T2 Metal Age

Thief 2: The Metal Age, the sequel to the beloved original, has been sitting on my Steam account waiting for me to replay it for a few months now. As with the original Thief, I had played it when it was new and I was younger, now we’re both old and I’m more cynical, does it still hold up as well? Let’s find out below.

Thief 2 takes place further along the time line of Garret, this is indicated by the fall of the Hammers religious builder cult and it’s reinvention as the Mechanists. If Thief was more supernaturally Gothic, this is perhaps more steam punk related. As technology and magic have developed, so too has the sort of machinery used to protect the homes of Garrets would be victims.

With the rise of the Mechanists comes walking automatons, coal and steam powered monstrosities like the one featured above. Human guards still feature in the levels and while the zombies are still present in small doses, they play a much less relevant role in the plot this time. The original lizard beasts and crazy insectoids are reduced to a mere nod on the trophy wall of some rooms. There are still one or two surprise creatures to spook you on occasion though!

All the features that made the original game so compelling are thankfully still intact here, the impressive audio atmosphere and feedback are still the real power of the game. Visually it hasn’t advanced much beyond the original but the game play is still deep and engaging, moving from shadow to shadow, picking your way across the rooftops and tip toeing across loud marble floors as you wince at every echoing footfall. Garret really should invest in some softer footwear for his profession.

The story in the sequel is another clever mix of occult, steam punk and medieval gothic, while the level design is far less haphazard and makes it slightly more intuitive to traverse. You no longer get twisting inverted rooms, but you do get to spend more time exploring the city from which Garret plies his trade. Several of the missions involved rooftop and sewer travel as you avoid the guards and make your way to your objective, adding to the feel of a world rather than a level.

The new enemies continue with the disturbing theme, reanimated corpse servants, ghosts of dead people and giant bomb throwing behemoths. The audio effects for each of these are really something and send a chill down my spine to hear them muttering their inhuman thoughts. The main enemy Karras, a character with a bizarrely unique voice, reminds me of a character from a Loony Tunes cartoon or a Sesame Street episode. It would almost be comical, if it didn’t freak you out in its psychotic, genocidal context.

There are some additions to the tools Garret uses to perform his shenanigans, although personally I don’t feel any of them really add much to the game play. You can now drink potions to slow fall or become invisible for a few seconds, both of which I despise as they make a mockery of playing properly. You also get flash mines….which I never found a use for that flash bombs couldn’t already manage just fine. The addition of a vine arrow is ok I suppose, works a lot like the super reusable rope arrow, only it also sticks to metal grating. The original tools are still the best though.

There are still some small niggles which have carried over from the first game, standing in a shadow doesn’t always make you less visible, giving a disconnect between the visual environment and the light gem, which seem to disagree with each other on occasion. Often it is a challenge in itself to vault through a window without accidentally jumping on the spot and loudly landing on the floor. They are minor issues, but as this is a sequel, I feel they are less forgiving this time around.

A lot of people feel Thief 2 is the best in the series, honestly I think the differences between Thief and Thief 2 are very small. While they certainly help refine the game, I’m not sure they are significant enough to differentiate it as clearly better. Thief 2 is as Thief was, a great stealth game that gives you hours of tense sneaking and fumbling, while you desperately try to remain undetected.

For some, more of the same but for me, more of what I loved, Thief 2: The Metal Age is a fun game, but just as with the first installment, you have to be patient and thoughtful to progress. You have to see past the rather clunky visuals and you have to turn the volume up to 11 on your speakers.

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