Thief II: The Metal Age - PC - ReviewEditor's Note: This review was revised 4/6/00. In the original version, the Reviewer expressed problems with the save function. Although he did encounter such problems on his system, we have been advised by some concerned viewers that the save function does work properly, as indicated herein.
A yellow moon sits in a sky filled with stars. The crunch of gravel under your boots begs caution. You avoid the pool of light splashing down from the lantern high above. Darkness is a comfort - especially to one such as you.
Eidos Interactive’s teaser for Thief II: The Metal Age is “Don’t be afraid of the dark, be afraid of what it hides.” In this case, it hides you.
Thief II is a visually-stunning single person game that incorporates elements of the best role-playing games, with an incredible game board, tremendous sound and flawless movement throughout the realm.
You are Garrett, a master thief. Called upon for a variety of missions, you may be handicapped by conditions set forth by those who hire you, but you can always improvise. For example, your first mission is called Running Interference. A reformed thief, Basso, is in love with Jenivere, a servant in a mansion. They wish to be married. However, if they do so, Jenivere’s contract with her master is voided, something the latter will not allow to happen. Your job is to get Basso into the mansion, and rescue Jenivere. Conditions prevent you from killing anyone. Of course, they said nothing about stealing anything that strikes your fancy while you are accomplishing your primary mission.
Reliance upon others is a weakness for the strong, and strength for the weak.
The tools you will use are guided by the mission. In your first effort, you are given a compass (which, in conjunction with your map, is an invaluable ally, especially if you are stumbling around in the dark), and a bird call. The latter is to summon Basso once you’ve located Jenivere.
But, lest you think there is just a random series of missions (15 actually), with no cohesiveness to the program - think again. Though the setting is an ancient city, full of magic and some technology, it does have some of the foibles of the modern world. One is the election process which puts a sheriff of dubious honor into office. The second is corruption of his force. Gorman Truart is the sheriff who chases Garrett (you) with single-minded purpose - to bring a permanent end to his career. And forget the notion of “wanted: dead or alive.” Truart only wants a corpse. It is up to you to discover the true motives behind this dogged pursuit. And who really is Truart? Rumor has it that the poor and indigent are snatched by his forces from the streets, and never seen again.
Want more? Looking Glass Studios, the creators behind this title, have provided that. Different factions are out to promote their own agendas, using whatever tools - like a master thief - that they can.
Using a keyboard/mouse combination, controls of Garrett are wonderfully direct. The mouse allows for a free-look, meaning you can glance in any direction, both horizontally and vertically. Since the game is played while looking through Garrett’s eyes, this adds to the sense of realism. The game also supports joysticks and gamepads.
The main drawback of the game is the darkness of the program. Even though you can adjust the gamma settings in the options’ package, it doesn’t do much. It is, therefore, wiser to play the game in a darkened room. Too much screen glare can distract from the nuances of shadow texture inherent in the program.
Though there were some problems with the save function, especially early in a mission, other players have stated that they have not had that problem.
This two-CD pack also contains a level editing program so you can create you own challenges. To give you a sense of how tough this game is, there are only three difficulty levels: Normal, hard and expert. There is no easy course for the beginning player.
Thief II does not support multiplayer gaming, and is rated Mature for animated violence and animated blood.
This program is intriguing, delightful, spooky and thoroughly enjoyable. Though Garrett is, in fact, a thief, by playing the part, you will begin to think of him as very honorable, and perhaps one of the few good guys in the program.
Thief II allows you to embrace the darkness, and call the shadows your friends.
Install: Hard. A minimal install eats 472.4 megs of hard drive space, while the full install consumes 974.4 megs. It takes time to load.
Gameplay: 9. The huge game board makes use of the map and compass necessary. This game will take you from skulking in the shadows to the rooftops of the city. And the game moves seamlessly through each area.
Graphics: 9. Incredible. You will only get a sense of how good they are when you sneak up on someone also cloaked in the shadows. The animation has an eerie sense of realism.
Sound: 8. The crunch of gravel underfoot can be monotonous, and at times seemingly misplaced, but this still sports solid sound.
Difficulty: 9. Puzzles, enemies, dangerous terrain to traverse, intrigue and suspicion are part and parcel of this program, lending to an incredible gaming experience which requires reflex and brain power.
Concept: 8.5. A few points are taken off for the sequel, but Thief II recoups with the multiple levels of intrigue, and city that seems sports depth and a life all of its own.
Overall: 9.5. This is a great title. Solid artificial intelligence, great graphics and gameplay make this a hit.