Day 23 - The Dark Mod 

If I had to describe myself as a gamer, "fan of the first two parts of Thief" would pretty much summarize it. Sure, I play and like other games (the Gothic series comes to mind), but Thief will always have a special place in my heart, and be one of my greatest inspirations. I remember the moment when I played it for the first time, on my new Pentium. I couldn't believe a game could be that awesome. The immersive sound design, the enthralling story, the believable NPCs and enemies, the great level and mission design, and yes, I even love the graphics.

When I played Thief – Deadly Shadows, the third part of the series, it felt like the magic was gone and couldn't never be brought back. Well, to some extent I was wrong! Not only awesome fan missions for Thief 1 and 2 exist; for quite some time now there is also a mod for (the still good looking) Doom 3, called The Dark Mod. And this might be the best thing since sliced bread. It removes all the stupid stuff normally found in shooters (like guns) and implements everything from the Thief series: a bow with broad arrows, water arrows (for turning lights off), rope arrows and fire arrows, flash bombs, lock picking, leaning, hiding in shadows, and so on.

And then the map makers came. The Dark Mod gives people the tools – the people give you great Thief-inspired missions. And you can download new maps comfortably via the interface, no need to get them via a forum or so. This way it feels like a complete game, especially because some of the missions are really top-notch, even when they don't try to copy the feeling of Thief completely. For example, I played a horror-themed mission where you have to kill one man and are constantly on the verge of getting discovered by unkillable ghosts in a haunted mansion. Although you can/must steal valuables, too, being an assassin doesn't sound like Thief – yet the atmosphere is right, and it was extremely intense. So just don't consider The Dark Mod canonical and you're golden.

One of my favorite ways to play Thief is trying to ghost through the whole game. Which means the AI should never even know I was there – hiding in the shadows, leaving no traces, and not a hint of violence. This doesn't work always (especially with those nasty spiders), but Thief still embraces it, instead of forcing you to use your sword or arrows. All missions offered by The Dark Mod that I played so far are the same, and for that I am thankful. It also shows me that this kind of gameplay is actually loved by other people, too. Nowadays in games "stealth" means "grabbing your enemy from behind, snapping their neck, hiding the corpse" too often. I'm all in for looting, but killing should be optional only.

The only gripe I might have with The Dark Mod are the stiff character animations, but I guess not everyone can afford a motion capturing system. :-P By the way, there is a a mod for Unreal Tournament 2004 (called Thievery), also transferring the rich and deep gameplay of Thief into the guts of a simple shooter. It's a bit older, from 2006, but you get multiplayer! Unfortunately I never had the chance to explore this further as I can't find anyone playing with me. Master thieves sure are lonely ...
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