The Dracula campaign is one of my favorite FM series and The Love Thief is my favorite mission from it. A good one-sitting mission, it’s shorter than average and is also well-paced, visually chilling, and heavily atmospheric.
Basing a fan mission in the setting of the Dracula story instills it with a fresh flavor. You are in a fictional historical setting, not the City, but a Carpathian mountain range in eastern Europe. The atmosphere is thick and pitch perfect for the setting and period.
You begin as Gellert, plopped down at the Borgo Pass in Transylvania. I first played this FM in early 2011, and fell in love as soon as I took the first steps forward and a werewolf, howling, attacked a group of soldiers camping in the pass. With the gray clouds above and a gloomy mountain range before me, the werewolf was overload – my rural eastern European adventurer was overwhelmed, and I knew I would not be flinching until I had devoured every bit of this mission.
Sneaking by the werewolf, since the soldiers never kill him on my playthroughs, you pass through another canyon to where the beast’s lair is. The human self of the monster has left a diary detailing his unfortunate fate, and you’ll discover near it a key you’ll need to pass a gate to the rest of the mission. Some kind of bubble substance sits on the ground beneath this gate, and I’ve never read what it is. Perhaps a ward for the werewolf.
Once past the gate, your first stop may be the Hero’s Shrine, just to the right. On my first several playthroughs I never knew the purpose of this shrine. When I discovered what secret it held, I could not believe I had missed one of the most-used secret switches in Thief history. Hit me with a blackjack – it’s a frobbable torch.
Another story bit awaits past the tomb. A band of travelers sit in an elbow of the pass with a covered wagon, Viktrola, and expressionless horse. Read the band’s journal for a sad tale.
Turn and go further down to see a cross, one of a few religious symbols in this mission, and one of many Turkish soldiers – the first who isn’t being killed by a werewolf. These religious symbols and soldiers lend the mission its historical character, vital to the overall atmosphere. You’re not seeing hammers, but crosses.
After these scenes you’ll come to a hermit’s hut where you’ll find a crossbow, Jonathan Hawker’s journal, and a diversion to a small chapel. The chapel has the journal of a priest filled with regret over what he has allowed into the chapel. There’s also a secret that you may feel uncomfortable triggering if you’re a Christian – maybe I’m thinking about it in the wrong way. Regardless, on some playthroughs I can’t do it.
Past the hermit’s area you’ll enter the Turkish camp. I hope you have a rope arrow. If you missed picking up a rope arrow in the hermit’s area – which I’ve done – you have to go back to an earlier save or risk alerting the Turkish soldiers standing outside the path to the camp, both of whom you bypassed taking the path by the hermit’s area, a path you can’t take back. You may have an invisibility potion at your disposal, but this is best saved for when you are leaving the camp for good on your return to the mission start. It’s possible to find a second Invisibility potion, but this is not guaranteed, so always be certain you pick up the rope arrows.
Once when I missed them I spent more time than I’d like to admit struggling to find entrance into the Turkish camp. Since then, I am always doubly certain I pick them up.
When you’ve rope-arrowed your way into the camp, you’ll see some interesting scenes and hear some snazzy music. There’s a humorous journal entry about a missing watch; a couple locals skewered on stakes; revelry complete with superb animations (the Turkish soldier tossing back a drink is to die for); and a conspicuous apple tree. Sensut likely was aching to use a climbable tree and concocted the entire scenario here to use it: unhealthy water and a fence around it. Why? I see no reason for it other than to have an excuse to use a climbable tree. Nothing wrong with that, it just feels superfluous.
Once over the fence and into the water you’ll come up into Dracula’s castle. The ambiance immediately changes and here, like at the first sight of the werewolf, I am completely sucked in. You feel that you are in the cellar of a huge castle out of a horror movie. Sensut nails this.
You’ll eventually enter Dracula’s chambers and find his sleeping brides and Hawker’s lost fiancé, Mina. The beating hearts you hear when standing next to the brides’ undead bodies always perturbs me. The décor impresses me, and once you nab the unconscious body of Mina a new, haunting mood piece plays. You’ll sneak out of Dracula’s quarters to the moans and laughs of his brides, the dark lord present too.
Next comes the weakest part of the mission: the crypts beneath the castle. The repetitive design makes it feel like a later Halo level. Carrying Mina’s body adds to the repetition, as you have to put it down and pick it up constantly to pick up loot. I set her down somewhere, sneaked down a section to nab all the loot, then went back to pick her up. Regardless of the repetition, the atmosphere remains compelling, and there’s a secret to find – if you’ve got the talismans for it.
Once out of the catacombs you return to the start, Mina over shoulder, to end the mission. If you’ve got an invisibility potion, this is a simple objective. Going back through each area to the start is a satisfying full-circle journey.
The Love Thief is a great atmospheric mission, it’s uniquely historical, and it’s my favorite of Sensut’s Carpathian missions. For a cool fall night, you couldn’t find a better entertainment experience.