Monday, August 04, 2008

Upcoming SAN Check

I've mentioned earlier that I enjoy the Edios Thief computer games. Most of the game's adventures are carefully made and enjoyable Visual Puzzles (a concept which, as an educator, I should write about at length). The plots are more complex and interesting stories than those in most computer games.

I also mentioned that I will probably be switching to Linux soon. Thief 1 and Thief 2 work great on Linux and have great replay value even aside from more than 700 fan missions. Thief 3 does not like Linux and has no replay value. So I've been playing Thief 3 for the past month, to be done with it before switching computers.

This third edition of the game is my least favorite. The adventures are more linear: so far none are worthy Visual Puzzles. The plot is haphazard: its story lacks cohesion or sense and becomes increasingly unsatisfying.

Fans of Thief 3 almost all agree that one particular adventure, The Shalebridge Cradle, is a tremendous achievement that alone is worth the game's price of admission. This adventure has been called by some "the best computer game level ever". It certainly returns to what makes the series enjoyable for me: a story well told through exploration, observation, planning, and problem solving.

It is also a horror story, almost unanimously called "the most frightening level ever". You can read why in an interview with the level's designer, Jordan Thomas. You can also read Shamus 's reaction to the level here.

Now I am torn. I don't like being scared. I don't find scary stories fun, especially in the multi-sensory experiences of movies and video games. But I do want to play the adventure that most excels at what I love in these games.

So I will soon enter the Cradle.

The adventure's fear is caused by Mr. Thomas's plan for the adventure, augmented by the ambiance created by Eric and Terri Brosius. Eric is responsible for the sounds of the Thief universe. Terri did some ever-present design work. You can read some about the Brosiuses here and here.

The enemies you face are not the most frightening part of the adventure. There are none until you pass into the second map loading-zone. Then the main foes are "puppets", of which there are only nine in the entire place. Your character carries more than enough equipment to deal with nine opponents. Nor are the "puppets" overly powerful; YouTube has a video of someone teasing a group of them with oil slicks. This is truly a horror story about the world being broken in creepy ways, not a things jump out at you story mislabeled as horror.

If you do not mind spoilers, you can download Part 16 of the speed run here, or read a walkthrough here or here.

UPDATE: I gave up on Thief 3 halfway through the level. The building is ugly. The adventure is a series of short "fetch this and bring it somewhere" quests that made no sense. There was not enough story for me to want to put up with ugly, creepy, and nonsensical. As a contrast, the Thief 1 fan mission Lord Edmund Entertains was pretty, sensible, and did creepy in a much more entertaining way.

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