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Thief II: The Metal Age

23 March 2000
Thief II: The Metal Age - cover art
Glitchwave rating
4.28 / 5.0
0.5
5.0
 
 
306 Ratings / 3 Reviews
#38 All-time
#3 for 2000
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Title
Thief was so ahead of its time that its own developer often didn't know what to make of it. So, for the sequel, Looking Glass took a step back, listened to the reception and focused on expanding the strengths of the former. Despite being billed as a stealth game, the first Thief featured levels centered on survival-horror, combat and platforming that clashed with its core mechanics in often grating ways. But focusing on stealth alone isn't enough to build a sequel on, so Looking Glass thought up ways to make levels varied and compelling while always keeping the series' strengths in focus. The result is one of the most timeless, creative, and challenging stealth games ever released.

As beautiful and rich as the lore and atmosphere of the first Thief is, Thief 2 improves with its diverse range of influences: Fritz Lang, David Lynch, and Umberto Eco to name a few. The result is a mad world of machines and industrial nightmares that doubles down on the Hammerites faction in the first game. At its helm is Father Karras, an unstable mad scientist with a ghastly voice that will haunt your dreams. It's unbelievable that Stephen Russell voiced both him and Garrett. The sound design doesn't end there, as the Mechanists are brought to life through the detailed, imaginative soundwork like the loud bustle of the walking mechanized guards and the eerie haunted ballroom sound of the audio recordings you find in maps. Thief 2's world remains one of the most unique and immersive in games to this day.

While the levels were designed with fun and variety in mind, they were continually reworked to properly fit the story. This lends the game a great flow and forward momentum that the first Thief sorely lacked. The goals are almost always clear and when they aren't, there is enjoyment in exploring these lavish, imaginative environments that reward exploration. Where the first game would demand the player to find obtuse areas to even gain an idea of what the main objective is, here these obtuse areas reward exploration with benefits like a switch that turns off the lights below. Very rarely did I hit a wall, as I appreciated the clever and clear design throughout. Instead of being expected to thoroughly clear every corner, Thief 2 rewards curiosity rather than demand it.

There is no bad level here but there are some that stand above the rest. Life of the Party is the clear highlight, as you control Garrett across a vast span of rooftops, each home telling its own story as you get a glimpse at pedestrian life in the world of Thief. The writing is often humorous and sharp, making exploration all the more rewarding. And then you reach your destination, an enormous skyscraper that can be entered and exited in multiple ways. Even today we rarely see maps this large and detailed.

One area that didn't need improving is Thief 1's core stealth mechanics that are rewarding to learn and master. Thief 2's additions are a mixed bag of mostly interesting but useless. Potions temporary augment Garrett's abilities like being able to slowly fall from great heights or go invisible. The scouting orb lets you see ahead but its landing is so unpredictable that it's not often a help. What is noticeable in this sequel is the new layer of polish: guard AI is more realistic, ladders are no longer a pain to climb and collecting loot is not as much of a chore. The pacing and difficulty gradient is finely tuned, making the game enjoyable from beginning to end.

Thief 2's development was as troublesome as the first, ending over-budget, overdue and with a scrapped multiplayer component. Despite it all, Looking Glass had a clear vision this time that they executed on incredibly well. When people sing the praises of the Thief series, I think it must be Thief 2 they are really talking about. At least it is for me.
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SUPER_Lonely_Panda 2016-04-04T20:53:34Z
2016-04-04T20:53:34Z
4.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Map Reviews

Running Interference - It's hard to remember how the game began by its end. This is a short and forgettable map, but it functions perfectly as an introduction. It's unique though, as it's the only map where you have an NPC ally you guide. Rather than escorting, you clear a path on a clearly defined map. I have to give extra points for how the NPC is used as a clever tutorial: by observing his movement on different surfaces and lighting setups, the player learns what they are capable of themselves. It's easy to get out of the way for veterans and an invaluable learning environment for newcomers. 3.5/5.0

Shipping... and Receiving - The first challenge for the player and what a challenge it is with two large buildings that are two stories each. This is one of the few times in the game where I felt lost with no guidance on where the objective could be. Despite that frustration, I enjoyed exploring the dock and its unique mechanic for unlocking doors. Even when I was going in the wrong direction, I was intrigued by the world building in rooms and enemy dialog. 3.5/5.0

Framed - As the title suggests, this map centers around setting up someone to look guilty for Garret's deeds. The police station is rather plain but the concept was so fun with level design so tight that it makes up for it. You also get an introduction to the security cameras and, on top of that, aren't allowed to take down more than two guards. Where Thief 1's levels often felt like they belonged to a different game, this level feels like the developer putting its foot down and saying, "No, this is how Thief is played!" You can't just go around knocking everyone out like a jerk. Learn and do here or perish. 4.0/5.0

Ambush! - While Thief 2 lacks the spacious tombs focused on exploration of the first, it makes up for it with great non-linear maps like this that let the player take multiple different approaches. The game is great at giving variety after claustrophobic levels and Ambush! is one of my favorites of these. Getting past the swarm of guards at the end is an especially tense moment. This is a classic for players like me who enjoy using the compass and map to navigate large areas. 4.0/5.0

Eavesdropping - A memorable introduction to Thief 2's central enemy and faction, the Mechanists. It's not the most exciting level but it has several nice touches. Exploring gives you a hint on how to deal with the mechanized guards from here on, you get backstory and foreshadowing on what's to come if you look around, and the key item of the level is randomized each time. It's atmospheric and creepy, which is a nice change of pace. Not great on its own but it fits into the story and flow very well. 3.5/5.0

First City Bank and Trust - It was only a matter of time until you robbed a bank in a Thief game and what a heist we have here. This is one of the most challenging levels with its marble surfaces, numerous guards and cameras. The game's non-linear design and clever touches really shine, such as being able to look below to the basement when you come across a locked vault (a tense area). This level also functions as a perfect difficulty gradient, as the player benefits greatly from smart use of moss and rope arrows. Not the most creative or atmospheric level but some darn fine level design. 4.0/5.0

Blackmail - One of the best estate missions in the series. It has it all: multiple entrances, encounters with drunken guards, tense corridors, fun loot rooms and a great twist. Where previous estate levels felt like big, empty spaces, this one is packed full of detail and surprises. The setting and location is believable and interesting which adds to the immersion. 4.5/5.0

Trace the Courier - While it reuses the map from Ambush!, I enjoyed the change of pace and atmosphere. It's another unique map in the series and, once again, shows how masterful the developer is at switching things up after a lengthy, claustrophobic level. The linearity of it may bother some but I enjoyed it. 4.0/5.0

Trail of Blood - As if it weren't clear enough that Thief 2 is improving on everything Thief 1 did, this map makes it clear they really mean EVERYTHING. The mystical areas of Thief 1 never felt this detailed or alive. The atmosphere in this level is great. It's like a creepy '80s fantasy film, like The Dark Crystal or Legend. Following the blood trail was exciting and the forest area at the end was visually striking. The game keeps switching things up, while providing a great narrative. It's fun to see the different factions of the world clash. 4.0/5.0

Life of the Party - The best map of the series, without question, and that's not just my opinion. Look at any thread of the best Thief maps and this will be the most frequent #1 choice. It might just be too good, as it shows the missed potential of every other map in the series. While being almost twice as long as Thief 1's biggest maps, it manages to pack every corner with interesting challenges, narrative and visuals. Going from the rooftops, into the homes of citizens and finally Angelwatch feels epic and immensely rewarding by its end. The map is so good that Dishonored practically made an entire series based around it. 5.0/5.0

Precious Cargo - Coming off the high of LotP, anything that follows is bound to disappoint but Precious Cargo holds its own. It offers another epic journey, except this time you are going downward toward pirate-infested waters. It reminded me of No One Lives Forever's spy hideouts, as you climb onboard a submarine and sneak around. One of the best maps in the series, even if it's overshadowed by one greater. 4.5/5.0

Kidnap - A more literal return to the first game than Trail of Blood. The challenge here is extremely high and it perhaps brings too much of the first game's baggage with it. It can be exhausting navigating this huge area and finding your way toward your objective. Once the novelty of the concept rubs off, you are left with a fairly average level. It at least gives the player the tools and environment to play more aggressively for once, using mines and fire arrows to clear areas. 3.5/5.0

Casing the Joint/Masks - While presented as two levels, it's the same map and flows as one complete package. Some people don't like the repetition and restrictions on the player, but I loved it. Drawing out your map as you explore, making note of control rooms and finding secret passages was exciting. Then when you return free of restrictions, it's cathartic to get the job done. I especially loved the top floor, where you can Mission Impossible your way from the ceiling to snatch the goods. The game could probably have used something lighter after the previous missions, but I enjoyed my time in this epic estate mission. 4.0/5.0

Sabotage at Soulforge - One of the most long-winded, arduous levels I've ever played in a game. I frequently felt I couldn't continue but soldiered on until the bitter end. The difference between this map and Thief 1's worst maps is that Soulforge plays to the series' strengths and makes every area of its massive map unique with varied challenges. This is a trial by fire that will push your familiarity with the game's controls and systems to the limit. I'd prefer it a bit shorter, maybe broken into two maps, but it was nonetheless a satisfying conclusion that appropriately raised the difficulty. 3.5/5.0
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The first Thief left me flabbergasted–I was not expecting to fall head over heels for a first-person game with slightly-superior-to-N64 graphics, and yet it quickly became one of my favorite video games. After finishing what I now consider a masterpiece, I didn’t think it could be improved that much. Thief II proved me wrong. Not only is The Metal Age a better game in general, but it’s easily in my top 10 favorites, and I could see it improving if I go back and try the harder difficulty levels.

As the name implies, Garrett finds himself facing a change in conditions around his city. The number of machines and amount of metal flooring have increased, not to mention the police force has stamped out most crime in the area. None of this would have mattered if Garrett had been able to retire as planned in the previous game, but here he’s still forced to rob and plunder. Thief II’s story and gameplay show great continuity with the previous game, which might not sound like a big deal, but considering how many games basically ignore the events of the previous, this satisfied me. In fact, Thief II starts out bigger and more challenging than its ancestor, so props to the developers for assuming their players don’t need a million tutorials here.

In the first few stages, Garrett is just out for the money. This is great because it helps the plot steer away from the mystical elements of the first game and focus on thievery. You get to rob a bank, commit a rooftop caper, frame a smuggler, and kidnap a guy in this game–it’s amazing that Thief I had none of this. Even better, the stages deceptively build toward what becomes Thief II’s core story: a crazed sort of evangelist named Karras is the one behind the increase of metal in the world, and it just so happens he’s hoping to stamp out Garrett before the thief can thwart him. The early stages have you robbing organizations indirectly involved in feeding Karras money, and not long after the plot begins to move at a breakneck pace. This was something the first game lacked: the entire game feels connected and is always moving toward its conclusion. Metal makes a great counter to Garrett: it prevents you from sneaking around easily, and robotic enemies cannot be fooled or defeated in the same manner as humans. Human enemies also start getting metal equipment that makes them immune to your usual tricks. This could have been played up more, but still adds a significant extra challenge to the game. The final stage, an epic heist of a huge tower jam packed with robot guards and sensors, feels immensely appropriate.

Another great thing about the game is it does not obsolete the first. By reducing the number of zombies and horror stages, the game stands out instead of just improving on it. Thief I feels Gothic; Thief II feels steampunk. In many games series, I feel like the earlier titles don’t hold up so well because mechanics and graphics engines get fine tuned, but not here. The developers treat the original game very respectfully, and it pays off well both for the player and the in-game world. Even though its setting has become distinctly different, the two still feel interconnected. One gameplay change that comes out of this is an improved map system. While I miss having the “bad maps” of the original, which added to the challenge of the game, it’s nice to have new ones that keep track of where you’ve been, as they allow for more complex stages. Again, this just helps to distinguish the two games from one another.

For my money, Thief II only has one glaring flaw (no, I’m not counting outdated guard AI. If anything, that adds some needed comedy). The two levels preceding its final one are borderline awful: you get a game over for getting caught in the first one (series first), then have to repeat the same map without that restriction. Why it wasn’t the other way around, I have no idea. Apparently this is a common criticism of the game, so I don’t feel like such a wuss for complaining about the stages. In the scheme of things, this didn’t hurt my enjoyment of the game much, and the last level more than makes up for it, but it’s still a weird blemish on a game that I otherwise consider as close to perfect as a game should get. And yes, that’s my final word on this game: it comes as close to perfection as a game probably should.
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jsh357 2016-04-03T00:28:31Z
2016-04-03T00:28:31Z
5.0
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Not long after I beat Thief which was almost 3 years ago, well in 3 months it will have been, I went immediately to II. I liked the first game but it was a little rough in design and the levels were a bit unevenly designed. II I heard was a lot better and was praised as being one of the best stealth games. And jumping into this it already makes huge improvements. The graphical upgrade is decent, the lighting is better, and I felt the controls were smoothed out a little better. Now enemies don't automatically hear you when you are sneaking on hard surfaces, you have more open places to sneak and hide, and the game has tighter designed levels. The biggest problem with the first game is half the levels were just awkwardly designed and many levels were just open and had you running away from creatures rather than stealing things indoors. This game is the opposite and has tons of heist and stealth missions and only a small handful of missions that are more exploration based and outdoors. Thief II is just so well designed, where the stealth and level design just feels a huge improvement over the first game and gives you everything you love about the first game.

Thief II's biggest problems comes in the final few missions, where the game does become a lot more open and surviving things like traps or powerful enemies. And there is a mission in this game that is an exact repeat of an earlier mission in this game except you can't get spotted this time, which is kind of lame. Either way, Thief II's flaws are minimal and it's one of the best stealth games. It is the highlight of the series and I feel no other First Person stealth game will surpass this.
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jweber14 2017-07-21T20:08:25Z
2017-07-21T20:08:25Z
4.5
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Catalog

WhereAreWeSeeing Thief II: The Metal Age 2022-05-22T06:20:12Z
2022-05-22T06:20:12Z
4.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
908HOY Thief II: The Metal Age 2022-05-18T09:25:24Z
Windows
2022-05-18T09:25:24Z
5.0
1
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Nagual Thief II: The Metal Age 2022-05-18T05:13:42Z
2022-05-18T05:13:42Z
4.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
TNTILl Thief II: The Metal Age 2022-05-16T15:43:01Z
Windows
2022-05-16T15:43:01Z
5.0
1
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Tomcat_Vasiliy Thief II: The Metal Age 2022-05-14T19:01:19Z
2022-05-14T19:01:19Z
4.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Shammi095 Thief II: The Metal Age 2022-05-14T15:53:26Z
2022-05-14T15:53:26Z
5.0
1
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Mudaque Thief II: The Metal Age 2022-05-13T12:49:40Z
2022-05-13T12:49:40Z
5.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
SpeakMyName Thief II: The Metal Age 2022-05-13T11:00:21Z
2022-05-13T11:00:21Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Darioh Thief II: The Metal Age 2022-05-13T05:37:27Z
2022-05-13T05:37:27Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
F3xis Thief II: The Metal Age 2022-05-12T18:14:27Z
2022-05-12T18:14:27Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
notscrumpyjack Thief II: The Metal Age 2022-05-12T17:36:53Z
2022-05-12T17:36:53Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Daza__ Thief II: The Metal Age 2022-05-10T15:47:57Z
2022-05-10T15:47:57Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Content rating
ESRB: M
Player modes
Single-player
Media
2x CD-ROM
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Also known as
  • Dark Project II : L'âge de métal
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  • Previous comments (8) Loading...
  • GrayMouser 2021-05-08 21:19:16.88001+00
    Despite mainly being an RPG guy, the first two Thief games are still my favorite games of all time. The atmosphere is unmatched.

    I also think the games work because of the fantasy elements. Bopping guards is fun, but that could have gotten old.
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  • Vlaga 2021-05-31 17:52:38.486432+00
    i agree with nephilim93, this is still a very good game, but i couldn't vibe entirely with the level design. there was a lot of bullshit in the last few missions that prevented me from finishing them simply because i did stuff in the wrong order or didn't trigger an objective achieved. it also oddly felt too smooth for me, i found the clunkiness of the first Thief charming and more immersive. not to mention i preferred the more medieval, supernatural vibe of it, too.
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  • afterceasetoexist_ 2021-06-30 03:04:11.582468+00
    Probably my favorite game of all time.
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  • navzerinoo 2021-08-04 19:49:22.349676+00
    I wish more games were like this. Mechanics, gameplay and atmosphere first, story second.
    I remember reading somewhere that the story was made in the final phase of development, after all the levels and all the mechanics had been fleshed out.
    That way the experience is the focus, not the "telling" of the experience. For me atleast, that's what all games should be.
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  • lillhium17 2021-11-20 17:45:07.305564+00
    I disagree, but I think both type of games should exist.
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  • ciaranroy 2022-02-27 18:42:56.244259+00
    Some of the best sound design in any game but man does it kinda drag towards the end
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  • to_noid_or_not_to_noid 2022-03-07 21:13:02.327467+00
    Haven’t played this yet but after the Mandalore review am low key obsessed w/ that one guard NPC whose voice cracks into a ‘Python’ screech when he gets upset:
    https://youtu.be/IU8gMHDkH48
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