Siege Shop (Dark Mod mission) review…

Siege Shop (Dark Mod mission) review after the break…

Siege Shop (Dark Mod mission) review…

“Siege Shop” is a Dark Mod mission for “The Dark Mod,” a total conversion mod for the “Doom 3” computer game. “The Dark Mod” is a total conversion mod that simulates the ‘first-person sneaker’ game play of the “Thief 1” and “Thief 2” computer games without the intellectual property.

In “Siege Shop,” you must infiltrate a castle and steal the plans for some highly advanced (for their time) siege machines. Naturally, you won’t be able to just walk in and browse at will. The mission is 13 megs in size and written by “Pranqster.” Based on forum posts at “The Dark Mod,” I reviewed the latest version, as the original version apparently had the thief starting in a sewer setting while the version I started in was a cave setting.

As with all “Dark Mod” missions, the authors are better able to create missions then I could ever design even I forced myself to learn the craft. However, “Siege Shop” is a difficult mission to play for both beginners and those who wish to immerse themselves in classic Thief game play. The mission is not without it’s merits but this mission should not be anyone’s first exposure to Dark Mod game play.

If memory serves me correctly, this mission employs the uncommonly used mechanic of buying equipment at the beginning of the level. It was nice to see this feature used and even used to some effect (as the decision to buy a gas arrow proves significant later on).

“Siege Shop” has our thief traversing a cave before stepping out into the open where a hot air balloon sits between yourself and infiltrating the castle. “Pranqster” has no qualms about using lights – Even at this early stage, guards possess torches and knocking out the guards is a tricky assignment at best. Eliminating this threat, the thief then must hop into the hot air balloon where it drifts towards top of the castle.

The hot air balloon entrance is a nice touch but more then a bit unrealistic, even adjusting for the mod’s steampunk setting. I can only imagine the conversation that the two guards on top of the castle wall had when they saw the hot air balloon approach:

“Hey, isn’t that the hot air balloon from in front of the castle?”

“As opposed to… What? Another hot air balloon?”

“Oh, don’t be fresh!”

“I’m not being fresh! How many hot air balloons do you know? Seriously?”

“I was just making an observation…”

“And I’m making an observation, too! Stop being a moron. Of course that’s the hot air balloon from in front of the castle, you dolt!”

“Fine! Then what is it doing at the top of this here castle?”

“I don’t know. Why don’t you check the basket to see if it’s empty?”

“I’m not going to do it. I have to patrol this castle roof. Why don’t you do it, Mr. I Stand Underneath A Torch All Day Long?”

“Oh, so it’s that, is it? Well, I’ll have you know it’s my duty to stand under this torch, Mr. All I Do Is Walk Around Pretending Like I Patrol For Thieves But Really Don’t!”

“Yes, I patrol for THIEVES, you dolt, not hot air balloons! Hot air balloons aren’t going to steal the siege machine plans, now will it?”

“Maybe there’s someone inside the basket? Did you think of that?”

“You’re telling me that a thief knocked out the three guards below, climbed into the hot air balloon and then drifted up here? What do I look like to you, daft?!”

“Well, go and check to see if they’re below, Mr. Know It All!”

“You go check! I’m patrolling for a thief, not standing under a torch!”

“Fine! I’ll go check, you lazy sack of…”

“I’m not lazy! I’m performing my duty!”

“Hey, there’s no one down there.”

“What?”

“There’s no one down below. They’re gone.”

“There’s no one in front of the castle?”

“Nope, not a single one.”

“Well, that’s bizarre. Where could they have gone?”

“Not the slightest clue. Maybe they’re inside eating a sandwich or something.”

“Eating a sandwich? At this hour? What about the balloon?”

“What about the balloon? It’s their problem, let them handle it.”

“Well, it shouldn’t be up here.”

“Look, I don’t care about the bloody balloon, OK? I don’t even know why we have a hot air balloon in front of the castle to begin with! Makes no sense to me whatsoever!”

“Maybe they’re swimming.”

“What? The men in front of the castle?”

“No, you! Of course I mean the men in front of the castle!”

“It’s a moat! Who goes swimming in a moat in the middle of the night?!”

“Maybe they were dirty, did you think of that? Maybe it’s the end of their shift and it’s recreational for them?”

“Do you hear any splashing down there? Do you?!”

“I can’t tell. I’m standing here underneath this torch just doing my duty. You’re the one walking around acting all tough like you’re going to stop some thief.”

“For the last time, I…”

“Wait, here comes Walter.”

“‘Here comes Walter…’ what? I hear the two of you talking. Hey, isn’t that the hot air…?”

“Yes, it just showed up a few moments ago.”

“Well, someone needs to get that thing back down! It’s right next to the archery targets!”

“You know, we hadn’t even thought of that.”

“It’s not hard to think of things when you’re walking up and down stairs all shift.”

“That’s a rather lousy patrol, if you ask me. Who’d you piss off to get that patrol from?”

“At least I’m indoors as opposed to you two bozos.”

“I’m under a light.”

“You know, I don’t even know why I come out here so far. Why can’t I just look through the window to check on the two of you?”

“Maybe we’re being held captive? Maybe we’re fending off bandits or monsters?”

“Ha! Being held captive by whom? A giant hot air balloon?”

“He’s got a point.”

“I know I’ve got a point – All I do is walk up and down those bloody stairs, then walk out here to you two, then start the process all over again. Another three weeks of this and my knees are going to fall off!”

“How are your knees?”

“Terrible, as usual.”

“At least you’re losing some weight, though, right?”

“You’re telling me – I could fit into my sister’s britches at this point. Hand me three servings of dinner and it won’t show.”

“Makes you sleep well, doesn’t it?”

“Look at me, my belt buckle is on it’s last hole.”

“Yes, look at that. That’s almost a little too lean, in my opinion.”

“Have you thought of switching patrols?”

“Oh, you mean prying a patrol from the two deadbeats playing cards or the deadbeat drunk just inside the portcullis?”

“I wouldn’t want the portcullis job.”

“Why not?”

“And have to deal with that creepy mechanical thing walking back and forth?”

“You know, that was Larry’s patrol before he was sacked.”

“Larry?”

“Oh, you weren’t here when Larry was still here. Complete loser.”

“Oh.”

“Yes, I’m surprised they didn’t throw him to the bottom of the elevator shaft. Always drinking on the job. Surprised he lasted as long as he did.”

“They gave his job to a robot?”

“The robot does the job better, trust us.”

“Why not just have all of our jobs replaced by robots, then?”

“Well, maybe your job, standing under a torch all day long.”

“For the last time…!”

“Hey, when you go back downstairs, can you tell the balloon people that their balloon is up here for no reason?”

“I’ll tell someone about it.”

“Very good, then.”

Anyway, I think that it might have been better to have hopped into the balloon as the last thing to do, in order to escape rather then to just enter the castle. It would have made a great way to have started a campaign of missions – Just imagine the next mission taking place someplace unusual as soon as the balloon unexpectedly goes down someplace foreign.

The mission itself is somewhat well-lit which makes for an uncommon “thieving” experience since our thief prospers in the shadows. A lot of doorway entrances are exceedingly well-lit which makes the mission a bit more challenging then usual. The well-lit hallways and constant patrols fit the theme of a well-guarded castle.

One aspect of the mission that was enjoyable was the inclusion of the “steampunk patrol spider” (for lack of a better term) which was a creature that I had yet to encounter elsewhere. While it didn’t seem entirely natural to have pagans and steam robots working side by side, the steam robot did fit the theme of a castle bent upon technological advances in war machines.

Not all of the mission was enjoyable, though, or made sense – A dungeon in the castle that contains prisoners didn’t make much sense when the prisoners were let loose while the guards were watching. Instead of the guards responding with surprise, the guards simply went about their routines unimpeded. Freed prisoners, on the other hand, merely walked about entering and exiting other prison cells randomly.

Overall, the mission does have some aspects that should be improved upon – There were some rooms where light “bled” into them where they shouldn’t (I’m looking at you, key room guy) and some mysterious objects that floated in the air that shouldn’t. It’s well-lit interiors and rectangular hallways accentuate the linearity that most missions tend to have. A desk in one of the rooms had a secret compartment that wouldn’t open. Ironically, one of the few objectives that most people who’ve played the mission complained about, the placement of a key, was found fairly easily (I’ll claim “skill” but I’m sure luck played it’s part) by myself.

Yet the mission isn’t horrible and the author seems willing to have addressed at least some concerns when the sewer beginning was replaced with a cave instead. Perhaps having some flickering electric lights and removing the floating geometry would be some quick fixes that would yield significant improvement in playing atmosphere. Maybe place an engine at the bottom of the elevator shaft to provide some power to the elevator.

In all, an OK mission that first-time Dark Mod players should pass on but shouldn’t ignore about 15 or so missions in.

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