Thief : The Dark Project – Day 8

I go into this next level, not especially looking forward to it. With a title like The Caverns, it leads me to fully expect more crawling around caves. It certainly starts off that way although  do complete my first objective easily which is to track down my informant. He’s come off the worst in an encounter with some spiders.

There are a lot of the pincer handed monsters down here. I blackjack most of them and kill off the last before swimming through some underwater tunnels.

This brings me to a treasure chamber. The walls are covered with arrow traps but I can just duck under them all. After my efforts the chest is empty.

The amulet should have been in the chest so I now have to go searching for it. I come across a strange hermit living down here. He is an opera buff and tells me how the owner from the opera above now has the talisman after a party of his discovered it down here. He gives me a map and a key to get in.  This leads to a completely new set of mission goals and it doesn’t look like I’ll spend the whole level in caves after all.

I completely ignore his map which may not have been the best idea but I do find the opera house after making my way back to the surface. I end up having to sneak in through the front entrance and it isn’t easy. All the floors round here tend to be made of marble or stone and the guards can hear me all too easily. I make it up to the 1st floor eventually and its marginally easier from here on with some of the floors being partially carpeted.

The opera house has to be the best location so far in the game. It’s a well thought out structure complete with stage and I can even get into all the boxes and rob the opera fans.

I’m starting at the top floor and working down and actually run into the amulet very early on. If this wasn’t expert level, I expect the mission would have been over without me ever seeing most of the level. Getting in the room wasn’t easy. There were two guards directly outside the door and I couldn’t kill either of them. A gas arrow would have helped but instead I have to deliberately make a bit of noise to tempt them into the shadows.

I notice a secret passage while exploring the rest of level 3 and this takes me back to the ground floor.

The ticket office is down here. Another of my requirements is to rob this. It isn’t guarded so this isn’t a problem, I just have to take out the ticket clerk.

I continue exploring and blunder into the guard room. The guards spot me and I end up having to attempt to blackjack one of them whilst he is attacking me. This works but it’s not something I want to make a habit of.

I work my way to the 2nd floor and find another needed item – a silver flute. This still leaves me short of about half the loot I need to complete the level so I keep exploring.

Further exploration finds all sorts of rooms you might expect in an opera house, There is a backstage area with scenery boards, practice rooms for the ballet, a props room, etc… My stealth abilities are really tested in all of these although with a bit of patience I can clear out huge areas of the map without having to resort to killing anyone. Getting the 2000 loot takes a while but I never get bored for a minute and don’t have to retread old ground.

Once I have the money, I drop the stealth and just leg it for the front entrance straight past all the guards.

This leaves one more amulet to find which I ‘ll be going after in a Hammerite temple next mission.

This has been the games best mission so far. It was another huge level but always varied and challenging. The guards were all extremely alert for any sound or movement and the level design made keeping unseen and quiet something of an art. The long thin broken carpets were an excellent idea in the marble corridors. To blackjack a guard I had to move minutely slowly onto the carpet, but quickly enough so I could then speed up and catch the guard before he got to the end. If he got off the carpet first, then I’d be heard every time.  I’ve also been required to use misdirection for the first time, deliberately making noise to draw guards away from a guard point.

This was the final of 3 levels which were added to Thief Gold but were not in the original game. It has to be said that those have been the best 3 levels in the game and my opinion of Thief so far would have been a lot lower without them. Hopefully the remaining levels will come close to these standards. Looking Glass had obviously learnt what the fans wanted by the time of Thief Gold – if Thief 2 manages to keep these sorts of levels going for a whole game then it should be an absolute classic. I’ve still got a few levels of this to go first though.

Thief : The Dark Project – Day 7

I start this level with a map of the lost city that looks like hieroglyphics. I can’t see it helping much but I suppose its better than nothing.

I start in the streets outside and have to find my way in first.

Diving in the water shows me a likely looking stone plaque. This was in the intro video so its a dead giveaway that I use my key from before to get in.

I carry on swimming through tunnels. When I see these bubbles I attempt to breathe them Sonic the Hedgehog style but it doesn’t work and I end up reloading.

This time I just keep swimming. I’m swept along and over a waterfall. The climb back up here is a bit of a pain and its easy to keep falling back down as I have to make running jumps at every ledge.

I get up there in the end, fight my way through a few spiders and get my first view of the lost city + the amulet I’m looking for. There is no way to get to it from here so I’m forced to turn round and go the other way.

This leads me through a series of rooms, in what looks a  bit like a stone tomb. All the rooms have automatic lights which come on when I enter. The lost city used to be quite advanced by the looks of it.

After the tomb I emerge into an area full of small stone houses. My main enemies so far down here have been the lizards which I’ve taken out with my sword each time. I run into tougher opposition though in the shape of these fireballs which I’ll be seeing a lot of. They move faster than me and shoot flame darts which hurt a lot. I can take them out with a single water arrow and as long as I’m fast they aren’t a big problem, at least until I run out of water arrows.

As I travel through I find the usual clues to prod me in the right direction. I’m just about out of water arrows at this point so I try to find this tower.

In truth, I’m just wandering around aimlessly exploring but I do chance upon some more water crystals.

This area leads me to a palace of sorts and its inhabited by more fire mages. This guy is not in the easiest place for sneaking up on him, especially given that the light comes on in the room every time I go through it. I end up just hacking him with the sword.

In the room he was guarding is a machine with a big slot for a key or lever. I’ll have to come back here later.

I turn round and go back the way I came to the central area and discover a new location by hopping over rooftops.

One of the requirements of this mission is to find medallions from a missing expedition. The first is located here guarded by a fire mage.

I sneak past a couple more mages into another tomb. After blackjacking yet another mage I come to a cavernous gap. I have to shoot my rope arrows into the convieniently located beams so I can jump across to the other side.

This place is protected with traps. Stepping through this door swings a bit metal plate at me but I can avoid it by ducking.

At the far end is a lever which I carry back all the way to the palace.

I slot this in the machine…

… and it lowers the drawbridge upstairs.

I find the second and final talisman through here along with more notes.

I’m getting near the fire amulet now but its right at the top of a tower and the stairs are bust. I end up climbing through a window and teetering on a ledge. I have to follow this around the building and shoot a rope arrow onto a beam to climb upstairs.

The fire amulet is in here and unguarded so I grab it. I’ve still got a requirement for a certain amount of loot to be collected (2000 including 500 gems). I’ve got enough loot but not gems at this point.

Thankfully the search isn’t too long. The trick is to realise that a room I saw earlier has removable gemstones all along the walls. I’ve now got my loot and just have to figure out how to get out of here. It’s a long trek right back to the waterfall and a load of new fireballs are in the way. How I swim back up the river which swept me over the waterfall I don’t know but this completes the mission.

Next level is more caverns to explore to find the water amulet. This last level wasn’t too bad but wasn’t one of my favourites. Sneaking was barely required and I prefer the levels when they are a bit more concentrated and less sprawling. I didn’t have any real trouble finishing it but I’d prefer not to have what sounds like another similar level coming up. I’d like to see a little more thieving and a lot less wandering round caves killing lizards and the like. In this sort of level Thief is reduced at times to being a sub-par FPS by not playing to it’s strengths.

Thief : The Dark Project – Day 6

I’m carrying on with expert mode for this level. This presumably means I’m going to actually have to succeed with being stealthy which could be a problem. It does start out with plenty of dark areas to hide in though and the mages aren’t as aware of noise around them as guards making them an easy target.

The layout of this level is relatively simple after the previous one. There is a central building with this large tower, a library, etc… and four connecting towers, each one representing an element.

The library has a small room with four talking statues that talk about me being ruined by my own greed, and betrayed. I’ve already guessed that much but I’ve got the eye to steal first which is a good few missions away yet.

The library contains a few documents I can read which offer minor clues of whats to come. I’m really in here looking for some jeweled spectacles which are a mission requirement in expert but I don’t find them.

I find a further set of clues in the lower library downstairs. These are a bit more significant. One tells me that I’m going to have to work my way through every tower to get the key to the next one. Another gives me an idea of where I can get out after the mission.

I head down to the bottom of the main tower next and find the dungeons. These have secret doors in a couple of the walls, but they stand out quite clearly.

At the end of the dungeons, I find the sewers and Garret points out that this would be a good place to leave after the mission.

There is nothing else down here so I make my way to the first tower instead – the water tower.

This tower is pretty much what you might expect and after a bit of a swim I get to an island with the next tower key.

The next tower is Earth. This one is a lot larger and includes a bit of platform hopping.

I get the key easily enough once again.

On my way back I pass through the central tower and nearby find the guard captain’s quarters complete with a medallion he has been keeping hold of. This is one of my mission requirements.

Next its on to the air tower.

This one is even more platform game like with moving platforms that I have to float around on. I’m not that keen on this sort of thing in an FPS but at least there isn’t too much of it and I suppose it makes sense in the air tower.

The chest with the key is suspended out of reach and I have to swing what look like telescopes to bring it down for a few seconds, quickly pick the lock and grab the key.

I pass through the central tower again on my way out and decide to have another look for the spectacles. I’ve completed all the other mission objectives by this point (other than the main one) and have had no problems whatsoever securing the 1800 loot for this mission. The spectacles are hidden behind a secret panel which is opened by pulling a particular book in the library. I find it easily enough this time but I get lucky to highlight the book when I’m looking around.

There is a bit of warning about the trials of fire before I enter the tower.

Sure enough it looks dangerous when I get there. The lava isn’t too convincing though I must say. The stuff in Underworld looked better than this. The whole lava slides around in a giant texture and it looks more like a disco light effect.

In addition to having to worry about not falling into lava there are metal panels in here which heat up and glow. They alternate between hot and cold, in another platform game style gameplay mechanic. I can cool them down with a water arrow but there isn’t any need most of the time. It hurts walking on them when hot though so I have to wait or jump over them.

There isn’t too much opportunity for stealth around here and I simply run through some of the rooms which works well enough.

I get to the final chest and I have to slowly pick the lock while avoiding the glowing panels. This nets me yet another key.

I have to go to the central tower again and right at the top I can use this key. In this room are a couple of mages and a load of fake runes. The real one turns out to be at the west end of the room. I just run in and out of here once I discover this and then head back to the dungeon to exit the level.

The next level will be The Lost City. This is the ruins of an ancient city which I can only get into with the key I found in a previous mission. It looks like another zombie level I’m sorry to say but at least this time it doesn’t have any particular loot requirements.

I’m really enjoying this game now I’ve gone to expert. It hasn’t made it particularly difficult, I wouldn’t say it’s any harder than before. It just means that I have to explore each level and can’t just hack my way through. Both of these are good things. The only downside is the amount of time it is taking me to play each level. I like to play each level in one go, especially when I’m going to blog about it so it means I need 2-3 hours free every time I want to play the game. This is probably going to limit me to 2 or 3 levels a week but I can live with that.

Thief : The Dark Project – Day 5

I’m not getting as much chance as I would like to play this game but I managed to get a couple of hours in yesterday. I’m taking JCC’s advice and swapping to expert mode for this level which I would have done earlier if I’d realised I could change difficulty on the fly.

Swapping difficulty means replaying the last bit of the previous level and this time the cutscene works.

The cutscene has Viktoria taking me to see Constantine (the guy I just robbed) who set up the previous mission as a test of my skills. He wants me to steal a jewel called the eye and is prepared to pay 100,000 for it. He claims to just want the eye for his collection but I expect he will have ulterior motives. For that sort of money I don’t ask questions. The eye is in an abandoned Hammerite cathedral and I have to figure out how to get in.

Changing the difficulty level to expert means I get a new set of objectives, including having to steal 2000 loot, placing coins on the grave of the watchman for luck and stealing a golden torc. I’m impressed with the way this changes the gameplay above and beyond just making the enemies tougher which is what I might have expected. It’s actually a genuine incentive to go back and replay the game. Of course if its too hard it will just put me off.

At the start of the mission is a note about the power grids around here. I’ll be wanting to turn most of the lights on to see where I’m going – this has the downside of making me easier to spot.

This is a city level and these early 3D engines always struggled to create a believable city. The graphics really are square and blocky and while they aren’t awful it takes me a while after each break from the game to get used to them again. I have a lot more problem with early 3D graphics than 2D stuff from 10/15 years earlier. On the plus side the place is big enough to feel like a city and there is plenty to explore.

I’ve no idea where I’m going and swim through a series of underwater tunnels to reach a little island in a darkened area. There is a very strange creature in here with giant pincers for hands. I decide to stay out of its way and just haul myself up onto the bank, grab a key that seems to be the purpose of this area and swim off.

A bit more exploring and I find another underground area complete with lizards. There is a bit of treasure around here + another key so I grab everything I can. I’m still using my sword as it seems like the best approach to dealing with the lizards. They don’t appear to be harder to kill than before, despite playing on expert.

A lot of exploring later and I find my way out of the sewers and turn some more lights on in the process. I discover a drawbridge which unfortunately for me is raised. I spot a likely couple of buttons and on the off chance that it will work shoot an arrow into one and sure enough the drawbridge lowers down.

This gets me into a very dark, zombie filled area. A key I’ve picked up along the way opens up a cell door with the power controls for the area inside. Despite the zombies, I need to see where I’m going so I turn the lights on.

Nearby, I work my way up a building, jump across to a ledge and discover a giant tombstone. This has to be where I’m supposed to leave some coins. There are a couple of spiders guarding it. I shoot a rope arrow into one of the beams, jump down, drop the coins and climb up again before they can reach me.

I continue exploring the area beyond the drawbridge. There is plenty to see including a new enemy who appears to be on fire. I run through the room and climb out before he can attack.

Outside, a zombie is picking a fight with 3 lizards and actually winning. I leave them to it for now. I always like to see this behaviour in games. Considering it was there right back in Doom it’s surprising how many games since didn’t bother to implement it.

A bit more exploring and it feels like I’m getting near the cathedral. There are a couple of ghostly figures guarding the door here. One is out of reach on a ledge. I attempt to blackjack the other. This doesn’t seem to kill him but I hack him for a bit and he vanishes in a puff of smoke.

The cathedral is just up the way and looking suitably impressive. Unfortunately the door is locked.

I walk around the side and spot a likely looking window to climb through.

The window turns out to be a bit on the small side but I can see the eye and it gives me instructions on how to get in. I should know better than to take instructions from a floating jewel but it must worth it for 100,000. First I have to find the keepers grotto.

I’ve seen the area already not far back. There is a small island in the middle of a moat. It takes me a while to figure out how to jump onto this. I can’t make the jump but I can hit the wall and haul myself up which I find out after a few attempts. I have to shoot a fire arrow from here at the statue which lights a couple of torches and opens up a door.

This gets me into a small area with two broken statues. Piling broken bits on one pedestal and standing on the other opens another door and allows me to enter a trap filled area which shoots arrows at me and the like. The arrows always seem to miss so I don’t worry about them. I’ve walked through the room by the time I realise the traps are there. I also have to pick a door (which takes ages) while a sliding wall threatens to crush me from behind. I’ve actually got time to spare but don’t realise this until I’m through.

I enter a comfortable looking library and I find a couple of letters. One mentions a figure called the Trickster who sounds familiar so I expect he will crop up later. I’m fully expecting to be double crossed by Constantine so it might even be him. The last time I ran into a Constantine in a game was Realms Of The Haunting and you didn’t want to trust that guy.

Across from here is another room which one of my keys unlocks. There is a table with a map and also instructions on entering the cathedral by using various talismans. This actually completes the main part of the mission. I assumed I would have to enter the cathedral and steal the eye but it appears this will be spread among several missions.

This being expert mode, I’ve still got objectives, one of which is finding the golden torc. It’s well hidden, I have to raise the drawbridge from earlier and climb over the wall it rises into to then jump across and enter a new area. This leads to a likely looking house.

There are two ghostly warriors in here and I can’t see a good way to sneak past them so I resort to a landmine which takes both out in one go. The torc is just up on the next floor.

At this point I still don’t have enough loot so I end up walking around and around the city attempting to find what I’ve missed. This isn’t a lot of fun and it really does take some time before I’m up to 2000 and complete the mission.

I’m going to have to go after the amulets one by one to open the cathedral. My next mission will be to attempt to retrieve one from an order of mages – this doesn’t sound easy. Since I’m on expert I’m not allowed to make a single kill either which should be interesting.

So I’ve had a go at one level on expert now. I have to say that it did improve the game immensely although it also took me ages. I was forced to fully explore the level which is good and I liked the extra goals to achieve. However, having to get the 2000 loot was a real pain. I’m hoping on a house type level, it won’t be quite so difficult to find my way around and this will be less of an issue. The level designers seemed to delight in putting minuscule treasures in obscure corners in this last map.

I don’t feel like I’ve had the true expert experience yet as this level didn’t require much stealth. I’ll stick with it and see how it goes on the next level. Something that does strike me is how large this game is. Each level is huge. Unless I can find more time to play, it could be another month before I finish it, and the latest Monkey Island game just came out….

Thief : The Dark Project – Day 4

I should start out this post with a couple of corrections to yesterday’s post. The woman who hired me for this mission was called Viktoria and I’m going after a sword rather than a dagger owned by an eccentric noble called Constantine. The house is reputed to be something of a maze…

As ever the front entrance is guarded but there is a jauntily angled window at the side which I fire a rope arrow into.

This gets me in It’s more of a fun-house than a maze with strangely shaped rooms and corridors. There are a lot of rooms and a lot of guard. I start out with stealthy intentions, creeping into rooms and waiting for guards to go past.

As I explore, the rooms continue to get odder and odder, some are upside down, some sideways….

There is even a hedge tunnel I have to climb up to get to the top floor. All the time I’m on this top floor I can hear maniacal laughter in the background although I never find the owner of the laugh.

I do locate his sword. When Viktoria said it was on display, she wasn’t kidding.

A bit more hedge climbing and I climb out above the sword and jump out to grab it. I have to say that my attempts at stealth failed me completely on this level and I ended up hacking my way through all the guards. I gather that on expert level, I’d have to complete this entire mission without a single kill which would have been a real challenge. While I do like to crack on with the games in this blog as quick as possible so I can get through them quickly, I do feel that I’m missing out somewhat here and I’m going to purposely attempt to be more stealthy from here on out. Whether my willpower is up to this is questionable though as my natural tendency in these games is to kill everything that moves.

I can use the new sword as a weapon and it even seems a little more effective than the old one. I need to grab a set amount of loot to complete the mission and I’m a little short but some exploring on my way out gets me the gold in no time. Rather than mess about, I run as quick as I can straight out of the front door through the guards to escape and complete the mission. The way I played it this was a quick and straightforward mission and only took me about 30 minutes. The wacky level design was interesting but I don’t reckon that the engine was really up to doing it justice.

I’m sure there was supposed to be a cutscene at this point but if there was it glitched and I didn’t get to see it. I’ll head for youtube and see if I can find it on there before I go any further.