Entry #6: Burglary in Blackbrook (Thief, 2003, and Thief II, 2006)

Occasionally any given eve I like to sit back and spend time with the Builder and his fanatical followers. I love the Hammerites and sometimes just need a Hammerite fix. Burglary in Blackbrook has saved me time and again when the cravings for red-garbed, hammer-wielding zealots muttering matters of faith has struck me. The mission has two iterations, the original Thief version being my preference, and each welcomes you into the world of the Hammerites for a short, sweet, simple fix.

That’s why Blackbrook is a good quick-fix mission: it’s simple. You’ve got a Hammerite church, all the Hammerite ambient sounds with some additional chants thrown in, basic objectives, access to nigh-the whole level from the start, and not too many AI to get in the way of exploring. John D.’s fan mission is a great way to meditate on the essence of the Hammerites as there’s no complicated design to impede you. The flipside is the mission is shallow and lacks the depth of other Hammer missions, like A Question of Knowledge or The Seven Shades of Mercury. Blackbrook is a light Hammerite snack.

The Thief version plops Garrett at the entrypoint. The mission-start noise keeps playing – this happens when the author has forgotten to add “RemoveProp” to the AmbientHacked property. The Thief II version tweaks the intro – Garrett has fallen down from the wall due to a broken rope ladder. In this one, the start noise doesn’t loop.

Thief Diaries - Blackbrook T1 - entry area

Each version has a similar layout. The Blackbrook Hammerite temple has two chapels, a prayer and meditation chamber, a library, a sparring area, offices and bedrooms, and a prison and a crypt. The Temple proper is filled with delightful Hammerite ambiances from “Diffuse” to everything else, and the holding cells beneath have the same “Abyss1” sound as Cragscleft. John D. hit all the Thief I notes.

Delightful as this Hammer sanctuary may be, there’s a problem: some dolt went and stole a golden idol from the tombs below. Now undead stir in the crypts and are strengthening for an invasion. As Garrett says, this is not good. The dead’s disturbance is central to the mission’s story. When you explore the crypts, you get a sense that the Hammerites are losing the battle and that the dead will soon be filling the streets. A live scripted battle, triggered by your proximity, may have either the Hammers or the undead win. Regardless, the dead have the clear advantage.

Thief Diaries - Blackbrook T1 - chapel

The mission’s story and backstory are not conveyed very well as John D. loves exposition. A few readables in this level split off into reams and reams of backstory, the king of them all being High Priest Dunwall’s journal entry that veers into a narration of the restoration of the Old Quarter.* Priest Dunwall sure can spin off on a yarn. Another highlight is Brother Andros’ journal. If this were a TV show you can picture a Hammerite speaking to another, “Oh, him? You mean the one who earned fame in the City incident, that night when, against all odds, the City army did stand up…” or “This is a nice chapel, isn’t it? A shame that the tomb it’s built upon isn’t even of Hammer origin. In fact, many Hammerite scholars rumor it was built by a dark Pagan group. One of these scholars is here even now, and won’t explore the tomb. Indeed, he is the same scholar who once sided with the Mechanists, that group whom the Baron now ignores, as he wages war against those outliers in…” and so on. The exposition-heavy journals are a weakness in this otherwise enjoyable FM.

The mission’s design is simple, but the Hammerite charm keeps it intriguing. This intrigue is lost when you reach the cell blocks and crypts below the church. Designed so squarely simple and without the charm of the church above, I always lose interest at this segment. There’s also an unfair bug each time I play whereby the prison guards are all on high alert, running towards me even, when I leave the crypt. It may have something to do with the troupe of actors held in the prison who are scripted to be on alert – there are words between a female actor and a bowman, for example. Whatever causes the bug, it certainly makes getting “Dangerous Dave” out more difficult than it should be.

Thief Diaries - Blackbrook T1 - prayer and meditation chambers

There’s another little blemish down in the cell blocks. You’ll overhear a couple of prisoners in an exchange of sorts that’s crass and out of place. Perhaps you’ll find it humorous, and it is an interesting mix of Thief sounds, but regardless it’s monocle-dropping material. There’s also suggestiveness about the Hammer of Initiation’s use. John D.’s mind must have been in the gutter at times when crafting this one.

Long-winded exposition and out-of-place crudeness aside, John D.’s Hammer mission is simple, good, and a classic. When I need a quick Hammer fix, Blackbrook is there with all the Hammer sounds, textures, and charm I could want. Blessed be the Builder!

*Could this priest’s name have been the inspiration for Dishonored’s Dunwall? Name dictionary searches yielded no results for it, so I don’t know where else this name has come from.

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