This FM may not be very memorable, but it has good looks and provides a good half-hour of thiefy enjoyment.
Final Score: 7 Hammers
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A ship that recently arrived in town carried a gem called the Royal Garmyth. The ship has already sailed, but the gem was unloaded and moved into a nearby warehouse. This mysterious gem is rumoured to be so valuable that men would kill to have it, so naturally Garrett aims to get a hold of it before the new owner figures out its real worth.
The mission is set in a district of warehouses, and it both looks and feels the part. There are other buildings to explore on the way, which add more variety to the surroundings. The architecture is appealing throughout the mission, especially at the start where the warehouses have a strong resemblance to the ones in Shipping… and Receiving. The outside areas are detailed, even the tops of buildings; an attractive feature of the cityscape is the use of various arches to connect buildings. The textures are generally appropriate, although they could use more variation.
For some unexplained reason Garrett starts out with nothing but his blackjack and lockpicks; it seems strange that a master thief would set out on a job without proper tools. A sword can be found in the level, but it's hidden in an odd place and reaching it requires some exploration. Little other additional equipment is found, of which few items are of the damaging kind. On the other hand, hardly any equipment is needed to complete the mission comfortably: even with these limitations the objectives are met without much effort. The challenges mainly consist of getting past guards and there aren't that many of them around. Speaking of guards, this mission doesn't have a "no-kill" objective on any difficulty, giving more options for style of play than most FMs. Don't expect to be able to kill everyone though (unless you find the sword); because of the limited equipment, it's easier to just sneak past or blackjack the guards than trying to kill them all.
Something I particularly appreciate about the design of the level is that there are several ways of reaching the Royal Garmyth. However, the overall layout could have been better planned, for on Easy and Medium the mission can be completed without visiting a large part of the mission that is accessible only by secret passage. This area makes no difference for the objectives, but it does provide a small subplot and quite a bit of loot. If you miss it the mission feels too short, whereas visiting the area makes you wonder why it's there in the first place.
The lighting suffers from a problem that is very common among FMs: most light sources have no radius set on them, which means that the light gem is affected even beyond their visible light. This in turn means that it's difficult to judge shadows from a distance, which can often lead to needless confrontations and which irritated me to no end. In addition, small invisible light sources occasionally cause this problem as well. There is also a minor issue with buggy sound propagation in a few places.
As a whole though, this mission has no significant problems. It's bug-free, visually pleasing and has a decent atmosphere. Unfortunately there's just nothing that special about it. I'm hoping story will play a more prominent role in the second part, titled A Dire Venture. Nevertheless, this FM offers a good half-hour of entertaining thieving on its own.
The mission is enjoyable to look at, no doubt about that, and the look fits the setting. There are no amazing areas, but no poorly designed architecture either (except for a few fountains, where water appears out of thin air). A large portion of the mission layout is not integral to the objectives, as you can finish the mission on Easy and Medium after exploring only about half of the level.
The mission has a somewhat creepy feel, even though the surroundings are innocuous. This is thanks to some well-chosen ambient sounds, which give the subtle impression that something's wrong underneath the surface; an effect that can be tricky to accomplish. The transitions between ambient sounds are sometimes quite abrupt however, and some sounds are more annoying than atmospheric.
A few small sub-plots can be followed, usually by reading some form of diary. The writing is very good and enjoyable to read, but perhaps more eloquent than one would expect in the case of guards. Unfortunately some of them make you wonder why these people would write all this down, especially in a certain case where someone is planning a crime. These texts feel like they were written only for the benefit of the player and this has a detrimental effect on immersion.
The main story is simple but believable enough: Garrett has heard about a valuable item and decides to take it. Little is known about the Royal Garmyth at the start, but a few texts in the mission give more background on it. Still, the story doesn't feel very important: it's just something that's happening in the background during the sneaking and thieving. As this is the first part of a story, some questions are left unanswered at the end of the mission.
The gameplay is not very difficult: most challenges are simply figuring out how to get past guards. Little, if any, equipment is needed in order to complete the mission. A nice touch is that you can reach the Royal Garmyth in several different ways. The mission has clearly been designed with sneaking in mind, although an annoying problem is that light sources have no radius set on them: making it difficult to judge shadows from a distance and possibly putting the player in unexpected danger. Another small annoyance is that certain locks take ages to pick, but these are few.
Final Score: 7 Hammers