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Thread: General Fan Mission Review And Discussion Megathread

  1. #2876
    New Member
    Registered: Jan 2008
    Whenever I did my last review here I think I said I'd have another within a month or so... It's been a bit longer than that, but as I also said back then, as long as this thread lived I would post reviews when I got around to playing more maps, so here's another:

    Search For Crom's Blade:

    This is set in a castle buried under ice and the caves around it. In execution it's quite a unique theme, and there's quite a bit of variety too. The organic nature of it really makes it though; it's actually designed as if a castle was snowed over and buried for an untold number of years, with only a small segment of it truly intact, and most of it is only accessible through non-straightforward means or the multitude of caves that have formed around it. Despite it's age it's one of the most convincing portrayals of a ruined, lost place I've seen in Thief, and it also has a lot of non-standard geometry and organic looking caves (though most of the interiors are quite simple, with a few more detailed parts here and there). The downside of said geometry is that it does lead to some awkward movement at times (some of the icy tunnels are a very tight squeezes and frequently at angles on top of that). The level is pretty huge and it's so interlinked it can be easy to lose track of where things are, or discover that an area is linked to another half and hour later. The map being near-useless doesn't help; it mostly only shows areas of the castle that are intact and easy to navigate, with the complex tunnel systems and ruins that make up the majority being non-present or only vaguely hinted at.

    The main task is finding the titular blade, and there's technically not much you have to do just to accomplish the base goal, though it's unlikely you'll find that out without replaying. As far as the actual stealth goes it's not too tough, and despite not playing thief for ages and going for Expert there's little that gave me trouble; there's plenty of shadow and the abundance of snow means walking is quite silent in most areas, with marble being quite rare. In the few brighter areas most enemies tend to wander into the dark areas at some point like foolish horror movie victims so it's not too tough to whittle their numbers down, with a few helmeted enemies being the only obstacle to that. One part has a lot of marble, but the map is very generous with Moss Arrows if you explore elsewhere so that issue can be got around. Traps aren't really present either, and you can explore quite freely once enemies are taken out. There's a nice use of enemy variety with mechanists in the more intact sections and "natural" enemies and undead in the more hidden parts (including some nice reskins), there's even a chance to cause some in-fighting (although an enemy in a cell just ignoring a nearby mechanist when freed seemed odd, but maybe it's an engine limitation). The exploration is the real meat of this level; as mentioned above there's a complex setting full of things to find, and exploration is almost always rewarded with something. While the search for the blade is the main mission, the "real" task on the higher settings is the search for up to nine gems, which are extremely well hidden, and require you to scour every inch to find them without help, it doesn't help that they blend in with the snow so there's a risk of overlooking them even if you are in the right place. At least Cheap Thief Missions gives a guide to the gems on the level page if you get too stuck. There's some good use of ambience to add to the cold, abandoned atmosphere as well, and music tracks are used as ambient themes. The music helps convey the overall feeling of going on an adventure, which supports exploration being the central theme. The main story is relatively minimal but conveyed well with messages, and there are various clues required (at least for first-time players) to solve the main task. I did have a problem where a couple of scrolls were blank, I thought this was part of the mission and you had to do something to get their contents, but I couldn't find any mention of this while looking for help (as a result of that), maybe a Newdark issue or something?

    If you want something more straightforward this probably isn't for you, but if you like more complex designs then this is an explorer's paradise. as someone generally a fan of the latter I like it a lot. I played it the first time years ago and this map is one of the more memorable ones I've played in setting despite the general visuals being relatively basic. Looking through the older threads on it the designer hinted at some sort of "gold" edition years ago, but it seems that never happened, which is a shame.

    Screenshots (not sure on the brightness since it's been so long):


    All the icicles can be smashed, which is quite satisfying.


    A less icy cave segment.


    This main hall is most of what the level map is comprised of, despite it being relatively simple to navigate.

  2. #2877

    Thief's Den (TDM)

    Now weíre hitting some classics.

    Thief's Den might not have been the first mission ever made for The Dark Mod, but as far as I'm aware, itís up there. The mission was made by Fidcal, but Bikerdude apparently tweaked it, to what extent Iím not sure.

    The plot is simple: Our fair-play loving hero has stolen a scepter for a certain Mr. Creep, but got backstabbed, as should have been obvious by the name. Now Not-Garrett intends to slip into Creep's hideout and steal the scepter and anything not nailed down.

    I know that Bikerdude worked his magic on this mission after release, but if what we have is anything like the mission was before then itís quite impressive. Itís a short mission, but thereís a fair bit of parkour and knowledge of the mission as a 3D space, if that makes sense. The loot is well-hidden/difficult to get to in some places (curse that vase), and thereís a bit of searching that needs to be done to complete the objectives.

    All in all, itís a pretty good intro to The Dark Mod, even if it seems painfully short nowadays. Recommended.

  3. #2878
    New Member
    Registered: Jan 2008
    Journey Into The Underdark:

    As the name might suggest to those who know of it this is a Dungeons&Dragons based level; while pretty small it's a semi-conversion, with several new items and tweaks to give things a different flavour. As a result of the changes it also breaks away from general conventions of Thief, and things like non-lethality aren't really present (although the Warrior class can technically knock some enemies out). Stealth is also reinterpreted a little, and, while it's still important to not get slaughtered, it feels like it's based around a more aggressive (based on newer games, you could even say "modern") kind of stealth where you set up combat advantages rather than try to avoid it altogether, even if you probably can if you want.

    This was apparently intended to be a contest map originally, as a result it's relatively small and focused, with the creature interactions being the main new aspect, and there only really being one real puzzle outside of finding/using items lying around. Said contest was a verticality-based one, and that certainly shows in the layout here, with quite a bit of ascending and descending. While most of the geometry is relatively small caves, there's a fort later on that's quite impressive, and a few other nice sights too.

    Like the famous Inverted Manse, the big twist of this map is that the difficulty settings are reinterpreted as play-styles instead. Normal is "Warrior," and probably the most traditional, as you have a sword and blackjack equivalent, but you have no bow and instead get expendable daggers as a ranged attack. Hard is "Archer," and you only have a bow with various special new arrows to defeat enemies with. Expert is "mage," where you have no weapons at all and rely entirely on consumable scrolls, it's actually more of a summoner though, as your main spells are helpful monsters who fight for you. Having played through all three, while they aren't intended to be difficulty settings, I do feel the difficulty order is the most natural way to play them; Warrior feels closest to standard Thief, with a melee weapon always available and a more direct stealth approach (plus the daggers emulate ranged attacks and there's even a kind of summon). Archer has no defenses if arrows run out, but the modified arrows have powerful effects and it's not too hard to clear things out once you know what's coming. While Mage can mostly avoid direct combat, you also have be careful not to waste your good monsters on weak enemies, and you have to have an idea of what summon is the best counter to different enemies to be as efficient as possible. Even when they're not trying to kill you you also have to deal with the inherent jank of trying to get the monsters to actually go after each other, which can be like herding cats at times. Despite knowing what was there I still ran of resources clearing the map on Mage (technically I didn't finish that mode as an enemy got stuck in a way that trapped me, and I had nothing to kill them with, all that was left was backtracking though so it didn't matter much).

    Beyond that bug (which is more of an unlucky dark engine flaw than a specific level issue) the main issue I had is that it's really dark; if I hadn't played Crom's Blade before this I'd almost think something was wrong with my brightness settings, as every shadow is almost pitch black. You are given an infinite light source, but that means you have to put yourself in danger to actually see things. It probably doesn't help with the AI on Mage mode either, especially as the light becomes an essential tool for pointing out foes to your summons on that mode, whereas if it was a little brighter I imagine the AI would get on a bit better too. I'll also warn that the level comes with some NSFW nudity if that matters for you.

    Beyond the somewhat irritating darkness this is a good exploration of a different approach to thief, and it stayed enjoyable over the three playthroughs, and required me to rethink my approaches for each.

    Screenshots (if you can barely see anything that's basically how the level is anyway):



    This is an area that shows some of the main vertical design in the level (if you can see it)



    This is one of the main impressive views of the level.

  4. #2879
    New Member
    Registered: Jan 2008
    A Night In Rocksbourg 1: A New Beginning:

    This first map in the set is a city streets type map; in terms of overall area it's actually relatively small, but it's very tightly designed with narrow streets and lots of interlinking paths that make it feel complex. There's also a lot of focus on small details, and even parts you never access have lots of detail in them, making a great looking map. The briefing sets you up as robbing a cathedral, but that's a bit of a red-herring for this map, where you don't reach that destination, and are mainly wrapped up in another quest that comes up. There's also new voice acting, and while some of it has questionable sound quality (although others sound fine) it's translated from a mod that was initially non-English, so I can give some issues a pass. I didn't have too many difficulties with the stealth here as there's quite a lot of darkness and little metal/marble, but the small scale does mean it can be easy to alert multiple nearby enemies if you aren't careful with the noise you make, plus there's one or two surprises that mix things up. You can actually miss most of your supplies if you aren't thorough at the start, but I did like how it was in-character (because Garret wouldn't hide his stuff in the open).

    The Rocksbourgh set is known for it's horror elements, and, while I haven't reached the meat of that yet, this level does a great job of conveying the feeling of something being wrong under the surface, despite only having a few overt nods to that. The small details help add to the creepiness of the spookier parts, and the new ambient noises create a feeling of paranoia with stuff like footstep sounds mixed in. As well as the mystery/horror story this level is based around, the backstory of being in another part of the Thief world post-2 is also well executed, with details like the leftover Mechanists "rebranding" to try and hold on to their last bits of support, along with the explanation for why the area is closed off. The only real issue I had is that a couple of keys are extremely obscure, in fact, it seems like you can only get the clues to one after you've already found it? And I'm not sure how you'd stumble across it without help. Some of the lockpicking also seemed almost obnoxiously long, though that's a pretty minor problem. I did find the lack of map a little odd, but the small size means it's not too much of a problem. This set is known as a Thief classic and this level certainly lives up to that.


    The gates out of this segment of Rocksbourgh are heavily guarded, and dealing with them basically counts as a bonus for those who want a tougher challenge.


    This level has enough attention to detail that even the cobwebs have a certain relevance to the backstory.
    Last edited by Mman; 6th Sep 2017 at 16:59.

  5. #2880
    New Member
    Registered: Jan 2008
    A Night In Rocksbourg 2: Discovery:

    This is mostly streets based like the first map, but improved in almost every way; the settings keep the same flavour while being more varied and open, and there's other themes mixed in. One nice touch is that there's actually a friendly (or, at least, not directly hostile) section of the city that's one of the most well executed attempts at a populated area I've seen in Thief. Now the story has developed, the focus is on finding the cause of an undead plague that's taking over the city, which happens to involve a new faction added to the Thief world. As before there's a lot of attention to detail in where things are placed, and one thing I forgot to mention with the previous is that every NPC in the set has a name when knocked out/killed, which supports the backstory elements and even gives clues to certain things. Like the first map the general stealth isn't too challenging, but the addition of more Mechanist and... Other elements makes it tougher overall, along with a slight increase in noisy surfaces. The area being bigger means exploration is more challenging too, but there is a map provided this time. As before the atmospheric and sound design is excellent, and the horror elements do a lot with relatively little. The flaws are pretty much the same as the first map, with some slightly overlong lockpicking (although the bigger size means it's less of a factor here), and a few incredibly obtuse things need to be found to make progress that basically require you to look things up unless you run around frobbing the whole map. A bigger, better level than the first, though it's unfortunate that the occasional obscurity issue wasn't improved.

    I haven't mentioned the briefing videos either, which are well done and make good use of a combination of new and original art assets to create briefings in the style of the original ones. I have to watch them out of the game though, as in-game the top and bottom are cut off so some scenes and subtitles don't show properly, but I guess that's a Newdark or general settings issue.



    The populated Inn area.



    Something tells me this area wasn't the nicest even before unknown killers were on the loose...

  6. #2881
    New Member
    Registered: Jan 2008
    A Night In Rocksbourg 3: Ink And Dust:

    There's a completely new theme here as you explore the hideout of the new faction, and the surreal void type place it is seemingly built into. The visual design is even higher quality here, and the new setting is very evocative, with a lot of original assets, and even by Thief standards there is some excellent use of shadows and lighting. Said new faction are also fleshed out here (including more "neutral" areas), and manage to be both intriguing and also somewhat subversive of what was implied in earlier maps, given the previous map implied they were something evil, but they're actually a lot more complex than that. The gameplay difficulty steps up a bit more here, with lots of cramped corridors with multiple enemies, along with the things from the void, on the other hand there are also a lot of shadows and hidey-holes, along with some new consumable items, so you have plenty of ways to turn the odds in your favour. The environment is also a bigger threat with the inherently surreal nature of the setting, and there are some nicely-done puzzles too. This level also fixed my issues with obscurity in the earlier levels; the few obscure tasks that are mandatory have clues that localise them much better this time, and all the really tough stuff is near fully confined to optional content/secrets. Like the first level there's no map, but it does at least fit the mysterious nature of the setting here (there's even somewhat of a reason it's not mapped).

    This is also where the set takes a big push towards full horror, and, while the main part of the map is mostly just strange and unnerving, the "dark zone" part is infamous for this, and, well, it lives up to the hype. There's certainly some other stuff outside the main horror part that keeps you on edge though. By extension, the atmosphere and ambient design is even better here, and instantly ranks among my favourites from a Thief level. This is where the set ends for now; it was intended to be a six part series, but this is the last one that was released and that was years ago. On the other hand, while looking for help for the earlier parts, some forum posts suggested some more recent activity on the set from the author, so maybe it can continue one day?... Honestly with how well the details are hinted at, a little creative interpretation of a few plot points does provide a general conclusion to some of the main plot. The first two maps were great but this takes a step further and is easily among the best Thief levels I've played.



    The later areas don't quite match the grand design of this entrance hall, but they're impressive (and/or oppressive) in their own ways.



    A new pair of pants is recommended for what's ahead.

  7. #2882
    Member
    Registered: Jun 2009
    Location: Sunnyport
    Hidden Agenda (Thief II, 2002), by AsyluM

    I love Thief II’s atmosphere and the Mechanists as much as I love Thief: TDP’s atmosphere and the Hammerites, and when it comes to picking a favorite between the first two Thief games, count me out. If I’m playing The Sword, I like the first better; if I’m playing Eavesdropping, I prefer the second. Ditto for every mission combination, just about. I’m the same way in other areas of life. If I’m petting a dog, I’m a dog person; if I’m playing with a cat, I’m a total cat-lover. If I’m drinking a chocolate milk shake, I love chocolate; if it’s a vanilla one, I’ll swear by that flavor (I also like strawberry). You may call me a flip-flop, but I’m just open-minded. Suffice it to say, when it comes to Thief II-hate, I’m not on board.

    With that out of the way, AsyluM’s Hidden Agenda is Blackbrook for the Mechanists. It’s a simple Mechanist fix and a well-rounded selection of Thief II ambient noises and textures.



    The mission starts with one of the longest drops I’ve seen. Garrett, knees surely hurting, must explore a Mechanist seminary in the New Market District. The seminary was built on top of an old Hammerite Temple, sunk into the ground. Garrett is driven by personal curiosity – he wants to know what these post-Karras Mechanists are up to, especially since they are trying to kill him. Garrett’s also been promised a reward from the Hammerites, who want to know what the Mechanists are up to in New Market as well.

    I played on Expert and was challenged. Well-lit areas forced me to move quickly, darting from one rare shadow to another. Patrols are not tight like in Gathering at the Inn, but are more difficult to sneak around than in Blackbrook. Later areas have cameras and turrets.

    The seminary mixes styles of Eavesdropping and Life of the Party. The outer grounds and sanctuary areas are Eavesdropping inspired, but other interior areas, like the guest rooms, the sitting rooms, the library, and the kitchen, have Life of the Party vibes. Thief II inspiration goes beyond these two missions. One area has ambiance from Framed – one of my Thief II favorites.



    I love Mechanist artwork. The two worship areas – one a large sanctuary and the other a small chapel – are ripe with statues and icons. Outside, visible from the start area, is a Mechanist statue with a gear stained-glass window behind it. As a lover of Eavesdropping and Mechanist seminaries, I think this FM delicious.

    Your goal is a Hammerite Temple buried beneath the Seminary that the Mechanists have built onto like they did the Lost City. It’s an extensive area. Haunts are teased until you explore a tomb where you’ll encounter a few of them. There’s also a frightening sequence when a humanoid clockwork soldier pops up from a table. This happens in a room with an inactive Child of Karras crouching right next to the door – as if that wasn’t enough (I jumped at both these things). AsyluM understood Mechanist horror and the kind of scares Thief II went for. (I think of the moment the bronze robot child creature appeared in Angelwatch.)

    Several users here dismiss Thief II for its lack of horror, but they’re only thinking of the kind of horror in Thief: TDP. Thief II had its own horror throughout. I was chilled when I spied the first watcher in Shipping…and Receiving and jumped when I peered in a box to see the face of a robot. Let Thief II be its own game – its clockwork, mechanical horror gave the game as much suspense and sense of the unknown as Thief: TDP’s dark medieval mood. I love TDP’s atmosphere, as noted, but it’s an apple to Thief II’s orange. I’m glad at least one FM author has realized what to draw from Thief II atmospherically.



    I digress. In the Hammer Temple, you’ll find more quarters and living areas, store rooms, a sewer section, and some work rooms. It’s more difficult to sneak around down here and there is some hard-to-get loot. One hard-earned goblet requires you return to the sewerman’s bedroom with a key difficult to find. I expected a grand reward or secret after backtracking all the way there, but only found this one loot item.

    The mission is large and on Expert will take some time. Objectives include finding incriminating evidence and some blueprints and breaking into the Mechanists’ vault. You’ll come across a few gear keys and, as mentioned, several watchers and turrets. If you enjoy some vanilla Thief II, you’ll eat it up.

    Hidden Agenda is a rare Mechanist FM and a palette of Thief II ambiance. If you don’t want to spend an eve with the Hammers, blessed old brethren that they are, load up a mission such as this one to spend some time with the Children of Karras - blessed be his name!
    Last edited by twhalen2600; 9th Sep 2017 at 00:34. Reason: Changed last screenshot.

  8. #2883

    Thief's Den 2: The Chalice of Kings

    Thereís an Indiana Jones joke, just on the tip of my tongueÖ.

    Thiefís Den 2: The Chalice of Kings, is Fidcalís next round in the Thief's Den series. This time, Not-Garrett is after a tomb robber who shamelessly stole some valuable artifacts before our hero could get at them, the selfish pest. Now, the artifacts; a crown, a death mask, and a chalice, must be stolen.

    The mission is obviously larger than itís predecessor, and more of a straightforward mansion mission. It looks quite good, with nice dark textures. The mansion layout is plausible, which I liked. I admit, the mission is a bit on the liner side, especially when it comes to the path to getting the chalice. I donít have much of a problem with that, but Iím aware that some frown on that.

    Still, I enjoyed it. It reminds me of Briarwood Cathedral (which I reviews back in the days of old), in that thereís nothing to really set it apart aside from being very solidly done. I supposes I enjoyed it in the same way I enjoy room escape games: the idea of starting out confined and slowly but surely solving puzzles and clearing your way though.

    Or itís just good. Recommended.

  9. #2884
    Moderator
    Registered: Apr 2003
    Location: Wales
    Quote Originally Posted by Thor View Post
    Me and a certain shitty-ass potato would do a review for Intruder's latest masterpiece, but the capricious spud needs a little more encouragement. Nickie or someone else, I think it may be up to you to encourage his idle ass to do something good for a change.
    I'd be more than happy to give him a kick up the ass but I'm a real waste of space myself at the moment so would seem just a tad hypocritical of me.

    Having said that, I would dearly like to read another joint review.

    Hopefully, all the latest reviews have now been added but please let me know if I've missed one or got it in the wrong place or similar, and grateful thanks as ever.

  10. #2885

    Let Sleeping Thieves Lie (TDM)

    Iím finally about done with my replays! Though I still have a few to go, such as SirTaffsalotís Let Sleeping Thieves Lie.

    Jack Blackthorn used to be the feared leader of the Unseen Thieves guild. Used to be, because our hero put an arrow in his heart. However, it seems that Jack has come back from the dead, forcing our hero to investigate. And steal a dagger, just for good measure.

    This is a rather small city mission, mostly taking place on one street, with a divergence into the sewers to slip into the Unseen Thievesí hideout and the tombs beneath the chapel. Itís not visually stunning, barring the outside of the chapel, which is appropriately massive. I heard complaints that the sewer area didnít look that good, but I felt it was fine, if a little basic.

    I enjoyed the more atypical story for the mission, as well as a creative objective you get after your sewer travels. The main gripe I have is with the loot goal, as you have to get the vast majority of the levelís loot for expert, and a few pieces are quite small and hard to notice. Thatís a bit of a petty complaint, I admit, but it brought my playthrough to a screeching halt.

    All in all, a decent, but slightly underdone mission. Recommended, but with caveats.

  11. #2886
    Member
    Registered: Jun 2004
    T1: A Noble Death - Ishy

    Playing through the early FMs can be fun dive back in time to the early days of Thief Fandom. These were generally smaller and simpler FMs that were almost entirely Stock Resource. It was not long before the use of custom resources actually became so common place that it inspired a contest with the restriction to use only use Stock Resources in 2006.

    The smaller though not always so tight FMs of yore can be quite enjoyable, though sometimes the small size can prove its own challenge as in this FM.

    This fan mission sets you with the task of killing a noblewoman - a rather ignoble and incongruous task given you are a thief. This type of objective was unusually common during the first year or so of Thief FMs, but thankfully we started getting a mixture of larger, more complicated FMs and simpler steal-the-object(s) FMs. As you are here to kill someone, sneaking seems less necessary. This is not true, however, given the manor house is packed with guards - at least 14 of them. Further difficulty comes from the tighter spaces, limited hiding spots/ambush points, paired patrols, and most of all - the use of only one sound brush. This is a double hit as it makes it really hard to detect guard location (like which floor they are patrolling on) and easier for the guards to hear you.

    And hear you they will if you make any noise. Your best bet is to find a decent hiding spot, wait for the guards to pass and ambush one of them. The place is packed with marble floors, so no running to hit the second one on the head. Good sneaking is needed here. You have some water arrows but there are only two moss arrows in the crystal "armory" on the first floor, so no real softening is possible. Strangely, there are plenty of fire arrows, which implies a more Rambo slaughter-your-way to the top style mission than one of stealth.

    There is a second option to getting to the top, though it is not obvious. There are two rope arrows available, however, the wooden part is on the top surface only of the balcony ledges. Once you are on the second floor balcony, you can more easily rope up to the third floor with an obvious wooden overhang. Once you are in this space, you can sneak in and snipe the target. Of course this will alert the guards, making the rest of your objectives more difficult. So in general, a tough mission for sneaking, but years of thiefly training have honed my skills enough to make this a slow but fun mission without any of the frustrations I had the first time I played it years ago.

    For the architecture, it is not great, but it is pretty decent for its time. The area is rather flat with ridiculously high walls bordering the area. The entry/exit area is nicely designed, though, and the mission zone has multiple texture entrances that give the illusion of this map existing in a larger world, which is not something that is always implemented in missions, especially during the first few years of FMs.

    The textures are nicely placed, the layout also looks good and is logical though simple. There a few nicely decorated areas like the roof garden. The decor is limited for most of the mission, though, leaving some areas a little plain. The overuse of marble is a bit excessive, but not completely out of place. The Ramirez-inspired peep-holes are a nice touch, but unusual.

    The story is simple fair, but there are a few readables to give the place a bit of life. There is a dead hammerite novice, though whether he was set to dead or killed by the thief, I do not know. It is the latter, than that might explain the rather jumpy guards here. The loot is good for the mission size while also being well-placed and sparse enough to be believable.

    In conclusion, this is a simple FM that will test your thief skills while still being able to get home in time for dinner. Just it comes with an annoying kill objective. Fortunately, you can just knock her out and kill her on the ground before you leave.

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