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Thread: General Fan Mission Review And Discussion Megathread

  1. #2951
    Classical Master 2008
    Registered: Jun 2002
    Location: Civitas Quinque Ecclesiae HU


    Making a Profit by vfig
    One of the most “complete” missions from the contest – from a video briefing to changing objectives and a dynamic story, it is all there. The architecture is wonky in the same way many older FMs tend to be, but it is consistently interesting, and has a style of its own. The audio is accomplished, contributing much to the mood. Where this mission shines, however, is the combination of gameplay and story. Multiple styles of stealth objectives found in Thief are integrated into a seamless whole, with multiple solution possibilities (some more standard, some ingenious and technically impressive), and changing objectives. It feels like you are visiting a distinct place with a culture distinctly at odds with the City as we know it, yet nevertheless connected to its mythology; and it feels like a ride of a story from the first twist to the finale. It is technically accomplished and just a lot of fun. This is a FM by a builder who has an understanding of what makes Thief tick – and the skills to recapture its peculiar magic.

    Atmosphere: 7 // Gameplay: 7 // Story: 8



    Mother Redcap’s Last Request by Swiz
    Oversized, boxy architecture with the occasional neat touch, like that one moody spiral staircase. However, the spaces are “flat”; too wide and not high enough, which tends to be the worst-looking combination. The place is fairly empty of guards, and there is very little challenge – you can just run circles around them in the conveniently unlit environment. The plot twist is good, and the mission almost becomes exciting again… but it moves to a sewer section entirely devoid of ambient sounds (the main building had some, just very monotonous). Sadly, not even being a newbie effort saves this one.

    Atmosphere: 2 // Gameplay: 3 // Story: 4



    Order of the Dew by Jayrude
    A return to the look and feel of the better early FMs: limited texture palette, angular architecture with bold contours, and a simple mission into the hideout of a secret society. Everything is suitably low-rent – even the more wealthy corners are on the cheap and uncomfortable side. It has a style you don’t see often anymore.

    There is some good and hard sneaking here, and using your equipment wisely is a life-saver. Some of the AI seem too twitchy for their own good, or they are placed on unforgiving patrol routes/positions. Unfortunate, because otherwise, this is excellent as a nostalgic experience.

    Atmosphere: 8 // Gameplay: 6 // Story: 7



    Shadow Play by Schlock
    A mansion mission that evokes the mystery and wonder of The Dark Project. The architecture is accomplished and varied. Great lighting with strong shadow-and-light contrasts establishes a moody atmosphere. This is helped by an expert use of sound: the author gets what made the original missions work, and the resulting soundscape feels like a creepier, weirder and more chaotic Bafford Manor (there is even a specific location of inexplicable dread which has affected everyone I know – that takes skill).

    The gameplay is also very good here. You have recon and infiltration, with multiple ways inside (and a few side areas, including a really cool easter egg!), followed by a lot of tense sneaking. There are always abundant shadows nearby, but crossing well-lit tile areas with interlocking patrols covering the territory makes it a challenge. Observation of AI patrols is a must for success. The mission is surprisingly strong on verticality, a rarity in indoors FMs – but it pulls it off, and how! It feels like an irregular, ramshackle old manor. Likewise, loot placement is thoughtful and a good challenge – observation, or scouting and nabbing risky pieces is well rewarded.

    Shadow Play has close to no formal story (no readables except for the odd plaque), although the environmental storytelling is strong – it has a superb contrast between a rich lord’s opulent quarters, the dark holes his staff lives in, and the shadows of the surrounding city. Show, don’t tell: here, we learn how it is done.

    Atmosphere: 8 // Gameplay: 8 // Story: 8

    (???)

    Station to Station by Anonymous
    When to trust your own creativity? Wellll… There is a cool beginning idea there, and that turbine room looks pretty neat. Otherwise, it is like one of those big, empty Wolfenstein 3d levels I used to play because I was bored, only to make the boredom even worse.

    Atmosphere: 2 // Gameplay: 1 // Story: 3



    The Burning Bedlam by Phantom
    Apparently, there were people who thought building an insane asylum on top of an ominous Hammerite factory on top of a creepy mine on top of a sinister sewer system was a brilliant idea. Apparently, they were fairly surprised when it all went to hell. Imagine that! Well, this mission is successful entry in the “dark as crap” subgenre. You can usually barely make out your surroundings in the almost complete darkness, making for an even feeling of dread and helplessness. This suspense cannot be maintained all the way through the mission, and it is hard not to become jaded (you could just omit the Black Mesa-style factory and not lose much), but it works most of the time, and looks and sounds good, too.

    There is a lot of very ambitious architecture here, coupled with good gameplay, and a backstory which integrates in interesting ways with Thief canon. The puzzles are a mixed bag: some are well designed, but some seem arbitrary (like gaining access to the asylum area). However, the mission is overall imaginative and very-very impressive in the way it looks and feels. No regrets.

    Atmosphere: 8 // Gameplay: 7 // Story: 7



    The Hunt by Grandmauden
    A proper Lord Bafford homage with welcome complexity. It is the same idea – yellow manor, haughty lord, priceless object – but a different mission. There are many ways it may play out, since it has a mostly open-ended structure (barring a few bottlenecks). There is a city district around the manor, with multiple ways to gather information and find your way inside; the main location has three floors to explore. It reminds me of Geller’s Pride, a classic fan mission that does something quite similar.

    The graphics are relatively simple but effective, and the place has a nice, consistent look. Ambients are also used well, and you can eavesdrop on a handful of custom conversations. There are multiple side-plots which add to the lived-in character of the place; you get the idea you are intruding on the lives of real people. The highlight is the gameplay: it is never particularly difficult, but it is varied, and has well-designed puzzles, sensibly hidden loot, a functional alarm system, and an increasing difficulty curve – going from streets where the guards don’t bother you to more and more challenging game spaces. This is a well-balanced mission that should be fun to play – and replay again with a different approach.

    Atmosphere: 6 // Gameplay: 7 // Story: 7



    The Lost City of Gazing Glass by mtk
    As someone who has disliked Lost City missions since the original level, I approached this one with some trepidation. In the end, I was pleasantly surprised, although I didn’t end up completing it. The architecture is simplistic; more correctly, there are setpiece areas which are quite imaginative and non-standard (without relying on too much detail), and there is connecting tissue which mainly consists of bland, featureless corridors. There are things like a great half-sunken pyramid with surreal water placement, something looking like a fallen meteorite, and an archaeological dig – like many early TDP missions, it is an excuse to place random, odd things which are fun to build and explore. I loved these, and they really did more for me than a standard LC level would have.

    However, it is largely a key and loot hunt, and the second aspect quite punishing at that – you have a high loot goal and piddly little treasures for the taking (treasure objects with decreased values). Not much sneaking is involved after a tense, well-realised initial section. There could have been more ambient sounds as well. A lot of the time, the mission feels empty – nondescript mazes with little content and a flat atmosphere. Then you get to something original and fun, but you wonder if you could just cut out the rest All in all, I wouldn’t mind seeing further missions from the author, with “more killer, less filler”.

    Atmosphere: 6 // Gameplay: 4 // Story: 5


    Added - nickie

  2. #2952
    Classical Master 2008
    Registered: Jun 2002
    Location: Civitas Quinque Ecclesiae HU


    The Scarlet Cascabel by PukeyBrunster and Tannar
    Two missions, both overwhelmingly ambitious, and both heavy on heavily customised stock resources (obeying the contest rules to the letter, while playing fast and loose with the spirit). These maps are both around the limits you can push the Dark Engine; things you had previously seen in the Beauty Contest are now the building blocks of full, sprawling, playable missions. The first, taking place in the woods and a mountain town, has a dynamic story with good objectives, and a comfy atmosphere – perhaps a bit like a very advanced take on Autumn in Lampfire Hills. Here are simple pleasures, very well realised (save the occasional, minor aesthetic mistakes which got lost in the last days of building).

    The second mission is grander, but also has a few gameplay-related problems. This is the “enormous posh location with a dark backstory and a huge interconnected puzzle” kind of FM, and in that field, it can stand its own against the likes of Rowena’s Curse and Ominous Bequest. The grandiose hotel/mansion is impeccably detailed (and customised – the rooms are varied and the small backstories you run across have a lot of character), the atmosphere thick.

    But as these missions tend to, the stealth gameplay suffers a bit: lots of long, unpredictable patrol routes, whiny servant AI everywhere (in lots of places where they can be stuck, too), and an objective which fails the mission if the alarm is triggered – this is a hazardous combination, particularly when you scour the territory for the umpteenth time. Or when the AI see you through the several windows, corridors and other conduits which allow them a treacherous vision, and a short route to the nearest gong. Then there’s the other one. While the puzzles are good and well designed, it is still finding (well designed) needles in a (well designed) haystack. Miss one, and the whole machinery comes to a creaking halt. It only happened to me once (missed an obvious lever due to the darkness), but there were some near misses in there.

    The criticism of extraordinary things does not take away from their excellence. This is an excellent two-mission pack, and a lot of fun. It is an instant classic. Nevertheless, I found the prelude more likeable than the main event.

    Atmosphere: 9 // Gameplay: 8 // Story: 10



    The Sound of a Burrick in a Room by skacky
    This mission takes you through the houses, rooftops and hidden underground locations of Sootchime District, a city district designed on a massive scale. Mere size is not a recipe for great gameplay, and some of the largest missions tend to feel fairly empty – but here, a good balance was struck between creating enormous structures, and giving the different places their own colour. Two large manor houses, a Hammerite monastery towering above multiple waterfalls and water channels, and other locations offer plenty to explore. The waterways allow fast progress through the level, but like Calendra’s Legacy, they also “reset” a lot of progress you will need to make to reach some of your destinations. There are also rooftop routes which feel natural, and do not restrict the player to a few paths of the thieves highway. And there are many “side events” to the main show. This mission makes for a well-balanced experience, and is a lot of fun to play... multiple times.

    Atmosphere: 8 // Gameplay: 9 // Story: 9



    The Tomb of Saint Tennor by vegetables
    Two missions in one, from a haunted monastery to an underground tomb-complex… and more. Both FMs feature good visuals, somewhere on the detail level slightly above OMs, just more of it. It is like taking the scale of a mission and blowing it up by 50%: the haunted cathedral is towering, the cloister is enormous, and the underground tombs are vast, inky black pits. This means there is more to do, but also that there is a lot of empty space. You spend a lot of time moving around, and in most cases, AI are fairly easy to avoid in the large spaces.

    Of the two missions, the first is more linear, but uses its locales effectively to let you get into places in interesting ways (even if, typically, there are not many ways forward). It is essentially a keyhunt, but masks this with some fairly good sub-objectives. The second FM, in comparison, is very much like the Bonehoard, with alternate routes and hidden spaces galore. It does not have the sheer variety of the Bonehoard map, but it has a series of self-contained tombs, each with its own peculiarity of design and challenge. The mission also has content beyond the scope of tomb-raiding; three distinct environments, one of which is quite excellent, and two which are kinda empty. All in all, an adventure.

    Atmosphere: 7 // Gameplay: 8 // Story: 6



    The Whistling of the Gears by Firemage
    Way back, in times that now seem primordial, there was a game called The Dark Project, and after an exhausting finale, it ended on a wonderfully bleak note. The Trickster was dead, and we were told to beware the dawn of the Metal Age – a nightmare of unchecked industrialisation gone horribly wrong. We were never really given that specific Metal Age (although we got a good game by that name, and many wonderful fan missions in the bargain). Until now: this is the experience some of us have been patiently waiting for all these years.

    The Whistling of the Gears is a mission which brings you the rampant industrialisation; the smoke; the towering metal structures; the dirt and grey misery. It is something that had previously only existed in a cutscene and our imaginations. The resulting mission is a super-complex city mission with a small footprint but remarkable height and density. It is filled with primitive machines and metal structures whose only seeming purpose is pollution, noise, and being eyesores. It has human environments which look cramped, uncomfortable, and miserable. It also has a visionary style which builds on dull grey and other muted colours to establish its feel. Item textures are looted for terrain in fun ways. Stock objects are repurposed with ingenuity to build mad things like a hanging string of sausages or cheap, gaudy ceramics, or sparkling wires above a street, or weird antennae, or whatever.

    There is much to do here. The central objectives are complex and multi-stage. The mission has to be traversed multiple times, and this can be a bit exhausting… it needs a certain dedication, but it pays off. There is great infiltration in an industrialist’s demesne, sabotage, dodging stationary and moving AI with tricky routes, and some non-standard technical wizardry that’s kinda mindblowing in a “how did this madman do it” way.

    In my mind, this mission is the best of the contest. There are landmarks in mission design which show us there are things previously thought impossible – and this FM has done just that.

    Atmosphere: 10 // Gameplay: 9 // Story: 9



    Ultimate Burglary by terra
    First things first: this mission doesn’t look half bad. Although it lacks the interesting height variations which give Thief missions their character, its visuals range from decent to outright good (particularly the main locations you have to visit – the Hammerite church is beautiful, and Bafford and Ramirez both have some good-looking rooms).

    Here is where the problems start. A disturbing amount of terrain is copy-pasted without introducing variation; rooms and balconies are exact copies of each other, down to the exact location and orientation of their interiors. During the course of the mission, you even meet Raoul the mad opera owner – thrice: once as a beggar, once as an innkeeper, and once as a homeowner (who curiously cohabitates with a small spider). Much of the mission is also designed without rhyme or reason. Apartments are senseless. One house is a single room with an armoire, a bucket of water arrows, an astrology chart and a coin stack on the floor; another one’s master bedroom consists of a badly textured cubbyhole with a dog flap leading to a much larger, completely dark space with two random treasure chests. Yet another seems to be built for dwarves who don’t mind the super-low ceiling. Bizarre features like that abound. There are windows in places where no windows could exist, or they are placed without respect for spatial logic (i.e. close to the floor, or in dubious positions). In some builds, weird architecture is a sign of originality and organic construction (as one would find in many old cities, or in Thief’s surreal level design), but here, it feels haphazard and thoughtless, and it is often unpleasant to look at.

    Gameplay is not much to speak about. AI stand in place mostly with their backs to you, or walk simple point-to-point patrol routes. You are forced into obvious paths by the way the locations are lit, but the guards are either very easy to avoid, or downright impossible – no middle ground involved. The loot goal is fairly steep (you have to steal a ludicrous 8000 out of 9216), and you pretty much have to trawl through most of the map to meet your requirements – all difficulties are identical. I was frustrated, but never properly challenged. At no point during this mission did I feel rewarded for doing something creative or out-of-the-box. This is not something I require from fan missions, but it felt odd that there were essentially no secrets, interesting hiding spaces, or alternate routes into different locations. The architecture is complex enough to look like it might lead to interesting things, but it never does. There is a repetition of the five levers puzzle from Undercover, but all levers are in plain sight in their respective rooms. Actually, most loot pieces are also just lying around. And sometimes, you open the door to a mansion room, and come face to face with two fire elementals. What are they doing there? Are they guests from the Fire Dimension? Why is there a burrick guarding an archway in the graveyard? Visual storytelling could help here, but it looks entirely random. There is no story, no focus to the thing, and the readables are bad jokes or devoid of character (“Recently, there have been several creepy events in our town. I presume a magician is behind it …”). You don’t really need them to make a good mission. Shadow Play doesn’t have any, and it pulls off a great experience through tight gameplay and masterful ambience. But this mission has neither of those.

    This mission is a mystery. It is large, fairly detailed, and obviously took a lot of effort to make. But it is senseless, flat, a chore to play (and sometimes downright unpleasant), and has no cohesion or discernible identity. It feels like those machine learning experiments where you feed an AI 1000 romantic comedies and make it generate something new, except with Thief FMs.

    Atmosphere: 5 // Gameplay: 2 // Story: 2



    The Upward Spiral by spoonman
    This mission was not entered into the competition, but it makes sense to discuss it as another anniversary mission. What begins as a search for the magical book of an ex-Hammerite soon turns into a mixture of eerie surrealism and dumb jokes. It is a peculiar mixture. Like previous spoonman missions (especially The Ravine and King of the Mountain), it is heavy on architecture and mood, and very light on plot. Even the start is non-standard: a stroll through an empty city at twilight which serves little purpose except to set the stage and pull you in. The building you are infiltrating is a labyrinthine affair of interconnected stairwells, rooms, balconies and overlooks. Things are off, and it is left to the player how to interpret the situation while sneaking through the place and looting it of its valuables.

    One gets the impression that the mission is unfinished, or it has been repurposed from a different project. The minuscule loot goal is entirely at odds with the obscene riches of the place. On some occasions, new objectives seem to trigger, but they don’t actually get added to your list. And the few readables have been filled with obscene jokes and gibberish… well, except where it suddenly looks like pointed satire. Was there something else there originally? Who knows. Likewise, stealth has its challenges and rewards, but it is hard to tell if this is careful design or a slapdash affair that sometimes clicks. Again, it is weird as hell. Worth playing for the good parts (and if you are a mission author, for inspiration). Perhaps it should not be taken as seriously as I have done here.

    Atmosphere: 8 // Gameplay: 6 // Story: 2


    Added - nickie

  3. #2953
    Melan, what a treat to read your thoughts here! I have to say, though, that I think you were far too kind to us.. especially on ratings of gameplay, LOL. Something we hope to remedy.

    Hope you will continue to post your thoughts like these on forthcoming missions. Off topic, but had a blast reading your readables in Rose Garden. Just sayin.

  4. #2954
    DromEd Archmage
    Registered: Nov 2010
    Location: Between a bed and a machine
    Wow... great reviews Melan and... wow... I wasn't expecting my mission to be your favorite!
    Thank you very much! I really feel honnored and I must say that words are missing... Thank you!

  5. #2955
    Member
    Registered: Apr 2014
    Death’s Turbid Veil by nicked


    Garrett’s old friend asks him to find any information about his missing daughter, Marianne, used to work in a posh noble house. Of course, Garrett’s own interests are much more prosaic: some trinkets and gold from family vault at least.

    First hour in a mansion is rather routine mansion-raiding experience: carefully walking on tile floors, uncovering small dirty secrets of local m’lord, searching for secret levers, solving riddles - sometimes easy (like one with pictures), sometimes frustrating (piano)… Things getting worse after visiting vault and finally discovering what really happened to Marianne. Zombies, haunts, tombs, black magic, and, of course, riddles attached.

    The mission looks great: in matters of texturing and visual design, it is a pure technical achievement. However, technical advance has its cost: somewhere (in open environments) framerate is low – it doesn’t significantly affects gameplay (at least on my PC), but still is a bit annoying. I like the music choice – sometimes sad, sometimes tense, sometimes grandiose – that seriously contributes to atmosphere of the entire thing.

    Gameplay-wise, it is a well-masked keyhunt, as many other similar missions: in order to pass to other items or locations, you should find a way in, which is usually one. It is not bad: solutions usually are intuitive and relatively easy (with some small exceptions like piano). Loot goal is rather steep especially on expert.

    Death’s Turbid Veil is rather typical good modern mansion mission: it is a keyhunt – but very well designed and looks very intuitive; the mansion itself isn’t something special – but visually it is among the most stunning in FMs history; it’s predictable (knowing many similar missions) – but, again, it is polished and without any serious bugs.

    Added - nickie

  6. #2956
    Member
    Registered: Oct 2004
    Location: Sweden & Florida
    Quote Originally Posted by The Dark One View Post
    Mman : Good job!

    ---

    No halls, I promise

    King of the Mountain (by Spoonman) is a sorta-prequel of sorts to The Ravine. This time, you assume the role of a prisoner in the Bluerock Prison on the brink of everything falling apart. Winter is coming, food is low, and word on the street is that even the Church has given up on supplying the place. Our hero has been tossed in isolation, but managed to swipe the key. Now, he has to escape.

    This is essentially The Ravine: Mini Edition, but less overtly confusing. Youíre still maneuvering through a mazelike area thatís more focused on an overlapping vertically, with plenty of shadows to hide yourself in but very few places to safely dispose of any bodies. The main differences is that this place relies less on confusing sound to constantly make you feel unsafe, and itís smaller.

    Those of you who are worried that The Ravine and its oddess will be forever ruined can be rest assured that you get no explanation for that mess, but there is something going on at the prison. Itís not hard to figure out, but whatís interesting is that itís mainly told through the environment. Details like a makeshift boxing ring help add to the desolate atmosphere of the place, and the few readable makes sense and help to clear things for those who didnít grasp the environmental side of things. Thereís even a fair bit of black comedy, especially with the ending.

    My main issue with this mission is that the objective is both obscure and easy to short-circuit. Getting out is based on finding a single key, held by a single guard who has a wide patrol route and little to distinguish him from the rest. As a result, itís easy for a player to explore the whole prison, deal with every guard, and have no idea what to do, and also easy for another to stumble on the key in the first fifteen minutes. Itís a petty thing, but it can easily throw the mission off. For all The Ravineís confusion, at least you knew what you were looking for.

    In the end, a solid mission. Recommended, especially if you enjoyed The Ravine.

    Added - nickie
    Zombie door key ??
    Can someone please tell me where the key is to the door to the catacombs or where ever that door leads? I hear Zombies on the other sideÖ It's the room where the holy water is stashed in a box...

    BTW, thedarkmod.com site is down. I just checked. Got a 404...

  7. #2957
    Moderator
    Registered: Apr 2003
    Location: Wales
    Can't help you I'm afraid, Acolyte6. I also can't immediately find a mission thread but don't have time at the moment to search.

    I'm so sorry everyone who's posted reviews. It's been a difficult year but I will try and catch up with adding the reviews to the OP in the next few days.

  8. #2958
    Quote Originally Posted by Acolyte6 View Post
    Zombie door key ??

    BTW, thedarkmod.com site is down. I just checked. Got a 404...

    It's up at the moment:

    http://forums.thedarkmod.com/index.p...nman-18092017/

  9. #2959
    Moderator
    Registered: Apr 2003
    Location: Wales
    And done. Hopefully I've not missed adding a review to the OP but please let me know if I have.

    My thanks for all the reviews.

  10. #2960
    Master Builder 2018
    Registered: Jul 2008
    Mine too. And my thanks to nickie for taking on this job!

  11. #2961

    In The Black (TDM)

    Get it? It’s a money joke.

    In the Black (by VanishedOne) is a mission that places you in the role of the best of the best, the spymaster’s spymaster. This time, our hero isn’t after riches, but taxes, namely the finances of Lord Jaskin for reasons never explained, other than that Very Nice People want them. Not that that is of any concern, since you’ll be too busy gawking at this guy’s house.

    This mission is similar to that rich relative you invites you over once a year in theory for a vacation but also so he can show off the new Picasso that he got this year. This house is one of the largest and finest in The Dark Mod, with modern lights and the sheer sense of richness filling the place. The author admitted that the mansion was in part a set of test rooms that he linked together, which almost makes one think of stumpy's "Lord Dufford’s," which also began life as a test. While this mission somewhat suffers from the sheer size issue of its predecessor, it’s far better connected and populated, with quite a few guards lurking the hallways. The new technology, sadly, also comes with spherical lights that make this deafening buzzing noise, which even lasts into menus.

    Difficulty-wise, it’s fairly tricky, less so due to hard guard patrols or lights, and more to the fact that much of the loot is hidden or concealed. Hints are sparse, and while the loot goal is optional, if you want to break it you’re going to have to find them. The problem is that some of the hints are vague or nonexistent. Getting access to a large chunk of your loot goal requires you to take note of one random readable among a group of readables with no use. There’s another brief horror sequence that’s very well done, but can also be skipped entirely by semi-creative means...not that you get any hints that this is possible. A shame, since I’ve never seen this idea used in a mission before.

    There is a story to be told here, but interestingly it’s more indirect. If you find the hints and piece them together, congrats, but it’s not required for the mission, which I liked. Nothing major compared to some dark secrets in The Dark Mod, but it’s nice not to have everything spelled out. The mission also has one of the best interpretations of a Builder chapel I’ve seen.

    All in all, a nice, fancy mission. Could have been tightened up a bit, but good. Recommended, just be aware of the quirks.

    And I apologize for the long review gaps, I'm busy and my backlog isn't as full as I'd like it to be. Hopefully I can be a bit more consistent for a bit.

    Added - nickie

  12. #2962

    Sir Talbot's Collateral (TDM)

    Blackmail is such an ugly word.

    Sir Talbot’s Collateral (by the combo of Baal and Bikerdude) is an excellent little mansion mission that sets our cautious hero against the titular Talbot. On the surface, he’s clean, but he’s trolling about for a professional thief, and a demonstration of our hero’s skills is called for. And hey, if a little bit of “collateral” is found, all the better…

    This mission is quite well-made, and very non-linear for a mansion mission. Once you get access to the wine cellar (which can happen very early), you essentially have access to most of the mansion, via vents and secret passages. On my replay I was worried that you could break the mission this way, but there's enough separation to ensure that even experienced players will have to duck through the halls.

    Difficulty-wise, it can be tricky, as knockouts are limited (although only Expert will fail you if you exceed it) and guards are plentiful. You have plenty of places to duck into, but expect some close calls. One oddly placed light in the kitchen gives you a little too much darkness right in the center, even though guards should be able to see you crouching right there! But that was the only odd light I found.

    The loot goal is fair, if tight, but higher difficulties will require digging in nooks and crannies to find what’s needed. I also sometimes had an issue with guards being alerted seemingly at random. I would put out a light or swipe something, and they would walk past it four times before noticing that something was amiss on the fifth. It didn’t seem to increase my stealth score, so I assume it was either a bug or a misunderstanding on my part about the alert system.

    This mission is quite fun. The blue ambient light makes it look different, and there is much to be found for the curious thief, including optional objectives. The readables are done well and provide useful hints on how to proceed. What I mainly liked was that the mission rewards, but does not demand, exploration. It’s certainly needed on higher difficulties, but if you’re playing it casually, you don’t need to dig everywhere...but you’ll miss out on secrets and equipment. I think this is actually a good intro mission for new players, since it hits a lot of high points but doesn’t crush if you miss things.

    Highly Recommended (was just Recommended but I decided to bump it up like a year and a half after writing it)

    Added - nickie

  13. #2963

    The Gatehouse (TDM)

    I have nothing witty to say here.

    The Gatehouse (by Bikerdude and GoldChocobo), is an atypical mission. For one, it’s technical a conversion of a Doom 3 map. For another, this time you aren’t playing as a thief, but as Matthias, a Builder acolyte who’s reaching the climax of a year-long pilgrimage to track down a sword touched by the Master Builder himself. Obviously it’s not just sitting in some guy’s attic, but deep in an abandoned castle dubbed “The Gatehouse,” forcing our actual hero to track it down.

    This mission stands out from the norm in a third way: It’s mainly a puzzle mission. The higher difficulties do toss a few revenants at you to slip by, but for the most part you’re solving puzzles and dodging death traps. It’s all done quite well, and while you don't have many brain-teasers (barring a mirror puzzle which can be somewhat brute forced with a little observation), you’ll have to search and think a bit, as well as quickly react to the latest challenge. Some are fairly creative too, such as one of the final hallways. And the final challenge is one of the most entertaining (if at times tricky) challenges in The Dark Mod.

    The mission also has excellent atmosphere, conveying a crumbling, haunted ruin, with dark crawl spaces that you’ll be watching in case something nasty climbs out. It’s genuinely creepy, with hints of what happened to transform it into the mess it is today waiting for you if you’re willing to look. It’s a minor element, but executed well. There are a couple of issues that can kill the immersion a bit, such as spiked balls not always hurting you but instead landing on your head so perfectly you’d think that your head was a flat metal plate, but these are few and far between.

    All in all, an excellent tomb crawler. Perhaps I’m biased, since I’ve been wanting one of these ever since I played Samhain Night, but Recommended.

    Added - nickie

  14. #2964
    New Member
    Registered: Mar 2014

    Thief's Den 3: The Heart of Lone Salvation

    It might be because i am very new to the Fan Mission scene in both Thief and The Dark Mod, but this was the first mission to open my eyes on how much you can tell a story just with Map making.

    Normal Thief and even the other FMs i had played up until this point had elaborated briefings, dialogues and other "higher production" values that people use to convey a story on whats going on in the map.

    TD3: Heart of Lone Salvation had almost none of these besides the introductory slideshow + text, which were pretty much unrelated to the main mission. I just loved how a seemly mundane mansion mission turned into a depressing story of a man that was blind to his surroundings and his actions. I also really enjoyed how Farrell (the protagonist) reacts to these revelations and acts accordingly (all through the aquisition of new objectives), thus hes not just being a blind thief.

    The way the map is layed out, with long and narrow corridors, blocked off parts of the house and the spiral staircase that leads to *you know who* all transmit the sense of decadence and despair that reflects the story found in the letters and books surrounding the titular gemstone. The foggy exterior is just a icing on top.

    I am sure there are many missions that follow the similar formula and there might be even ones that do this exact style better, but Fidcal's map is the first one that did it for me and really peaked my already increasing will to test Fan Missions!

    Fidcal doesnt seems to be active anymore, but i am giving him thanks for those awesome moments anyway!

    Added - nickie
    Last edited by BR4ZIL; 1st Apr 2020 at 00:20.

  15. #2965
    Moderator
    Registered: Apr 2003
    Location: Wales
    Up to date again, I think. Thanks guys.

  16. #2966

    A Matter of Hours (TDM)

    Quote Originally Posted by nickie View Post
    Up to date again, I think. Thanks guys.
    Nono, thank you. I'm glad to see that this thread still gets attention.

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

    In honor of the speedbuild origins, I present a speed build review. Go.

    A Matter of Hours is Springheel’s latest mission, meant to show that you too, can make a mission quickly. The Bowley Boys have got their hands on a valuable crown, making them a prime target for Corbin, our hero. Unfortunately, a raid is planned, meaning he only has a matter of hours to sneak in swipe it. This does not mean a time limit, but the mission is hard enough.

    Springheel’s other missions tend to be more story-based affairs focusing more on unconventional objectives, like tax records or humiliating gang leaders. This time it’s much simpler: No readables, no plot, just swoop in and grab it. The mission is well done, with good lighting and enough junk lying around to make it seem like the player is in an industrial warehouse clumsily converted into a hideout. It’s not a major part of the mission, but for something made it six hours it looks good.

    The mission is also quite hard. Part of this is due to a blind spot or two, such as the one separating the warehouse proper from the hideout, forcing you to duck into the light and pray that no one is there. Some of the loot is also beneath bright lights, and getting at it will all but force you to either have excellent timing, or use your two knockouts (on the highest difficulty), on two particular guards. You will still need to have excellent timing if you do this. A challenge is fine, but the mission came off to me as very tight, and giving little room for misused equipment and knockouts. This is probably due to how quickly it was made, but nonetheless I found it a little vexing.

    Exploration is rewarded well, with tools scattered about for the careful thief willing to look in the piles of junk. There were also some reports of performance issues, but I’m pleased to say that my four-year-old piece of junk that sounded like it has a chainsaw embedded in it and was probably clogged with so much dust that there were new forms of life growing in it could run it fine with almost no noticeable slowdown, nothing more than I’ve gotten in far larger missions.

    All in all, a fun little challenge, especially for those who want a bit more careful stealth, and for those who want to know how simple it is to make a solid mission. Recommended.

    Final time for writing: About thirteen minutes (and last minute edits that I didn't notice until I posted it on the TDM forums and now on here, a little over a year after I first posted it. I guess I'm not that fast after all.)

    Added - nickie

  17. #2967
    Member
    Registered: Apr 2014
    TDM FM: Requiem by Gelo "Moonbo" Fleisher

    I returned to Dark Mod after a years long hiatus. The last TDM FM I played was Penny Dreadful 3 (and I hope there would be released PD 4 - at least, in distant future) when it was released, and after that remarkable mission I abandoned this game entirely until now. So I decided to pay some of my old TDM debts including Volta missions (next to play) and, of course, two Moonbo missions. I decided to split my thoughts of those two into two posts each devoted to different mission. So I would speak about A House of Locked Secrets afterwards, and now concentrate my attention solely on Requiem.

    Requiem begins in the city section, where the protagonist seeks to steal an important document from the Church of the Builders during the funeral of and requiem for a local priest. The urban part is not very large, but it has its own caches, hideouts and side quests, and, as it turns out later, those quests are intertwined with the main storyline. Subsequently, after the plot twist, the locations change, and we find ourselves deep underground, revealing the secrets of the Builders (Darkmod faction which is seemingly analogous to the Hammerites, but it is quite different) and their mysterious opponents who lived here until the founding of the City. I would not retell all these twists and turns of the "archaeological action", I would say that the mission begins to resemble the Lost City and Bonehoard missions from TDP.

    Saying about the plot, I more liked the first half of Requiem, where the plot is presented in hints and equivocations, while the closer mission is to the end, the more “head-on” the flow of important information becomes. In addition, the thief who decided to save the world is not very convincing to me - it looked for me a bit artificial and forced. But from the gameplay point of view, the second half of the mission is just more interesting - it has interesting puzzles, for example with those crowns, almost invisible opponents (barely visible in bright lights and totally non-visible in the dark, which puts player into interesting choice - in order to see them he or she should keep the lights on, and at the same time avoid enemy to notice him or her), and also interesting spatial acrobatic puzzles. At the same time, the author constantly changes the conditions in which the hero finds himself, due to which the freshness of perception is preserved.

    The puzzles here are mostly logical and make sense. There are a lot of environmental puzzles in this mission when and where you should "read" the terrain - in both city and underground sections. Some tasks requiring the object manipulation are intuitive and simple - may be, even too simple, especially near the end. In any case, it was joyful and highly memorable experience, full of interesting puzzles and challenges, that immediately hooked me to The Dark Mod again and also to Requiem's sequel. But it is a different story.

    Added - nickie
    Last edited by michael a; 9th May 2020 at 16:57.

  18. #2968
    Member
    Registered: Apr 2014
    TDM FM: A House of Locked Secrets by Gelo "Moonbo" Fleisher

    I liked Requiem and so decided to give a shot to its indirect sequel featured the same hero named Bolen after some time. It is not single mission but small campaign with the introductory mission and main event. After the events of Requiem Bolen decided to completely change his profession and became devoted in Builders' Church. His abilities to communicate with the spirit realm earned him a position of someone like paranormal investigator who can contact ghosts, speaking directly with them. The first mission is some kind of introduction and delicately teaches player how to do so by travelling between "real" and "spirit" worlds and how to use objects in these different worlds. Those skills are very useful in the second mission which is the heart of the game.

    This mechanics of walking between worlds somehow remind me of Shalebridge Cradle from Thief: Deadly Shadows but here it is the integral part of gameplay: by frobbing the specific object with Holy Symbol we teleport to a different version of reality and by doing so we can interact with people already died and can change it by performing specific actions. It feels refreshing and changes the "usual" Thief gameplay experience.

    The second mission where and when Bolen puts these abilities into practice is one of the best (within last 5-6 years) missions in the subgenre of "haunted house with dark secrets" - along with Scarlet Cascabel (for Thief Gold). It features big and detailed manor where happened and is now happening terrible things and all of it is connected to misty and mysterious past. Comparing to classics (Ominous Bequest and Rowena's Curse), it is (as well as Cascabel) more open and wide and less constrained by keyhunt. You can complete the four main tasks in whatever order as well as some side quests. At the same time plot doesn't stand still, but constantly thickens and develops in accordance with the completing of main tasks.

    Compared to Cascabel, by the way, this mission is somewhat smaller, plus subjectively, I’m a little more comfortable in the world of Garrett than in reality of Dark Mod. But here are more interesting and fresh ideas for gameplay, while puzzles are slightly more intuitive. The point of view of a “Builder” investigator (and a former thief who has not abandoned some of his habits - for example, to steal another people's property) is also somewhat refreshing. I played it for 5-6 hours and still miss 1,3 thousand of loot and almost half of 15 secrets. It is one of the best TDM missions (and one of the best Thief missions) I have played and I'm sure I'll return.

    Added - nickie
    Last edited by michael a; 9th May 2020 at 17:00.

  19. #2969

    A Score to Settle (TDM)

    I don’t have anything to settle, really.

    A Score to Settle is probably Springheel’s best mission. This time, Corbin isn’t after something as prosaic as money (although there’s plenty of that), but vengeance. In the time he’s been gone (see The Builder’s Influence), the Bowley Boys have gained a new leader, Sykes, who’s running a vicious ship that has left his gang in charge and one of Corbin’s fences dead. Just killing him would make the gang situation worse, so instead a fair bit of humiliation is called for…

    A Score to Settle is a very urban mission. Instead of fancy mansions, you’re slipping through the mean streets and slums and breaking into a gang hideout. Everything feels grimy and dim, with uneven, stained roads and small tunnels giving the impression that you're creeping down back alleys. It all fits the sordid (and somewhat funny, honestly) nature of what you’re trying to do here. It’s more story-based than most missions, and while actually breaking the scenario is hard, it is a little too easy to, just via natural curiosity, to complete most of the mission before ever meeting your contact.

    Difficulty-wise, it’s quite fair. Streets are wide open and made for sneaking, and even the closer confines of Sykes’ hideout give you room to maneuver. The loot goal is high, but optional, and most of it is found in one place. I do wish that there were a few more places around the city to slip into for loot, since that's my favorite part of city missions, but that’s a mild gripe. The difficulty only really shoots up with the final sequence, which is bound to send ghosters into fits of rage. That being said, it’s done well, and creates some good chaos and confusion.

    There are also a few other little elements of this mission that I like, such as a trap in Sykes’ hideout, as well as how the mission uses the environment to allow you to progress. I admit one needed jump is a little too high, resulting in some (like me) seeing it, trying it, and then assuming that you need to do something else. Some of these elements make it a little hard to recommend to someone new to the mod, since it requires a little familiarity with The Dark Mod.

    But all in all, an excellent mission. Recommended.

    Added - nickie

  20. #2970
    Member
    Registered: Jan 2008
    Going through the Thief 2 Anniversary Contest Missions. Like the last contest my scores are tentative until I've played through every entry:

    The Builder's Paradise - Thief 2

    This is a fully Mechanist-themed level; it's set in a sort of alternative Thief 2 universe where Karras survived the Soulforge and Garret tries to stop him by breaking into another Mechanist facility. It doesn't quite go the way of a typical base infiltration though, as the ending of Thief 2 has had some consequences... There's quite a lot of build-up at the start, as you spend a while exploring and seeing the signs of what's ahead before the main tasks fully begin. The setting is some of the most impressive Mechanist design I've seen in Thief, with huge multi-layered areas and interesting machinary in the production areas, and it's further enhanced by some new objects and occasional use of bloom lights. There's some new Karras voice-acting that doesn't fully convince, but I guess it is a pretty hard voice to capture.


    The facility is full of giant rooms like this

    Once it gets going the gameplay is pretty challenging, with lots of noisy floors and enemies (including some new ones) that can't always be dealt with by standard means, although you do get a new tool or two. Progression can also be tricky, with multilayered areas and the most obvious path being frequently blocked off and requiring alternative approaches; maybe this is related to difficulty, but this actually led to a bit of a problem, as, because I could never unlock the main entrance to it, a large part of the level was locked off behind a threat I couldn't pass twice and I had to use a speed potion jump to get back to that section. In general there's some scripting that seems to act a bit strange if you do certain things "wrong", and, while you can probably still technically finish the level, it will be much more confusing and miss parts of the story. Things did work out, but there were a couple of times I did wonder if I was breaking the level in some way. There's also a lift near the start that only works properly if you press a certain button out of multiple, which made me think it was bugged for a little bit. Interestingly, there's no actual loot objective here despite plenty being around, and the main bonus exploration comes from an optional objective where a lot of the puzzles are contained. Despite the size of the areas it interlinks in a way that makes it feel somewhat compact despite that, and those seemingly-empty starting areas even get a secondary role later (although one that feels like a bit of a pixel hunt). As you start to get to grips with things the setting unravels in a satisfying way, and does great job of making you feel like you've mastered the environment by the end, especially if you go for that optional objective. An excellent level and "Soulforge but better" attempt with surprises that are better off found for yourself, although the complexity combined with what seem to be a few polish issues create some progression issues.

    Rating 27/30

    Feast of Pilgrims - Thief 2

    This is a rooftop-based Life of the Party type mission, with a church as the main target. Like all good rooftop levels it uses the setting to create a varied set of vignettes and mini-storylines to reward exploration outside the main path. Visually it's high-quality and the many buildings you access have distinct styles and atmosphere, it doesn't quite have the height variety and massive sense of scale my favourite city levels like Melan's releases do, but it does provide a larger range of buildings to access overall, and the focus on rooftop action only (bar one or two parts) means more is put into making individual areas detailed. You can actually get to the city floor (which the readme states as somewhat of a "feature" despite not being an intended gameplay area), and while a lot is quite empty there's a surprising amount of detail put into it for a part you aren't supposed to access.


    Your main objective dominates part of the skyline

    You aren't actually Garret in this level, but that doesn't really affect anything beyond having Sean Connery's accent, which is one of the better reasons I've seen to shift character I guess. Like the previous Builder's Paradise a lot of the content and more complex tasks (including some fail-states) in the level are linked to optional side-quests, so how involved you get is somewhat up to you. The varied setting also leads to varied gameplay, with situations ranging from dark rooms where the occupants are asleep, well guarded strongholds, and brightly lit late-night parties full of guests. There's also lots of room for multiple approaches, and the most well-guarded areas almost always have other ways in with a little exploration and creativity. There's so much that, despite going to every building on the map, finishing the side-quests and a couple of seemingly 100% optional sections, I still wonder how much I might have missed. An excellent city map, and while it doesn't have the visual drama of other top city levels that tower over you, it balances that out with the sheer amount of variety it has.

    Rating 28/30

    Fierce Competition - Thief 2

    This entry is a bit more bite-sized, with a small street areas leading to the main mansion target and a few side-areas to explore. While relatively small, there's a lot of attention to detail, with the individual areas having their own style and decoration, and there's plenty of room for vertical traversal. The mansion itself is also well decorated and interlinks on multiple levels with the outside area. Despite nothing notably strange going on the ambient sound and general atmosphere gives a slightly unnerving feel, which is a good sign of the attention paid to that aspect.


    The house entrance room is one of the nicest looking parts

    The actual stealth isn't that tough, with the street areas being relatively simple to clear, the mansion toughens up a bit with more noisy floors and bright lights, but there aren't too many threats, and there's still plenty of carpet and darkness to use, along with the multiple entry points. Despite the small area, exploration is made rewarding with the vertical areas and various interactable objects that can hide rewards. The locations of the main objectives aren't immediately obvious, but I found them quite fast by applying some common sense based on what they are, which is a good sign there's thought in their placement despite little in the way of overt clues. A good level, but one that can't really match the larger levels with more content of the same quality or better.

    Rating 24/30

    Into the Odd - Thief 2

    Like Builder's Paradise this is a level who's surprises are best found out for yourself, but let's just say it has the name it does for a reason. The main hub section is a town that's actually set in daylight (and makes some good use of things like bloom to make that fact more prominent), which is contrasted with the dark sewers and... Other places. The level makes use of multiple new/modified assets, and there's also some very creative use of old objects. It's also a map that has actual total darkness in certain parts, but it's quite forgiving with flares (on top of those parts being quite short) to avoid that being a problem. When things get strange it also has some very creative geometry, and contrasts claustrophobic tunnels with larger areas.


    Daylight is such a rare sight in Thief that the amount of bloom manages to feel okay

    From a traditional Thief gameplay perspective the start is actually the hardest part by far, with you stranded in a hostile area with nothing to defend yourself, and the Daylight setting leveraged to make shade quite rare. The progression is also a little unintuitive (despite actually being quite linear initially), especially with the constant threat you are under. After you get going though it starts to both open up and provide more options to deal with things, even if those things aren't entirely familiar... The general layout loops between the town and the underground, with one linking area that feels like a bit of a mix of both in style, and the way half the map involves looking for your basic equipment almost gives the main sections a Metroid type feel, as initially limited areas open up and you acquire means to make exploration easier and safer. The story provides few clues to what is actually happening, and many of the readables are borderline cryptic, but it seems to be fully intentional; the nature of the stranger occurances being left to your imagination just makes them more haunting when combined with the expert execution. Despite the somewhat frustrating start this is probably my favourite entry so far, and one that could be tough for other contenders to beat, with a memorable setting, interesting unravelling layout and constant shifting of mood in a way that could be disruptive but feels effortless.

    Rating 29/30

    My Favorite Year - Thief 2

    This is a mansion infiltration, although with a twist that the mansion is built into a warehouse. The architecture is fine, but on the simple side, with the outside having some nice details on the edges but with a main part comprising of a bunch of giant uniform crates that aren't especially convincing. The interiors are better, with the house parts looking good and having nice personal touches, but the transitional areas are still a bit bland looking. There's a small theme twist at the end that's overall the best looking and most atmospheric part, but it's quite short. The gameplay is relatively straightforward, but there's no map which makes navigation a bit more complex than it would be (especially as some of the basic corridors look very similar), the level isn't especially large though. It does do a good job allowing for multiple approaches, although the lack of a map makes finding other entrances feel a bit incidental. There are quite a few guards, but also quite a bit of darkness and noisy surfaces are rare, so they don't pose much of a threat (difficulty is supposed to change things like the number of light switches, but even on expert there were quite a few). What story there is doesn't develop much, but there are few environmental hints towards something darker going on that pay off a bit towards the end. Decent enough, and the merging of the warehouse with living spaces does give it nice style twist over a normal mansion setting, but it doesn't have much else to stand-out and feels like more of a learning experience for the designer compared to the other contest levels I've played so far.


    The living areas look pleasant throughout

    Rating 19/30

  21. #2971
    Member
    Registered: Jan 2008
    And now the rest:

    The Pursuance of An Inscrutable Reciprocity - Thief 2

    This entry actually comprises of two levels (and a cutscene one), with the first in a city area and the second a mansion. The city of the first map is okay, but a bit on the empty side vs other examples in this contest (although the melding of street and rooftops is nice), and the interiors also vary in quality, with some being pretty good looking and others being pretty empty and lacking the feeling of being an actual living space. The second level is much more consistent and with various nice looking rooms and side-areas, along with some non-standard ideas like the indoor gardens. In the first map the visuals feel like a bit of a step back from the author's entry in the last contest, but the second level makes up for it, and it is on a much bigger scale than that release with two full maps. GORT's entry to the Thief 1 contest was possibly the hardest one there (and also in the unlucky position of being the first level if played in the order listed), and this lives up to that, although the readme does warn about playing on the expert equivalent. It's also a direct sequel story-wise, with Garret trying to work out what's going on with the sceptre he found in the previous level. With plenty of darkness in the city the first level isn't too tricky outside of some wide-patrolling helmeted guards, but those end up as more of an irritation than a threat. The exploration is a bit tougher, but even there it's mostly about stumbling across some conversations (with some characters only appearing after you've listened, which can be a little confusing) to get the hints you need for the main objectives, with the obscurity being reserved for secrets.


    A peek of the sort of situations this set puts you in

    The second map though has no mercy; areas bathed in light and tile floor, robots and cameras everywhere, numerous guards and combinations of all those things. It tests pretty much everything about your knowledge of the AI. Equipment also seems to get shared between levels and more seems quite rare so hopefully you've saved some water arrows from the first map or things will be even harder. The puzzles are the actual most brutal thing about the map though, although maybe semi-accidentally, as the actual near inscrutable puzzle essentially has the solution just placed somewhere (although even that requires a borderline pixel hunt) and, while the rest aren't as obscure, there's still a lot of back and forth across dangerous areas if you don't know what you're doing. Even with the help thread it took me a little to order everything into something comprehensible, and even then the main puzzle could only really be finished after you got the item that opened the end part, at which point the item behind the puzzle isn't actually that relevant anymore? I actually feel making the puzzle progression slightly more linear would have helped, as then at least the end result would make more sense. Presumably difficulty only helps the enemy placement and not the puzzles, so turning it down seems it wouldn't help that much. There's also no map in either level, and, while there's generally enough landmarks to find your way around, it certainly doesn't help with making things less obtuse. The "voice acting" being mostly text-to-speech was also a bit odd. There's a lot of cool ideas and the challenge was generally fair (outside a few times where you had to open doors in bright areas blindly with threats potentially behind them), but the obtuseness really drags it down, along with the notably lower design quality of the first level.

    Rating 21/30

    Show Off - Thief 2

    Here you have to break into a museum in a relatively small town area. The town itself is somewhat basic with lots of empty streets and samey looking buildings with little height variation. The museum and surrounding areas fare better though with some creative object usage and more convincing and atmospheric areas. Like with the visuals the streets aren't that engaging gameplay-wise, with few buildings to access and little going on except for a bunch of guards around (several of which do unconvincing things like randomly stare at doors to let you go past or deal with them). Also like with the visuals the gameplay gets much more engaging in the museum, with multiple access points and a challenging mix of tiles, guards and cameras, along with some security-based puzzles. There's no map, which can be a bit of a problem in the samey streets, but the actual museum is small and interlinked enough for it to not be too big an issue. The story also starts out with little going on, but then messages get more meaningful and it all culminates in a nice twist, although, as it's a sequel hook, the level essentially ending right after makes it feel a bit anti-climatic. My first impression here wasn't very good, but once you start exploring the actual target location it improves a lot, and I feel it would be a better level with the streets segment cut down (whether to simply make it more compact or replace it with more content in the museum).


    This garden is one of the better visual touches

    Rating 20/30

    Ten Little Taffers - Thief 2

    This is something completely different, with it following an Inverted Manse type approach where each difficulty mode changes the nature of the map rather than the actual challenge (the normal mode is actually the most involved one gameplay-wise). Each perspective involves solving a mansion murder mystery between ten suspects (albeit modified each time so your knowledge from one playthrough won't 100% carry over) and the three options are an outsider perspective in Garret, one of the guests and a murderer themselves. Visually the start doesn't give the best impression with a kind of bland looking outdoor area, but it only a tiny part of the overall playtime across the characters, and the actual interior parts are much better with lots of nice little details (some of which becomes important across characters) and personality touches for each character. It also comes with a lot of creative object use and event scripting.


    You'll get familiar with all these people...

    The nature of the map means the gameplay varies from normal Thief design a lot, but there's a heavy puzzle focus across the character (in different ways). The Garret playthrough technically has forced ghosting, but the nature of the level means this isn't an issue, and it's more about working out what's going on than direct NPC interaction. Though walking into one light failing the mission even when the map is empty was a little odd, and I feel just locking the relevant door with a key would have worked better. It would also be nice to have had some acknowledgement (like an optional objective) if you actually follow the way the story intends characters to die. While there are three playthroughs it's a relatively short map and multiple things carry over, so the setting doesn't overstay it's welcome despite most of the map staying the same. The changes between difficulties are enough to make them feel quite different, and there's a few nice surprises too. A very unique concept executed well, and very memorable as a result.

    Rating 28/30

    Time For Change - Thief 2

    This is a small town type area, although it's mostly buildings with the town parts as small transitional areas. It's on the simpler side visually, with relatively cubic rooms and various areas with little detail, along with height variation being quite limited. Some areas do look better and have some more detail and personality, but they're not the majority. There are a few sections that split but the layout is pretty linear, with a lot of situations only having one approach, and many of the guard placements don't feel especially convincing, with several them standing around in random-seeming places or having tiny patrols. Most areas also have enough darkness for enemies to not pose much of a threat. One area that does have some more interesting setup is the warehouse section, which mixes humans and robots and makes shadows rarer (along with being one of the few areas to make use of vertical gameplay) in a way that requires much more thought about your approach; it's a glimpse that the author is capable of engaging encounters, and I wouldn't be surprised if it was one of the last areas made. There's no map, but the linearity means it's not much an issue, especially as the individual areas do distinguish themselves. One objective on higher-difficulties requires a bit of a pixel-hunt but the combination of linearity and contained areas means it's not too obscure to find (and provides some unexpected storytelling as well). Between the general simplicity and small size this seems like somewhat of a beginner level, but the better parts show that there's a lot of potential for future improvement.


    This booth area is one of the larger scale parts

    Rating 15/30

    Troubling Transitions - Thief 2

    This is a town area with the visual twist of being set in a snowy environment. The general area looks good with plenty of detail and a nicely done winter atmosphere (although the limited snow textures means the walls aren't especially snowy), and your main target (a church) has some impressive rooms too. I do feel some of the house interiors felt a little similar, and some of the side areas in the church are more basic looking and repetitive, but they're the minority. I also like the inclusion of subtitles for the briefing and new conversations, which none of the other maps seem to have included so far. This level is set in the transition from the Hammerites to the Mechanists, and this is communicated well in the church section, with lots of details to communicate the old sections being replaced/remade for the purposes of the mechanists. The gameplay here is among the most traditional in the contest, with a town area and target building to explore, with plenty of exploration on the way along with the church itself being quite large. There's no real surprises, but it's all very well executed (if not especially challenging, with ample darkness, plenty of equipment, and noisy surfaces being relatively rare). Given the middle batch of levels (Ten Little Taffers aside), didn't provide maps it's also nice to finally get one in a level again. A very good level, although the winter theme is the only standout thematic element. It's actually probably the best starter map so far, as it executes all the basic Thief elements well and provides some variety without being overly demanding.


    The winter style is done well

    Rating 25/30

    Where the Unknown Lurks - Thief 2

    The initial part of this level is a mansion with a bit of a thematic twist, with a very organic looking style and geometry; the scale is relatively small but it uses that to make the area more detailed. However, this another level that puts a lot of content behind optional objectives, and, in this case, you literally miss most of the level if you only do your given objectives. While it's another level where the theme shift works better as a surprise, the other section is also visually interesting and does a more traditional Thief 1 style theme very well. The initial mansion view is the most impressive view, but it keeps up a high standard throughout and handles the theme changes in a way that feels natural. As said before, the seeming main section is a actually only part of the map, and you can be done in 20 minutes if you aren't especially inquisitive. However, if you pay attention then the meat of the level isn't especially obscure to access. Throughout, the map does a good job of providing multiple ways to tackle challenges, and even the optional section has it's own additional major optional task (although the special reward for doing it seemed a bit late to take much advantage of). If you jump off at the start you seem to get warped to a room and trapped, which is a little odd, but I think it's some sort of easter egg? A great level that's hard to talk about because it's another that works best as a surprise.


    The initial mansion looks cool enough that I wish you spent a bit more time there.

    Rating 25/30

    Overall, slightly annoying beginning aside, Into the Odd is definitely my favourite, with the original setting that gradually unravels, along with being the creepiest level in an non-standard way. Builders Paradise and Feast of Pilgrims follow, with the most impressive mechanist and city exploration design respectively. Ten Little Taffers is easily the most unique, although it's something entirely different without too much traditional Thief gameplay. With the rest coming behind those four. I was surprised that almost every level is quite consistent thematically since the last contest had multiple levels that threw in as much as they could, but I guess that's partially a result of there being less entries, and maybe a result of Thief 2 itself being more thematically focused than the original game.
    Last edited by Mman; 14th Jun 2020 at 18:32.

  22. #2972

    A Reputation to Uphold (TDM)

    My reputation as a reviewer is riding on this!

    A Reputation to Uphold (by Springheel) is a sequel to A Score to Settle. (Although you don't need to play that mission to understand whatís going on here, barring a readable referencing those events.) This time, Corbin is after something of actual value: a necklace that was swiped before he could get at it and is now in the possession of a criminal organization. Itís due to be sold to a fence, forcing Corbin to follow the seller and buyer...or not.

    Reputationís main gimmick is that it has three different play styles, similar to Fieldmedicís Not an Ordinary Guest. On ďShadow,Ē itís a traditional follow and steal mission (although you donít have to follow very closely), ďTimed ShadowĒ keeps things the same but gives you a time limit to steal the necklace, and ďBreak-InĒ forgoes the stalking altogether in favor of making you at least partially visible, even in shadows. It lacks the same variation as the above mentioned mission, but does provide some replay value. The problem is that, to me, there wasnít enough variation. Timed Shadow was an interesting curiosity, but because I had no idea what the limit was during the mission (about eight minutes, as I found out in the thread), it was hard to tell if I blazed through it with time to spare or if it was much tighter than I thought. Break-In is the most interesting, but once youíve played the mission twice getting to it (as I did), you know what youíre doing, although I know one item is slightly moved around across difficulty levels. I also didn't feel like the increased visibility affected much.

    Graphics-wise, itís similar to A Score to Settle: Lots of dim, uneven streets and doing an excellent job of selling the fact that youíre creeping around in gang territory, with a few ďhandyĒ touches here and there to sell it. Like its predecessor, I wish that there was a little more to do, although there is a neat little Easter Egg and reference to a previous mission that Springfield worked on (not A Score to Settle), if you can find it.

    Difficulty-wise, itís fair. Like I mentioned, after going through all the difficulty levels, youíll have a pretty good grasp on this straightforward mission. There arenít as many unique parts as Score, but itís still well-done, and the latter two difficulties do present a fair challenge, especially to the ghoster. Like I said, I don't know if Break-In makes you that easy to see, but perhaps that was due to my visibility settings at the time. Ghosters should note one piece of loot in particular thatís impossible to get without swinging the blackjack with wild abandon, or firing an arrow into the darkness. Getting the loot goal in general isnít super difficult though, even on Break-In where itís a required objective.

    All in all, a slightly over-ambitious but still very solid mission. Recommended.

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