Despite the bland first impression from the first playable mission, this is a very well-made and enjoyable mission pack that gets better with each mission you play.
Final Score: 8 Hammers
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I'd rather not describe the story in too much detail, because part of the charm is watching the camvator introduction. Suffice to say that Garrett has been warned by the Keepers and needs to relocate for a while. He ends up in a place called Robington and soon finds a job opportunity for a talented thief.
All Torc is a mission pack that contains three playable missions and two camvator sequences: Shalebridge, Welcome to Robington, Are We There Yet?, Fort Montoya and Supply and Demand. The first and the last missions are the camvator scenes. Although I like the use of camvators to set the mood and introduce the mission, in this case the introduction was less evocative than it could have been, due to the fact that not a single gesture or motion was used in the conversation at the start.
Overall, this mission pack offers one of the best gaming experiences I've come across during this year. Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect is the author's commendable attention to detail, regarding characters and events, but also architecture in Fort Montoya. The technical gimmickry is very impressive, ranging from what you'll see in Are We There Yet? to the guards' custom reactions, such as investigating and closing opened doors. I was especially pleased to find interesting and often amusing readables, something that is given too little attention and effort in many other FMs.
The first playable mission, Welcome to Robington, takes place in the streets of Robington — apparently a nearby city, though this isn't made clear. Unfortunately, the mission gives a bland first impression for the series. It does have some good locations that have attention to detail and fun gameplay; lighting is solid overall and the effect of the pouring rain is enhanced by thunder, flooded areas and even the sound of raindrops pattering on the roofs. However, most areas are visually plain and there is little excitement to find in the streets, as most guards patrolling them are friendly. The street layout is sufficiently complex to make it interesting, but with the lack of an automap it is easy to get lost. I think it would have been a better idea to have a smaller city with more detail and with more buildings to break into.
Are We There Yet? is more of a small interlude than a real mission. It's not a difficult mission, nor is it meant to be. The atmosphere is cozy, as this is a fun and relaxing break before the real job begins in the next mission. The technical side of this mission is well executed; you'll know what I'm talking about when you get there. As a fun detail, the servant woman in this mission can be seen in the previous one, giving her a reason to be here.
Finally we get to Fort Montoya, which I have to say has become one of my all-time favorites. The mission takes place in a manor with a renovation of the interior decoration taking place: there's paneling waiting to be placed on the walls, some lights aren't fully functional yet and carpets wait by the walls to be rolled out in their place. Together with good use of lighting and ambient sounds, this makes the place feels very realistic and tangible. The unfinished feel of the building adds an interesting aspect to atmosphere, as do the eerie scenes you see at times, which make you wonder what the building was previously used for... This mission is simply fun to play, with a good balance between lit and shadowy areas, although here too there is a risk of getting lost, as the place is a maze and there's no automap.
Once the missions are completed, there are still some questions left unanswered, both concerning plot and the scenes you witness in Fort Montoya. R Soul is working on a sequel and has hinted that these questions may yet be answered. I'm especially interested to see what role the Keepers have to play in all this and what their motive is for helping Garrett this time.
All Torc is a solid mission pack that gets better with each mission and contains one of the best missions released this year. In short, All Torc is well worth downloading and playing.
I decided to rate each of the playable missions separately, hence the three scores for each section, with the exception of 'Story'. The scores are listed in the order the missions are played, i.e. Welcome to Robington/Are We There Yet?/Fort Montoya. After this, I list the overall score for each mission separately and then give a final score for the whole mission pack.
The attractiveness of the construction is very varied, ranging from the rather detail-poor buildings of Welcome to Robington to the true eyecandy of Fort Montoya. Are We There Yet? has some lovely interiors, but the scenery is monotonous (mostly by necessity). Overall, proportions are appropriate, the use of textures and lighting is solid and you can tell the author has an eye for pleasant visuals. The layout is interesting in the two main missions, but without an automap they become difficult to navigate.
Here again there is some variation, but it's nevertheless easy to get and stay immersed in all the missions. This is aided by the little details the author is so good at, which make the locations feel like they exist even when the player isn't present. The good use of lighting also helps in this regard.
Welcome to Robington has a few enjoyable touches that enhance the atmosphere, such as the aforementioned weather effects. However, the lack of excitement to be had in playing the mission itself becomes frustrating and detracts from the atmosphere. Much is saved by the side stories of the inhabitants; these will often make you smile and even giggle.
Fort Montoya is the most immersive, with a convincing and realistic mission space that keeps you on edge with the occasional creepy sight.
The background is believable enough and gives Garrett good reason to show up in Robington, but adds little to the experience otherwise. The main plot, although well-described in the beginning, is fairly straightforward and doesn't develop in the missions, which places the story in the background while you concentrate on what you need to do. However, the subplots make the missions feel like more than just a job.
There are questions left unanswered once the mission pack is finished, but these may yet be answered in a sequel. The questions are intriguing, as well as the way they're raised; worth an extra point if they are answered eventually. It's difficult to judge a story still in progress, so the score given is tentative, with the assumption that the questions will be answered.
I guess you won't be surprised if I say there's some variation between missions when it comes to gameplay as well? Although Welcome to Robington has some good sneaking at the end, most of the mission is just wandering around the city, wondering where to go next, which isn't terribly exciting. It's fun to sneak around in Are We There Yet?, although it isn't very difficult. Stealth is much more satisfying in Fort Montoya, with good use of light and shadow and solid guard placement. The lack of any restrictions on kills and knockouts, even on Expert, gives delightfully many options for how to play.
Bonus: +1 — For all the extra technical trickery, which makes the gaming experience more enjoyable and challenging.
Final Score: 8 Hammers