That was a fun read, Summer! A lot of personality bleeds through in your writing style (though that conjures kind of a gross mental image, that's a good thing ), and it makes for interesting reading; I never had the attention span for dry purely technical reviews. What I'm saying is, keep it up!
Also, I never completed any of the "Five Tigers" missions...does that make me not cool?
It was a long time coming, but I finally finished my latest review(s). They are both for mission's from a guy who's quickly becoming one of my new favorite FM authors. I'll just get to it now, I know the suspense must be killing you. HEY, WAKE UP.
Double Review 3: Revenge of the Man-Eating Reviews, FROM SPACE
Huh, what? OH YES, the thing I was writing...right. Welcome to the third edition of my patented "double review" series. For those who haven't been following up until now: basically I review a mission and then, later, I review another one. But when I say "later", I mean much less later than usual, as in, the next paragraph down...not the next time it's the weekend, I have no date, and I'm lonely and drunk enough that Microsoft Word looks attractive to me. For this edition I'll be reviewing two FMs by Haplo, an author who makes missions that not only break from the norm, but shove the norm around and steal it's lunch money. I should also warn you that, being as his FMs demand more explanation than usual, this is a very long read. Not that you have any choice but to continue, you will find that escape is quite impossible*.
*I've rigged your browser's back button to explode on contact. Of course, I'm probably kidding...but can you REALLY take that chance?
Review the first: "The Acid Trip"
You may have recently read a Top Ten list of mine where I listed off my ten favorite "crazy" Thief 2 missions. When I wrote it, I received a few messages from people asking me why I didn't include "The Acid Trip" as it was one of the most obvious candidates. The answer is thus: because THIS MISSION IS EVIL. I mean seriously, there's "challenging" and then there's "grueling" and then there's "pure unadulterated evil"...and then there's "The Acid Trip"*. The whole time I was playing I couldn't help but imagine Haplo sitting on a dark throne clicking the tips of his fingers together and whispering to himself in a gravely voice "Yeeesss...goooooood" as he reached out with a powerful sixth sense to watch me wreathe in agony. And you know what the REALLY crazy part is? God help me, I enjoyed it! I had a big dumb smile on my face the whole time, even as I was yanking my mouse-cord out of my computer and swinging it over my head like a flail while shouting long strings of obscenities. It's a little too unforgiving to really be a favorite of mine, but this is one everyone really needs to play just to experience the sheer insanity of it all...preferably with no small valuable objects within punting distance.
*...and then there's "Rebellion of the Builder" which is the only FM that ever made me cry. This is a true story.
Pretty much all you need to know about this mission's storyline is right there in the title*. There's another paragraph of exposition in the readme if you're really ga-ga for backstory, but the general idea is simple: Garrett is stoned out of his mind, and you have to bring him back to reality. The only thing standing in your way is a regiment of guards with scary squid monster faces (YES I know it's Cthulhu, stop sending me H.P. Lovecraft wikipedia links), a tie-dye maze, a whole lotta locked doors, and more techno music than the human mind can withstand before resorting to lighting itself on fire as a defense mechanism.
*That is, unless you read it and think it's about Garrett losing his footing and falling into a vat of acid. That's not it at all...nice outside the box thinking though.
If you're seeing this many Cthulhus, you're probably not cool to drive.
First of all let me talk about what I liked. Basically, everything that doesn't happen in those tie-dyed hallways that act as the central hub of the mission. Honestly. I fully endorse everything about this mission that does not involve that cthulhu infested tie-dye death maze. The side rooms are genius abstract creations that were a joy to walk through and take in all the bizarre little touches. Flying clocks, hovering book cases, a giant spiraling staircase made entirely of glowing mushrooms...it's just so damn bizarre, I loved every crazy second I spent in them. And that Kenny Rogers song at the end? It's going to take nothing short of a thorough lobotomy to get that thing out of my head.
To get to these side rooms, unfortunately, you have to navigate that sadistic tie-dye maze full of guards you have no way of defending yourself against that will happily give you a sledge hammer to the face. Now, I actually don't mind forced ghosting*. Most Thief fans have been playing this game with the central challenge of not being seen for over a decade now, so I think we should be up to the task of not stabbing things when we're called upon to do so. I actually find it to be a fun challenge every now and then. The problem is, the hallways in this FM are so well lit that getting around the guards means memorizing their patrol patterns and making a run for it when you think you have a window of opportunity. Oh yeah, and the mission also spawns in new guards as you progress. And none of the many locked doors in the maze are marked...and neither are the many keys that open them. This means that you have to make a daring run through the brightly lit monster infested maze every time you get a key so you can try using it on every locked door. What this means for YOU, the player, is getting caught and violated by a sledge hammer-wielding squid faced monster about 80 babadijillion times.
*"Ghosting" is a style of gameplay that involves never being seen. Though, some take it to the next level and also add rules like "no using items", "no breaking windows" and "you must play the game while snowboarding down a mountain and chugging mountain dew, while on fire".
So I guess, what it ultimately comes down to with "The Acid Trip" is this: are you willing to suffer through some serious punishment for some good trippy fun? Playing this mission is alot like being force-fed powerful hallucinogens and then attempting to walk over a bed of nails in order to get to a free flying car. Nothing will make sense, there will be alot of grueling pain, but it will ultimately lead to you being undeniably more awesome than ever. I suffered some mental abuse, but ultimately I'm glad I played it. I say go for it, just drop in...to see what condition your condition is in. SOMEONE GET THAT KENNY ROGERS SONG OUT OF MY HEAD, IT'S EATING MY BRAIN ALIVE!
Review the second: "Unholy Vivid Innocence"
I've said it many times before, but I must reiterate: I love contest missions. Every time there's a "Small FM" making contest, I find at least one gem of a mission that appeals to my love of quirkiness AND my tragically stunted attention span. Most recently, it was "Unholy Vivid Innocence" from the recent contest which, like the FM, also had an awesomely unwieldy title:"Uncadonego's No Pressure (un)Contest". Like "Acid Trip" it doesn't play quite like anything else out there, only this time, the gameplay actually stands out more than the weirdness.
The storyline has you playing as Garrett, who's in one of those bizarrely suicidal moods he gets into whenever the rent is due. This time his plan is to travel to a crypt called the "Halls of the Damned" and sneak around undead guardians who can supposedly kill you if you so much as look at them. Y'know Garrett...maybe it's time to find a landlord who accepts money as payment instead of cursed artifacts from hell? Just sayin. I should also add that, unlike the previous mission, reading the title gives you absolutely no clue what it's about. Honestly, I still don't know what the hell it means. If you read "Unholy Vivid Innocence" and think "this is probably about navigating a magical puzzle filled tomb" you're offically entitled to walk into Sherlock Holmes office, violently shove everything off of his desk onto the floor, and tell him to "Get the @#$! out", because you're now the world's greatest detective.
The story is essentially there to establish the setting and what you're up against, in that respect it does a great job. Maybe a little too great actually, my imagination ran away with the premise a bit. I was totally excited about the concept of monsters that wouldn't hurt you if you didn't pay attention to them, as described in the readme file; doesn't that line up so perfectly with the instinct we all had when we were young and stupid which led us to believe that if we hid under our covers that horrible gelatinous blob hiding in our closet wouldn't be able to grab us through our bedsheet-forcefields as long as we didn't look at it? This concept is brilliant, and I was completely sold on it! In the first room of this FM, I half-caught a glimpse of one of these monsters and saw the text "Avert your gaze mortal!" appear at the top of the screen. I instantly turned away, and while I still heard the sound of the monster in the room, it didn't chase after me. "Wow", I thought, "that is so freaking cool! My 8 year old self was totally right about how monsters work!". Then I walked into the next room and heard the familiar chanting of "Join us, join us NAAOOW." coming from a nearby haunt. "Another uppity monster huh? Well SUCK MY INDIFFERENCE" I thought with my newfound empowerment, as I looked in the opposite direction and casually strutted through the room, cheerfully whistling and grabbing loot as I went. Five seconds later, my corpse was on the floor and the haunt was standing over me with his sword newly glazed in my blood giving that "Flames around you!"* speech- as it turns out, not all monsters share the same rules of engagement. WAY TO MISLEAD ME, BACKSTORY.
*Which in haunt language means "I just Own3d the s**t out of you, lol newb"
Awwww, the hellish skeleton guard is SHY.
Slight learning curve aside, I really enjoyed the whole conceit of certain monsters preventing you from even glancing at several areas of the level until you found a way to defeat them. The first time through, it gave me the impression that the playing area was much larger than it actually turned out to be. This is one of the more ingenious ways that I've ever seen an author make the size limitations for a contest FM seem less obvious. Once all the monsters are defeated (which takes a while, by the way) it creates an almost stunning realization of "wait...was this place always this small!?", and "wait...how long have we been out of cheetos!?", though the second one might have been a personal crisis.
It's probably good that it's as compact as it is though, as some of the many puzzles here are going to make you run around the entire level in confusion like a zombie with his head sheared off. I'm happy to say that I solved them without seeking online help, and while that might be a sign of how intelligent and handsome I am, it's probably just a testament to how well-designed they are. When you figure them out, they have that great way of making you feel like you should stand up and proclaim "I AM GOD OF THE INTELLECTUALS!" even though you're problem solving on about a 3rd grade level. One great example is an early puzzle which presents you with the conundrum of how to get an artifact out of a room that locks up tight whenever you touch it. The solution is so damn simple, yet after I managed to solve it I could swear I felt my brain rapidly expanding in size like some comic book super villain who just had his head exposed to gamma radiation.
It's also probably worth mentioning before I wrap things up that this mission is scary. Of course, this is coming from me, so take that as you will. Frankly, I'm the easiest scare in the world. There's one moment in the level where you are trapped in a maze while scary WOOooooOOoo sounds are made on a slide whistle, a scare tactic taken directly out of Scooby Doo, that scared me so bad I had cold sweat dripping down my forehead...honestly. I think I can say with relative assurance though that most people will find it pretty unsettling. Mind you it's no "A Night In Rocksbourg 3" but that's just because Haplo, unlike Dr.K, isn't the devil*.
*And I mean that in the nicest way possible Dr. K. Please don't eat my soul.
Really though, why I recommend "Unholy Vivid Innocence" is the exact same reason I would recommend "The Acid Trip": it's just about as far away from "run of the mill" as you can get. Haplo pours an incredible amount of imagination into his various mad creations, and it's made his FMs instant day-one downloads for me. Honestly, these missions are both so astonishingly clever it makes even the most weighty complaints I have about them seem like pointless whining. So what if "Acid Trip" was so hard at times that it had me frothing from the mouth and speaking in tongues? Does it really matter that "Unholy Vivid Innocence" has one (optional) objective that's pretty much only accessible to those who know of an obscure gameplay bug*? Maybe these problems matter in some way, but when I walk away from these missions they aren't what I remember. I remember walking away thinking "How the hell did he come up with this crap!?", and frankly, I wish that would happen more often.
*Let me add that this was fixed in the recent patch by the addition of a slowfall potion on all difficulty levels. Let me also add that I sucked too much to see that particular objective before hand. So if you were ever wondering if I "got game", the answer is a resounding "no".
And now screenshots, now guaranteed to have more tie-dye than you can handle.
The Acid Trip Screens:
Now now, perfectly symmetrical violence won't solve anything!
Me hiding in some shadows. Yellow-eyed Acid monster is not amused.
Yes, that's Cthulhu standing at the foot of your bed watching you. Sleep tight kiddies!
Unholy Vivid Innocence Screens:
Aw great, I accidentally wandered into a concert for "The Cure".
Me hiding in more shadows. The Ghost of Christmas Future is not amused.
Hey, haunt! Did you see me solve that last puzzle?! Get back here, I NEED APPROVAL DAMMIT.
NEXT: I'm thinking another Top Ten, but if you have a suggestion, feel free to slap me around and yell "YOU'RE DOING THIS INSTEAD". I'm timid enough that I'll probably go with it.
Last edited by The Mike; 21st Feb 2010 at 22:18.
Great Review, Mike - maybe your best yet (& that's saying something).
GOOD GOD, MAN!!! You have got to cut down on the booze (or get a girlfriend) Or you could just get an Amish girlfriendI'm lonely and drunk enough that Microsoft Word looks attractive to me.
Hey, thanks alot Sticky! You're apparently the first person to read it through in its entirety, so you get a cookie. Maybe even two cookies.
...Actually we'll call it one. We're short on resources here.
I KNEW you would bring that up!
I'm never inviting Yandros to a party again.
That was great Mike, definitely your best so far. It made me laugh out loud many times. What made it even better for me was the fact that you were talking about my creations. I'm glad to see you have enjoyed them as much as I enjoy reading your reviews.
A couple of things worthy of mentioning:
- I never meant The Acid Trip to be that difficult. I didn't give the player a sword because it didn't fit the story of the mission. The whole thing is about an omnipotent divine entity playing games with Garrett's fate. I wanted the player to feel he was left alone in a very hostile world with nothing to defend himself with except for his wits and his skills.
The 'Normal' difficulty is actually quite easy. To make sure the mission was not too difficult on 'Expert', I successfully ghosted it on expert many many times (to the point that I was absolutely sick of the mission). Since I suck at ghosting, I concluded that if I could do it then almost everyone else who chooses to play on expert would be able to do it too. It seems I was wrong. Maybe I'm not such a lousy ghoster after all?
- There is a perfectly logical explanation behind the name "Unholy Vivid Innocence". I was going to say it here, but I think I will sustain the mystery. I'll give you a hint though: The name has root in "Acid Trip"-esque symbolism. Just think, who is the innocent here; Garrett, or the creatures he is destroying?!
Thanks for the very enjoyable read. I'm looking forward to your future reviews and especially to you review of the sequel to UVI when it comes out.
Glad to hear you enjoyed it, Haplo! When re-reading my review of the Acid Trip, and all the whining about the difficulty therein, I was thinking "God...Haplo is going to find this so freaking annoying". Of course, then I remembered when you told me to not take it easy on you in my reviews and was like "On the other hand, he asked for it by giving me complete creative freedom. THAT'LL TEACH HIM." I knew you would realize it was all in good fun though, Acid Trip was awesome.
God I'm terrible at this sort of thing...There is a perfectly logical explanation behind the name "Unholy Vivid Innocence". I was going to say it here, but I think I will sustain the mystery. I'll give you a hint though: The name has root in "Acid Trip"-esque symbolism. Just think, who is the innocent here; Garrett, or the creatures he is destroying?!
So it means...um...if the innocents are the skeletons...then the vivid thing is...the flashbombs? WAIT NO, "vivid" (meaning "bright" or "clear") is a play on words since you can't actually LOOK at the skeletons. Am I warm? Can I get another hint please?
Actually forget it, I'm too dumb and I'm fine with that.
Also, you can definitely expect a UVI 2 review soon after you release it. SO GET CRACKIN'.
Ok here's the beef:
- On 'Normal', there are only two haunts patrolling the hallways. That makes it really easy; it is practically possible to finish the mission without having to wait for the haunts to pass by or even seeing them from the front.
- 'Hard' is more difficult than 'Normal', but significantly easier than 'Expert'. There is one extra haunt, but he follows the same patrol route.
- There is yet another haunt on 'Expert', but what makes it evil is the fact that he patrols the hallways in the opposit direction. Still, as long as you always have a rough idea where he is at that moment, it is easy to pass all of them without being noticed. Believe me, I have done it many times (way too many times).
Actually due to my lack of knowledge at the time, the mission turned out easier than it could have been. I did not disable the efficiency setting of the two haunts patroling the big nature room (because I was unaware of such feature). As a result by the time you get there they would be patrolling very close to each others making it very easy to avoid them. My intention was for them to be on the oppsoite sides of the room at any given time.
As for the UVI name meaning, you are actually quite close!
Whatever happened with the server move has now renamed every single link and has turned my index post that I worked hard on to link to every single review (that I was going to update momentarily to catch it up) to dust and rendered it completely useless..
I think its a temporary thing as expressed in the server move thread, so I hope it goes back to the old way of indexing. I'm not gonna redo hundreds of links again
Damn man, that REALLY sucks.
I just double checked and...yeah...it's pretty broken. If I could help out in reassembling it I would, I use that index all the time! For now, let's just hope that if we ignore it for long enough it will quietly fix itself (stranger things have happened right? ....Right?).
Yes, if you notice the url, everything is running through ttlg.mobi (the mobile version of ttlg) right now, just until the DNS updates. Then everything should be back to normal. Details here, if anyone cares.
If you'll end up having to change all the links you can edit the first post, put it in a word processor and do a find + replace on all the URL mentions.
Nice review, quakis. And nice site.
Hey, awesome- the megathread is back! I was getting concerned for a minute there...I was worried I was going to have to write something.
Great review Quakis, Forgotten Forest is one I've been meaning to replay for a while. I remember playing it and liking it, but I must have walked into a wall really hard or something immediately after finishing it because I don't remember any details about it...
If you thought uvi was wacky before, then wait til you read this:
The whole guardian don't stare thing was a total ruse. You can look at them all day and they don't do squat (at least on normal). So the mission was made to feel larger purely by a trick. Nice one haplo.
Btw haplo, did you get your username from death's gate?
Oh and you know you don't have to ghost acid trip the whole way, you can run those guards into a room and lock them in...not easy unless you luck out and they get stuck on something.
Last edited by Iceblade; 30th Mar 2010 at 04:17.
What you said about UVI isn't true. You should be taking damage so something isn't working right for you.
The Heart of Lone Salvation by Fidcal
After a string of initial missions demonstrating the potential of The Dark Mod, and an early contest to get new builders interested and help get the word out, The Heart of Lone Salvation is the first feature-length mission released for TDM. Those that became available before were small- or medium-sized, and usually fairly straightforward – heists, exploration, loot hunting and in one case, escape. Fidcal’s FM breaks with this early phase of experimentation to bring us something that’s huge, complex and right up there with T1–T2 greats like Transitions in Chaos: Conspiracies in the Dark, Rowena’s Curse and The Seventh Crystal.
This previous list is no accident, since Heart is built around a very similar theme: a large mansion mapped from servants’ quarters to noble halls, and featuring opulent decor, a glimpse into the daily goings on, as well as a lot of secret areas and dark family secrets. Here, the initial objectives require the player to break in and find the Heart of Lone Salvation, a valuable gemstone, bypass the clever security mechanisms and patrols that guard it, and leave with the gem and a bag of extra loot in your pockets. Of course, it isn’t so simple: as newer and newer areas of the mansion open up, there will be new objectives (many of them optional, so you aren’t required to complicate your agenda too much), hard but rewarding puzzles, and more complications. Ghosting adds an extra layer of complexity to the mix, and is really satisfying in its level of challenge (meaning you have to work for it, but it is never unrealistically hard).
What makes Heart impress from the start is visuals: you start out in a fog-shrouded street with tall, ominous buildings looming before you, and later visit spartan cellars, storage areas, some really posh living quarters and abandoned locales that just feel properly abandoned. The mission never features an engine-pushing level of detail, but the architecture has a stark simplicity and sense of weight that makes it quite believable (the first outdoors segment, in particular, is a thing of simple beauty). The small architectural features, good use of texturing, grime and object placement produce spaces that are lived in, attractive and individualised enough not to get lost in them (the map helps a lot, though). Light is especially well placed in the mission, both from an aesthetic and a gameplay point of view – there are multiple interesting sneaking challenges throughout the mission.
Another major feature is the way the engine’s new possibilities were incorporated into the action: there are multiple mechanical devices and object handling puzzles; hiding places for the loot also exercise your object manipulation skills. Thiefy and fun. Speaking of secrets, they are logically placed, largely optional and rather satisfactory to discover (there is a secrets counter you can either follow or disable).
Heart of Lone Salvation is, at its heart (sorry), a keyhunt. You have to use clues hidden in the environment and interesting, well-crafted readables to open up new areas. Depending on your preferences, this may or may not be a good thing. I feel that the method works better in the initial stages where you usually have a good idea on where your next target is, and approximately where to look for the next key (not necessarily in the literal sense) to reach it. In the endgame, with information, keys and open areas piling up, it is easier to become stuck if you just miss one clue or fail to search a room properly (or even worse, come across a room where you find nothing but loot – did you miss something? Do you have to return later?). Still, for the large part, the puzzles have logical solutions, and the new things you find are almost always worth the price of admission (including a lot of smartly used background detail and a few genuinely unsettling segments).
So how does the mission stack up? I wrote about early, experimental missions at the beginning of this review – these FMs may be a lot of fun, but tend to come with caveats like “I didn’t have too much time to learn everything about the editor yet” or “imagine what we will accomplish with the tools after a year or two has passed!” Heart doesn’t make these excuses, and that’s because it doesn’t need them. Measured against the great mansion missions produced for the previous Thief Games, it fits right in. My recommendations: get it, play it, let your friends know how much you liked it.
Dude, Melan, I'm going to capitalise this for emphasis (and add a few periods for extra impact):
WRITE. MORE. REVIEWS.
Seriously man, your reviews are great reads! Well-worded, and you actually take time to describe your favorite moments or point out little details that struck you as interesting instead of just settling into the whole trope of "The level design was blah blah blah, the sound effects were blah blah blah, the gameplay was blah BLAH blah", a mistake that I've realized through my own reviews is extremely easy to do.
Also, this mission kicks all kinds of ass. (ALL kinds)
Thank you! Will try.
Something I get very annoyed about in my own reviews, to be honest. Even causing me to lose motivation to write them, since they really are blah blah blah sounding.you actually take time to describe your favorite moments or point out little details that struck you as interesting instead of just settling into the whole trope of "The level design was blah blah blah, the sound effects were blah blah blah, the gameplay was blah BLAH blah", a mistake that I've realized through my own reviews is extremely easy to do.
Video: Calendra's Legacy - Mission 2: Midnight in Murkbell | pt.1
Nice, quakis! Especially the bonus clips. Looking forward for more.
Two more parts for those interested. This might either be 7 or 8 parts in total.
Video: Calendra's Legacy - Mission 2: Midnight in Murkbell | pt.2
Video: Calendra's Legacy - Mission 2: Midnight in Murkbell | pt.3
Video: Calendra's Legacy - Mission 2: Midnight in Murkbell | pt.4
Video: Calendra's Legacy - Mission 2: Midnight in Murkbell | pt.5
Video: Calendra's Legacy - Mission 2: Midnight in Murkbell | pt.6
Last edited by quakis; 8th Apr 2010 at 19:52.