House of Theo (Dark Mod mission) review…

House of Theo (Dark Mod mission) review after the break…

House of Theo (Dark Mod mission) review…

We are fortunate to live in a world where the Doom 3 mod “The Dark Mod” exists. “The Dark Mod” is a modification (a “total conversion” in computer gamer speak) of the game “Doom 3.” While “Doom 3” dealt with a science fiction plot involving the planet Mars and demons, “The Dark Mod” faithfully recreates the core game play from the “Thief” franchise (specifically, Thief: The Dark Project and Thief: The Metal Age) when the company Looking Glass made those games. A third game, “Thief: Deadly Shadows,” was made by a different company and altered the game play significantly to appeal to console gamers and to fit the limitations of consoles of that era. “Thief: Deadly Shadows” is generally discredited by modern day “Thief” fans who have played all three games.

“The Dark Mod” is not a game by itself (although it comes with a training mission to familiarize players with the core game play concepts) but rather more like a gaming console – It provides the framework for individuals to create their own levels (“missions” as they are called).

“The Dark Mod” is now at v1.07 and that is the version I used in order to play “House of Theo,” created by “Theothesnopp.” “House of Theo” requires “The Dark Mod” to be patched to at least v1.06 in order to play. I played on the “Easy” setting.

“House of Theo” has our nondescript thief infiltrate a castle in order to obtain information about a possible military build up. The opening is a lackluster written introduction that informs you of the specifics of the mission. At 6.2 megs, “House of Theo” doesn’t show you the entire castle (it doesn’t even show you a map), naturally, and invisible walls limiting your outside exploration all but guides you to an open window high above to start your infiltration. The ability to specialize your inventory by buying equipment, a core feature in the “Thief” series and included in “The Dark Mod,” is not available for this mission.

The architecture of the mission is to be expected – It is a castle and most of the castle is comprised of large hallways that are brightly lit. I suspect that the architecture was intended for most people to “ghost” through the mission (in other words, sneak around without being seen or having to knock people unconscious). In fact, a good portion of the level is sparsely decorated – Whole hallways (and very large, spacious hallways at that) are barren of any clutter whatsoever. To be fair, it would make sense that peasants’ and guards’ quarters are not as cluttered as the upper echelon’s rooms. Some of the architecture is a bit mysterious (a small kitchen is located on the wrong side of an elevator – Did the designers really want food to be dragged through the eating area first, either from the elevator or down a flight of stairs?) but, since we are not able to see the entire castle, perhaps this may be explained away.

While there was never really anything abhorrently “wrong” with the mission, I never became involved with the mission either, despite having been away from “The Dark Mod” for quite a while. “Dark Mod” missions have the inherent flaw of being first-person puzzles – Avoid the guards, steal the valuables (be they gold, jewels, a book, etc.) and then leave. The art to such missions usually lie in the particulars of how such thievery occurs, the “readables” (readable scrolls and books that give in-mission back story), the unique architecture, the patrols… Even such facets as the introduction and loading screen can elevate a mission’s quality significantly. In “House of Theo,” I never perceived a level of detail that sets the memorable missions apart. The loading screen resembled something from an early 1990s video game. The objectives screen mysteriously was two repeated pages. Occasionally, I picked up “Gooods” (spelling intentional). The elevator shaft, while functional, had no machine to power it (yes, I realize “The Dark Mod” is steampunk but even the steampunk era has machines) and just seemed very… Basic. Doors didn’t have handles on them.

I can’t honestly write that “House of Theo” is a bad mission; It wasn’t. Yet I can’t honestly write that “House of Theo” was a compelling mission, either. What is most frustrating is that buried between oddly large and strangely lifeless hallways were, at least, adequately furnished rooms. Despite a few readables (notices on a memo board, letters and a book), the back story never felt compelling and I can’t understand why.

In the end, my only explanation may be that a lot of minor factors (a staircase built slightly askew and other architectural miscues, readables, plot) worked in concert but not in coordination in order to dilute this mission’s emotional impact. The “House of Theo” doesn’t need an “Extreme Makeover” but a bit of remodeling wouldn’t hurt.

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