Entry #8: Hidden Agenda (Thief II, 2002), by AsyluM

I love Thief II’s atmosphere and the Mechanists as much as I love Thief: TDP’s atmosphere and the Hammerites, and when it comes to picking a favorite between the first two Thief games, count me out. If I’m playing The Sword, I like the first better; if I’m playing Eavesdropping, I prefer the second. Ditto for every mission combination, just about. I’m the same way in other areas of life. If I’m petting a dog, I’m a dog person; if I’m playing with a cat, I’m a total cat-lover. If I’m drinking a chocolate milk shake, I love chocolate; if it’s a vanilla one, I’ll swear by that flavor (I also like strawberry). You may call me a flip-flop, but I’m just open-minded. Suffice it to say, when it comes to Thief II-hate, I’m not on board.

With that out of the way, AsyluM’s Hidden Agenda is Blackbrook for the Mechanists. It’s a simple Mechanist fix and a well-rounded selection of Thief II ambient noises and textures.

Hidden Agenda screen 1B

The mission starts with one of the longest drops I’ve seen. Garrett, knees surely hurting, must explore a Mechanist seminary in the New Market District. The seminary was built on top of an old Hammerite Temple, sunk into the ground. Garrett is driven by personal curiosity – he wants to know what these post-Karras Mechanists are up to, especially since they are trying to kill him. Garrett’s also been promised a reward from the Hammerites, who want to know what the Mechanists are up to in New Market as well.

I played on Expert and was challenged. Well-lit areas forced me to move quickly, darting from one rare shadow to another. Patrols are not tight like in Gathering at the Inn, but are more difficult to sneak around than in Blackbrook. Later areas have cameras and turrets.

The seminary mixes styles of Eavesdropping and Life of the Party. The outer grounds and sanctuary areas are Eavesdropping inspired, but other interior areas, like the guest rooms, the sitting rooms, the library, and the kitchen, have Life of the Party vibes. Thief II inspiration goes beyond these two missions. One area has ambiance from Framed – one of my Thief II favorites.

Hidden Agenda screen 2

I love Mechanist artwork. The two worship areas – one a large sanctuary and the other a small chapel – are ripe with statues and icons. Outside, visible from the start area, is a Mechanist statue with a gear stained-glass window behind it. As a lover of Eavesdropping and Mechanist seminaries, I think this FM delicious.

Your goal is a Hammerite Temple buried beneath the Seminary that the Mechanists have built onto like they did the Lost City. It’s an extensive area. Haunts are teased until you explore a tomb where you’ll encounter a few of them. There’s also a frightening sequence when a humanoid clockwork soldier pops up from a table. This happens in a room with an inactive Child of Karras crouching right next to the door – as if that wasn’t enough (I jumped at both these things). AsyluM understood Mechanist horror and the kind of scares Thief II went for. (I think of the moment the bronze robot child creature appeared in Angelwatch.)

Several Thief fans at TTLG dismiss Thief II for its lack of horror, but they’re only thinking of the kind of horror in Thief: TDP. Thief II had its own horror throughout. I was chilled when I spied the first watcher in Shipping…and Receiving and jumped when I peered in a box to see the face of a robot. Let Thief II be its own game – its clockwork, mechanical horror gave the game as much suspense and sense of the unknown as Thief: TDP’s dark medieval mood. I love TDP’s atmosphere, as noted, but it’s an apple to Thief II’s orange. I’m glad at least one FM author has realized what to draw from Thief II atmospherically.

 

Hidden Agenda screen 3B

I digress. In the Hammer Temple, you’ll find more quarters and living areas, store rooms, a sewer section, and some work rooms. It’s more difficult to sneak around down here and there is some hard-to-get loot. One hard-earned goblet requires you return to the sewerman’s bedroom with a key difficult to find. I expected a grand reward or secret after backtracking all the way there, but only found this one loot item.

The mission is large and on Expert will take some time. Objectives include finding incriminating evidence and some blueprints and breaking into the Mechanists’ vault. You’ll come across a few gear keys and, as mentioned, several watchers and turrets. If you enjoy some vanilla Thief II, you’ll eat it up.

Hidden Agenda is a rare Mechanist FM and a palette of Thief II ambiance. If you don’t want to spend an eve with the Hammers, blessed old brethren that they are, load up a mission such as this one to spend some time with the Children of Karras – blessed be his name!

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