Review by Dafydd ab Hugh

Mission Name: A Keeper’s Betrayal
Author: The Immortal Thief
Mission Type: Guards/Mechanists/Keepers
Map Size: Small
Difficulty: Moderately Hard (especially in Keeper compound)

Silver Hammer quality

Brief description: Garrett must first sneak into a heavily patrolled guardhouse to find out the fate of a Keeper friend, then raid a Mechanist facility, and finally work his way through a secret and scary Keeper compound in search of a mad First Keeper.

The Good Stuff:

All in all, this mission is loads of fun. The storyline is enjoyable without distracting from gameplay; the environment, although compact, doesn’t feel claustrophobic; and the AIs are neither blind, nor do they have Superman’s X-ray vision and super hearing. A couple of doors vanished on me, but that’s a quirk of the Dark engine; it’s probably a skosh too much to ask that fan-mission designers rewrite the engine code.

The objectives are reasonable and even make sense within the story of the mission. The wide variety of environments -- city streets and a bit of sewers, Mechanist temple, Keeper compound -- means the player never knows what to expect next. There is some degree of nonlinearity, but for the most part, there is a path through space-time, marked by objectives, that one must follow.

Aside from the ghosting business below, which is just a matter of taste, I found this FM creative, atmospheric, very playable... and several elements were very nostalgic ;) for me, such as the Keeper compound (you’ll see what I mean), which of course reminded me of Equilibrium, one of my all-time favorite FMs. A Keeper’s Betrayal is a great FM, but I hope the Immortal Thief makes his next a little more ghoster-friendly.

The Not So Good Stuff:

In general, I’m not a big fan of objectives that explicitly require killing, for all that they are so canonical, they can be found in Return to the Cathedral, an original Thief mission (kill all the haunts). But when I do encounter one, I prefer the killing to be sneaky -- a backstab, or a blackjack followed by hacking the comatose body to death, or better yet, pulling a fast one and getting the AI to commit suicide (as with Constantine at the end of Thief I or Karras at the end of the sequel). Although it’s possible to achieve the killing objective in A Keeper’s Betrayal this way, you will almost certainly end up alerting him first. (Most people just run up and use the Conan technique, which I confess is what I did the first time.)

Then there is the problem of ghosting: nearly all the mission is ghostable (by mortals such as myself) except for two instances, each of which requires knowledge of some bizarre quirks of the Dark enging. I rather prefer a mission that is entirely ghostable by “normal” means (sneaking, thinking, and guts). Barring that, I prefer one that is straightforwardly not ghostable. But getting so close, only to be defeated at the end, having to “give up the ghost” and resort to the old methods is a bit disheartening. (Note: I did eventually ghost this mission, but it required strange manipulations of the engine.)

But these are simply differences of playing style. There is nothing actually wrong with the mission; blackjackers will have a great time!

There are a few places where sound seems to disappear briefly, but nothing major.

Pros: Wide variety of locales, objectives that make story sense, surprisingly big environment for a small FM.

Cons: Virtually impossible to ghost; requires weird manipulations of the engine.

Bottom Line: A mission that starts small, then grows bigger and bigger while never losing sight of either story or gameplay. All in all, definitely a keeper... uh, you know what I mean!

Mission Score (on scale of 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest):
Architecture: 4
Atmosphere: 4
Story: 4
Gameplay: 5
Optional - Sound: 3
Optional - Completeness: 5

Bonus Points:
Creativity: 3 (Keepers)
Plagiarism penalty: 1 (Keepers)
Irritation penalty: 1 (ghosting impossible without abusing the Dark engine)
Reviewer's bias: 2 -- for a small mission, this one felt amazingly “big!”

Final Score: 4.5 silver

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