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Thread: General Fan Mission Review And Discussion Megathread

  1. #2826
    Member
    Registered: Oct 2012
    Location: On parole
    Your reviews are very well written, concise, informative and enjoyable to read but maybe you should find another name for our protagonist....Non-Garrett doesn't seem right.

  2. #2827

    Lord Dufford's (TDM)

    fortuni: Heh, best I can come up with usually. :P I guess "Bob the Thief" isn't sufficient?

    -------------------------

    Let’s get this started, shall we?

    Lord Dufford’s (by stumpy) was meant as a test mission, and it shows. The plot is slightly different than your average Dark Mod fair: Not-Garrett is a dashing rogue who is hired to discover the fate of Lord Dufford. There’s an official story of course (which our protagonist must also find for no good reason), but the real story is much more interesting…

    The mission plops you off in a cityscape, and it’s here that you’ll look up and see the red line in the sky. That’s meant to be there. This is the first of many interesting, if strange, design choices. Another odd design choice is that you’ll encounter doors that you can’t pick, you have the pick the actual lock instead, which caused me a fair bit of frustration on a first playthrough.

    As mentioned, this was meant as a test mission, so there’s a fair bit of….empty space. Quite a lot, actually. It almost reaches the point of unintentional horror, because there are a few guards still wandering about the place, and they have a tendency to spring on you when you get comfortable (I wonder how this mission would play without any background music?). It creates a fair bit of atmosphere, but like I said, it feels unintentional.

    Difficulty-wise, it’s up there. The loot is often grouped together in chunks, and they tend to off the beaten path. The rather confusing layout of the manor itself doesn’t help with finding them, even on a second playthrough I still found myself getting lost. The main objective ends up being a clue hunt through the manor, which is a new idea and one stumpy does with skill, unless you don’t know what a “stoop” is, anyway. One objective requires you to track down the official story of what happened to Lord Dufford, and requires you to find a very well-hidden notebook that you’re given no reason to believe exists. It ends up falling on the tedious side of the scale at times.

    And yet, I found myself enjoying it. It’s certainly different, and there’s an undercurrent of dark humor underlying the whole thing, like the creator has his tongue in cheek. The backstory is honestly semi-interesting as well, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the creator has tried his hand at coming up with a fantasy setting for a novel or tabletop RPG. The tedious bits annoy, but unlike Deceptive Shadows, it’s less of a constant battle. Recommended, but have patience.

  3. #2828

    Illusionist's Tower (TDM)

    Still on stumpy, and will be for two more reviews after this one.

    Illusionist's Tower has been described by some as a ďgimmickĒ mission, and while I can see their point I found it pretty fun on the whole. The plot is simple: Not-Garrett is angling to break into an old tower designed by a wizard. There have been the usual round of disappearances of others who have went in, but itíll be fine. Right?

    The mission almost reminds me of the Submachine series of room escape games, with multiple shifting locations that donít seem to have much to do with each other. Thereís very little in the way of stealth in this mission, barring avoiding some spiders. The difficulty varies, on the whole itís pretty smooth sailing, barring one or two bits. One such bit is an annoying puzzle that I still donít fully understand, even after doing it twice. I more or less did it through trial and error. The loot also has an issue, in that itís possible to move on to the second part of the mission and not have enough loot to finish. You can go back through the level, but most wonít be willing to do that. Itís also fair to note that one area, an upside-down hallway, drags a tad too long.

    And yet, I enjoyed the thing. I like missions that at least try something different, even if they falter doing it and I find myself not enjoying the end product. In fairness, the mission is a bit random until about halfway through, and I can see how that would irritate people. But I enjoyed the experience, dark humor and mild horror and all. Recommended, but with a dose of your milage may vary.

  4. #2829
    Moderator
    Registered: Apr 2003
    Location: Wales
    Last few added so up to date again. Thank you, The Dark One.

  5. #2830
    Desperately Dodgy Moderator
    Registered: Nov 2001
    Location: Fields of bluegrass
    Nickie's all caught up? It must be armageddon or something!

  6. #2831
    Moderator
    Registered: Apr 2003
    Location: Wales
    You're probably right. But although the sun has now decided to shine, it's only going to do it for 2 days out of 10 instead of the 6 it was supposed to, so grumpiness is just round the corner and I'm longing to take my irritation out on someone.







  7. #2832

    Dead Drunk (TDM)

    I know that House in Blackbog Hollow was next in release order, but I have my reasons. For example: It's better than this one.

    Dead Drunk is a rather short, atypical mission. Not-Garrett gets drunk and wakes up in a crypt, dumped there by his friends who are much better at sneaking than he is, considering how they were able to get him into the depths of a skeleton filled crypt without alerting said skeletons. Now, you have to escape.

    The main problem with this mission is that itís deeply repetitive. Sure the crypt looks creepy, but after like ten minutes of the same environment it goes from ďWoooooo~Ē to ďOooooooooh (get me out of here)Ē Thereís a break in the pattern at one point, and itís certainly fits stumpyís sense of humor, and perhaps the complaint doesnít matter with such a short mission, but it does wear a bit. A more serious issue is the fact that if you miss a key near the beginning, you canít complete the level, which to me feels irritating. The is a visual clue to the key, but it still feels too missable. The loot goal is fair, with the loot being easy to find.

    All in all, this is a little bit disappointing. I expected a tad more from stumpy, who Iíd marked as uneven but creative. This is a decent time water, but not much more than that.

    Notice: It was brought to my attention after writing this review that this mission was made for a Halloween speed build contest of sorts. I don't think it changes my overall recommendation (or lack thereof), but it is worth noting.

  8. #2833

    House in Blackbog Hollow (TDM)

    These reviews are coming so fast! But Iím getting ahead on my played/reviewed ratio, so itís a necessity.

    House in Blackbog Hollow (or just Blackbog Hollow according to the title card), is stumpyís best mission, really. This time, Not-Garratt sets out to swipe some ancient treasure, only to find that someone else has beaten him to it and left an convenient note stating that theyíve fled into a nearby house. Entry is swift, and leads Not-Garrett into a dining room. Where he witnesses a man get killed by a jack-o-lantern. Itís that kind of mission.

    The main goal is to escape the house, which requires you to track all over it, searching for more murder pumpkins. Itís oddly difficult, as while the house is small and easy to navigate, there are spiders lurking around, and I swear stumpy made them tougher than your garden variety spider. Sword combat is suicide, and you donít have enough arrows to kill them all. It adds to the challenge though, Iíll admit. Loot-wise itís easy enough, since most of the loot is in the open, even if the goals are high. However, it commits the same sin as Illusionist's Tower, in that you can reach the end of the mission without enough loot, and unlike the previous you canít just start over again, so savescummers will have issues.

    The mission does a pretty good job with itís horror. Itís not ďget me my brown pantsĒ level, but considering how the mission presents itself as a cheesy B-horror at worst, there are some mild chilling moments, such as the note in the office on the second floor. Itís well-done, along with the somewhat surreal humor. The way you end up resolving the mess is worth a chuckle, though I have to admit the final sequence is a bit obtuse, as you donít really have to follow instructions, from what I could tell. The fact that AI got stuck on my second playthrough probably didnít help however.

    All in all, a fun Halloween mission. There are a few flaws, but on the whole I think itís definitely worth a look. Recommended.

  9. #2834

    One Step Too Far

    One Step Too Far (by Dragofer, as is the next mission reviewed) is certainly interesting.

    This time, Not-Garrett is a thief on the run, resulting in him taking a position on a ship bound more barren parts of the New World...or the or so the captain claims. The large blocks of ice indicate that the ship might have gone off-course, forcing our hero to investigate.

    This is an atypical mission here, with more of an overt horror element filling everything. The ship is crammed and isolation and claustrophobia fills the ship. The second part of the mission has a really good moment of tension, though the means of escape is slightly wonky. This atmosphere is the best part about the mission, and insures that you’ll be unsettled for the majority of your playtime.

    This same claustrophobia, however, also results in a fair amount of irritation in places. The small size seems to fluster the AI, and weird behaviors tend to crop up as a result. I crawled right in front of the chef without him noticing me, for example. The first-mate’s room is an absolute pain to to get into, requiring split-second timing and melding yourself into the wall, along with dealing with a captain who keeps wandering in and out. The whole room needed like another foot or so on it. It’s also worth noting that the ending, after all the buildup, the mission just suddenly ends at a moment of high suspense.

    Still, this is a very well-done mission. Atypical, but very good, with excellent ambient horror.. Unlike some of the previous missions I’ve looked at,, the loot goals are optional, ensuring that the player doesn’t get stuck at the end, and giving those who like crawling around and searching a little bonus. One of these days I’ll figure out why I can only do short reviews for missions I like a lot, but for now, I’ll have to say this is Recommended.
    Last edited by The Dark One; 2nd Jul 2017 at 01:20.

  10. #2835
    Member
    Registered: Jun 2009
    Location: Sunnyport
    I've started a "Thief Diaries" project continuing what I did with another project of mine, "Evangelizing Thief" (linked to in the stickied "Thief FM Info Links" thread).

    I'm putting each entry at thiefdiaries.com. The blog's in rough form - I'm new to blogging and am using WordPress.com, still messing around with themes and such. If you want to check it out, feel free, but I'm also going to post each writeup here. (My Thief Diaries blog includes my gameplay recordings of each mission as well.)

    My first is for Gathering at the Inn. I'm starting with well-known missions but will also dive into the obscure as I go.

    The Circle of Stone and Shadow: Gathering at the Inn (Thief II, 2003), by Team CoSaS



    Most of the highly active, highly talented contributors from the early days of Thief II FMs were involved in this one. Gathering at the Inn is a delectable treat. Not massive it is still ingenious. It contains a small building – the inn – with a small cityscape surrounding it. It has superb gameplay and level design, clever ideas and puzzles, original and excellent ambient noises and voice acting, solid story and subtle humor, and much replay value. Along with such FMs as The Inverted Manse and Calendra’s Legacy, this is an early-era classic.

    In Gathering at the Inn you play as Dante, one of the thief characters from the greater “Circle of Stone and Shadow” fiction. He is on a trial run for Lord Nightfall, the warden he’s recently signed with, and the objective is to steal a bunch of scepters from members of a scepter owner’s club who are each staying at the “Grieving Burrick” inn. The main goal is a fire mage’s scepter but to disguise the theft of this one item all the scepters, six in total, are to be stolen. Dante must also pick up some loot and, on the highest difficulty, avoid harming anyone but the guards. (Using a blackjack is harmful.)

    Gathering begins like the best Thief missions do: by establishing an atmosphere that sucks you in. After a moody, Thief-y intro cut scene you begin in a pleasant, snow-laden cityscape with complementary ambient sound and a monologue from player-character Dante. Depending on the turns you take you will soon overhear a guard conversation, voiced by the excellent Loanstar, which references the bear pits dialogue. All this lets you know you are in for a treat.



    The mission never lets down from the initial good impression. When you’ve entered the inn from above or below, a new catchy ambient track plays and you discover an intricate world of backstory, readables, and puzzles. While navigating all this, you also have to duck past guards in tight little hallways. It’s a challenging mission.

    The objectives task you not just to steal the six scepters but also to tamper with four of the guest’s businesses (Master Nightfall is pulling strings). One of the guests, Lady Verrilli, is a sculptor who sells ice sculptures as crystal ones. You have to find a way to ruin her reputation. Then there’s a politician, Lord Pearsall, who must be made so as to not give a speech the next day. And there are a couple of business bigwigs. Foiling them involves swapping a couple documents, replacing an ice pick with a fire wand, and using a handkerchief and a baby burrick in combination (don’t ask) to make someone sick. For all the details you may consult an online walkthrough – here I’ll leave it at: this is a very clever bit of puzzles and scripting. Gathering is in the class of missions that task the player with using atypical items to complete objectives.



    To navigate the hotel there is a chimney system that transports you between a few of the rooms. This gives you a backway alternative to the hallways. Getting through the hallways is difficult given the guard presence but if you’re not ghosting you may blackjack them. You may also turn off the power in the basement connected to the electrical lights. This is where one of the more ingenious elements of the mission comes into play. One of the guards and, apparently, a power expert, will turn the generators back on each time you turn them off.

    Okay. Easy – knock him out! But here’s the catch: his head is wounded and bandaged up. So if you use the blackjack on him, he dies. Not killing guards is optional, but it still may rest on your conscience. If you want to conveniently turn off the power you have to kill someone.

    Now, you can’t knockout the hotel staff. So why didn’t the authors make this guy a staff member? Then you would have to avoid knocking him out and no head injury rigmarole would have been needed. But the hotel staff are apathetic to thieves. So this guy had to care about you – else he’d let you keep the power off. So his head is injured.

    You wouldn't want to hurt him, anyway: each time you turn the power off he says “Holy crap!” so that you can hear him wherever you are, he mutters a reference to a line from Ultima Underworld, and he wonders aloud about his application to a power plant and a Mechanist physical he recently took. I love this guy!

    (Speaking of an Underworld reference, names of the hotel guests, listed four paragraphs up, reference Looking Glass staff members. I’m sure there are more references I didn’t pick up on.)



    Back stories told through narrative caches are an important element of any Thief mission and in Gathering one set of readables is very memorable: a journal in the attic and another in the dining area of the inn that go in tandem. The former is of a man and the latter of a woman describing a wedding that involves burricks and a snake. Read them for a hilarious backstory.

    Once you’ve completed all the tasks and enjoyed the humor of the inn’s staff and guests, you’ll be back out on the streets to meet Sheam, another member of the circle who is voiced by the excellent Wynne. The mission ends and is followed by another well-done Thief-y cutscene that makes you want more – and more would come in 2008 with Mission X. That’ll be another entry. For now I leave you with these words: if you want an ingenious and humorous Thief mission Gathering at the Inn is one of the best.
    Last edited by twhalen2600; 2nd Jul 2017 at 18:48. Reason: Bolded title and added screenshots.

  11. #2836

    Down By The Riverside (TDM)

    For the record, this isnít a pure sequel to One Step Too Far, but it is set in the same universe.

    Down by the Riverside feels like a much improved version of itís predecessor, keeping most of the strengths while excising the weaknesses. This time, Not-Garrett stows away on a pirate ship to make off with some of the loot from an upcoming raid on an isolated and deserted mansion. However, most of the loot is long gone, but some odd footsteps lead our hero into an isolated room whereÖ.spoilers happen.

    The mission is a solid one all around, greatly improving on itís predecessor. The atmosphere of isolation and horror is well-handled, even though a few places show pity on you and have people running around. These times are brief however, and the general isolation continues. The graphics are good, with the best being the elegant but run-down mansion that the mission begins in. The horror is, as said, quite well done, with the final sequence leaving me on edge. The story is also well done, with the player at least having an understanding of what happened, if not why or how in all cases.

    Difficulty-wise, itís a bit fairer than itís predecessor, but more difficult, if that makes sense. On the one hand, you donít have to worry about creeping through too small spaces, but there are plenty of guards everywhere. Special mention goes to the location before the finale, which requires you to creep through a shipís hold with metal floors and guards choking you every which way. Itís one of the few areas in The Dark Mod that Iíve actually felt like using a moss arrow. Admittedly, itís easier on lower difficulties, from what I understand. Thankfully, the loot goals are optional, considering how well--hidden some of it is.

    Itís worth noting that the mission has been updated since its first release, tweaking a few glitches and getting rid of those dang electrocuting lamps that used to be there. The creator also was kind enough to better highlight some loot in the church, but I wish he had done the same for a stash of loot in the previous part of the mission, which in my opinion was far harder to find.

    All in all, this is a worthy successor to One Step Too Far, and is Recommended.

  12. #2837

    Exhumed (TDM)

    Note: This mission was done by Airship Ballet and kyrrma.

    Exhumed places our noble hero in the role of an agent for the Church sent to the freezing edge of the world to reclaim an artifact from a long abandoned chapel, and cleanse the evil that infests it. Like the previous two missions Iíve looked at, this is more of a horror mission that a normal Dark Mod mission. The environment is appropriately desolate, and the chapel is confined and creepy, with the only gripe I have being the mismatched gate leading out.

    The mission does a good job with horror, slowly building it up from minor scares to a burst of bloody horror. This gradual ascension is well down, and other authors should take note of it. I do have a bone or two to pick with events (such as why putting a skull in a fountain opens a secret passage), but the whole experience is so well-done that Iíll give it a pass. The mission is well-paced, not trying to drag out the tension any longer than it has too.

    Also, booby traps, more of those please, I enjoy them more than I should.

    All in all, this is a very good and creepy mission. Recommended.

  13. #2838
    Member
    Registered: Jun 2009
    Location: Sunnyport
    Ranstall Keep, Thief and Thief 2 FM (both 2000) by Alex "Jyre/Dashjianta" Thomson

    Black and white is an effective style for Thief missions. Part of the game’s inspiration is noir film, after all. Jyre’s Ranstall Keep is a creepy mission done in noir, and it works. The setup is suspenseful and you’re drawn in immediately. As I wrote in the last entry, this is how every Thief mission should start: set the mood and draw the player in through atmosphere – let things soak in.

    Ranstall was uploaded for both Thief and Thief II within a few months and is the first mission to feature a female protagonist.* It’s a great horror FM and an early-era classic. It’s also the first Thief FM I played (I had watched others being played before, but this is the first I played myself).



    Ranstall has an excellent setup: You are in a small town where citizens begin disappearing one by one until you are the only one left. How does that not entice you? Once the briefing video ended and I heard footsteps, I was even more drawn in. Who…what was making those footstep noises?

    You find out that it’s monsters – cloaked creatures carrying swords who make the same sounds as Thief’s spiders. These things hold you in check as you explore the town. Exploring the town is your first goal, but you’re not getting anywhere without lock-picks.

    That leads to my first knock against this mission: in order to progress, you have to break glass. I always feel uncomfortable busting the window on the roof of the weapons store, but it’s unavoidable. Beforehand I knock out the monster standing nearby. I don’t like any of this, and it sours Ranstall each time I play it. It’s not the only area like that either.**

    In the town you may explore a Hammerite chapel, an abandoned house referenced in one of the objectives, some other stores and homes, and the town’s council chamber.



    The Hammerite Chapel has another area where Jyre forces you to make noise. Entering the abandoned house requires breaking glass, too. In 2000, breaking things was acceptable, but Thief FMs have come a long way since then and in this enlightened era ghosting should be possible. As is, I don’t see how one can ghost Ranstall.

    Through readables in the town you discover that the spider-noise-making monsters have something to do with the Keep and the lord there. Some town members, who had put the pieces together, dug a tunnel to the Keep. You will eventually take this tunnel yourself to discover some rather disturbing horrors.

    When I first played this FM back in the day I didn’t pick up on everything I saw in the Keep, but on replays one scene gets to me. There is a caged child in the middle of a dinner table who is walking atop hot embers. These monsters are tormenting a child through imprisonment and forcing him to watch them eat. What they eat is people, as you figure out from the chopped up Hammerite in the kitchen. Poor kid – and how disturbing!



    The cloaked creatures – who you learn are called “hissies” – aren’t the worst. They have demon overlords who in-game appear as ghost NPCs. Finding out the kind of creature their lord is becomes an objective. How this objective is completed is weak. It’s checked off after you read the following journal entry:

    “…Today I heard a most amusing tale. A woman was entertaining the crowds with a tale of the demons. I find it ironic that she makes it a point to highlight the demons’ utter destruction. After all, the Lord of the demonic race now lives in this very keep!…”

    “Lord of the demonic race” is too generic. It’s also too much of a coincidence that a townswoman in this small, isolated town would be speaking of the destruction of this demonic race and that this same race has taken over – or has always lived in – the town’s Keep.

    To reach this demon lord’s quarters you have to use ladders. You use ladders lots in Thief missions, but in Ranstall Keep you pick up and carry a couple ladders and use them to traverse lava to the upper rooms. And you thought Up in the Bonehoard was revolutionary! Carrying ladders is a unique feature of this FM and I think Ranstall is the first to have it.

    There is a bizarre area that may have been going for a Sword vibe and also leads to some more clanging around. It’s an outdoor scene with a pit and some ledges. On the ledges are some frog-beasts that never attack me. To reach the ledges you ride glass platforms you activate with levers. It sounds like a tap-dance party whenever I jump on these platforms. Even worse is when I reach the end part of this little side area: a large room with concentric, ring-like platforms. I hit each of these ring-platforms hard. For someone who is usually a dedicated ghoster, this segment always feels uncomfortable.



    Getting deeper into the Keep is a lot of fun – it has the vibe you feel when delving deeper into a dungeon and uncovering the truth behind more mysteries. You go from a mysterious, empty town to confronting a ghostly demon lord. As a suspenseful FM Ranstall has been surpassed, but when I first played it the suspense sucked me in. In the context of its time it was a gem.

    There are some uncomfortable segments that make you feel like a bumbling oaf trying to wake the dead – and this speaks to the mission’s release period: the early, dark days of FM design – but that aside the suspenseful buildup of Ranstall Keep make it an essential horror FM and an early classic. Play it if you haven’t.

    *The Thief II version. In the Thief version you play as a male, ostensibly Garrett. Note that in the briefing the male guard voice – Benny – is your character talking, so there’s an inconsistency in the Thief II version. The briefing should have been updated with a female voice for that one.

    **In the Thief version, on expert, there is no monster standing at the gate near the weapons shop nor do you have to smash the glass window up top to get in – it opens. However, I cannot progress further in this mission because I cannot get into the open window! I suspect it to be a NewDark bug. If I could play the Thief original, it may become my preferred version for these reasons. Back in the day I never played this version.
    Last edited by twhalen2600; 8th Jul 2017 at 15:53.

  14. #2839
    Moderator
    Registered: Apr 2003
    Location: Wales
    Thank you for the reviews, guys. I'll try and get them added to the OP tomorrow and I'll also try and do something about the missing image in the OP. I've got it saved now so just need to find somewhere to put it.

  15. #2840

    Thief's Remorse (TDM)

    I expected something different from this mission based on the description, honestly.

    Thief's Remorse continues the recent trend of atypical missions. This time, our blameless hero is in need of some money for the winter, and slips into a tomb to steal a crown. Things go wrong, and he must now find some quick repentance for his old sins by returning similarly stolen objects while not getting killed in the process.

    Itís hard to give details about this mission, since itís both short and relies pretty heavily on the feeling of not knowing whatís coming next. I will say it does the horror well, making you feel like youíre being tossed around by something much more powerful than you, giving a good feeling of helplessness through the first part of the mission. Itís a short experience, similar to Exhumed, and quite fun. I do think it leans a little on the easy side once you get your bearings, but Iím willing to forgive it.

    It should be noted that there are multiple endings to be found, but apparently one didnít work right for me. My first playthrough made it impossible to get a needed key to move on in the mission, but as far as I can tell I was the only one to experience it.

    All in all, a fun little mission thatís better experienced. Recommended.

  16. #2841

    The Smiling Cutpurse (TDM)

    More Airship Ballet! I know I need to do Quinn Co., but it will be delayed.

    The Smiling Cutpurse places our hero in the titular inn, something that he would normally dismiss as a waste of time, but thereís more to this inn: Theyíve agreed to store a disguised bank vault, and our hero is targeting it, and whatever else he can find in the inn.

    This is the first mission Iíve done in a while thatís a straight-up heist mission, and it does it well. The inn has a simple enough layout, with a fair bit of variety to the rooms and guests and alternate route or two if youíre willing to look. The little bits of backstory you find out are probably my favorite part of the mission, but I think the notes ended up reversed, so go to the ďlastĒ and then go back. I should also note that there are two ways to complete this mission, which I found to be a nice touch.

    This mission falls on the ďeasyĒ side of things: Thereís no loot goal so in theory once you find the vault youíre done. Itís also pretty easy to blackjack most everyone in the inn, giving you free reign. Yet, I donít think thatís bad per se, nothing wrong with a well-done easy mission, and this is very well-done, barring an odd sound glitch at the vault and one wimp who died when I hit him with my blackjack on my first playthrough. As well as an item you could grab that was a holdover from when the mission was planned to be part of the Quinn Co. series.

    All in all, a fun, solid mission. Recommended.

  17. #2842
    Member
    Registered: Jun 2009
    Location: Sunnyport
    While the City Sleeps, Thief 2 X mission by Raen (of the Dark Engineering Guild), Thief II, 2005

    Night-time city missions are not in short supply and atmospherically While the City Sleeps is one of the strongest. It is the third mission of Thief 2 X and the first time players take Zaya on a thieving run in the streets. She must infiltrate the Market District, under curfew, and snoop around her cousin Kedar’s shop for some info on the smugglers who killed him. Like The Trials that Shape Us, this nighttime escapade establishes T2X’s mood and style. The City’s guards do this more than anything else. The doofuses in the museum are outdone by the City Watch here – some of my favorite Thief NPC lines ever are in this mission. City Sleeps is small relative to other city missions but with tight design, excellent ambiance and funny guard lines, the small size is easily overlooked.



    The first NPC dialogue you may hear is between a couple guards at the gate to the Market District. One of them wants some “coffees”. (This references a guard’s line from the original Thief II about having had too many coffees.) They deliberate over the matter and then stroll to the nearest coffee shop. While the guards are away you have an opportunity to enter the Market District via the front gate. There is plenty of time – the guards dither unusually long in front of the coffee shop as they realize, painfully, that it’s closed. I think the guards’ absence from the gate, being a ridiculously obvious opportunity to enter by it, was intended as humor by the designer, as if the guards were saying: “Sure hope no taffer tries to shoot that lever, enter in the code we just showed, and go in the front gate! Yep, sure hope that doesn’t happen as we walk away and spend longer than usual noticing a place is closed, nudge nudge.”

    But there’s another way to enter the district besides this gate. You may go around to the area left of the gate and onto some roofs. Getting up onto a ledge above a body of water requires using an Ice Arrow, one of T2X’s unique weapons that’s activated by using an elemental catalyst. I have trouble getting on the icebergs created by these. Jumping onto the ice causes a loud noise but I can’t mantle onto it from in the water. This creates a dilemma each time I play – should I use ice arrows and, if so, should I burn a moss arrow on its surface to land quietly? Whether you struggle with the ice platforms or not, if you pay attention atop the roofs you may find a readable with some chat between the developers. It’s interesting stuff.



    Once in the Market District you have wooden beams, ledges, open windows, locked doors, loot, and even a sewer system. It’s everything you could want in a city mission! You also have some great guards. As I noted above, their lines are some of my favorite. I’m glad the T2X developers made unique guards rather than just reuse the standard Thief II NPCs. There’s the redneck guy, the Scotch guy, the nerdy lady, and more. Some of my favorite lines are, “If I don’t get something to eat soon, I’m gonna lay down and die”, “I hope no one hears me talkin’ to meself” , “…I want a gold sword…a gold sword that smells like coffees”, and the glorious “I was standing here” monologue. Even the batty old Hammerite is humorous talking about his “failing eyes” (more on that when I cover A Question of Knowledge). The voice acting is marvelous. I love T2X for it.

    There are scripted conversations in the Market District. One is between two thieves in a weapon-and-armor store. I like it but it leads to a pet peeve of mine with Thief: rogue AIs alerting guards and causing the guards to then pursue you. It’s a shortcoming of the game’s AI. Guards, I want to say, if you’ve just killed the two thieves who alerted you, don’t keep saying “I know you’re around here somewhere!” and so on. I didn’t do anything – stop looking for me!**



    The Market District’s shops have some interesting names – you’ll want to read them – but you can’t enter every building no matter how tantalizing the sign. A locksmith’s shop is possible to enter, though, and inside you may find a key to the Market Square – where Kedar’s shop is – and one to the Hammerite Crafts Center. If you go to the Hammer place, from mold you may create a lever to open the gate to the Market Square. The central objective is Kedar’s shop, in a cozy attic room, where you learn more about the smugglers that Zaya is after, setting up the rest of the game.

    City Sleeps is short for a city mission – I typically finish in an hour – but the strong content makes up for that. Once you have completed the other objectives, you exit the city via the rooftop area you may have come in at or by the sewers (I’ve never tried the front gate as an exit). The ambiance and hilarious NPC lines make this mission a great one.

    * I recognize some voices here that were also in some of the great early FMs like Seventh Crystal or the recently discussed Gathering at the Inn.

    On my most recent playthrough of City Sleeps I heard lines I had never heard before. This is because I kept playing some even after guards noticed me (whereas before I’d typically hit “quickload” as soon as I got noticed). One of my favorites: “The hourglass of your life just ran out of sand, lady!” I love these guys.

    ** There is a counter to my complaint. If you are a guard and see a thief and then kill this thief, you may stay on alert in case there is another one. But I don’t think this is why the AI in Thief act how they do in these situations. I think it’s an unfair bug. “These two taffers alerted the guards, now the guards are walking around looking for me – when I’ve been a perfect ghost?” And when other guards walk by they say “ah! Murder!” as if they don’t know it was one of their own who did the killing. These moments are one of the technical downsides to Thief along with guards ignoring doors and ropes. However, some fan missions enhance the AI and, otherwise, I’m happy to suspend my disbelief. This is a game and every game has bugs.

  18. #2843

    Old Habits (TDM)

    Itís not a habit, I can quit anytime I want.

    Old Habits (by Obsttorte) is a pretty straightforward mansion mission. Our hero is bumming it at the bar when he runs into an old and recently fired friend. Said friend was formerly employed at the estate of Sir Aaron, and managed to find a weak spot, a weak wall near the sewers. ďThereís a jeweled scepter in need of stealing, now get to work.Ē That sums it up.

    Old Habits is a relatively short mission with a few points of note. For example, the oddly colorful and very nice garden, which has some hidden secrets for those who search it and is probably my favorite part of the mission. Also, the outside yard which is a tad too well-guarded, but offers some nice parkour. Finally, the difficulty. Itís hard. And not in the fun way.

    The second floor of the manor suddenly dumps you in a linear path filled with torch wielding guards (in a hallway thatís already well-lit so logically they donít even need them) who you canít knock out. You are granted some tools to deal with them...if you can find them, and even then itís a trial. I donít mind difficulty, heck long time players of Thief might be rubbing their hands at the thought of a spike like this, but it makes the latter part of the mission far too tedious if you go in unprepared. The loot goal is mostly reasonable, though on higher difficulties you have to find a certain number of specific objects, which is slightly trickier, but still doable.

    All in all, a decent if difficult mission. Normally Iíd recommend it in spite of those flaws, because it is still good, but the author remade this mission and balanced it out and added more to it. Therefore, Iíd have to recommend this only to people who want a challenge.

  19. #2844

    The Builder's Roads (TDM)

    Pretend that I have something witty here.

    Obsttorte returns with another mission, The Builder Roads, which has 100% less roads. This time our hero is a trader whose latest deal has gone sour, leaving him without the means to pay his debts to the Very Nice People. His only hope is to make off with a recently discovered scripture from the nearby church.

    This mission is, like Old Habits, harder than your normal mission, mainly on high difficulties, which forbid anyone from seeing or hearing you. The number of guards you encounter also rises with the difficulty, and those player on higher levels would do well to explore before completing objectives.

    The mission is relatively open-ended, allowing you to explore the church/barracks at your leisure, and with a plausible layout to boot. Little touches, such as transparent windows, help with planning where to go and what to do. Loot can be well-hidden, and on the highest difficulty youíre going to have to find most of it. That being said, the mission is mostly simple in the first part, with only a few guards on patrol, with the difficulty kicking in once you find out where to go. On lower difficulties I think it might be too easy, if just because it wonít take you long to knock out the guards.

    Compared to Old Habits, this is much fairer on difficulty: Itís still tricky, but careful planning can get you through, and the more non-linear layout helps quite a bit. There was a few times when it felt like I had failed the mission for no reason since none of the guards seemed to have been alerted to my presence, but those were few and far between. The last segment could have used some tweaking, since itís possible to do it too quickly and mess up even if the sequence is done right, but even that was a mild flaw, fixed with a quick load.

    On the whole, a very solid mission with a good challenge for those on higher difficulties. Recommended.

  20. #2845
    Member
    Registered: Jun 2009
    Location: Sunnyport
    Cell 6 (Thief II, 2013) by Yandros, Random_Taffer, and Tannar

    There are choice grim stories throughout the Thief missions, and one of the grimmest begins with Garrett disguised as a cook in the tightly-enclosed corridors of the Baronís Imperial Prison. Itís tightly-enclosed for a reason: released as part of the NewDark 64-Cubed contest, Cell 6 had to fit within certain dimensions. It also had to have a content advisory placed in its info file due to the aforementioned grim tale. Designed by Yandros, Random_Taffer and Tannar, or the ďThree Anonymous AmigosĒ Ė anonymity was a requirement of the contest Ė the mission features solid design and atmosphere start to finish. My only quibble is the ridiculously obscure location of one hidden switch, but we Thief fans have to try frobbing every inch of a room sometimes, right?

    Dark secrets and a cruel warden lord over this jail house. You must be sure not to draw undue attention to yourself or go where you shouldnít, Undercover style. Pull this off and keep out a good eye for keys and hidden switches, and youíll have this dark mystery unraveled. Grab a frying pan and dive in.



    Soon after starting you may overhear a conversation between a guard and a servant, voiced wonderfully by Yandros and Random_Taffer, revealing the problems: a bloodstain that wonít go away Canterville Ghost style and a haunted interrogation room. The two are connected: the bloodstain is in cell 6 and the prisoner who died during interrogation was being kept in cell 6. This prisoner is also who Garrett is looking for: his fence Shylockís father.

    A nearby book, Banishing Evil Spirits: A Practical Manual, details what angry spirits may do: haunt the place of their violent death until they find resolution for the wrong done them. Finding reslution for the ghost of Shylockís father becomes the central objective. You can swipe the key to the old, haunted interrogation room from a guard and in this room meet the ghost of Shylockís father. To release his spirit, you need to give it a signet ring, the same family heirloom Shylock wants you to find. Once the spirit has been appeased, you must find evidence to incriminate the cruel warden.

    The level design is tight, as noted, with lots of steep stairways and narrow hallways. There are quite a few guards on patrol Ė no way Garrett could have snuck through this one. Key areas include the noted interrogation room, the cell block, the Wardenís office, and the records hall. Thereís an optional objective to free one of Sheriff Truartís top officers, a dead rat whose name may be familiar to you, a pet frogbeast, singing prisoners, and a frustrated procurement officer (read his journal). Nice touches also include a Mechanist who will reset the power system once you shut it off Gathering at the Inn style and not just one, but two audio files that had also been used in Rose Cottage. If youíre harkening back to Rose Cottage, youíre making a fine FM. All the audio ambiance is done very well, especially Yandrosí mixing of Thief I sounds. The only sound I didnít like was some of the ghostís wailing you hear early on; it can be cheesy (ďWoooo, woooo!Ē). Custom textures and objects are used heavily to great effect.

    The story resolves itself in a gruesome revelation and youíre left in awe at the abuse of power of a very evil man. Though Cell 6 did not win the 64-Cubed contest it came second and is a great-small FM. Its design, story, and ambiance are excellent. At over four-years-old it can now be considered a classic.


  21. #2846

    Old Habits II

    Itís not a habit, I can quit anytime I want.

    Old Habits (by Obsttorte) is a pretty straightforward mansion mission. Our hero is bumming it at the bar when he runs into an old and recently fired friend. Said friend was formerly employed at the estate of Sir Aaron, and managed to find a weak spot, a weak wall near the sewers. ďThereís a jeweled scepter in need of stealing, now get to work.Ē That sums it up.

    Wait, did that already.

    In my review of Old Habits, I mentioned that Iíd recommend it in spite of flaws if it hadnít been for a rebuild of the mission done by the same author. This is that remake: Old Habits II.

    While the set-up is the same, the mission has gotten a complete overhaul. This is obvious from the very first room. In the original, you had a long tunnel to go through to reach the mansion proper, even though it was established that you could hear the sewer just from pressing up against the wall. Here, the wall actually is next to the sewer. Little things like that.

    The mission also benefits from more non-linearity. The main issue with the first Old Habits was that you had no other options than a linier, guard filled hallway. Here you can do some parkour to find slightly different routes, and the second floor is less guard choked and has multiple pathways to your target. Thereís also a bit with a chapel thatís quite fun, with hints scattered across the mission, though itís a little too easy to lock yourself out of it without knowing, but in fairness the creator gives you a buffer to avoid that.

    Most of this missionís issues are technical. Thereís a non-critical note in one of the bedrooms that sounds like youíre adding it to your inventory when no such thing happens. I also would sometimes phase through a ceiling for a split second in the chapel at times. The main issue is getting the key to said chapel, which, due to the quirks of the physics engine, can very well result in the mission crashing. Iím honestly tempted to just say that you should feel justified in noclipping through the door. Itís a shame, since itís such a smear on a very good mission.

    On the whole, this is a very good mission. The difficulty isnít as high, yes, but Iíll take a solid, challenging but fair mission over something hard for the sake of hard. If you can get get around the chapel issue, recommended. If you canít, it's still recommended.

  22. #2847

    In A Time Of Need (TDM)

    For the record, kyrrma (the creator of this mission) also worked on Exhumed.

    In A Time of Need is about need. Your need. Our dashing hero is targeting a merchant whoís been dealing in spice and has made a bit of money with it. So a simple smash and grab is called for.

    This mission is honestly rather small, which might disappoint those who like voyeuring their way across mansions.. Still, it makes good use of the layout, offering multiple ways into the home and making the layout feel plausible. Another plus is that the mission does change between difficulty levels, though the difference between medium and expert is one of loot goals. Still, itís a nice change.

    Sadly, there isnít much to say about this mission. Itís a good first effort with a non-linear style that I like. Recommended, but more experienced players might be a tad underwhelmed.

  23. #2848
    Member
    Registered: Jun 2009
    Location: Sunnyport
    Insurrection, Thief II FM by HipBreaker, 2005

    HipBreakerís third FM offering was Insurrection, an undead-apocalypse mission with a cityscape and a manor. Immersive ambient noises and a few areas of appealing visual design are pluses, but the mission falls short of greatness because of a quasi-straight path design with unenjoyable backtracking.*

    Insurretion is a fair mission, somewhere in the good-not-great category. I first played it on a school-day evening when I needed a good FM fix. Insurrection fit the bill and itís been one of my ďcult classicsĒ since, despite the half-and-half design.

    You begin in a sequestered area of the City with a gloomy ambient noise playing. Thereís a quarantine going on, and the undead are rising and spreading an infection. It isnít clear whether people become zombies or not. All you know is that the buried dead are rising and a Lord Krauft has an antidote for when people are bitten by them. The objective is Lord Krauftís manor and the antidote. Being a thief who needs healthy citizens to rob from, you want to steal this antidote and be able to sell it. Krauft only sells to the highest bidder.



    Ghosting is difficult on Expert mode. Design is tight and guards patrol so that breaks to sneak by are small. One drunk guard near the start offers an easy blackjack, if you donít mind doing that. From there you may veer to one of two other areas in the City. The one to the right offers a couple buildings with loot and readables. In one of these buildings youíll discover a man gone inside from the Armageddon around him.

    The other city area offers a couple more buildings without much in them, so youíll want to head down the sewer drain which connects to Krauftís manor. When in the sewers, you may walk up into a graveyard, though it is infested with undead. On the way to Krauftís youíll run into undead regardless, as the sewer has a group of zombies nigh-impossible to sneak by. Once up out of the sewers, youíll be in the backyard to Krauftís manor and may enter by way of a chapel window. The chapel has appropriate ambiance: it feels like a sacred place where one might seek hope amidst the growing darkness of the undead uprising.

    Out of the chapel you enter the manor proper. A nice little tune plays, very fitting for a manor house, like some melody lifted straight out of another game set in a world of lords and castles. However, this little tune may sour as the rest of Krauftís manor gets frustrating. Like the cityscape, the place is tight and well-lit. You have to pull off some Houdini stunts to ghost it, especially in a dining area where a servant NPC sits at a table and a guard strolls nearby. Either one of these NPCs always caught me Ė I gave up ghosting and pulled out the blackjack. Even still, I encountered a bug whereby two guards would spawn in this area out of nowhere, one of them on alert. I think it only happened after I picked up one of the golden candlesticks. Regardless, Iíll chalk it up to NewDark, as I donít remember this occurring on previous playthroughs.

    That wasnít the only unfair bug I encountered. When I first entered the manorís music room, the guards inside were on alert and searching. I think they had been alerted by the harp on stage that an NPC had been playing. Even the NPC playing the harp was on alert! After reloading an earlier save, though, they were all at ease, and the NPC was playing the harp like normal. Iíll blame NewDark again Ė I donít remember this happening before either.



    The design of Krauftís manor is like a straight path. You progress from one point to another, without many directions to choose from. It doesnít feel like a large house the way the estates in Ominous Bequest or Rowenaís Curse do. There arenít multiple, circuitous paths around the house. Youíve got a straight path from the chapel to Krauftís bedroom, with only a few side areas to veer into on the way.

    This straight-path design can work. Deceptive Perception 2 is designed such but the nature of that mission, an episodic tale that gets weirder as it goes, complements the design. Insurrection has a city-manor setup and no tall tale told at a bar. When you backtrack through the manor, the straight-path design is emphasized as you pass the same doorways and hallways all over again Ė the same manor, the same chapel, and the same sewers you just went through, with no alternate paths available, only facing a different direction. Itís frustrating, but does allow for one memorable jump scare Ė the scarecrow you see just outside the dining area has more than meets the eye.



    The reason you backtrack is to get inside an observatory in the city area you started in. In the observatory is the demon overlord responsible for all the undead madness, whom Krauft knew about but kept quiet on so he could keep selling his antidote. Forget ghosting Ė pull out the Holy Water arrows and flashbombs and go to town on the demon overlord for any chance of completing the mission. Odds are youíll need to blackjack the guard at the front of the observatory, too, because of a haunt inside the entryway, though with perfect timing you may slip by the guard and not be seen by the haunt.*

    Insurrection isnít a bad FM. I like its atmosphere and it has some nice secret areas. One of them has an NPC fall out, dead, from within once you open it Ė quite dramatic. In another darkened area of the manor a guard patrols with a lantern, a nice touch, and you may see a zombie walking by through a window, adding to the atmosphere of this manor being the last bastion amidst an undead uprising. But the level design is lacking. Going back and forth on a straight path isnít effective Thief mission design.** If Insurrection was open-ended, the tight design, bright lights, and plentiful AI may have been enjoyable, but as is such difficulty is only frustrating because itís married to weak design.

    Iíve always had a soft spot for this mission, regardless. It gave me a much-needed FM fix back in the day and has remained in my rotation since. Check it out for a fair undead-apocalypse with city-and-manor fix. Youíll enjoy the ambient noises along the way.

    *Thereís another bug I experienced on my most recent playthrough that I donít remember from before. Once you kill the overlord, his corpse starts appearing throughout each area of the mission as you go back through it.

    **Again, I recognize there are some exceptions. I noted Deceptive Perception 2 and another is The Vigil. But neither of these required backtracking like Insurrection does.

  24. #2849
    Moderator
    Registered: Apr 2003
    Location: Wales
    And yet again I must apologise for being so slow to add these to the OP (I won't use big words because Purgator gets bothered by them). The reviews are very much appreciated and despite the lack of comment, I can see the posts are being viewed.

    I will try to get them added tomorrow, it's just unfortunate that life gets in the way of the more important things.

    Thank you.

    Isn't it annoying when you think you have an extraneous comma and continually try and delete it only to eventually find it's a mark on the screen. Probably bits of that tomato that splattered everywhere.

  25. #2850
    Member
    Registered: Jan 2011
    Location: Wild and Wooly West of Ireland
    Extraneous? Are you freaking kidding me right now?
    Aaaarrgh!

    Spot on, Chris.

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