Heart of Lone Salvation (Dark Mod mission) review…

Heart of Lone Salvation (Dark Mod mission) review after the break…

Heart of Lone Salvation (Dark Mod mission) review…

There is a fine line towards defining “frustration” in terms of game play. Is frustration created because the player is inadequate in their abilities? The computer inadequate to display it smoothly enough? The developer is unable to convey their vision to a broad enough audience? The developer just isn’t talented enough to develop their vision? The palette (game engine, setting, genre) to limited to undertake the vision?

When, if ever, are you justified in feeling “frustrated”?

“Hearts of Lone Salvation (v2)” is a Dark Mod mission created by “Fidcal” & “Baddcog” for the “Dark Mod” total conversion for the “Doom 3” video game. “The Dark Mod” is a total conversion meant to simulate game play for the classical “Thief” franchise of video games without the intellectual property.

“Hearts of Lone Salvation” (HLS) is a classic “Thief” mission – Infiltrate mansion, steal stuff and then leave. In this case, you plan on stealing a heart-shaped gem that supposedly grants good fortune to whomever possesses it… But only once.

HLS is a hefty mission – 41 megs. Prior to the v1.04 upgrade for the mod, this mission would’ve clearly been on my “Not To Do” list because of the Dark Mod’s prior tendency to produce severely bloated save game files based upon the size of the mission. With the v1.04 fix that has alleviated a lot of that bloat, though, I figured that I would take a chance and see what a “big” mission looked like. I played on the “slow machine” setting.

HLS doesn’t make it easy for you – You start outside of the mansion, needing to get past a tall gate and then over an even taller wall. Even then, guards are on edge, there aren’t many shadows and the routes are mostly well-lit. I can only imagine how many more guards there were and how many more with torches on the higher-end settings.

Make no mistake – This mission is not an amateur effort. Despite the initial appearance of large angular walls and simple architecture, the mansion itself is as detailed as any prior “Dark Mod” effort. Rooms feel appropriately placed – There’s no awkward architecture (ex. kitchens far away from dining halls, servant bedrooms close to regal bedrooms, elevators for elevators’ sake, etc.).

As with so many Dark Mod missions that I’ve played, buying equipment isn’t an option. I’m beginning to wonder if the game play mechanic of buying equipment before a mission, a carry-over from the Thief series, hasn’t already died a quiet death with a new wave of Thief / Dark Mod fans. As it was, I felt rather armed with an array of arrows. As a personal test, I try not to use up my arrows if only because I have no idea how many I’ll need or of what type. However, I couldn’t help but feel a bit “bow-happy” with the amount of arrows I had. On two occasions, I peppered the ground generously with moss arrows where I might’ve otherwise had been a bit more economical.

HLS has a number of “secrets” that you can uncover – Accessing the now boarded-up “garden,” to name just one. The secrets aren’t necessary towards completing the mission but add to the story and, just as important, to your coin purse.

Yet there’s a nagging drawback to this mission – Keys. A lot of this mission is locked off and not even your lock picks can get you through many of the doors. I understand that hunting for keys (or switches) is one of the few game play mechanisms for what is essentially a puzzle with a first-person perspective. The mission began to feel like one of those old-time adventure games – You need to give the monkey the bowling ball so that he can throw it at the butler who will drop the dynamite that you’ll need to in order to disassemble it for it’s wick so that you can sell the wick to the magic genie to obtain the tire iron. No bowling ball? Enjoy walking around twenty screens aimlessly until you figure it out.

This mission taught me that I’m a simple thief. Sure, if I scour an area long enough, I’ll probably be able to find the key. However, I’m just not as clever as a lot of other people to have found this mission’s “bowling ball” or, for that matter, realize that I need to give it to the “monkey.” Despite braining every accessible guard, I found myself walking around (sometimes running) to find what I was missing. There are rooms that I couldn’t open and no keys to open them. Did I misread something? Did I miss something on a guard? Did I check every corner of every desk, every bookshelf, every dresser drawer? And just how do you obtain the heart of lone salvation?

I’m afraid to admit that, after running around for a bit, I got rather frustrated with this mission and stopped playing it. I know that there’s more to the mission then what I’ve played – There’s someone (or rather something locked up in an inaccessible room), a housekeeper door I can’t get into and a jail cell with a tantalizing floor entrance blocked by a huge weight. Most of all, the heart of lone salvation is in a display case.

I know that I could research the answer on how to go about these objectives, that the answer to these questions are only a few clicks of the mouse away. Yet my enthusiasm for completing the mission has dulled considerably because a part of me feels like I’ve already completed the mission – Why should I go through the trouble of figuring out that I needed the proverbial bowling ball and giving it, of all characters, to a monkey?

I know it’s me – I know that there are others who have finished this mission without a single bat of an eyelash or an upturned eyebrow of confusion. The answer is in the readables of the mission or just looking harder in “Spot X” instead of “Spot Y.” But how much more “mission” would there be to go through all of the trouble to find the “bowling ball” of this particular mission?

“Heart of Lone Salvation” is, by no means, a poor mission – It has comprehensive readables, a realistic environment and logical routes for guards. However, there’s only so many times I’m going to scour a room for a key that might not be there, only so many times I’m going to read a scroll or book to see if I had missed something like, “Hey, dummy, how obvious do I have to make it? The bowling ball is under the desk in the master bedroom!”

“Heart of Lone Salvation” isn’t a poor mission but it’s not a simple or a small one, either. While it was larger and too complex for myself, I hope that you try it out for yourself just the same. Frustration, just like beauty, is ultimately in the eye of the beholder. I hope that your eyes see something different then mine in this mission.

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