Saturday, October 12, 2013

Thief - The Dark Mod

A game came out back in 1999 that defined a genre of gaming for low-fantasy D&D nerds like me.  No, it wasn't Baldur's Gate, Half-Life, or System Shock II.  Although those were all excellent PC games released around that time, only one game was capable of keeping a young nerd locked away in his tiny room immersed in its dark fantasy world, rather than joining his rugby girl roommates who were perpetually partying throughout the rest of the crappy house they were renting.

That game was: Thief - The Dark Project.

Thief was an FPS, but where "FPS" stood for "First-Person Sneaker," and the first of its kind.  It had the perfect gothy/nihilistic anti-hero, Garrett.  He just wanted to get by in his Steampunky city by robbing from the rich and giving to himself, but the various religious factions fighting for control of the city just wouldn't let him stay out of it.  He wasn't a very good fighter, so getting into fights was dangerous (but unlike "stealth missions" in many modern games, getting caught didn't automatically fail the mission, you just had to fight your way out).  Since it and its excellent sequel (Thief II: The Metal Age) came out I've re-installed those games every few years and played through them, loving every minute of it.  And even though the publisher, Looking Glass Studios went out of business, people made 'fan-missions' for the Thief games, some of which rivaled the original storyline campaign in complexity and sheer awesomeness.  Unfortunately over the years those '90s graphics have really become dated.

Then Doom 3 came out in 2004, and some industrious modders decided to do the Lord's work and configure the Doom 3 engine into a new Thief game.  I followed their progress about every day until The Dark Mod v 1.0 finally came out back in 2006/2007.  Sadly, it was difficult to successfully install the mod into the Doom folders and was so buggy on my setup that I couldn't play it for long before it would crash to desktop.  Over and over I tried without getting very far. So I never got to play much of it and considered it a lost cause.
About the same time a new official Thief game was released, Thief: Deadly Shadows.  As you can just tell from the title, the Thief intellectual property had been sold off and it was already suffering from "AAA game"-ness, where the new publishing company's attempts to broaden their audience diluted what Thief was about.  The game wasn't totally terrible, it was okay, but all it really did is make me yearn to replay the original thief (and not only because they made it a third-person view, taking away all the ambiance of the original games).

Then this last week The Dark Modders showed that they are true believers, and they've released "The Dark Mod 2.0." They've extracted the source code from Doom 3 and made the whole game a self-installing download that does not require the Doom 3 at all, removing all the buggyness and making the game run incredibly smoothly on modern machines.  It also allows you to download fan missions right from the Main Menu, removing any need for file folder manipulation once the game is installed.
Screenshot updated.

I downloaded it last night (it takes quite a while, so you should get started right away), and I've only played through the first mission so far.  But I can tell you, this is how Thief should be.  I know that there is a Thief 4 coming out next year, but from the trailers and publisher descriptions it sounds like its going to be closer to Bionic Commando rather than the Thief we know and love.  Not that I won't play that one, but The Dark Mod is like playing Thief II but with vastly better graphics.  This is the Thief we need, better than the one we deserve.  (Especially since its totally free.)   Do yourself a favor and download it now.  You won't regret it.