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I'll just go ahead and say it: in my eyes, Thief 2X: Shadows of the Metal Age is a more worthy series installment than Thief: Deadly Shadows. In fact, at its best moments it even rivals its legitimate series progenitors. And this is coming from a hard sell on fan-made content of any kind.
Firstly, the developers get the tone right just so. If I were not already in the know, I never would have guessed this wasn't made by the original series creators. It's obviously a product of people who know exactly what makes the Thief formula work, which is more than I can say for Ion Storm or Eidos Montreal. That being said, there are a few chinks in the armor in the form of some rather amateurish-looking custom 3D model work, as well as poorly animated 3D cutscenes that give me those cringy '90s chills. But you know, it's kind of to be expected. What with budgetary constraints, gotta give the guys 'n' gals some leeway. And thankfully, more often than not they are worthy of my trust.
Based around a gritty revenge plot, the story's actually really well done as well. It sort of tapers off around the endgame scenarios with one doozy of a final level, but the build-up's right on the money, and the gameplay and levels themselves are definitely on par with the main games. If I've one true sticking point with the game, it's the lack of bonus objectives at higher difficulties. That's something that made me love the games even more back in the day, as they added even more depth and replayability to the proceedings.
As for additions, there are some new arrow types and tools. They are rarely, if ever, mandatory—and rightly so, since all you should really need to complete a Thief mission should be in your default inventory... and your brain and motor skill level, I guess. The new tools are of varying levels of usefulness; perhaps moreso to me seeing as how I'm one of those "stealthy pacifist" types. Some of the new toys are nifty, but mostly inessential.
Simply put, Thief 2X is the out-and-out Most Triumphant Example of a fan-sourced game out there. When someone's fixing to play the Thief series, I always make sure to point them in the direction of the real Thief 3. And that's pretty much as big a compliment as can be given.
To me the game's heart was in the right place, but it still fell flat in many areas. You mentioned lack of objectives in your review, I felt they padded out the gameplay by constantly making you backtrack to the very beginning of mission areas before you can complete them.
I've not played T 2 X in years, but I recall a few of the missions being kinda shaky in design. I loved the idea of the steam train, but the level felt a little on the clunky side, the outdoors especially seemed very cobbled together. A triumph for indie developers at the time I'm sure, but it bothered me immensely.
Also that absolutely stupid monster they threw in at the end ruined it for me, awful design and usage that in turn wrecks the Truart Manor mission from Thief 2.
A very nice effort, but so much stuff could have been changed or improved, the CGI cutscenes weren't much cop either, especially when it comes to fitting in with the series.
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