argurotoxos: Midnighter holding balloons, waiting for his husband (Thief - Artemis)
The new Thief game (Thiaf, Thief 4, Thief (2014), etc.) came out the end of February to mixed but overall mediocre reviews from what I've seen. I don't have any intention of buying or playing it, though I'll probably watch a Let's Play at some point. It's unfortunate Fen's had health problems the past few months; I hope he's been feeling better, but I do miss his frequent Thief Let's Plays and he made my favourite comment about the new Thief in his, thus far, only Thief 4 video: "Is this a parody?" I also eagerly await Yahtzee's Zero Punctuation review, which should be out tomorrow.

The most bizarre thing about Thief 4 is that Square Enix (Thief 4's publisher) and Amazon are hosting a Thief Mod Competition. The catch? You have to mod using the Thief 1-3 level editors or The Dark Mod, a completely fan-built total conversion mod, because the new Thief isn't releasing a level editor. You also have to enter with videos of your mod, or an idea for a mod, as opposed to an actual fan mission for others to play. (Basically, you have to do a Let's Play for your own fan mission.) When I heard the news, I was sure it must be a hoax. But no, it is apparently legitimate. On one hand, it's a nice effort to reach out to the very mod-active Thief community, but how weird is it to have to rely on past games and fan efforts to promote your current game? The contest is also limited to US citizens, which is unfortunate given Thief's multinational - especially European - fanbase.

My current Thief kicks are part two of Grayman's William Steele series for The Dark Mod, which features lots of enjoyable rooftop exploration, and the hope that DrK will finally release part four of his phenomenal Night in Rocksburg series this year. I recently updated my Dark Mod mission list and there are more mission I haven't played than I realised, about 50. There's also the current 10 Rooms contest for Thief 2; sad to say I haven't played as many Thief 2 fan missions since The Dark Mod, though I downloaded all the missions.

At the end of last year, I started re-reading Stormwatch and The Authority from Warren Ellis' first Stormwatch issues. I'm currently at the end of the third Authority trade (Earth Inferno and Other Stories). To my surprise, I enjoyed the Stormwatch issues more than Ellis' Authority run. I never realised my first time through just how much Ellis focused on his own (future Authority) characters. I wonder how prior Stormwatch readers felt about that. That said, I think all the Stormwatch members Ellis retained had a chance to shine, and I still have a special fondness for Winter. It's unfortunate the series ended the way it did, and the last trade was my least favourite. (I also never cared much for the WildC.A.T.S. no matter how hard I tried.)

I disliked Mark Millar's Authority run even more than I did on prior readings and feel he negatively changed aspects of most of the characters, usually with throw-away snarky lines like Midnighter beating AIDS or Shen having a boob job. And, of course, there's the Doctor being a drug addict and general screw-up. Characters, especially antagonists, seem to have more knowledge than I feel like they should, even though The Authority interacting more with the media was a theme of Millar's run. Frank Quietly's art is not to my taste at all. One of the only redeeming factors of the third Authority trade is the excellent Angie one-shot story. The art on the first two issues of Earth Inferno is also pretty good, though it doesn't send my blood singing like Bryan Hitch's art.

I actually don't own the next Authority trade (Transfer of Power) as I hated the arc so much. I don't have any of the Robbie Morrison trades, either. His run was one of the first I read (a mistake) and I thought all but the Jenny Quantum story arc were garbage. (I still kind of want the second trade of his run just to re-read that story.)

After volume three, I've got a few single issues and Millar's Jenny Sparks: The Secret History of the Authority. After that, it's The Authority: Revolution by Ed Brubaker and Dustin Nguyen. I'm looking forward to this run as it's been a while since I've read it, but remember the writing, story, and character design being good, not to mention emotionally compelling.
argurotoxos: Midnighter holding balloons, waiting for his husband (Weyoun | by stargater)

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and New Year!

(Screencaps from The Dark Mod fan mission demo A Christmas Present 2011 by Arcturus.)
argurotoxos: Midnighter and Apollo smiling and laughing (Midnighter/Apollo - laugh | by cassshan)
-I've set aside S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, The Dark Mod, and System Shock for now and am playing some of my enormous (300+ missions) backlog of Thief 2 fan missions with NewDark. My most recent was The Night Before Christmas by DarkShadow, a fun and beautiful Christmas mission.

-Still reading Loki/Thor fanfiction. I've become even fonder of Jotun!Loki AUs, especially stories with arranged marriages, intersex Loki, and/or lots of world building. The story I'm most looking forward to - and that happens to have everything I mentioned - is the next chapter of amberfox17's Wild Ambition Fortune's Ice Prefers.

-I hadn't looked at the Stormwatch preview pages in months when I heard the series is ending soon, and with it goes what little interest I had left in DC Comics. (And, of course, the last issue preview has the best Midnighter and Apollo art I've seen since the DC reboot started.) I still love Midnighter, Apollo, Jenny Sparks (and Quantum), Angie, Shen, the Doctor, and Jack, but never adjusted to their characterisation in the DC reboot, among other things. There are still a few older Authority issues I've never read, but other than that, it's just re-reading my favourite trades for me. Good times. RIP (again) Wildstorm.

(How weird is it that Apollo and Midnighter were married in the comics before same-sex marriage was legal anywhere in the US, but now that it's legal in over 15 states [including Utah of all places], they aren't married?)
argurotoxos: a scene from System Shock 2 with a ghost crewmember (System Shock 2 | by plant_boy)
In late 2003, Ion Storm released Deus Ex: Invisible War, the sequel to 2000's highly lauded Deus Ex. Five months later, Ion Storm released Thief: Deadly Shadows, the third entry in the Thief series. Both games were built on the same engine and were the first in their respective series to be released for console as well as PC. And both games have a reputation of not being very good among fans (or at least on TTLG, which is where I go for my gaming needs).

I played Deadly Shadows back in 2008. You can read my initial thoughts on it here, though I don't like it as much now; it's the only Thief game I don't have installed. I think Deadly Shadows is worth a play, but it's definitely the weakest in the series for me and the only reason I even keep my copy is if I have the urge to play the Shalebridge Cradle again. (The Shalebridge Cradle is indeed a fantastic level, but I think the effect is lessened once you know what's going to happen next and you realise it's essentially a glorified fetch quest. [So is "Return to the Haunted Cathedral" from Thief: The Dark Project, but Lauryl (Deadly Shadows) is much more tolerable than Brother Murus (The Dark Project).])

Due to some confusion on my part, I ended up buying Deus Ex: Invisible War before the first Deus Ex. It didn't matter in the end, though, as Invisible War refused to run on my older laptop despite it meeting the system requirements and Deadly Shadows running fine. I've only played Deus Ex through once - which is a bit odd as I've played The Nameless Mod (a Deus Ex game-length mod) twice - but I spent over 50 hours on my run and had an absolutely fantastic time. Together with Thief and System Shock, Deus Ex is in my personal top three games and I believe I've played every long-ish fan mission there is (The Nameless Mod, ZODIAC, 2027, Red Sun, The Cassandra Project, Burden of 80 Proof, Hotel Carone) except the most recent (Nihilum).

So much has been written about Deus Ex, including Kieron Gillen's excellent review that captures a lot of Deus Ex's strengths, that I don't feel I can add much. So, moving on to Invisible War.

I started playing Invisible War back in August when S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl's focus on shooting was driving me crazy. (I'll review Shadow of Chernobyl once I finish it, though I've been playing on and off since January, so . . . it may be a while. In short, great atmosphere and visuals, not half as much focus on exploration as what I wanted.) What a contrast that was. Moving from Shadow of Chernobyl's lack of hand-holding and difficulty (I play on the easiest setting and it still kicks my ass at times) to Invisible War's, well, we'll get to that below, was like night and day.

It took me 12 hours to play through Invisible War. 12 hours, over the course of three months, when the original took me over 50 hours over the course of less than a month. (I had more free time and was much more engaged in the game.) And yet, I feel like Invisible War overstayed its welcome by at least three hours.

Invisible War has some of the same problems Deadly Shadows, likely influenced by being released on the first-generation Xbox. Maps are relatively small and there are plentiful loading zones. No swimmable water, although Invisible War at least never draws attention to it. (Going to jail for falling in the water was one of the stupidest ideas in Deadly Shadows.) On the other hand, I thought both the player character and NPC movement was less stiff and smoother in Invisible War, though jumping and crate stacking are worse.

I started off Invisible War with the idea of playing a stealthy hacker, which, ever since Thief, tends to be my default character. The interface provoked much irritation and was clearly designed for a gamepad -- 'yes/no' prompts you have to use the mouse for; no keyboard support for custom-naming saved games, manually typing in passcodes, or writing notes in-game; no quick-save or load; no screenshot key (which is why there are no screenshots in this review, because Invisible War isn't worth the effort of using a second program); the minimum HUD is still rather invasive, and inventory management is a mess. Skill points were eliminated, as were different ammo types (yes, all firearms in the game use the same ammo, just in different amounts), the conversation log, and location-based health management. In short, the only ways to customise you character besides your play style are through your appearance, the weapons you use, and your biomods (augmentations). (I barely include dialogue choices, since there aren't very many and most don't seem to matter.) However, you can now choose to play as either a male or female.

Much more under cut. )

In summary: Deadly Shadows may be my least favourite Thief game, but it is at the minimum a decent game and a far, far better game than Invisible War. I don't think Invisible War is completely irredeemable - I did finish playing it instead of throwing my hands up in disgust after all - but there's not much to recommend it, especially compared to its predecessor.

So, what's good about Invisible War? The voice acting's not bad. There's a good mix of male and female NPCs. Invisible War actually does reward exploration, or at least what you can do in the small maps; as in Deus Ex, you can find ammo, equipment, etc., in somewhat out of the way places (under desks, behind pipes, and so on). Trier has a surprising number of readables that are actually decent. The ApostleCorp lab was somewhat neat, except that Invisible War cannot do horror or atmosphere. The Antarctic Versalife facility was better, and even had a nice ambient track!

If anyone wants to play Deus Ex: Invisible War on the PC, I will give you my copy for only the cost of shipping. (If the shipping's less than $6, I'll even pay that, too.) I have the CDs, both in very good condition, plus the manual, hardcover box, shiny slipcase, and even the kidneythieves card. I bought it second-hand, but there are hardly any signs of wear. The edges of the slipcase are the worst part, but still in good condition. There are a few photos below.

Deus Ex: Invisible War photos, up for sale. )
argurotoxos: a scene from System Shock 2 with a ghost crewmember (System Shock 2 | by plant_boy)
The Dark Mod, a Thief-inspired Doom 3 total conversion mod, recently updated and is now stand-alone! In other words, all you need to play is a computer that meets the system requirements (which aren't very high -- my 2005 laptop can run it on low settings) and the ability to download and save at least ~3 GB, which includes the Mod itself plus several fan missions. You don't need a copy of Doom 3 or any of the Thief games. You don't even need to have played Thief before, though I think it helps and am sure the vast majority of The Dark Mod players and mission authors are Thief fans.

You can download The Dark Mod 2.0 here. Windows, Linux, and Mac are all supported, though the Mac version is back at 1.08 and so requires Doom 3. The Dark Mod has a built-in mission downloader, but you can also check out the complete mission list and download missions manually here. If you're interested in building missions yourself, you can download The Dark Mod's level editor, DarkRadiant, here. For more information, there's an introductory video on YouTube (and you can always search for Let's Plays), plus a Wiki, among many other resources.

Though I was a bit late playing The Dark Mod - I waited until 2012 to buy a used copy of Doom 3 - and had several problems on my older laptop, The Dark Mod's run flawlessly on my newest laptop and I really love the mod. To be honest, it's somewhat hard going back to the older Thief games and fan missions -- I haven't even tried NewDark much yet [the newest patch for Thief: The Dark Project/Gold and Thief II: The Metal Age] as I've been playing The Dark Mod missions or other games. I'm not completely sure why -- I definitely like mantling and object interaction more in The Dark Mod, and there are a few things I miss from the older games, such as the original Haunt design (graphics and sound). The only things I've wanted while playing through The Dark Mod missions are more and higher quality voice acting (which I believe has been updated in 2.0) and a dedicated run forward key, as in the first two Thiefs.

I haven't updated to 2.0 yet as I don't want to redownload all the missions I currently have. I've played about 30 missions, and there are about 45 I've yet to start.

Below are my mission recommendations based on what I've played so far. Like most fan missions, the difficulty varies by author and mission, so if you're just starting out, trying a few missions on the easiest setting would be my suggestion. (If you've played Thief before, you can start at any setting -- whatever you usually play the game at. [For what it's worth, I haven't played any The Dark Mod missions that are more difficult than some of the Thief 2 fan missions.]) I also played these under older Dark Mod versions, and you should be aware that The Dark Mod comes with a training mission.

-Sound Alert & Blackjack Trainer by The Dark Mod Team. Not a mission per se, but an easy way to get a feel for the loudness of different surfaces are and the AI's sensitivity level.

-Pandora's Box by Jesps. I think this would be a nice introductory mission as it's fairly short (I finished in less than 30 minutes) and set in a unique location (an airship).

-Too Late by Nielsen74. A smallish warehouse mission that would be nice for a quick play. Plenty of boxes, crates, etc. to mantle on and some neat places for loot.

-William Steele 1: In the North by grayman. My favourite The Dark Mod mission to date. A fairly large mansion-type mission, beautifully decorated, designed, and textured. There are some puzzles and optional objectives, plus plenty to explore and read.

-Flakebridge Monastery by Jesps. A large undead mission in an abandomed Builder monastery. Lots to do, including some optional objectives -- I spent about 4 hours playing and still had one bonus objective and quite a bit of loot left. Some good characterisation, especially for the guest wings, and several different routes.

-Swing by Komag. I had to include this one because it was so different! This is mostly a jumping and climbing mission, and the only time I've felt vertigo while playing a computer game.

-House in Blackbog Hollow by stumpy. I debated over including this mission as I haven't finished it yet, but I've been impressed with the design, especially the sound, and it's great for Halloween. One of the reasons I really like this mission is it's horror-themed, but with minimal undead use. (I don't mind undead, but have to be in a certain mood to play missions with them, which comes into conflict with the fact that I do enjoy [certain types of] horror.)
argurotoxos: Midnighter holding balloons, waiting for his husband (Midnighter - balloons)
Two posts in one days after a long time of not updating, I know, but I had this drafted before the events of the other post occurred.

Fandom Update in One Minute

-I've put S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl on hiatus and am currently playing Deus Ex: Invisible War, which has many issues, but not enough for me to stop.

-I'm almost through watching FenPhoenix's Thief 2X and Thief: Deadly Shadows Let's Plays.

-My most recent library books have been about T. E. Lawrence ('Lawrence of Arabia'), Norse mythology, Egyptian mythology, and science fiction in literature and film.

-I'm still reading Thor-based fan ficion and am looking forward to Thor: The Dark World.

-I've been learning belly dance.

-My dad and I finished watching Netflix's streaming episodes of Columbo and have moved on to Through the Wormhole (a science/philosophy show narrated by Morgan Freeman) and various BBC episodes, the most recent being a series on Ancient Greek theatre.
argurotoxos: a scene from System Shock 2 with a ghost crewmember (System Shock 2 | by plant_boy)
I was looking for reviews for either The Dark Mod or Thief 4 on YouTube and found this commentary on some Thief 4 gameplay by Woodsie at ThePCelitist. The video was interesting and articulate (though I was surprised Woodsie didn't say anything about XP points) and I've since watched a couple other videos, including the first two installments of The Case for PC. Woodsie and Shepard brought up some good points, but I didn't feel much of what they talked about lined up with my own reasons for being a PC gamer. And so, I present six reasons why I am a PC gamer (a.k.a., why I will probably never buy a console).

1. Most of the games I'm interested in playing are only available on the PC. The first two Thiefs, both System Shocks, all three S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games, Unreal Tournament 2004, Vampire: the Masquerade - Bloodlines -- all of these games were only released for the PC. I could name many, many more. There is a console version of the original Deus Ex, but I understand it's quite changed. On the flip side, I can't think of a single console-only title I'd really like to play.

2. Tied in to (1), fan mods and missions are very important to me. Many of my favourite gaming experiences have happened while playing Thief or Deus Ex fan missions. None of these fan missions, or total engine conversions like The Dark Mod [a Thief-inspired game using the Doom 3 engine], are available on consoles. Though I don't make fan missions myself, I have played around in DromEd [Thief's level editor] a bit. Texture and visual updates, such as John P's High Res Textures for Thief: Deadly Shadows or New Vision and HDTP for Deus Ex, and general patches like the multiple unofficial Bloodlines ones, are also, to my understanding, unavailable on consoles.

(Fan-created and shared material - be it art, fiction, videos, playlists, mods, cosplay, and so on - is key to me for most series. I can enjoy a show, or a game, on its own, but if it doesn't have an active fanbase, or if fan-created materials are discouraged by the creators, chances are I will quickly move into other fandoms. One of the sad trends of modern games has been a reluctance or refusal to release level editors, thus making fan mission creation very difficult.)

3. The PC is what I grew up with. Aside from a black-and-white Power Rangers Gameboy-type device, I never owned a console. I never played Mario, Zelda, or Sonic the Hedgehog. Instead, I was playing Myst, SimCopter, Tyrian, and Commander Keen. The PC has always been my gaming home and I still play DOS games through DOSBox.

4. Mouse and keyboard. I took a look at my control configurations for S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, The Dark Mod, and Thief 2, and I use an average of 37 keys plus three mouse buttons for each game. In Thief 1/2, I use nine keys just for movement: 'w' for run forward, 's' for walk forward, 'x' for walk backward, 'space' to creep, 'q' for lean left, 'e' for lean right, 'k' to lean forward, 'f' to crouch, and 'shift' to jump. When you include things like multiple weapon selections, quick save/load, zoom in/out, and other inventory hotkeys, it's easy to take over most of the keyboard, and I like it that way. I feel I have quicker access to the things I want to get to [e.g., I can hit 'alt' for water arrows instead of scrolling through a weapon selector] and more fine-tuning over my movement and view. Most of the games I play also give the player great flexibility in creating their own control scheme; the first two Thiefs even allow you to save multiple control layouts.

5. It's impractical for me to own a console. In addition to (1), most consoles hook up to a TV, and I hardly ever watch TV unless it's for VHS tapes. I think I would be perfectly happy without either a TV or cable. All my other media watching is done on my computer, whether it be online steaming or DVDs. My computer is my one-stop machine: email, gaming, multimedia, internet, word processing, exchanging files with my MP3 player or cell phone, etc.

6. The PC makes it easy to interact with game files. I can edit screencaps or make them my desktop. If the game I'm playing doesn't have a built-in screencapture, I can run another program in the background. Same with audio or video capture. I can back up my saved games and user files, or make custom edits to the user ini. I can transfer my saved games easily to other computers or hard drives. I can explore the files within the game; e.g., I can extract the audio files and find dialogue I missed during the game itself. (I've done this with both Thief and Vampire: the Masquerade - Bloodlines.) In short, I have a degree of transparency and flexibility with the games.

As my PCs are always several years behind the cutting edge, being able to play with the highest graphics setting has never been a priority for me. Since there's been very few recent games to pique my interest, this is rarely an issue. (I've been happy to finally play S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl on my current laptop, and may play the rest of the series [Clear Sky and Call of Pripyat] after, but there are very few post-2005 games on my recommendations list.) I acknowledge that gaming PCs have superior technology compared to consoles, and that gap does become an issue with how developers design games, but it's not one of my personal reasons for gaming on the PC. Neither is the ability to custom build my own machine.

(What type of games I look for and why I enjoy them is another post, but Briareos H's TTLG post on First-person exploration games tickled many of my gaming likes.)
argurotoxos: a scene from System Shock 2 with a ghost crewmember (System Shock 2 | by plant_boy)
Even though I hardly look at Tumblr anymore, it is so easy to post photos instead of doing more in-depth updating. I hope to do the latter at some point, but for now I hope you will indulge me in the former.

The Dark Mod missions pictured are A Night to Remember by Fieldmedic, WS1: In the North by grayman, and Tears of St. Lucia, which is included in the initial TDM install as a demo of sorts. I've only finished WS1: In the North, which I had a fantastic time with and is likely my favourite TDM mission to date.

Screencaps under cut. )
argurotoxos: a scene from System Shock 2 with a ghost crewmember (System Shock 2 | by plant_boy)
I've been watching more Let's Plays* during meals than playing any games. Though I upgraded to the latest Thief II patch, I hadn't even been playing any Thief fan missions.

This past weekend I started up The Dark Mod on my newest laptop to finish a mission, "The Transaction" by Sotha, that I started months ago. It wasn't a very clean playthrough, but coming back to stealth play was a lovely experience. I've been playing S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl about once a month and slowly making progress. While I quite like the atmosphere and environments, sometimes the gameplay wears on me and I tend to run away from enemies as often as I confront them. The strangest thing about that game, however, is the NPC interface, which is so rudimentary that it feels misplaced, like it came out of the 1990s, when everything else is clearly 2000s.

*FenPhoenix's Thief II: The Metal Age, shadyparadox's Myst III: Exile, and Dilandau3000's Star Trek: The Next Generation - A Final Unity (which I played years ago and is much less exciting than I remember).

Some screencaps. )
argurotoxos: Midnighter holding balloons, waiting for his husband (Lizard)
I'll hopefully have a longer post on The Dark Mod later. The short version: The Dark Mod doesn't feel exactly like Thief: The Dark Project or Thief II: The Metal Age, but it's undeniably Thief and I quite like it. For now, some screencaps with small commentary. I'm playing on an older computer using the smallest resolution, so this isn't the best The Dark Mod can look. I did touch the images up a bit in Photoshop to increase sharpness and brightness/contrast.

Missions pictured: Thief's Den by Fidcal, Rake-off by Jesps, and Flakebridge Monastery, also by Jesps. ("Flakebridge Monastery" is an undead mission and there are some corpse and horror images once you get past the stained glass screencap.)

Images below cut. )
argurotoxos: a scene from System Shock 2 with a ghost crewmember (System Shock 2 | by plant_boy)
This was originally one large, somewhat eclectic, and photo-heavy update. It's been broken in half because I had more to say about the first topic than I realised. As such, this post is all about computer games with specific talk about The Dark Mod, Doom 3, and the Thief II fanmission A Night in Rocksbourg part III: Ink and Dust, plus musings on horror in games and a few screencaps.

Outside of fanmissions [FMs] and mods, I only play one to two new games a year. And by 'new' I mean 2005 and older since my laptop is coming up on eight years old. Nevertheless, I love my laptop -- it's in good condition, does pretty much everything I want it to, and there are only two or three newer games out there on my 'to play' list. This may be somewhat inaccurate, but as I remember it, my game play for the past near-decade has been:

~2003 - Vampire the Masquerade: Redemption, Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force
2004 - Thief: The Dark Project
2005-2006 Thief II: The Metal Age [I ran into an error during one mission and picked the game up again the next year.]
2007 - Vampire The Masquerade: Bloodlines, Thief2X: Shadows of the Metal Age [game-length fan mod]
2008 - Thief III: Deadly Shadows, Deus Ex
2009 - Deus Ex: ZODIAC [fan mod], The Nameless Mod [game-length fan mod]
2010 - System Shock 2
2011 - System Shock, 2027 [fan mod]

There are also a few games I bought during this time and didn't finish, plus many, many FMs and mods that I did. Since I've played all of the Thief and System Shock games, I started Ultima Underworld late last year with the idea of playing all of Looking Glass' games, only to realise that I don't understand how to fight in that game at all. Amazing how much 3D games progressed in just a few years. The last game I actually bought was probably Deadly Shadows four years ago.

Though most of my Christmas money is saved, I did buy four things this year. Two were songs ("Can't Stop a Riot" and "A Greater Good" by Neuroticfish). One will be talked about later. And one was a new game.

The rest behind cut for length. )
argurotoxos: Midnighter holding balloons, waiting for his husband (Emilie - violin | by betterthanlegos)
Like last year, I'm making Christmas dinner. My theme, inspired by Thief, is medieval European food.

Some images, detailed menu, and musings. )
argurotoxos: Midnighter holding balloons, waiting for his husband (Default)
Thief talk. )

I still haven't written any kind of review for Deus Ex, but there is one conversation I thrilled at the first time I heard it which addresses many of the central themes of the game. It takes place relatively late in the game -- the main character, JC Denton, has completed the last of his quests in Paris and is in the home of Morgan Everett, current leader of the Illuminati. In a small side room guarded by an electronically coded door, JC discovers a prototype of an echelon system named Morpheus. You can watch or read the conversation below the following cut:

'God was a dream of good government. You will soon have your God, and you will make it with your own hands.' )
argurotoxos: Midnighter holding balloons, waiting for his husband (Default)
Thief: Deadly Shadows is the third - and, at the moment, final - game of the Thief series that began with The Dark Project in 1998. Looking Glass Studios, who also created System Shock and Ultima Underworld, initially designed The Dark Project as an action/adventure game with additional RPG elements set in a grim version of Camelot. It was only later that thievery became the game's focus and stealth play in a pseudo-medieval/steampunk world the game's trademark.

The Dark Project was successful enough that a souped-up version of the game was released in 1999 as Thief Gold and a sequel - Thief II: The Metal Age - in 2000. Shortly thereafter, Looking Glass Studios closed, which led Thief fans to wonder over the fate of the series. However, the fandom did not die, perhaps in large part due to DromEd, the level editor for the first two Thief games that was released with Thief Gold and allowed fans to create their own missions. It was in this time after the closer of Looking Glass that the concept of Thief2X: Shadows of the Metal Age was born -- a fan-made expansion for Thief II made through DromEd that would be as lengthy and complex as the previous Thief games. If the professional studios wouldn't made another Thief, the the fans would do it on their own!

As it turns out, the studios did make another Thief game -- Thief III: Deadly Shadows, which was released in 2004 and lost its 'III' title in an attempt to access a wider audience who hadn't already played the first two Thiefs. Thief: Deadly Shadows brought with it a number of changes: new developing studio (Ion Storm), new game engine (modified Unreal 2), new technology, and new platforms (both PC and console [XBox]). Nevertheless, a number of ex-Looking Glass employees worked on Deadly Shadows with Ion Storm, including designer Randy Smith and sound master Eric Brosius.

Deadly Shadows continues the story of Garrett, the expert thief lead character of the series who was an orphan living on the streets and stealing to survive until he became part of the Keepers, a secret organization focused on gathering information and maintaining balance in the world. However, after the Keepers trained Garrett, he left them and used the skills they had taught him to become a master thief. Garrett is not a heroic character, nor is he a villain (although it can be - and is - debated among players); rather, he is someone who is primarily looking out for himself and mostly wants to be left alone, only to be manipulated by powers higher than himself into taking action throughout the course of the three games.

That was a far longer introduction to the Thief series than I set out to write, but I think it covers it well. Now, to the gameplay of Deadly Shadows!

Deadly Shadows introduced a number of new features to Thief gameplay, while revising others and taking a few away. Here, I'll go through what I consider the most important features one at a time. This will contain spoilers, but minor ones.

Deadly Shadows gameplay. )

There are a number of aspect in Deadly Shadows I could choose to focus on, but as this review is already longer than either I anticipated or any other review I've written, I'm going to write my overall view of the game (my opinion, obviously) and then conclude with my favourite and least favourite missions.

Was Deadly Shadows a good game? I would say yes.

Did Deadly Shadows live up to the Thief legacy? It tried, and it's still recognizably Thief, but there are definitely improvements that could have been made. I'm still on the fence on this one (no pun intended), though I'm not going to question its title as the third in the Thief trilogy.

Is Deadly Shadows equal to the first two Thiefs? No. Even though the graphics show their age, the first two games (and T2X) have more impressive atmospheres and stories. Deadly Shadows particularly dropped the ball in the briefing and cutscene department, which may seem a minor complaint, but it's a problem when you can't even animate your main character consistently across the game. However, I especially mention briefings and cutscenes because they were beautiful and enthralling to watch in the first two Thiefs (and Thief2X carried on the tradition admirably) and were some of the most memorable moments in the game for me.

In conclusion, something worth playing for Thief fans, as well as those who enjoy stealth games. However, Thief fans will probably find fault, in addition to being less challenging than the first two Thiefs. It's difficult to live up to a legacy and (as of this year) ten years of support and devotion from one of the most talented small fandoms I've ever had the pleasure to encounter and Deadly Shadows doesn't quite manage it. But maybe the fans will.

Actually, strike that. The fans already have. If the over 300 fan missions out there, Thief2X, The Dark Mod, and the still very active fan community over on TTLG doesn't prove that, I don't know what will.

My favourite and least favourite Deadly Shadows missions [some spoilers]. )

Any and all spelling and other errors are my responsibility and I apologize; I have only edited this a little.
argurotoxos: Midnighter holding balloons, waiting for his husband (Default)
"My heart, it ceases. My breath, undrawn.
My eyes forever focused on the sanguine metal dawn."

- Keeper Prophecy

(This review would have been posted about two weeks ago right after I finished the game, but I decided I wanted to replay one of the missions and take screenshots for the review. However, I opted to install DarkLoader - the program used to install fan-created Thief missions - first and figured I might as well reinstall both Thief I and II so I could start clean while I was at it. Long story short, Thief II wouldn't reinstall [the play CD had apparently become corrupted] and I had to buy another copy of the game.)

Gameplay between the first Thief [originally called simply 'The Dark Project'] and The Metal Age is very similar; you can even re-configure the controls to be the same as the original Thief. The Metal Age, however, has many more gadgets to play with and also offers new challenges in the forms of mechanical guards and more complex alarm systems that makes sneaking around more difficult. There are also now secrets hidden in almost every mission along with several easter eggs.

Another advantage [at least I think it's an advantage] The Metal Age has is a lack of zombies and burricks. Not that it can't be fun to make zombies explode with holy water arrows, but I prefer sneaking around human guards to dealing with the undead -- the former feels more thief-like. Also, while a couple of non-human creatures are interesting, some levels of the original Thief were teeming with them to the exclusion of any humans.

Plot-wise, I have to agree with what appears to be the general consensus of Thief fans; the original Thief's plot was much more entertaining and surprising than The Metal Age's. Karras isn't nearly as frightening an opponent as the Trickster was and can frankly be hard to take seriously at times.

The mission I was most impressed with in Thief II was Trail of Blood [mission number 9]. It takes place in Pagan territory, which means getting a chance to enjoy the lovely forest surroundings -- a definite departure from the medieval/Victorian-age Cityscape most of the missions take place in. The mission is broken into two parts: first, a Pagan village, and second, a return to a redesigned Maw that was the location of the original Thief's final mission. As you explore the village, ghosts of the Pagans will appear and reenact scenes from when the Mechanists [the main opponents and religious sect in this Thief] came and massacred them. It's very affecting.

The new version of the Maw is also well-done, including a pool of large eyeballs on plant stalks that follow you as you enter. There's also a second village within the Maw that changes from spring to summer to fall to winter. Not only do the trees visibly transform as you move from one area to the next, but the background noises also shift with the seasons. Finally, at the very end of the mission, there's the unique experience of being chased by a tree-beast. [All of the screenshots following this review are from this mission.]

Trail of Blood's often been criticized for being too linear, which is a valid complaint. It's also a relatively easy mission even in Expert mode and can be finished within an hour, as opposed to some of Thief II's more challenging missions that can take up to three hours to complete. However, the atmosphere in Trail of Blood more than makes up for its faults.

And if Trail of Blood isn't enough, the next mission, Life of the Party [10], is one of the most highly-praised of Thief II. In Life of the Party, you spend most of the mission exploring the City via the 'thieves' highway' -- the rooftops. Highlights include watching two groups of guards insulting each other's masters in an escalating confrontation that ends with arrows being fired, outsmarting two amateur burglars, and simply being on the roofs instead of the streets - a Thief first in City missions. An early version of Life of the Party was used for the Thief II demo (which can be downloaded at The Circle) and for good reason; it's a good play and is quite interesting to see what was changed between the demo and the final version, though there are several frustrating bugs in gameplay that hadn't yet been worked out, mostly involving rope arrows.

The Metal Age's final mission, Sabotage at Soulforge [15], is drastically different from the original Thief's finale; for one, Soulforge takes two to three hours to complete with very complex objectives while the the final mission in Thief I took less than forty-five minutes and had many unique environmental elements, such as sliding down snowbanks. It's rather tiring working your way through all the objectives and the end movie isn't nearly as satisfying as Thief I's, but you certainly feel accomplished with all the work you've done on it to be finally finished.

Best missions: Trail of Blood [9], Life of the Party [10], First City Bank and Trust [6]

Worse missions: Ambush! [4], Trace the Courier [8], Kidnap [12]

Casing the Joint [13] and Masks [14] get a joint worse mission award; it's redundant to visit the same mansion twice in a row and have to explore the first two floors both times, even when the mansion itself is pretty interesting.

Screenshots from Trail of Blood [mission 9]. )


argurotoxos: Midnighter holding balloons, waiting for his husband (Default)

March 2016



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