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A History of Stealth Action In PC Gaming - Part 4 - Thief: The Metal Age

by: John Hewitt ; edited by: Michael Hartman ; updated: 4/17/2012 • Leave a comment

Thief: The Metal Age was the sequel to Thief: The Dark Project and continues a look into stealth-based pc gaming. The new game featured some enhancements to the engine, increasing model detail, texture sharpness and lighting complexity.

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    Thief 2 Images

    Mechanical eyes work better, anyway
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    Refining the model

    Thief: The Dark Project was a commercial success whose development funded that of a sequel, Thief 2: The Metal Age, which was released in 2000. The new game featured some enhancements to the engine, increasing model detail, texture sharpness and lighting complexity. Taking what they had learned from the critical reception of the first game, Looking Glass focused on cultivating the stealth gameplay in the sequel rather than attempting to shoehorn action elements into a game where they didn't belong. The supernatural elements of the story were also toned down, as most of the levels involve Garrett sneaking around humanoid enemies - and the occasional mechanical construct - and lining his pockets.

    The first Thief was reasonably stable technically, but Thief 2 started to run into financial and time constraints late during development. Eidos, the publisher, was growing unhappy with the pace of development, and pushed the team to release the game earlier than it might have otherwise. Many of the issues were fixed in a later patch, but the initial release was problematic enough to bring down the review scores. The newly revamped engine allowed for much larger maps than before, some of which, like Life of the Party, feature open areas the likes of which have not really been recreated in any game since.

    Thief 2 advances the timeline of the world considerably despite only being a few years apart from the events of the first game. The Mechanists, an offshoot of the Hammerite religion introduced in the first game, have brought about a technological revolution in the world of Thief, introducing steam-powered robots and motion detectors for Garrett to evade.

    The game bore the fruits of a greater trust of the stealth game mechanic. In the original game, the enemies were mostly hyper-sensitive to sound, making it often frustratingly slow going to sneak through certain areas. The guards in Thief 2 had more alert levels, making it easier to tell when you were about to catch their attention, but not quite yet sending them into a search pattern. This made the game both easier and less frustrating without really diminishing the payoff of sneaking through the levels properly.

    The increased size of many of the levels allowed the player greater freedom to decide how to go about accomplishing their objectives, making it so that no two players will go through the same level in the same fashion. The levels were designed with gameplay in mind first, in contrast to the first in which levels were altered to fit the plot.