I remember...and as a result, I have given myself a headache. Well done, Silver.]

Your sword is nothing really special; it’s a sword, which is just a really big knife. You cut things with it. Good for backstabbing, slashing banners and breaking things. And since you’re not a swordsman by any stretch of the imagination -- the sword fighting controls are clumsy and awkward on purpose -- then you’ll have to think of another way to kill or disable someone, should the need arise. How about...creeping up behind them and backstabbing them? You sneaky bastard...well, since you’re about as strong as Eddie Deezen,** you have to rely on dirty tactics...Garrett’s spindly little arms would snap just *looking* at Rune’s Dwarven axe.***

[** And as far as timely and relevant references go, you can't beat an Eddie Deezen jab.]

[*** The Dwarven Axe in Rune was really big.]

However, as you progress, you’ll find that it isn’t feasible to just sneak up on a guard and chop his head off (which isn’t something you can actually do, but it’d be cool); your actions have consequences, and a dying guard makes a hellacious racket. Attracting attention to yourself is *not* a good idea. But there are ways to take someone out, and not even have to kill them...introducing the blackjack. Essentially, a blackjack is just a leather-covered piece of metal [or wood] used as a bludgeoning device, but more importantly, it’s a quiet way to silence someone. Say you don’t want a potentially belligerent guard to be breathing down your neck if you screw up...how about blackjacking the poor sod? He turns his back and whap! Visions of sugarplums...one crack to the base of his skull and you’re free to loot the place silly. Your blackjack is your friend. It is your confidante. Take it out...feel the blackjack...caress the blackjack...until it becomes a living, breathing extension...of yourself.

[Reference: Tackleberry from Police Academy 4: Citizens In Training. "You want to become one with the gun. Feel the gun...caress the gun...until it's a living, breathing, vibrating extension...of yourself."]

Your arrows are myriad and specialized. For the simple things in life, I give you the broadhead arrow, a straightforward steel-and-wood weapon; one fired at high velocity to an unaware guard’s back will make him deader than Bill Clinton’s political career.** Water arrows, possibly one of the most useful arrow types in your quiver, put out torches and remove blood stains, and when combined with holy water, they are a bane to the undead. The fire arrow is Thief’s version of the rocket launcher...highly pyrotechnic, very loud, and useful for killing things definitively; use it on a human and they’ll hate you forever...if they survive.* Also useful for gibbing zombies and lighting torches, if you’re into that sort of thing.
[* A benefit I could see from the inclusion of the GHOUL engine to Thief would involve hitting a guard with a fire arrow and watching his arms fly off. But you’ll just have to use your imagination in such cases.]***

[** Or, more accurately, deader than anyone who knows too much about the Clintons' nefarious deeds...]

[*** I had to look that one up...because I can't remember shit. Anyway, the GHOUL damage model engine was used in Soldier of Fortune.]

Walking across noisy floors is a snap, thanks to moss arrows! And when you can’t reach your victim for some reason, a gas arrow (manufactured by Taco Bell)** will put them to sleep for a long time [i.e., the remainder of the mission]; it has a small blast radius, to use an FPS term, and anyone in that radius will be gassed. I like to have at least seven hundred of these in my quiver, but since they’re hard to come by, at most you’ll have between one and four normally. Drawback: they don’t work on the undead. Trust me...I found that out the hard way.

[** Taco Bell's an easy target for gas-related jokes. I wish I didn't have such *personal* knowledge of what Taco Bell can do to one's digestive system, but...oh, well. I love Tex-Mex, but it hates me.]

The rope arrow. Shoot one into a wooden or earthen surface (stay away from metal, stone, etc., as you’ll make a huge racket and lose an arrow), and a thin rope will deploy. You can then climb it. Finally, we have the noisemaker arrow, which when shot will distract the AI, making them curious enough to follow the irritating noise, usually something by Ravi Shankar. I never said guards were smart, but if you hear sitar music twanging just out of sight, you’ll want to stop it as soon as possible, too.

Ah...this just in: according to everyone in the universe, the noisemaker does NOT play sitar music, and we apologize for the mistake. It really plays the theme from “Titanic”. “We’ll stay...FOREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEV ER this way...”

So what else is there? Well, I could cover your inventory in depth...but I won’t. There’s too much to cover. So in a generalized way: in your inventory you can have things like explosive mines, gas mines, flashbombs (for temporarily blinding people for purposes of blackjacking or getting away), holy water vials, health vials, speed potions, breath potions for when you’ve been underwater too long, your lockpicks, the keys you find, a running tally of how much loot you have, et cetera.


[End of Part One.]
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Offline Silver Sorrow

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Standalone: Thief Gold, part 2
« Reply #41 on: January 09, 2020, 01:39:27 PM »
[Part Two.]


Who Are These People, And Why Have They Eaten My Grandparents?
[No reference, just a throwaway line.]

The AI in Thief may not be the sharpest knives in the drawer, but they sure beat the hell out of Quake’s dumbass monsters. They’re sound-sensitive, but they don’t have great peripheral vision. They’ll search for you, but they might wander away from you if they don’t know where you are. They’re easily fooled, but most of them are deadly if they catch you.

[I'm not sure why I felt the need to compare the AI from two completely different games.]

First off, we have the humans. Humans are divided into “armed” and “unarmed” (aka “innocents”); any human who has a weapon or can launch a magical attack is considered “armed”. In general, these include guards, Hammerites, other thieves, Mages, etc.

Guards are merely hired muscle, their presence intended to scare away and/or protect and/or patrol an area or building, carrying either swords or bows. The Hammerites (aka “Hammers”) are the dominant religious group in the City; they worship the Master Builder. Their symbol is the hammer (but of course), and their warriors carry sledgehammers, while their priests throw magic hammer projectiles. Their sworn enemy is...well, just about anything they don’t like. That includes thieves like you, lawbreakers in general, the Trickster and his minions (more on them below), and chicks who don’t put out.

[Rim shot.]

The thieves are a part of the “have-nots with swords” sub-strata of society; they exist to be a pain in the ass to the nobility (or so they claim). Since you’re an independent operator, the thieves’ guilds see you as a threat to their operations...you’re bad for business, in other words, and they’ll attack you on sight. The Mages (aka, the Hand Brotherhood) are a group of foreigners living on the outskirts of the city, who study and practice elemental magic: Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Snot. They’re not fun to cross, but they are fun to slow-dance with. Under the “etc.” category, of course, are those who would be categorized at “etc.” Don’t make me come over there.

The “unarmed” humans are your nobles, servants, etc. They’re the AI whose job it is to make an unholy racket if they see you. Your best bet is to KO them as soon as possible, because they’re damn jumpy. On the higher skill settings, you’re not allowed to kill them, which only makes things more frustrating if one of them pisses you off. It’s amazing how much fun it is to throw one into fire or water.

Then there are the non-human AI; these range from wildlife to the undead to unnatural creatures, but let’s take a gander at the undead first, hoping none of their dangly bits fall out and cause us unnecessary emotional damage.

You have your basic zombie, who is, of course, living-disadvantaged. A zombie is a former human, reanimated by means unclear...there’s no established answer to the dilemma of zombie reanimation. They’re virtually invulnerable to everything except fire and holy water, although you can whale away at them with your sword to render them sort of unconscious. Just don’t get near them, or they’ll hop up and come after you again. Their weak spot is the area where their spine meets their pelvis; a single fire arrow will blow them to bits, and two holy water arrows will do the same. Flashbombs and mines will work on the undead in general as well. Oddly, zombies can drown. Weird, huh?

My favorite monster is the truly frightening Haunt. The Haunt is the possessed body of a Hammerite warrior, although they carry swords instead of hammers. When idle (or patrolling), they whisper upsetting things (“April 15th! April 15th!”),** and when alert, their demented laughter scares the living bejesus out of you, causing you to have an unfortunate biological catastrophe in your BVDs. They’re quick on their feet, expert swordfighters, and tough to kill (or...kill *again*?). You’re better off backstabbing them or avoiding them completely, which I hate doing...it makes me nervous leaving them standing. They’re not as susceptible to fire arrows or holy water as the zombies, so the best means of killing them remains a backstab...although the [explosive] mine is quite effective against them, as are a couple of flashbombs.

[** For our friends in foreign lands: April 15th is the day on which we Americans are required to file our income taxes or face harsh penalties from a faceless bureaucracy dedicated to blowing all that money on free handouts to illegal aliens rather than, say, helping homeless veterans.]

The last of the undead is the Apparition. He’s more of a ghost than a corpse, but let’s not split football helmets (I’m running out of these things). Apparently, the Apparition is either an evil spirit taking the appearance of a Hammerite priest, or the ghost of a Hammerite priest turned evil...it’s never really clear, and you can bet that any sensible explanation will be just as confusing. I get a headache just thinking about it. You run into a ghost -- Brother Murus -- in the Haunted Cathedral, and he’s not like the Apparitions at all. Bizarre. (I have a possibly stupid and overly obvious theory about this, but it’d be giving too much of the plot away to mention it here.) [Sorry, I don't remember this theory.] Anyway, like the Hammer priests, they throw magic at you; but they throw skulls instead of hammers. The Apparition is pretty tough to kill if he knows you’re there; he’s fast on his feet as well. The best idea is to backstab twice, or if he knows you’re there, just keep swinging and don’t give him a chance to retaliate. They’re resistant to holy water, and it takes more than a couple of flashbombs or mines to kill them.

The wildlife aren’t any better, really. Burricks are lizard-like bipeds, looking a bit like dinosaurs; they belch a gas that does some serious damage, so don’t be around when they start burping at you. I hate burricks with a passion...as far as I’m concerned, the only good burrick is one that’s been thoroughly de-metabolized. Then you have spiders, which aren’t like anything in your grandma’s tool shed. These babies are *huge*. The small white ones are about the size of a cat, while the big green ones are about the size of a Shetland pony. There is a highly dangerous red variety with projectile attacks, but they fall under the “unnatural” category. These “normal” ones just bite and jump over your head which sends these huge freaking chills up my spine just thinking about it.

I kind of wonder how the Frogbeasts fit in, since it makes no evolutionary sense for a frog to explode at will. Enh, maybe they fall into the “unnatural” category as well. Also a mystery are the Craymen, who have pincers for arms and communicate in a chittering tongue. I don’t know what they are exactly, or how they fit into the food chain, but they’re interesting.

Fire elementals are floating balls of flame; they hate everything and will shoot fiery projectiles at you, so be alert...they die when hit by a water arrow. The Fire Shadow, on the other hand, was an addition made to Thief Gold, and the theory is that their purpose is 1) to provide yet another mysterious entity, and 2) provide fire arrows. You hit them with a couple of water arrows and they’ll run off, leaving a fire crystal. They return after a while, so you can repeat the process. But watch out...they have defenses, too.

In the unnatural creatures category, we have the [aforementioned] Chaos spider. He’s just like the green spider in size and shape, except he’s a nasty red. He’ll also shoot webs and some sort of magic projectile at you, so it’s best to get the jump on this one. I hate these things. Also of note are the Bugbeasts -- giant green praying mantis-type major pains in the ass who shoot bug swarms at you -- and the Apebeasts (aka Ratmen), who carry swords and are the infantry in the Trickster’s army.

And just who is the Trickster, anyway? From all accounts, he’s a nature god of myth, a lover of chaos, demonized by the ascetic Hammerite order. Just like how parents of the 1950’s saw Elvis, in other words. [Huh??] To them, he represents the old days of chaos and scattered disunity of humanity; so obviously, the Master Builder and the Trickster were great adversaries. The history is rather unclear on the surface, but what is clear is that the Hammers are dominant now; they keep watch against the return of the Trickster and try to quash the adherents to the Pagan lifestyle...for good reason, as it turns out. Those Pagans can drive you NUTS with their stupid recycling drives.

[It all goes to the same landfill anyway, so why bother?]


Almost, But Not Quite, Entirely Unlike Doom
[Reference: Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy.]

Ask any Thief fan what Thief *is*, exactly. You’ll get a variety of answers ranging from “it’s a game, stupid!” to “it’s a First Person Sneaker”. Sneaker? Yes, that makes sense. Although, not to split watermelons or anything (I’m coming to the end of these things, so you can rest easy), it does fall squarely within the First Person Shooter genre of games; its differences with the more traditional FPS games make it stand out, but it’s still an FPS. Reasoning? It’s in First Person. You can shoot things (except you use arrows, rather than guns). Conclusion? It’s an FPS. You can disagree all you want, but know that I will come to your home and beat the living crap out of you if you start whining at me about it.** I do NOT want to hear it. You never saw this much dissent when Heretic*** introduced a crossbow and an elven wand...we didn’t call that game a First Person Keebler [Elves] Commercial, did we? No! What makes Thief different is its style and methods.

[** Naaaaaah.]

[*** Probably because only eight people played Heretic.]

What Thief doesn’t have is an annoying hub-based map system to cut down on map sizes. It doesn’t *need* such a system. Whereas in Quake engine-based games (HL included) where the maps are kept small due to the inefficiencies of the engine, Thief’s maps can get downright huge, a credit to the relative elegance of the Dark engine. Needless to say, this goes far towards that immersion thing, as the constant map-changing of other games tends to remind the player that he or she isn’t really in the game’s world at all. You’re just someone who’s trying to slough off the stresses of a day, and that’s why you have a grenade launcher...then the next map loads, and you’re so overcome by the sudden despair of your meaningless, pathetic existence that you jam your cheap ballpoint pen deep into your eye socket. Thief will circumvent that. Theoretically.

[I might point out that the maps could be big, but they were kind of sparse; detail was kept to a minimum and physical objects were as well. The Dark Engine suffered like most engines when a lot of things needed rendering.]

From nobles’ houses (anyone else know what Julia Nickson** is doing now?) to infested crypts, from Haunted Cathedrals to underground lairs, from a den of thieves to an opera house, Thief will give you a good reason to strangle the cat and get that divorce you’ve always wanted. Not that I’m condoning such behavior, no...but it’s nice to have the obstacles out of your way.***

[** Julia Nickson is an actress who had a role in the TV mini-series "Noble House."]

[*** DO NOT strangle the cat. It will be your only friend after the divorce.]

Whereas other games may put you in the dubious position of being stealthy, Thief actually makes it fun. There’s a lot to be said for patiently waiting for a guard to walk by, then leaping out of the shadows and bashing his head in. It’s gratifying and, most of all, better than *not* leaping out of the shadows and bashing his head in. Which brings up the concept of “ghosting”, which is a self-inflicted style of gameplay that entails not being seen, not causing a commotion, etc. I’m sorry...that may be fun for others, but I’m not so far removed from my kill-everything-that-moves roots that I would even *consider* letting an armed guard walk around while I’m in the area. To mangle a phrase by Caleb: everybody, if they don’t die, at least sleeps soundly.

[Caleb (from the Blood series); the line was "Everybody dies!" Great fun.]

Additionally, it kind of ruins your stealthy intent when the guards keep stumbling across the bodies you’ve left behind. It makes sense to pick them up -- the bodies, not the guards -- and put them in a dark corner. There’s a good boy.

[Well...you *can* pick up the guards, you just have to render them unconscious first.]

The missions themselves show great variety. My favorite of the bunch is “Return to the Cathedral”, which has been known to cause bladder problems and a nervous twitch in most adults. Other standouts include the freaky mansion in “The Sword”, going undercover as a Hammerite acolyte in “Undercover”, stealing through “The Lost City” (which comes off badly next to its original version in The Dark Project; they messed with the AI found there -- replacing the Craymen with Mages -- and it doesn’t work as well), stealing through an opera house in “Song of the Caverns”, breaking *into* a Hammerite prison in “Break from Cragscleft Prison”, looting haunted tombs in “Down in the Bonehoard”, robbing your thieving contemporaries blind in “Thieves’ Guild”, meeting the Mages in “The Mage Towers”, escaping from horrid things after events turn against you in “Escape”, allying with former enemies in “Strange Bedfellows”, taking it to the MAN -- or something that walks like one, in a certain sense -- in “The Maw of Chaos”...plus, there’s a Blooper Mission to play, if you like messing with config files.

There’s a lot to do in Thief, needless to say. Although the learning curve is tempered a bit by the training mission (“A Keeper’s Training”), it still takes several missions to fully get the hang of playing.


“Thass ri’, ossifer...I’m jus’ out for my mornin’ constipational...*hic*”
[Reference: no clue whatsoever.]

Thief lets you experience a new form of getting onto high places: you can mantle. Essentially, mantling is facing an object higher than your waist, say, a wall, then jumping at it and holding down your jump key (or just facing it while standing against it and holding down the jump key). If everything goes right, you’ll pull yourself up to the higher level. This is a great feature...I wish Half-Life had mantling, then I wouldn’t have to screw around with the crouch-jump to get atop a lousy crate.

And speaking of crates, Thief has crates. Many crates. According to International Law, every single FPS game must, repeat MUST, include crates. But whereas Doom’s crates were decoration and HL’s were usually full of useful items, Thief’s crates are mostly useful for stacking...if you stack them right, you get a banana. Or not. [Not.] But their only real use -- besides something to make a noise with or stumble over -- is for getting into hard-to-reach places when you have no rope arrows or surfaces to use them on...you can stack the crates. But it takes some practice to get it right.

Leaning left and right as well as forward is also implemented. Lean around corners to see what’s coming, lean forward over the lip of a ledge to see what’s below...after a while, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.

Here’s the drawback to all this great movement stuff: as someone who cut my teeth on Doom and other shooters, I found Garrett’s running speed to be maddeningly slow. “Run” is a relative term, only marginally faster than HL’s “walk”; if you switch between the two games often (as I do), be prepared for a period of serious adjustment. You do get used to it, but if you’re as impatient as I am, you might find yourself grinding your teeth and needing crowns and probably a root canal or two. Not that I am bitter. Strafe-running speeds Garrett up slightly, and learning his particular brand of bunny-hopping can launch you along at a ridiculous velocity...but if taken normally, Garrett runs about as fast as my six-times-great grandmother, who really isn’t doing all that many quick, darting movements anymore.

[Because she, as you have no doubt surmised, is rather astoundingly dead.]

However, since your footsteps make noise and making noise is a Bad Thing, you’ll come to rely on his slow gait, as moving quickly makes more noise. Besides the turtle-pace of his “walk” mode, the shift key can make Garrett “creep”...and with practice, you can creep across noisy surfaces without making any noise.

Which is academic, because like every FPS game, you have no feet. Look down...no feet! Oh sure, you *hear* your feet (and so do others, damnably),** but they're not visible to the naked eye. This obvious lack of visible locomotion brings to mind visions of a flying torso, hell-bent on stealing everything in your home from your grandmother’s wedding ring to all your cheese. But it may be a blessing in disguise: what if you *could* see your feet? Is there a guarantee that you would like your shoes? And if you hated them, how difficult would it be to change them, aside from ripping the game apart in search of the appropriate files? Too many uninteresting questions, very little inclination to answer them. Just mark Garrett as “the Invisible Man experiment that went half-right”.

[** I still find it somewhat confounding that the AI can go clopping along over tile floors with nary a batted eyelash from the guards, but I take one lousy step on the same tile floor and everyone loses their goddamn minds. I mean, how can they tell??]

Swimming is really no picnic either; it’s a bit awkward. It does make sense, really...I mean, you’re in a cloak, you’re carrying God knows how much loot and inventory, arrows, a sword, blackjack...so it’s no wonder you swim like you have two broken legs. And you can’t use your weapons underwater, either...but that really makes no difference as there aren’t any real underwater hazards in the game besides drowning. But here’s where Garrett shines: he can hold his breath for quite a while. While the Quake 2 Marine and HL’s Gordon “Slutty Red Lipstick” Freeman obviously suffer from chronic asthma (10 seconds, tops), Garrett can wait them out.

[The comparisons and references to other contemporary games certainly tell Thief's age. And mine, come to think about it.]


A Few Words For The Dead
[Reference: Huh. I think it's...yes, it's Marillion, "A Few Words For The Dead."]

And now for a note about the difficulty levels. There are three skill levels: Normal, Hard, and Expert. The higher the skill, the less you have to work with to achieve *more*. You have less health and fewer things to buy in the equipment store (or just less cash to buy them), but you usually have more goals to accomplish and tighter restrictions on whom you can kill.


Time For A Sweaty Group Hug!
[Reference: none, as far as I know...]

Thief has no multiplayer. Let me repeat that: NO MULTIPLAYER. Hell, the game deserves a full five points for that aspect alone!

If you’ve ever read any online reviews of Thief -- see [link to a defunct website] for a couple of snippets -- then you’ll understand that almost every other game reviewer out there is a snippy prick. “No multiplayer! Phooey!” Some people enjoy MP, and I’m fine with that...however, condemning a game for lack of online play is just stupid, repeat STUPID. Let’s face it: Thief is a great game without it...*because* of it.

[Multiplayer in itself is a stupid waste of time, anyway.]

The developers weren’t trying to develop two different games at the same time -- which is what happens when you try to develop two or more different modes of play for one game -- which means that I don’t have half of a game I’ll never play sitting on my hard drive. I want an immersive game that has nothing to do with interacting with real people; my computer is my way of escaping real life, and I have no desire to be reminded how stupid the human race is during MY time. So I don’t play online.


Hello? Is It Me You’re Looking F--THUMP!
[Reference: Lionel Richie, "Hello"...being thwacked on the noggin in the middle of his soulful interrogation of a woman.]

The most important thing in Thief is *sound*. The largest file in the Thief directory is the sound archive, which is over 168mb, meaning that it isn’t enough just to have all the guards ask “what was that?” with no variation, no...a lot of thought and sweat was put into making Thief not only immersive in storyline and gameplay, but also in making it believable to your ears. Those of us who were numb to the sound of our footsteps in other games had to rethink what we were doing.

[Apparently, 168mb dedicated to the sound archive was a big deal to me.]


Hmmm...Should I Call Terminex Or The Orkin Man?
[In other words, which exterminator should I call to kill all these damned bugs?]

I won’t go into the myriad bugs that people have mentioned over the years since this game has been available. I’ve experienced only a few myself, but there are those out there who have had some serious problems. I don’t know the cause of these, other than Thief can get fairly touchy when certain variations are introduced. In fact, Thief seems to have a different bug for each and every system out there...it’s really quite an impressive feat when you think about it. Thankfully, the bugs I experience once in a while are very mild compared to some of the huge whacked-out bugs that have plagued some players.

[Although I had no idea how buggy a game could be until I installed Morrowind...]


Mantle The Roof?? YOU CAN’T MANTLE THE ROOF!
[Reference: Laurence Olivier in Beneath The Valley Of The Ultra-Vixens...I mean, Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men.]

So why should you try Thief out? I know, I know...I had the same questions when I first played it: what makes this game so special? Why should I spend time with this, instead of my beloved FPS games, or engaging in random acts of unkindness with bound and unwilling cheerleaders? Well, for one thing, it’s different. If you’re like me -- and I know I am -- then you know the boredom that sets in around the ten millionth bad guy killed with a rocket launcher. The same old thing over and over again.

[The same could be said of killing cheerleaders.]

Thief is set apart, not for its seemingly pacifist nature (which isn’t accurate at all), but for the way it puts you into a curious set of circumstances and forces you to use your gray matter to figure a way to go about accomplishing your goals. The graphics may not be the best in the world, but they’re adequate. I know I’ve left a few things out, as there’s so much in this game to experience; as you can tell, it’s one of my favorite games...a far cry from the time I dismissed it as “boring” due to my inborn impatience, I would say.

In the end, Thief is a lengthy, enjoyable game with a somewhat difficult learning curve. But if you give it a chance, you’ll find the fun in it.

[Or not. It really isn't for everyone.]


...And The Envelope Please, Ms. Aniston...Yes, Yes, Nice Thighs...
[Yes, she does have lovely legs.]

Five out of five. It’s great.


System Requirements:
Minimum:
P200 without hardware acceleration
P166 with 3D card
32mb RAM
DirectX 6 (included)
Intel Indeo video codec (included)
Win95/98
100% DirectX6-compliant sound card
4x CD-ROM drive
60mb hard drive space

Maximum:
PII-300 without hardware acceleration
PII-266 with 3D card
64mb RAM
DirectX 6 (included)
Intel Indeo video codec (included)
Win95/98
100% DirectX6-compliant sound card
8x CD-ROM drive
200mb hard drive space

Comment: You’ll find that Thief Gold takes up more hard drive space than 200mb.

[And in an age where a single game can take up most of a terabyte, that means very little.]

[So...that's done. Next up, Thief 2.]
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Offline Silver Sorrow

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Standalone: Thief 2: The Metal Age, part 1
« Reply #42 on: January 09, 2020, 06:42:08 PM »
[Another that was probably posted on the Hangar, blah blah blah.]


Thief 2: The Metal Age

Title: Thief 2: The Metal Age
Developer: Looking Glass Studios
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Official Site: N/A
Price: [Try GOG; you can probably find it for under $10.]
Number of Maps/Missions: 15
Overall Score: 5 / 5

[DELETED: An extremely out-of-date note about how hard you'll have to look to find the game. At the time, I had to track it down on eBay. Now, you can get a digital copy cheaper than lunch at McDonald's.]

Note: I’ve already covered the technical stuff of the Thief series more or less in depth in my Thief Gold review...so now I’m free to play with adjectives and adverbs.


Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends...
[Reference: Emerson, Lake & Palmer, "Karn Evil 9 1st Impression, Pt. 2."]

You ask, “Why should I play Thief 2?” Look, I’m not saying that you *should* play it. Believe me, you’re assuming far too much when you immediately conclude that I’m expecting you to play this game, just on my word. In fact, I don’t WANT you to play it! Because judgmental, conclusion-jumping morons such as yourself have no business playing such a great game as Thief 2. You might as well take your non-opposable thumb out of your mouth and shove it RIGHT UP YOUR--

Um...look, can we just start over?

Hello, I’m Silver J. Sorrow, leader of the Amish Army. I’m here to tell you about Thief 2: The Metal Age, the greatest game to feature both “Thief 2” and “The Metal Age” in its title at the same time. Read on, MacStuff.

[I have no intention whatsoever of trying to untangle that weird mass of references, even if I could.]


...I Had To Hear Your Wondrous Stories...
[Reference: Yes, "Wondrous Stories."]

Well, Garrett’s back. Why? *Because*, that’s why! You slimy little--

Sorry. All these stupid questions are really getting me down; it’s even more depressing when I realize that I’m the one asking them of myself.

...ahem...

*Anyway*, Garrett is back in this installment of the Thief trilogy. And guess what?** You are Garrett! Again! Yes! You’ve robbed nobles, looted undead-infested tombs, defeated the Trickster of legend, found out that Darth Vader is your father and exposed yourself to Harlee McBride** (she gives you a “six”). Then again, maybe not. But it’s been a year since you’ve had your eye plucked out by an eggplant masquerading as a woman, and the Mechanists have risen to power.
[** Don’t answer that.]***

[** Harlee McBride is an actress, mostly known for Young Lady Chatterley, Young Lady Chatterley II, and being married to Richard Belzer.]

[*** Butt-nugget.]

The Mechawhats?? The Mechanists, fool. Y’see, an ex-Hammerite priest named Karras (who was last seen being launched out of a window and down a flight of concrete steps)** had broken away from the Hammers and started his own splinter group, Toad the Wet Sprocket. Er...the *Mechanists*. In the past year, the Mechanists have become quite the trendy religion, due in no small part to their courting of the nobility’s favor, as well as their wonderful toffee-based confections. Karras has based his new version of the Builder’s worship on the forge and the gear, instead of the hammer and the swift kick in the ass for which the Hammers were known. They’re very popular, despite the gauche turquoise and gold outfits.

[** Reference: uh...oh, right. Father Damien Karras, from The Exorcist.]

On the other side of this odd little coin is the City Watch, commanded by Sheriff Gorman “Oh God mother, blood! Blood!” Truart.** Apparently, there isn’t a loose conglomeration of hired guards keeping the City safe anymore (if that were the case in the first game...I seem to remember reading something about a City Watch, but I can’t remember where); there’s now a well-organized police force with brutal beatings as your reward for farting in public. Your respect of them as opponents to your dreams of lucre is tempered somewhat by the fact that they’re dressed like goofuses. Yes, the boys and girls in blue with the big funny hats are on the lookout for you and your ilk.

[** Reference: That one took me a moment. Norman Bates, from Psycho Gorman...Norman...you get it, right?]

Waitaminit...*girls*?? Yes, women have broken through the glass ceiling (with the help of the Black & Decker Glass Ceiling Breaker 9000) and are now toting swords and/or bows along with the guys...which makes it that much more fun to go a-blackjacking. They make the funniest sounds when conked on the sconce. Viva la Equality,** as you now face the prospect of running from women.

[** I think I was just mangling languages on purpose. I think French would have been "vive la égalité", while Spanish would have been "viva la igualdad," I think. Google translation says so, anyway.]

Women guards...what’s next? Left-handed Azerbaijani lesbian paraplegic guards in wheelchairs? I tell you one thing: if some guard in a wheelchair is wheeling after me and calls me a taffer, they’re going in the ditch, buddy. I don’t care anymore. I’m out of control and no one’s gonna stop me!

[Reference: Fred Stoller's "Thrillseeker" sketch.]

But I exaggerate. I like the female guards, and I like putting a well-placed arrow into their backs even better. Take that as a compliment, ladies...thanks to Equal Opportunity, I treat the female guards just as I treat the male guards...with unbiased viciousness.

So with the City being swamped with an overload of order and Affirmative Action, the thief’s life has become quite chancy. The City Watch is cracking down hard on thieves and their enablers (teddy bears with fencing operations),** and you’re reduced to doing amateur-type jobs just to keep body and spirit intact, at the ironic cost of potentially having body and spirit forcibly removed via a sword up the woofter*** for breaking and entering.

[** That's what I love about reviving these reviews years later: staring blankly at some line of text for minutes at a time, wondering just what, pray tell, I meant. Like the Psycho reference, this one took me a moment to remember. In this case, it's a reference to something the youngest daughter (Madeline Zima, "Gracie") on Fran Drescher's show "The Nanny" said to her teddy bear. She was saying she's codependent and her teddy bear is the enabler. I don't usually expect the reader to pick up on this crap right away, but even I have to admit that this one was just a tad out there.]

[*** Ass. It means "ass." I was being clever. Or something.]

In short, things have become tough. You have the dipstick Mechanists and their gear fixation on one side, and the City Watch fascists on the other...what’s left? Well, the Keepers are bitching about too much order, and you’re obviously their leg-man again. Well SCREW the Keepers, you just want to break into some rich noblewoman’s house and steal her gold-plated “back massager” collection for resale to Lord Liberace, but nooooooooooo! They keep pulling the strings, don’t they? Well, they can just take their prophecies and shove them deep in Sphinct-or where the shadows lie,** because you’ve had enough.

[** Reference: a play on Tolkein's Mordor. I hurt my arm patting myself on the back for that one.]

And it isn’t just thieves who have problems, no...the Pagans** are having trouble with the Mechanists, in a classic Earth versus Technology struggle that you see on the Toob** today, only less annoying. I mean, I’d rather hear a Pagan say “Sneaksie friend!” than look at Ralph Nader, who appears to have been living in a refrigerator carton beside a 7-11 for the past decade. Anyway, the Mechanists are up to something in their campaign against the Pagans, and the City Watch is involved somehow.
[** aka, People Against Goodness And Normalcy. Preliminary talks with Christopher Plummer in the role as their leader fell through, so now they’re kind of generalized and vague as characters. Where did I put my goat leggings?]***

[** Meaning, "television." We used to call it "the boob toob," for some reason. Work it out for yourself. Hint: Farrah Fawcett.]

[*** A needlessly enormous Dragnet (the movie) reference.]

So it’s no great surprise that the mystery deepens, events soon spin right out of your control, and you’re forced to join forces with a very unlikely ally. The story unfolds from there, as if you couldn’t guess.

Oh, and it’s “The City”. Not “the city”, but “The City”. The City hasn’t been named in the series, and I’m not too sure why. Perhaps it’s a literary device...whatever. All I know is the last time I fooled around with a literary device, I cut the wrong wire and hundreds of people died.

[Boom!]


Does This Bilinear Filtering Make My Pixels Look Fat?
[No, your fat pixels make you look fat. Duh.]

Whereas the original Thief game relied heavily on gameplay and story to bolster the merely okay graphics, Thief 2 shines. Colored lighting, smooth textures, lovely, moving skies, guards with noses...it’s all good. And how about some weather effects? Snow, rain, fog...well, okay, fog in *theory*, since my video card can’t render it. And one of the mid-game missions even has a gorgeous falling leaves effect. Garrett, despite his reduced circumstances, now has some meat on his bones. Remember what his arms looked like in Thief? Spindly little things with delicate little girly wrists. Now, he’s a man. And a man needs more detailed forearm sheaths, I believe. At any rate, his arms now look believable, and the AI aren’t so scarecrow-ish now.

And thanks to variation in the models, they don’t all look the same, either. Now they have more detailed faces...but you’ll run into their twins before long, really. The environments they walk around in are also dramatically improved, visually; however, they sometimes may seem a little bland compared to the stark grittiness of the previous game. This is negligible, as the user-made community can -- and has -- done beautiful things with the new textures, which are rich and quite attractive to the eye. There’s an Art Deco theme here, and I like it.

[Some people hated it. I don't care.]

I might add here that instead [of] Thief’s “man on a quest”, Garrett instead tries the Sam Diamond route. “The last time that I trusted a dame was in Paris in 1940. She said she was going out to get a bottle of wine. Two hours later, the Germans marched into France.” Okay, maybe not...this game doesn’t have James Coco screaming “I’m not a Frenchie, I’m a Belgie!”

Trivia Question: What movie am I talking about? The answer’s at the end of the review, but it doesn’t answer the question: “and, *who cares* what movie I’m talking about?”

[Answer: no one.]

But all that aside, Garrett becomes a detective...he’s tracking down evidence, he’s sneaking around to get dirt, he’s infiltrating places to find out things...what the hell is going on here?? Okay, okay...deep breath. Exhale. It’s been mentioned that Thief III will be featuring more thieving and less detecting, so that’s good news.

[I'm not sure who mentioned that, but it wasn't entirely wrong.]


It’s Got A Great Beat And I Can Achieve World Domination To It
[Reference: "American Bandstand."]

“Is that thou, Friend?” THUMP “Ooog...” thud

Ah...the sound, the sound. As in Thief, the sound is where Thief 2 excels...from stealthy footsteps to cops bitching about paperwork, you’ll be immersed in no time. And sound is all-important to the Thief experience, as we all know. However, if you didn’t know, then I’ll give you a mulligan on that one.

Stephen Russell, that multi-talented rascal, is back as not only Garrett, but he also reprises his roles as the dumb guard (aka Benny in this game...hear his hilarious scene in “Blackmail”), a Hammerite and one of the servants. In addition to those, he now takes on the role of Karras, to which he adds an oddly Truman Capote-ish quality. Compare the two:

[Or, I think more accurately, Truman Capote mixed with Droopy (the dog).]

Capote: “That’sth not writing, that’sth typing.”

Karras: “Praisthe Karrasth! ...and the Builder.” (yes, he actually says that)

See? I am vindicated. Also back on board are Dan Thron (his guard #1 was one of my favorites of all the voices) and a few others. Now, it’s obvious that quite a few of the voice actors were employees of the company, but they did such a great job in the first game, why not bring ‘em back for more?

Indeed. The sounds show the same beautiful attention to detail as the first game. In fact, the biggest file in the Thief 2 directory is, like the first game, the sound archive...this time clocking in at over 323mb.

[As if that number was impressive NOW.]

In addition to the two original Thief guards (someone’s replaced the pseudo-English accent of Guard #2 -- “Owe-kaye yew taffa, ai-yul foind yew!” -- with a more accessible enunciation), there are three new voices, one of them female. And to sit in the shadows and listen to them is even more fun than it was in the first game.

“Someday I’m not gonna be a guard anymore. I’m gonna be...a manor lord! And I’m gonna hire lotsa guards to make *them* go on patrols and night watch. And I’m gonna sneak up on them and say...‘Didn’t you hear something?’ and watch ‘em jump.”

[Of course, I completely failed to mention the brilliant person behind all that lovely sound, Eric Brosius.]


It Knows Where We Are...Quick! Into The Clown Suit!
[Reference: not a clue.]

Besides being a gifted harpsichordist and a model of perfect polydactyly,** Karras has forged a new way of worshiping the Builder, as well as a new way of annoying the shit out of the player, namely the Builder’s Children. The Children are, essentially, robots. They clank along, spewing Mechanist dogma and providing one of two functions: tattling on the player or killing the player.

[** A somewhat obscure reference to the novels' version of Hannibal Lecter.]

The former comes in the form of “Eyes”, the rarely-seen (and indestructible) child-like bot (which I won’t cover...he’s so rare, it’s negligible), and the ever-present worker bots. An “Eye” is just a camera with a butt-ugly face, sometimes with a ballistic turret nearby (more on them in a moment); Eyes have stages of alertness: if they see you, they focus on you and their light turns yellow...which is your cue to find some darkness to hide in. If they continue to see you, an alarm goes off and bad things happen. The worker bots, on the other earlobe, are ‘bot shorties who do nothing but clank around and make you wish you bought stock in Tylenol. Their visual apparatus is usually turned off, but they can hear you. When they hear you, their eye pops open and they run off to alert someone, be they a guard or a combat bot.

*Combat* bot?! Yes, combat bot. These suckers can be quite frightening in the right context. They have a cannon. Kind of like Clint Eastwood, except for the perpetual squint. Then again, they only have one working eye, so...never mind. They fire cute little bombs -- round, with a fuse, like in old movies -- that can really ruin your day. Another brand of bot is the spiderbot, which really doesn’t show up until the final mission. I’ll let you stumble onto that one on your own. Just don’t let it know you’re there...you’ll soon know the true meaning of the phrase “Gillette: The Best A Man Can Get”.** Linked to an Eye sometimes is a turret, which is just what it sounds like. Turrets fire anything from gears to bombs to arrows, and aren’t too picky about shooting through whoever or whatever gets in their way.

[** Because it shoots razor-sharp gears at you.]

[There's also a turret linked to a pressure plate in the Bank mission, but I won't elaborate on that because I'm still bitter about the whole thing.]

Fortunately, the Builder’s Children are vulnerable to variables on fire and water, and it’s up to you and your fine detective work to find out what, exactly, will kill them. Translation: my fingers are tired from all this typing.

[What I meant: fire arrows will kill them (it may take more than one, depending on type); a water arrow to the boiler door on the combat/worker/spider bots' backs will incapacitate them indefinitely (one for the workers, two for the rest), as will a gas arrow, btw.]

Live AI (and a couple of requisite undead) round out the cast. You have guards, cops, thieves, pirates, servants, civilians, whores, pagans, spiders, apes, frogs, will ‘o the wisps, rats, several Hammer Haunts, Ents (you think I’m joking),** and...and...uh...I think I’m out of AI.

[** I was, actually; they're "treebeasts," though. Not towering like Ents, but still pretty big next to Garrett.]

Thankfully, there are no Bugbeasts, Craymen, Mages or red spiders, and the Hammers are so sparse in presence that they bear little mention. *sigh* I miss them, really. I prefer their stern, intolerant worldview to the condescending fascism of the Mechanists. They make me nostalgic for my upbringing in the Southern Baptist church.


I Hunted him Down...And Killed Him
[Reference: Tom Servo, MST3K.]

What’s new with the weapons here? Besides the increased complexity of the models, not much. Everything from the last game makes a fine return, with updates in appearance...except for Constantine’s sword. This threw me for a loop, really. Why would Garrett not have such a perfectly useful tool as that magic sword?

[Lengthy, Meandering, Somewhat Incoherent Rant On Possible Theories Concerning The Absence Of Constantine’s Sword Deleted]

But the question comes up again: why, in the name of good chicken gravy, would Garrett get rid of a sword that was so useful? Granted, the only thing it did was to not make him more visible with it drawn...but that’s an incredible advantage in this game.

[Useless, Slightly More Coherent Paragraph Concerning The Further Absence Of Constantine’s Sword Deleted]

So we’re left with an unanswered question with no satisfying answer: where the bleeding crap did Constantine’s sword go??

Oh, and the only new [arrow] in this game is the vine arrow, which replaces the rope arrow later in the game. It can stick to metal grates, blah blah blah. Whoopee. Well...that’s useful in the final mission, so I guess it’s okay.


Yes, That *IS* Sunshine In My Pocket And I *AM* Glad To See You!
[Reference: um...can I get back to you on that? Oh, never mind.]

More thought was given to the new items than the weapons. This time around, you can pick up an invisibility potion, which turns you into Calista Flockhart. Although you turn completely invisible when you turn sideways, you unfortunately stumble around like you have a severe head wound and no coordination, whining “Where did my body go? Why is my head so enormous? Why am I so hideous to the eye? Why did they cancel my loathsome show? Waaaaaaaaaaahhh!!”

[I'd ask if anyone remembers Calista Flockhart, but I already know that no one does, not even that guy she married, Harrison Whatsisname.]

Or something like that.

The slow-fall potion is a way to get down from high places without snapping both ankles like matchsticks. This is useful, as Garrett is a total wussy and can’t handle a fall of over six inches without whimpering like a stupid freaking baby. Ow, I huwt my widdle feeties! Sissy. Why in my day, we Doom Marines could fall a virtual mile and not even flinch!

[I think there was even a Doom .wad where that was a feature.]

In addition (huh...I almost typed “in addiction”) to these fine potions are the hand-held weaponry. For one, the almost-useless flashmine (useless to me, anyway), which works on the general principal of the mine, but when it goes off, no one dies...which is no fun at all. They’re just blinded for a few seconds, giving you time to either get away (you pansy) or beat the crap out of them with something, like a blackjack (my preferred method). Speaking of flashy-thingies, the flashbombs and the flashmines work on the Builder’s Children as well, immobilizing them for a couple of seconds.

The frogbeast egg is an item you’ll get later in the game. Essentially, it’s an egg with a frogbeast inside. A complicated concept I know, but try to keep up with the group. Whereas frogbeasts were your enemies in Thief, here they will ally with you and go after your opponents. Just don’t be too close to them when they explode. And here’s a hint for the bloodthirsty: when you have frogbeast eggs and a no-kill objective...use the eggs. The kill(s) won’t count against you! Woo-hoo!

Oh, and this is almost so important I forgot to mention it: since Garrett’s vision has been effectively reduced to about 70 to 80%** -- the aforementioned eye-plucking incident from Thief -- the Hammers (Karras, specifically, who engineered it) had given him a new mechanical eye, which you could see in the ending cutscene of Thief. Now, Garrett can zoom in on far away things. But not only that, Garrett can pick up an item called a Scouting Orb, which he can throw to see things remotely. For instance, you can throw it around a corner and see what’s coming down the hallway. But the most important part is that you can throw it...and see what Garrett looks like!
[** Actual Facts Department: contrary to popular myth, losing an eye doesn’t reduce your vision by half. Each eye’s field of vision is fairly wide, and the two eyes work together -- in fact they overlap -- to add depth perception and somewhat reliable peripheral vision (which is virtually nil in Thief’s AI). So losing an eye just reduces your available vision somewhat while wreaking havoc on your depth perception until you get used to it.]

[Wow, that was...unnecessary.]


[End of Part One.]
It is the scent of garlic that lingers on my chocolate fingers

Offline Silver Sorrow

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Standalone: Thief 2: The Metal Age, part 2
« Reply #43 on: January 09, 2020, 11:04:46 PM »
[Part Two.]


The Parchment Was Marked With the Locations Of The Lost Weasel Mines Of Toledo
[Reference: I. Don't. KNOW.]

So there you are, listening to Basso tell you that he’s sprung the lock on the back door for you. Look around, look at the sky, lust for the moon, trip over a gopher hole and pull a groin muscle. Curse colorfully and limp into the Rumsford mansion, where your adventure begins.

The Dark Engine is wonderful for rendering huge, complex maps with no irritating level changes and little framerate destruction (assuming the poly’s aren’t too high)...and it’s put to good use here, where you will do all sorts of things from breaking into a mansions to breaking into a seminary. No, no...*seminary*. It’s like a church school and NOT a sperm donation depository...still, the song remains the same: after five o’clock, please make all donations in the rear.**
[** Oops.]

There’s a difference in this game, though. Where Thief centered on a shadowy, exceedingly medieval setting, replete with cathedrals and castles and that terrific horrors-of-the-ages stuff, Thief 2 instead focuses on comparatively contemporary settings -- mansions, buildings, city streets, forest walk-a-thons -- and as a result appears, on the surface, to come off slightly the lesser for it.

However, since Thief dealt largely with the workings and atmosphere of the past, Thief 2 looks to immerse the player in a frightening vision of a bland, yet (relatively) technological, future. The Mechanists are the future; they’ve left the crudity of the hammer behind for “the majesty of the gear” (I suppose that’s better than the “obsequiousness of the catamaran”, or whatever). Of course, they’re also not too well-inclined towards the human condition -- as you will find out -- but give them a couple hundred years and they’ll be developing test tube babies with no problem. That is, if the entire known world isn’t engulfed in an apocalyptic cloud of...er...play the game and you’ll see. Add to that the iron fist of the City Watch, and what do you have? A well-oiled, well-ordered future that may include book burnings and bar codes tattooed on people’s foreheads, that’s what.

[(Pointing at bar code) "Hey, look: Ethiopian family portrait!" Grandfathers are great, aren't they?]

So this is, potentially, far more frightening to me as an individual than any old haunted tomb. I could go down there with holy water and fire arrows...but how do you deal with the loss of your humanity? You throw on your cloak and your BIG NOISY BOOTS and do some spying on the Power Principals, Karras and Truart.

[I meant the loss of your individuality. "Humanity" can fuck off, for all I care.]

Instead of a training mission like you had in Thief, Thief 2 dumps you in the middle of the action, but with helpful comments from Garrett and onscreen information about particular items or objects (i.e., how to open a door using a key, or how to put out a torch with a water arrow). This goes on for the first three missions on Normal skill only, as they figure you already got the hang of the game if you play on Hard or Expert.

The maps flow easily with the plot, which is a relief. When you need to tromp through a forest, then by the Builder, you get a forest through which to tromp to your little heart’s content. Like jumping from roof to roof and stealing people blind via their windows? Look no further. One map, in fact, is dedicated to this. Like picking up a plasma rifle and exploding an imp into a bloody mess of guts and fluids? Well, you’re going to have to wait until Doom 3. Sorry, that’s just the way it goes.

However, for the nostalgic out there, once in a while you’ll be able to visit an old crypt or tomb. It isn’t that often -- at least twice, in fact -- but you do get to meet the Haunt again. Oh man, I do like the Haunt. What I would’ve liked even more in Thief 2 is a mission centered on visiting a haunted place (like the Disney Haunted House...where the most frightening thing is the bleak possibility of being crushed by freaked-out Japanese tourists...true story).** I guess what I really wanted was another Return To The Cathedral, but a little different.

[** Gather ye 'round th' fire an' listen, kids...aye, 'twas the summer of '89. Me family an' I had just landed 'pon the shores of fair Disneyland. We braved the tide o' short tourists from foreign lands an' made our way to th' Haunted House. Aye, an' thar we found a fair seethin' o' small Orientals a-crowdin' each other in a room o' portraits. Th' lights went down and one wisp o' a lass from Japan clung to me mum's purse strap, she was so afeared o' th' dark. 'twere an experience, lads: cameras a-clickin', bodies a-pressin'...my only regrets 'r that I didn't becomes a man that day with th' help o' a distracted lady o' th' Pacific Rim. But I guess that's what happens when yer mum raises ye to NOT be a casual ravager o' wenches.]

But if you really want that sort of thing, there are a couple of fan missions for Thief 2 that render such a mission most admirably, so I really don’t miss the omission as much as I should. Miss miss miss. I never get tired of saying that. Missmissmissmissmiss.

But qualms aside, you do get to see a variety of places and situations: a previously-abandoned island complete with lighthouse and an homage to 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, mansion after mansion after mansion (and, irritatingly, the same mansion twice in a row), a cathedral filled with Builder’s Children, fleeing from the cops through the city streets, robbing a bank...there are quite a few highly-enjoyable missions to be had in Thief 2, and they’re so much the better when you ignore the not-so highly-enjoyable ones.

What’s that? What do you mean, you ask? Okay, first off? Stop asking questions disguised in my voice. It confuses me. Anyway, a couple of the missions are kneecapped by bugs...or simply the presence of the missions themselves. Two of the very late-game missions deal with the exact same setting, a mansion. In the  first, “Casing the Joint”, you’re supposed to simply map out the mansion without being seen, and find a secret door that would help you out for when you come back to loot the place (with a reason, I suppose, in keeping with the plot). This map has a few small annoying bugs here and there, but nowhere near as many as the next mission, “Masks”...which is, again, the same mansion.

“Masks” is a free-for-all in terms of progression, as you can thump anyone you want and be seen by the whole household, setting off all the alarms...but it has some goofy things going on. It certainly feels that these two maps were horribly rushed; in fact, they shouldn’t even *be* together...from what I understand, there were plans for a Thief 2 Gold, and there was supposed to be either a mission in between these two, or the removal of “Casing The Joint” entirely. (I’ve also heard other things, but let’s not devolve into conjecture.) However, that didn’t happen...so now we’re left with a mission in which the sitting guards get stuck in their chairs when they stand up.

[I'm not sure how likely it was, but I've heard that Thief 2 Gold would have resolved these issues, but the company (LGS) went tits-up right after the game was released. So no T2G was ever made.]

In fact, this game has a few errors; one deals with AI set in certain positions, like sitting in a chair. If you render them unconscious and throw them in a corner, when you come back they’ll still be unconscious in the corner, but in the sitting position. Sometimes the AI patrol routes are just screwed up completely, with a guard getting stuck and walking into a light post for all eternity (fortunately for him, I was there to punch his ticket and save him from starvation), or a bot walking into a ladder and walking and walking and...you get the idea.

[tldr; PATHFINDING ISSUES. Don't have to gild the fucking lily every single time, dude.]

Some problems are with the terrain; when I was running through the game to take screenshots, for example, I kept getting stuck on rocky walls in one mission. In another, I was trying to swim through a narrow passage and got stuck; the same mission saw me getting stuck in doorframes as I leaned into the room. In the Bank, I once crouched in a doorway to disappear (one of the benevolent bugs in the Thief series), and became stuck. Really stuck. So upon jumping, I found myself launched across the room into the waiting cannon of a combat bot. Fun times, indeed. And even more fun is the fact that I used “stuck” so many times in this paragraph that Stuckey’s is now sponsoring my participation in the Boston Strangulation-thon.

[Stuckey's was a chain of roadside diners. They're long gone now.]

Despite the problems, it remains a fun game. I just wish Garrett ran a little faster without having to resort to speed potions (see my Thief Gold review for a more comprehensive rant on the subject)...my teeth are worn down, I tell you. Grind grind grind...“FASTER!!”

[I completely forgot to mention bugs with the rope arrows, which persist into the realm of the fan missions [FMs]. For example, one of the most fun things is to jump for the rope...and bounce right off, falling to your death. And so on.]


“I Don’t Talk ‘Round Corners...It’s Right Between The Eyes”
[Reference: Genesis, "Down And Out."]

Ghosting, sneaking, outright mayhem...it’s your choice, really. Well, depending on the mission. Usually in the Thief series, playing the highest skill level, expert, means that you aren’t going to get to use your sword that much. The idea being that since you’re a master thief, violence is unnecessary. So on expert, you have to put your primal urges on hold and try some élan, for once...unless you’re sadistic and like using other AI as a shield against angry archers...in which case, welcome to my world.

It’s tough, I know. The temptation to run up behind a guard and slash through his collarbone is strong, yes...but we must persevere and use our native talents: stealth, trickery, deviousness and a reliance on that “hiding in shadows” thing that impresses the babes. On the other two skills, relenting to base vindictiveness is not really a problem, usually. However, the idea -- which is carried over from Thief -- is that you are not a walking tank, and you aren’t supposed to go head-to-head (or, in German, “aunsausprachensiezuhmeinswuellerenkaputenblahblahblahblech zum aunsausprachensiezuhmeinswuel lerenkaputenblahblahblahblech ”) with danger.** Very rarely in Thief 2 will you be *forced* to face adversity with sword drawn. It’s possible to pretty much sneak through most of the levels without being seen, but I ask...where’s the fun in that?

[** In case you were wondering, I was implying that German is an unwieldy language most suited to issuing commands to attack dogs. In that, I admire it.]

I mean that as a personal preference, of course; to each his own style of gameplay, and more power to them. In the right context, sneaking and ghosting are highly rewarding; for example, take the third mission, “Framed”, where you must break into the police station and frame one of the officers. No one can know you’ve been there (more or less...you won’t fail on being seen, but it jars against the concept if you’re being chased all over the place), no one must be KO’d or killed (on expert), etc. It is possible to play this mission completely stealthy, and it’s a great ride.

On the other hand, the previously-mentioned (and reviled) mission, “Casing the Joint”, has a similar concept, except you fail upon being seen. I’m not too happy with this set of circumstances, and I think this map should’ve been omitted for a better mission. We’re going back in the next mission anyway...why torture us?? However, I must qualify my statements by saying that “Casing...” isn’t a *terrible* mission, just...redundant.

Some missions are just out-and-out happy fun candy. The “First City Bank And Trust” mission, for example, finds you breaking into a huge bank to find a recording with which to blackmail Sheriff Truart. It’s one of my favorite missions, along with the subsequent map, “Blackmail”, which adds an interesting twist to the storyline near its end.

[Playing through this game again years later, I find that the Bank mission is far less enjoyable now...]

One of the original Thief missions, “Assassins”, had you trailing a pair of your would-be killers back to Ramirez’ mansion. This dilemma is expounded (and confounding) in “Tracing The Courier”, which places you in the unenviable position of following first a police woman (starring Angie Dickinson),** then another individual, all over the town in your quest to get to the bottom of the mystery (“I thank you from the mystery of my bottom”)*** surrounding you.

[** Angie Dickinson played "Pepper Anderson" on the TV show "Police Woman" in the 1970's.]

[*** Goddammit, how many times did I use that stupid joke??]

Other fine missions include the aforementioned forest romp (“Trail of Blood”), the stealing-across-the-rooftops map (“Life of the Party”, which is one of my favorites, and was the map in the Thief 2 demo, albeit with some dramatic differences), one mission in which you’ve been ambushed and must sneak around the city to your apartment (called “Ambush!”, needless to say), an outright warehouse-robbery mission (“Shipping...and Receiving”), a return to an old familiar place (“Kidnap”), and others.

Speaking of old familiar places, there are at least four missions in this game in which you revisit the same place twice...the aforementioned “Casing The Joint” and “Masks”, and “Ambush!” and “Tracing The Courier”. I don’t think I’m complaining overmuch, but I’d like to see a little variety in my surroundings sometimes. Yes, by the second time around I know the area in question, but do I really benefit from this knowledge? Am I being, well, ripped off by revisiting earlier maps, albeit with different objectives? It’s not so much annoying as it is slightly disappointing; I dunno...I was really expecting a bit more after the joy ride of Thief. What would’ve been nice is following the courier through a completely different part of the city, but...oh, well.

However, the remainder of the game (as in “the other parts of the game where I’m not retracing my !!#$%!! steps”) is excellent. The final mission, “Sabotage at Soulforge”, is by far the most complex, and by association, one of the most reviled. I can sympathize, as it’s a resource hog and can be quite frustrating at times. But with a year or so of experience, I’ve come to think of it as a breeze to finish. It still takes me a good two hours to finish on expert (which includes the time I spend in the confounding process by which I have to make new mines), and sometimes the surprises happen and kill me. As a side note, some of this mission reminded me of System Shock 2 in places...

[Appropriate, as LGS made both games using the same engine.]

And in the end, as in Thief, there is no clichéd, overblown, apocalyptic big-weapon battle with the ubiquitous 12,000-foot-tall boss bearing dual rocket launchers and a big honkin’ cup of boiling McDonald’s coffee; the ending is the result of an application of devious behavior, paying off beautifully.

Some people have griped about the rather abrupt ending of the final cutscene...but you always get people complaining about everything, so I’ve learned to tune them out, which I’m trying to do with those people who stand right beside me as I’m writing a review and they carry on a conversation until I’m forced to shout CAN’T YOU SEE THAT I’M TRYING TO WRITE HERE?? and they get all mad and...okay, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to dump on you. Really.

[If I am allowed a moment of honesty here: I wish, with every fiber of my being, that person was standing beside me now, driving me crazy. But ALIVE and in great health, I mean. You have to be specific, just in case there's a Monkey's Paw nearby.]

Besides that, Thief 2 is great.


Do You Come Here Often? Would You Like To?
[Dirty joke.]

As in the original Thief, the vile, clammy presence of multiplayer is thankfully absent in Thief 2. The game benefits from this, not having to suffer the ignominious fate of most bifurcated games, namely, the futile efforts of a desperate developer trying to please two audiences at once. I cite the example of Valve software, who are so unsatisfied with the incredible success of the singleplayer side of Half-Life, that they are now releasing patch after patch after patch intended to break the SP game and promote the MP facet. It’s been backfiring on them, as every MP patch breaks the *previous* MP patch, and we can only assume from such distressing evidence that the Powers That Be at Valve aspire to be Micro$oft, Jr.

[An excerpt from How To Tell If Someone's Stupid (A Comprehensive Guide): "When the subject of a video game arises, the truly stupid individual's first question will be some variation upon 'Is there multiplayer?'"]

But back to Thief 2. [Tangential Rant Deleted] ...and I spurn multiplayer as I would spurn a rabid dog.

[Reference: Rowan Atkinson, "Rowan Atkinson Live."]

Some interesting news (“interesting” in the sense of “stupid”) is that Ion Storm may be adding multiplayer to Thief 3. Many ([Especially Insulting, Overly Offensive Aside Deleted]) see it as a happy set of circumstances, but I’m not so sure. [Extremely Graphic Imagery Deleted] ...stuffing their hands into salad shooters and... [Curiously Coprophilial-Themed Paragraph Deleted] ...molesting tapirs for pennies.

I hate to be pessimistic about it, but [Extraordinarily Negative Views On Multiplayer Communities And Thief Deleted], and I cringe at the thought of 14 year-olds screaming “i BL4KJ$K J00!!111! J00 F4GG0T!!1!!1”

[My loathing of online culture and the human race in general isn't that obvious, is it?]


This Is The End For You, Doctor Nefarioso!
[Reference: not a clue. Not a single goddamn clue.]

I wasn’t too thrilled with Garrett becoming a detective. I had thought this game was about being a thief, but apparently I’m also supposed to solve great mysteries and tail people back to their hideouts. All I’m missing is a .44 and Veronica Lake. Otherwise, there is a lot to enjoy with Thief 2, as long as you don’t let the emphasis on the investigative side of things bring you down. Where I prefer Thief for its storyline and atmosphere, I prefer Thief 2 for its graphics and potential. That said, it’s a fun game, and I look forward to Thief 3.

[It wasn't as good as the first two games (at least gameplay-wise), but the story was excellent. And the Shalebridge Cradle mission? Yow.]

[I should point out here that I've come to delight in the notion of Garrett-as-detective; there are a few FMs that take that angle, and they are some of my favorites. Also of note is "Calendra's Legacy," which imagines Garrett being more like Mel Gibson's character in Payback, which is also enjoyable.]

I know that once again I’ve left out a few hundred interesting things, but I think you can figure them out for yourselves. I hope.

And finally, although “taffer” is just a made-up word, it’s still a fun epithet to hurl at my cat.


The Envelope Please, Ms. Hahn...And Put Those Things Away!
[Reference: Jessica Hahn, the former secretary of the disgraced Jim Bakker, had a lovely set of bolt-on boobs.]

5 out of 5. Where it’s weak, the advantages make up for that.


System Requirements
Minimum:
PII-266 (or equivalent)
Win95/98
48mb RAM
DirectX 7 (included)
DirectX 7-compliant sound and video cards
3D accelerated video card
4x CD-ROM drive
250mb hard drive space

Maximum:
PII-400 (or equivalent)
Win95/98
64mb RAM
DirectX 7 (included)
DirectX 7-compliant sound and video cards
3D accelerated video card
8x CD-ROM drive
600mb hard drive space (!)
EAX 2.0 or A3D 2.0 compliant sound card

Comment: If you’re playing anything less than a PII-450 with an aging video card (like me), be prepared for a bumpy ride in a couple of missions.

[Of course, we're way beyond such meager specs nowdays...but who gives a crap, right?]

Answer to Trivia Question: Neil Simon’s “Murder By Death”. You’re welcome.

[Good God, what a friggin' slog. Ah, well...just the review of Thief: Deadly Shadows remains.]
It is the scent of garlic that lingers on my chocolate fingers

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Standalone: Thief: Deadly Shadows, part 1
« Reply #44 on: January 11, 2020, 11:30:44 AM »
Thief: Deadly Shadows


Review: Thief: Deadly Shadows
Lameness of Title: Moderately Lame
Developer: Ion Storm Austin
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Reviewed By: Silver J. Sorrow, A Close Personal Friend Of [YOUR NAME HERE]
Price: Try GOG; you can probably find it for under $10.
Score: 4.25 out of 5.00
ESRB Rating: Mature 17+ (Blood, Violence and Explicit Use of “Taffer” And Its Variations)

[DELETED: three entire paragraphs dedicated to the subject of screenshots...how hard they were to take for the original review and what third-party program is best for taking them. Whoopty-doo.]


Abstract: In Search of Kelly Randall
In case you’ve been living somewhere besides this rock I’m under, Ms. Randall played the part of “Gayle” in the 1990 more-or-less-a-comedy flick, Ninja Academy. Other than her more...um...interesting scenes, the movie was kind of a blur to me. That happens when you have the fast-forward button taped down. Anyway, this movie proved to be her first and last, and she has since disappeared into the mists of complete obscurity.

Okay, maybe that isn’t quite true, at least from an existential standpoint. I mean, life doesn’t begin and end with Hollywood, despite what hundreds of useless celebrities would have you believe. There are many other things in life besides a lovely young maiden washing herself on camera, although admittedly very few of these activities are as noble. In this respect, perhaps she had abandoned the vapidity of celebrity (as such) for a more vital role as a vibrant, dynamic whirlwind of benevolence in whatever community she has chosen to grace with her sweet, sweet a...uh...self. Yes. You know: taking care of the homeless, feeding the hungry, helping wounded puppies, etc. This is assuming she’s alive, however...for all I know, she could be residing in a shallow grave out west somewhere. I can’t believe I just typed that.

Personally, I like to think she’s still kicking, an inspiration to the lives she touches. And even if she isn’t in attainment of the highest heights of community activism...hell, even if she spends the majority of her waking hours in a wine-fuelled daze, slumped in front of the TV as soap operas drift by, barely raising a flicker of interest in her eyes, I’m sure she’s the best darned whatever she is that she could be. And I mean that.

In short: Kelly Randall, where are you?

[No comment.]


Acronym Key
DXIW: Deus Ex: Invisible War
T1/TDP: Thief: The Dark Project
TG: Thief Gold
T2: Thief 2: The Metal Age
PUMA: People for the Unethical Mistreatment of Animals


Good Evening, Clarice
[Reference: Hannibal Lecter. But you knew that, didn't you?]

Welcome to the Official Silver Sorrow Review of Thief: Deadly Shadows, the only game to win the coveted Palm d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Or, as James T. Kirk would say, “KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!!!” In this review, I will attempt to explain to the reader (that’s you) the intricate workings of the Thief storyline in exhaustive detail, as well as quash all rumors of my demise at the hands of disgruntled cuckolds. Or maybe I’ll just do a bunch of bulletpoints and drink my lunch.

*hic*

As other brave souls connected to this site are doing their own reviews of this better-than-average game, I feel that if we cannot match other sites in terms of intelligence, then at least we’ll have them beat in the sheer number of TDS reviews.

[Uh...I know Doc Brown published his review of TDS, but I'm not sure anyone else did. I. Don't. Remember.]

For the sake of argument, let’s assume that this is the best game to come out this year...until Doom 3...and since we are assuming that it’s good -- if you haven’t assumed this yet, you will be given additional time to assume -- I will now point out a few things, good and bad, without worrying about besmirching the good name Thief. So read on...unless you’re reading this review backwards, in which case you should keep going up. When you hit the top, turn off your anti-virus software and start clicking banners...try it, it’s fun! Ad-banner roulette...gotta love it.


SecuROM, SUCK ON THIS!
[I hate DRM. SecuROM was probably the most irritating of the lot.]

Possibly the only completely unforgivable change to the Thief series embodied by this package is the stupid copy protection. As in Unreal 2 and DXIW, we’re treated to the moronic CD security that is SecuROM, a deplorable device designed to muck up your system in a no-frills kind of way. While I can’t legally endorse the use of no-CD cracks, I encourage you to think for yourself (for once) and come to your own moral conclusion: should you suffer the slings and arrows of paranoid game companies, or should you find a fix before the offending software hoses up your computer? You decide. As CD protection does nothing to hinder piracy or illegal copying, it’s no wonder it’s still in use by monolithic corporations increasingly out of touch with their customers. (Eidos, take a bow.)

[So GOG was a huge blessing, of course.]


We Put The “Menu” In “Menudo”
[Menudo was a Puerto Rican boy band.]

That’s one butt-ugly menu screen, isn’t it? A kind of bilious green...but slap my rear and call me Peggy, I liked it. I think. Maybe not. I should poll all the voices in my head and present my findings. Sure. I’ll get right on that.


That’s Interesting...My Interface Is Victorian Ironwork
[No reference, just an observation.]

Thanks to the dual-development of this game for the PC and the soul-sucking evil that is the XBox (not that I am biased), TDS has quite a few irritating interface problems. The most glaring on first glance is the absence of a slider for adjusting mouse sensitivity; this is easily handled via tweaking the values in the default.ini file, but we shouldn’t have to resort to such measures in a perfect world. Welcome to imperfection...here’s your noose.

Many of the things that others are irritated by -- arrow trails, loot glint, etc. -- I can live with, up to a point. The blue Saran wrap around the frobbable objects is something I do NOT want to live with. Anyway, I liked the HUD...mostly; the compass around the visibility gem is marvelous, as are the disappearing health icons. I’ve not sure about the weapon and equipment icons, but I suppose I can live with those as well. Overall, I would like the visibility gem and the other elements to be a tad smaller, so I’ll most likely be tweaking those. I’m a HUD minimalist at heart.

The size of the screen font was definitely chosen with the television in mind. They are quite large and garish, much like Margaret Cho.** However, I’ve come to accept this, as I find myself squinting at the screen lately. Time for an eye exam, I guess...but on reflection, I like the idea of large print games.

[** Sorry, Ms. Cho. I love you just the way you are.]

The bottom line is that it’s clear that Ion learned NOTHING from the complaints concerning DXIW, as far as customizable settings go. May the idiots who consolized this game be stricken with black spots and purple stripes...pink hearts...yellow moons...orange stars...green clovers...

[Hands off me lucky charms, ye bastards!]


Things Your Mother Warned You About
[Reference: who knows?]

You’re in the game, right? Good. Now look down. What do you see? Yes...ground, good. That’s good. But what else? That’s right: you can see your body! Garrett’s body, I mean. Why would they put YOUR body in the game? That’s silly!

And hey! You can see yourself in third person! How much fun can one person have, anyway?! I like the third person for peeking around corners, since the lean function is crappy; most of the time, I’m in first person mode. Seriously: looking back at the various forums, can you *believe* how much bile was spewed all over the place due to the so-called “controversy” of the third person option? That’s the beauty of the internet: it really puts you in touch with people who shouldn’t be in touch with anybody.


On The Next Episode Of Thief: The Animated Series...
[Reference: not a friggin' clue. Yet another head-scratcher.]

Now. Let’s get the story out of the way. I’d say that the story is excellent; as it’s closing out a trilogy, it HAS to be good, right? Right. Now let’s hope someone tells George Lucas that. To recap the entire series...would be folly. So forget that.

The short version of TDS’s story, sans spoilers: Garrett stumbles into a strange mess involving the Keepers and the glyphs and prophecies and then stuff happens from there. Of course, there’s a lot more than that going on, but I’m keeping mum. Who am I to divulge anything remotely useful in a review?

I liked that the story had a bit more subtlety than the previous game (T2, for those of you with linearity problems); its pacing was more like that of T1/G. TDS takes its time in letting us soak up the atmosphere and introduces seemingly disparate elements one at a time, which needless to say, tie together quite nicely. I can’t remember the last time I actually smiled after finishing a game. Additionally, at least it has a definite, *satisfying* ending. This is of course in dramatic contrast to standard practice, which is to end games on a depressing bummer, a disappointing anticlimax, or an irritating and/or ridiculous cliffhanger.

Also, I have to say that this installment is the funniest in the series, even taking into account the massive yet hilarious trauma the Trickster suffered when the fake Eye blew up in his crotch (as seen in T1/G...and on “America’s Funniest Groin Injuries”). That was probably a spoiler, but who cares? Anyway, from the slapstick fun of throwing an oil flask on the docks (quote: “splash!”) to the catch-you-unaware one-liners tossed off by random passerby (“Did that guy have *leaves* in his pockets??”), there’s plenty of humor to be found.


A Streetcar Named Larceny
[Reference: I dont care.]

The distinctive Thief-tastic cutscenes/cinematics are back, although they’re somewhat uneven in places. As they are an integral part to the Thief Immersion Factor™, they have to be done right. And they are...mostly. Garrett’s appearance, for example, may be wildly different from one cutscene to the next; apologists may point out that we never really know decisively what Garrett looks like, but that’s a copout. You can’t have a wax-mannequin Garrett in one scene (resembling a Muppet more than a human being), a hard-bitten, scarred-up Garrett in another, and a boyish-looking Garrett in yet another. Bottom line: DECIDE ON A LOOK. Me, I like the scar...but I think the purple mohawk was going a bit too far.

Despite this, the cutscenes are great. They have to be, since they’re all we get in the way of movies; the between-mission briefing movies of the previous installments have been ditched for various reasons (and don’t ask me what those reasons are...my laughter will drown out your cries**), so the cutscenes are given precedence here in propelling the plot along. I have no problem with this.

[** Reference: Marillion, "Three Boats Down From The Candy."]

One plus is that the movies use Bink! video, which guarantees (I think) that they’ll actually work. T1 and T2 used the .avi format, which has always been the turf being fought over by opposing gangs of codec geeks (the Blips and the Cruds, I believe). The downside is the inevitable flood of idiots who want exhaustive details on how to play the movies outside the game and post thread after thread asking for help. Ever heard of Google? USE IT!


The AI, The Missions, And A Half-Naked Vietnamese Woman On The Hood Of My Car
[I'd ask, once again, what the blippity-bloopity crap is my deal, but at this point it's academic.]

[Note: We regret to inform you that the half-naked Vietnamese woman scheduled to be draped over the hood of our car for this section has been abducted by Space Marmosets and taken back to their homeworld near the Pleiades to be their queen. As we were short on time, we could not find a suitable replacement model and we were left with nothing to drape over the hood of our car. So we bought a tarp. It’s really working out for us.]

[Note: We apologize for the preceding note.]

[The note in question was an excruciatingly complex chunk of bewildering nonsense; eons ago, Doc Brown gave me advice on how to make it better. So I took that advice and adjusted the note accordingly. Thanks, Doc. If I've learned anything over the years, it's how to be a better editor of my own "writing."]

Still here? Good. The missions are your main impetus for buying the game (Thief: Deadly Shadows...remember?), so is it worth buying the game just for them? I would say “yes.” Then again, I also say “zigackly” and “ferpectly” when tired, but that’s beside the point.** I’d also throw caution and my pants to the wind and say that there isn’t a clunker mission in the bunch. Contrast that to T2’s filler missions...hell, compare that to MOST games on the shelves, especially the ones touted as the “best FPS game(s) since Half-Life.”

[** For those who may have wondered when I used the terms "ferpectly" and "zigackly," wonder no more. They go back to Goscinny & Uderzo's Asterix and the Laurel Wreath.]

But it isn’t just missions; much of your time will be spent on the City streets in pursuit of various activities such as buying equipment, fencing loot acquired in missions and mugging innocent bystanders. After a while, it becomes apparent that a LOT of time is spent in the streets. One can’t help but speculate that in addition to the missions, the developers decided to eke out the gameplay...if only just a tad...with the streets. Just one of those unfounded suspicions, I suppose.

[You really do spend a lot of time on the streets.]

Let’s get the City out of the way before I go any further. We -- the players -- were led to believe that the City would be a large, opportunity-rich environment for the enjoyment of would-be thieves; it was made clear that TDS was inspired by the openness and non-linearity of GTA III. Let me puncture that particularly festive balloon with a disappointed “blah.” The City, in reality, is a claustrophobe’s nightmare; it’s cramped and not very interesting. The “multitude” of side-missions (meaning, the small distractions that have nothing to do with the overall plot) that were promised don’t really add up to a respectable number, and most of them aren’t very interesting either. A City Watch captain is extorting a bottle of wine from the local pub; your landlord is paying off a blackmailer and hides the money in a certain place. Whoopty-crap.

These “quests” (and I use that term loosely) are just a way of getting more money in your pocket. Several are amusing and/or interesting, but not worth jumping up and down in uncontrollable glee over. So while cramped and more or less visually nondescript, the City streets will pad out your gameplay nicely. In fact, it seems that most of the time you’re running from one end of town to the other...like it was planned that way, or something...

One important (or not) note about the City: a couple of the story-specific missions take place in the City; meaning that you can leave these areas and return to the streets at any time, although I can’t imagine why you’d want to do this without accomplishing your goals unless you were running low on equipment and/or health and/or GUTS...ya flamin’ sissy!

As I mentioned earlier, the missions are on the whole, well done; not a bad mission to be found. They may be tough (which is probably due more to the eccentricies of Garrett’s movement than anything else), but they’re not insanely difficult. This is more than I can say for such games as Far Cry (winner of the coveted Silver Sorrow’s “Middling FPS Retread Of The Year” award). I had very few problems even on Expert,** but it’s because this game is very much Thief, despite the myriad changes and design gaffes forced upon the game by principals who Just Don’t Understand The Game They’re Making. To single out specific individuals would be unwarranted. So let’s ignore the specter of doubt.
[** With good reason, as it turns out: there’s a serious AI bug, which has been addressed in the v1.1 patch. I talk about this further in a couple sections down thataway.]

I hate getting into specifics of certain missions; but several of them must be singled out as noteworthy of our highest praise. I liked all of the missions, which is a rarity for me...I hated certain missions in each of the other games in the series (“Casing The Joint,” for example), so I think I’m onto something here. Here’s a taste:

It is Ape Law: you cannot write a TDS review without mentioning the infamous “Robbing the Cradle” (aka “Good Old-Fashioned Nightmare Fuel”), in which Garrett must explore...and survive...an orphanage-turned-insane asylum (which caught fire at one point...) in pursuit of information relating to the main story. As the man himself puts it, “If there’s a way to cram more misery into one building’s history, I can’t think of it.”

Since T2 was missing a scary mission -- which was a relief to all the whiny widdle babies who had wet their widdle Pampers after pwaying the big scawwy wevels in T1/G, waaaaaah -- “Wobbing the Cwadle” ...uh... “Robbing the Cradle” brings back the sweaty palms and uncontrollable trembling that we knew so well from “Return to the Cathedral.” Or that may be my slavish crack addiction getting the better of me. Anyway, the audio (plus the AI) enhances the experience almost beyond endurance; while I’m usually level-headed even on the most atmospheric missions (like hell I am), this one made me jump more than usual.

While “Cradle” is an especial high point of the TDS experience, it certainly isn’t the only brilliant mission. Take “House of the Widow Moira,” for example, a mission that finds Garrett breaking into a seaside mansion in search of a certain item. The score (that’s “music” to all you musically-retarded induhviduals) is simply gorgeous; it put me in mind of the more contemplative of Gabriel Knight III’s piano pieces. It fits perfectly with the beautiful mansion and the sense of loss (explained in the mission); in short, it’s a beautiful, melancholic mission. In a surprising twist, it may even force you into a moral dilemma when it comes to loot-gathering...and you’ll even want to do nasty things to the money-grubbing leeches infesting the mansion as well.

[I sure can cram a lot of shit into a couple of paragraphs, eh?]

Other standouts include the Hammerite cathedral (“Saint Edgar’s Eve”); “Now THAT’S a cathedral!” I remarked to myself. Yes, I talk to myself. There were flying buttresses and everything. Primo! The Museum (“Still Life With Blackjack”) is a terrific mission, a spot of normal thieving before the Big Finale. I think I’ll stop with these examples because my fingers are very tired from typing right now.

[I believe the Cathedral mission was designed by David Riegel, who also created the fan missions "Cult of the Resurrection" and "The Inverted Manse."]

Oh, okay...a couple more: “Killing Time,” in which Garrett tinkers with the local clocktower, is a masterpiece of massive machinery. This remains one of my favorites. “Pagan Sanctuary” is terrific, with its highly-detailed depiction of a place that’s gone to the weeds, taken over by the Pagans. It’s also somewhat difficult, which makes it all that more interesting.

The final mission, “Endgame,” is quite good as well. No, no more spoilers from me.

Each mission is divided into at least two separate areas, connected by loading zones; you can travel between the areas as often as you like. Now, some people disparage the loading zones, but really: so what? We’re dealing with a new engine here, and it also has to be optimized for Mr. Gates’ rapidly aging console whatchamacallit. Of course, there’s also the standard headache of getting respectable performance out of Ion’s games on mid-level systems, so it’s reasonable to expect that they would carve the levels up into manageable chunks.

Yes, I remember that most other Unreal engine games have massive missions without loading zones, many of them outdoors. But here’s the problem: take the ridiculous overkill (for Thief) of the Havok physics engine, throw in a spectacularly useless lighting engine, add in a million little details, and...ah. Your framerates are now negative numbers and your video card is this close to wiping out all life as we know it.* So they cut the levels up...and they even work.
[* Because of the small plutonium slugs used to power the fan. What, you didn’t know about that?? You’d better get yourself to a radiologist, pronto!]


It May *Look* Like Intelligence, But It’s Artificial
[Reference: how many ways can I say "I don't know"?]

I’ve heard and read so much about how brilliant the AI is, but I’m not too impressed, really. I mean, yes...the AI is smart[-ish] and can distinguish certain things from other things and so on, but let’s face it: if they were really smart, they’d REALLY look for you...and find you...instead of just mumbling something about checking over by the chair. They recognize things, but then again, so do most six year olds.

Okay, the AI really isn’t stupid. Seriously, it’s quite a bit more on the ball than most games, and is even a marked improvement over the previous games in the series...although not by much: T1 & T2’s AI was pretty good to begin with.

[That is to say, comparitively so; they were not exactly Rhodes scholars.]

Besides the question of the AI’s perceived smartness...smartivity...what ever, I have one problem with the AI’s *existence*: I hate the fact that the City Watch respawns. It’s particularly bad in The Docks and in the Old Quarter. *Especially* down by the docks...one appeared right out of thin air and went on patrol. Sloppy. I HATE respawning AI. It’s stupid and should be stopped RIGHT NOW. With force, if necessary.

Perhaps you recall my review of No One Lives Forever 2 and my problems with its stupid handling of respawning AI. The well of bitterness is deep, my friends.

[You most likely do not recall my NOLF2 review. It was posted on the Hangar many moons ago. I'll be reposting it soon enough.]

In the streets, the AI come in two varieties: armed (City Watch, Hammerites, Pagans) and unarmed (aka, “those dirty son-of-a-bitching snitches”). A subset of the armed variety encompasses the thugs, who will generally leave you alone. With all this in mind, it’s sometimes a mind-numbing chore to get from one area of town to another, which you need to do in order to progress with the story. As with any errand, no matter how big or small, your main obstacle on the streets is people...just like real life, they’re always in the way.

The City Watch (damn them all to Perdition) patrol the town and hate you, but the citizens will leave you alone unless you do something really stupid. I’ll leave that to your imagination. Some of them carry valuables, so pickpocketing is encouraged. Most carry their loot on their belts, which only goes to show that while the people of this world/time/place can create a mechanical eye that really works, they are absolute primitives when it comes to pocket technology. Of course, due to a strange design decision, you practically have to stand on their [CENSORED]ing heels to pickpocket them, but remember that they don’t actually have pockets in the first place. This whole thing makes me very tired and very cranky.

Some of the NPCs wear jewelry, and you have to “mug” them, i.e., wave your dagger at them. That’s not a metaphor. I’ve never gotten this to work; my dagger is apparently ineffectual (that’s not a metaphor either), so I would just beat the shit out of them and pick their possessions up off the ground.

You can now ally yourself with the Hammers and Pagans, by the way. You can ally with either, both, or neither. It’s your choice, but the smart thief will make friends with both factions, mostly because it makes getting around the City a little easier. I only regret not being able to somehow form an uneasy truce with the City Watch, as they would sometimes top fighting larger threats (no spoilers here) and come after *me*...and I’d have to kill them. Sad, but necessary.**
[** Okay, not *sad*, as I hated them and chuckled with malevolence as I fired arrow after arrow into them, but...]

What? Run away from them...instead of killing them? Are you *serious*??

So getting past all of these armed idiots is your recurring nightmare. You can do this by either killing them (much noise and screaming and bleeding and crying), KOing them (the City Watch respawn, so this is pointless in the long run) or by sneaking by them (recommended). Sometimes, it’s just more satisfying to put an arrow in someone’s throat, and you can do that if you wish. There are no killing restrictions on the streets, although you might want to avoid killing members of the factions you’ve allied yourself to, as they don’t really like that sort of thing...you understand.

In the missions themselves, however, *everyone* hates you. Just like in the previous games, yes...you’ll have to watch out for the ubiquitous guards and various unarmed “innocents” (I’ve been skimming through their diaries, however, and utterly reject the notion of their innocence).** In some missions, you’ll face more...interesting...lifeform s, although once again, the Powers That Be have denied us the opportunity to rob from the Valley of the Nymphomaniac Amazon Vixens of the Moon.**
[** A good subtitle for that mission: “They’ll [CENSORED] You...To Death!”]

[** Dear god...buried that one, didn't I? Okay, it was in reference to Marillion's "Emerald Lies."]


[End of Part One.]
It is the scent of garlic that lingers on my chocolate fingers