Thief II: The Metal Age

Posted by Catalin Muresan.
First posted on 10 February 2009. Last updated on 25 April 2012.
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Thief II: The Metal Age
After all, the bank is where the money is!
Thief II: The Metal Age
A light source is a constant danger for a thief.
Thief II: The Metal Age
Do not forget to take the loot!
Thief II: The Metal Age
The dock is a good place to scout at night.
Thief II: The Metal Age
The Mechanist seminary has once been a Hammerite cathedral.

Thief II: The Metal Age is, unsurprisingly, the sequel to Thief: The Dark Project. You again take on the role of Garret, a skilled rogue thief from the previous game, as he pursues another dangerous quest that promises him priceless fortune. Along the way, he will go on missions that escalate from the ordinary to the bizarre, discover a dark conspiracy involving a new order called the Mechanists, and meet up with some old friends from his secret past.

Unlike Thief: The Dark Project, the levels in Thief II: The Metal Age are larger and more nonlinear. Interestingly, the designers have once stated that they have designed the levels first for this sequel and then come up with the plot of the game to fit their design. The rest of the game, however, plays the same as the original 1998 hit: sneaking around guards (but no undead), staying in the shadows, and hiding from light sources. You must also avoid making any noise, as it can attract unwanted attention.

Yet, what is a master thief without his trusty gear? Garret has at his disposal a wide variety of gadgets: different types of arrows (such as fire, water, gas, rope) plus the new vine arrows (which work like rope arrows but can be shot also at metal surfaces), flashbangs, potions (such as health, invisibility), lockpicks, a handy blackjack, a trusty sword (not recommended for use unless if you are desperate), and even a remote camera (in the form of a scouting orb). Moreover, players who have played Thief: The Dark Project may remember that Garret has lost an eye during a confrontation. He has now managed to replace his own eye with a mechanical eye that allows him to zoom in and out of objects or areas from far away. Garret frequently makes use of his new eye to scout out his targets undetected.

The plot of Thief II: The Metal Age is pretty interesting and nicely complements the various missions that make up the gameplay. There are 15 missions in total. They flow smoothly and all are very challenging. This means that the game will take many hours to complete, unlike other similar games that often can be completed in a single sitting by hardcore gamers.

The missions are quite varied and are designed so that they more resemble thieving than tomb raiding as in the previous game. There are no monsters, other than the occasional Spiders, Iron Beasts, and Hammer Haunts. The monsters have been replaced by the Servants, mechanical humanoids controlled by the Mechanists.

Looting has a very important purpose in this game. Not only do some missions require you to steal a certain amount of loot, you must also steal to survive: the more loot you take, the more money you will have to buy equipment for your next mission.

Noise plays an important role in how you conduct your missions. Walking on metal may prove to be too noisy, but walking on carpet will make you as silent as a cat. Stabbing someone in the back with a sword will make unwanted noise, but knocking a guard with the blackjack will be both nonlethal (on the expert difficulty level, killing is forbidden) and silent. Gas arrows will silently knock all the guards in a small room, while fire arrows will cause a copious amount of damage to the enemy but at the expense of making a very loud explosion.

Despite the array of weaponry and thieving skills which Garrett can master, the missions in this game are very challenging. Even though the game is not impossible or unfair, it is not recommended to gamers who are not familiar (even a little bit) with stealth play. There are also very few traditional puzzles. Most of the game consists of hiding in the shadows and reloading your quick saves whenever you get spotted (direct confrontation is almost always fatal). In short, the gameplay involves quite a bit of trial and error and can get tedious after a while.

An interesting marketing choice made by the developer is that the game is recommended only for a mature audience. While this may seem strange at first because the game does not encourage bloodshed, the game nonetheless portrays a number of dark themes. For example, when wounded or killed, guards will leave blood stains on the ground. The game takes place in dark and gritty environments, and some of them are quite terrifying. Several cut scenes are very violent. The whole act of thievery or optional assassination of guards is depicted in a very realistic fashion, thanks to highly polished sounds and graphics powered by the Dark engine. This is definitely not a game aimed at a younger audience.

Thief II: The Metal Age is truly a joy to play. It features clever gameplay, nonlinear levels, great sound effects, and long missions. It is also a hard game to master, however, relying a little too much on trial and error. Furthermore, it is not a game suited for young gamers. Still, if you like games with a dark theme and enjoy the challenge of stealth play, you will love this game. It is a must play for fans of this genre, adventure or otherwise.

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