Thief II: The Metal Age
|Thief II: The Metal Age|
|Developer(s)||Looking Glass Studios|
|Publisher(s)||Eidos Interactive, Sold-Out Software|
Thief II: The Metal Age is a stealth game developed by Looking Glass Studios and published by Eidos Interactive for Microsoft Windows. It is the sequel to 1998's Thief: The Dark Project. Set in and around a steampunk fantasy metropolis called the City, the game's plot follows Garrett, a master thief, as he works to uncover a conspiracy. The player assumes the role of Garrett and undertakes missions that range from theft to kidnapping and sabotage.
While designing Thief II, the developers sought to build on its predecessor's foundation. They emphasized the urban stealth elements that were used occasionally in the original game, and minimized sections that included supernatural opponents. As with its predecessor and System Shock 2, the game was built with the Dark Engine, which was modified to provide better graphics.
Thief II received positive reviews from critics, and its commercial reception was strong. However, Looking Glass faced extreme debt problems and revenue from Thief II was processed slowly, which led to the company's closure in 2000. ION Storm and Eidos released a follow-up to Thief II, entitled Thief: Deadly Shadows, in 2004.
Gameplay itself remains mostly unchanged, but based on feedback from the previous installment combat and action elements were de-emphasized in order to focus more on stealth gameplay.
In order to assist the focus on stealth, the game uses large levels, which are strategically populated by enemies, items and objectives, and can take upwards of two hours to complete. Several technological additions were also made in-game, including cameras and mechanical sentries introduced by the Mechanists faction. The game is split into non-linear missions that follow the game's story. Missions include escorting a character, breaking and entering and casing buildings.
The plot continues some time after the events of the first game. The "Metal Age" has come, and the city has changed with new technology, like cameras and steam powered robots, brought forth by the Mechanists, the current most powerful religion in the city. The sheriff Gorman Truart rules over the city attempting to clean up the streets, including the cynical protagonist, Garrett, who wants nothing to do with saving the world. Like the original Thief, the story takes place in three "Acts"—each one "punctuated by a cutscene that will further progress the storyline", according to Thief II level designer Emil Pagliarulo. The first Act sees Garrett as a "master thief, performing classic thieving runs", while, in the second, he becomes more of a "private investigator" character. In the third Act, Garrett is cast as a "James Bond-type agent, working from a 'base' and setting out to accomplish specific missions".
In the beginning, Garrett works on separate missions, including helping his associate Basso (rescued during the second mission in Thief: The Dark Project) clear a way into a mansion, collecting quick cash at the warehouse by the Dock, framing Sheriff Gorman Truart's subordinate Lt. Hagen, as well as escaping an ambush by the City Watch. He is approached by the Keepers, including Keeper Artemus, to go to the Keeper Library to listen to a prophecy, which warns of the approaching of the Metal Age. Not feeling involved in this, Garrett leaves, but not before Artemus gives him a letter which informs Garrett that he can obtain information on the one who was hired to kill him by eavesdropping at a meeting held at a Mechanist church.
In the meeting, Garrett hears the sheriff talking to the Mechanist leader, Father Karras. Karras has transformed a person into a mechanical 'Servant', developed as a kind of weapon, and demonstrates the process by killing a woman. The sheriff promises to supply twenty subjects for the experiment, and his words are captured by Karras' recording device, which is then kept at the vault at First City Bank and Trust. To exert pressure on the sheriff to find out who is hired to kill him, Garrett steals the device and infiltrate the sheriff's estate, only to find that Gorman Truart has been assassinated. A keyring at the crime scene bears the emblem of Lt. Mosley of the City Watch. Garrett starts to follow Mosley and trails her one night as she is delivering a letter, which is picked up by a Pagan. The Pagan is attacked by Mechanists and disappears into a cemetery, which hides a portal linked to the Maw of Chaos. Following the trail of blood, Garrett meets the Pagan wood nymph Viktoria, who persuades Garrett to join her in the course of opposing the Mechanists.
With information provided by Viktoria, Garrett infiltrates the new Mechanist tower Angelwatch, the Mechanists' staging area on Markham's Isle, the Lost City, and a noble mask collector's mansion. From this, they figure out Karras' scheme: he has made 30 Servants, each equipped with a mask containing a device called the Cultivator, and the Servants have been sent to the nobles, who have extensive gardens. Followed by a signal released by a guilding beacon at the Mechanist cathedral, Soulforge, the Cultivators will release a Rust Gas, which multiplies by feeding on organic matter. The gas will then consume all life in the City and make Karras' dream of a machinery world come true. Viktoria suggests that Garrett can get into Soulforge, activate the guilding beacon to draw the Servants to the cathedral, and release the Rust Gas inside to make the plan backfire on Karras. Garrett, however, thinks that her plan is suicide and leaves. Later, Artemus informs Garrett that Viktoria has begun an assault on Soulforge. When Garrett arrives, she is being attacked by the Mechanists' mechanical beasts. Realizing that there are not enough plants to sustain the chain reaction of the Rust Gas, Viktoria sacrifices herself and fills the cathedral with vines, while Garrett carries out her plan to sabotage Karras' scheme.
As the Rust Gas is released and kills Karras, Garrett is contacted by Artemus, who tells him Viktoria's and Karras' deaths are 'all...as it was written'. When asked whether there is more, Artemus replies that there is, and Garrett demands that he 'tell me'.
- Garrett: The master thief continues his life of crime, which has become somewhat difficult given the advent of new technology provided by the Mechanists, a spin-off sect of Hammerites that have become a major influence in the city. Soon enough, Garrett again finds himself in a middle of a plot that threatens the very balance of civilization; a balance the secret Keeper Order is trying to preserve.
- Sheriff Gorman Truart: A corrupt medieval lawman who becomes the leader of the City Watch. Truart oppresses the people, collects bribes, implements outrageous taxes, brutally suppresses the criminal element, and seems to have a particular personal grudge against Garrett. Truart regards the law not as an end in itself, but rather as a means for those with power (specifically, himself) to control those without. Despite his corruption and questionable morality, he did dramatically modernize the Watch, improve its efficiency, and introduce a standardized blue uniform by the time of Thief II, although not all of the Watchmen are fully up to date with the new system (some can occasionally be heard forgetting the numerical code they need to report a crime in progress). Due to Truart's modernization efforts and his close links with the Mechanists, the Watch headquarters at Shoalsgate Station are bristling with new technology during the second game.
- Father Karras:The main antagonist of Thief II: The Metal Age, Karras is a brilliant inventor, sociopath, genius, and prophet who split from the Hammerite organization to found his own faction, the Mechanists, and later becomes the game's primary antagonist. He and his organization play a major role in Thief II's story. While still a Hammerite, Karras invented the mechanical eye and gave it to Garrett as a gift. Karras suffers from an extreme speech impediment, yet somehow is highly charismatic and able to command the loyalties of numerous followers, despite the fact he secretly despises most organic life. He charms the nobility into taking his "Servants" (vagabonds, beggars, lepers and prostitutes converted into placid slaves via ancient, bizarre enslavement masks salvaged from the destroyed city of Karath-Din) who are equipped with a gas canister. This gas feeds on organic matter, using it to fuel a chain reaction. He plans to wipe the City clean of life to create a mechanical "Paradise." Father Karras' name is possibly a pop-culture reference, identical to a character in the 1973 film The Exorcist.
- Lieutenant Mosley: A member of the City Watch under Sheriff Truart, and one of his two lieutenants. Unlike Truart, Mosley is a solid, honest officer, and her conscience eventually causes her to question Truart's brutal methods despite her admiration of the way he has cut down crime. Mosley eventually forms an alliance with the Pagans to bring down Truart, framing Truart's other sycophantic Lieutenant and eventually providing keys to his mansion to his Pagan assassin.
- Viktoria: A former enemy of Garrett and right-hand of the now-deceased Pagan god Trickster himself, Viktoria, the mysterious dryad from the chaotic world of nature, is a last major leader of Pagan religion that exists in and around the City. She is forced to create an unholy alliance with Garrett in order to stop Karras and his plot of life extermination.
- Keeper Artemus: Artemus is the Keeper who Garrett attempted to steal from in the beginning of the first game, and was the one who introduced him to the Keepers. He accompanies two Keepers who summon Garrett to the Keeper Libraries after Garrett arrives at his safe house. Artemus helps Garrett by giving him information on who wanted him dead. He finally tracks down Garrett on personal emotion to inform him that Viktoria is assaulting the cathedral, towards the end.
|This section requires expansion. (November 2010)|
Thief II began development in January 1999. During the early stages of production, the team set up regular "movie nights" for inspiration. The films they watched included The Third Man, Metropolis, M and The Phantom of the Opera.
The game utilizes the upgraded version of the game engine, the Dark Engine, used in System Shock 2. It supports 16-bit color, more polygons in character models, larger textures, color light and weather effects. Other changes include an increase in the number of AI behaviors, some guards raise an alarm rather than try to fight, and their awareness levels will increase if they see something out of place. Items have been upgraded or introduced, such as a remote camera and flares. Supernatural enemies such as zombies were mostly removed.
Cooperative gameplay for up to four players was originally announced but this did not appear in the final game. One planned gameplay mode, dubbed "Theftmatch", saw players on opposing teams racing to steal the most in an NPC guarded building.
Thief II: The Metal Age received positive reviews from critics. It has an aggregate score of 89.14% on GameRankings and 87/100 on Metacritic. Many noted its similarities to the original Thief. The game's graphics were commonly cited as a weak point.
The New York Times praised the game's artificial intelligence, which he believed was a "remarkable impersonation of real intelligence". GameFan wrote, "If you liked Thief, you'll love Thief 2: The Metal Age; it's more of the stuff that made Thief great, with less of the annoying stuff". Several reviewers praised the removal of the perceived supernatural themed combat-oriented levels of the original game.
Despite Thief II's fast sales, Looking Glass did not receive the money from royalties quickly enough. As a result, the company was closed, with Thief II their last release. A follow-up, Thief II Gold, was in development, but it was canceled, alongside several other projects, as a result of the company's closure. A sequel, Thief: Deadly Shadows, was eventually released, but by another company.
After Looking Glass Studios went out of business, a group of fan developers under the banner of The Dark Engineering Guild created an extension to the Thief universe.
In 2005, the result was an unofficial Thief II expansion pack titled Thief 2X: Shadows of the Metal Age. The game presents a new protagonist, a young woman named Zaya. She has journeyed to the City to meet her cousin Kedar and start a new life. Things take an unexpected turn though and she soon gets drawn into a murky world of crime and deceit as events spiral beyond her control. The story takes place approximately the same time as the Thief II timeline. The game has features similar to those in retail Looking Glass games: complex level design, a lengthy campaign, pre-rendered introduction and ending sequences, original music, new voice acting, original artwork, and animated mission briefings.
Thief2X received significant gaming press coverage prior to and after release. PC Gamer stated it was "one of the most impressive achievements of any fan community for any game." In a discussion of game modding in general, Computer Games Magazine called it "arguably the biggest and best mod of the past year."
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