A view of the courtyard
A quaint cemetary
The villain's manor, plush as usual
I'm not quite sure what this guardpost is for...
Review by Anarchic Fox|
Mission Name: The Ring
Author: Thorin Oakenshield
Mission Type: Police City/Mansion
Map Size: Small
No. Times Played: 3
Difficulties Played: Normal and Expert
Loot Found: 7050 out of 7050*
Secrets Found: 4 out of 4
*I believe that there is a newer version with a maximum of 7350 loot.
Pros: Good exploration, lots of loot, usually solid gameplay
Cons: Shoddy architecture, under-developed story, a generally incomplete feel
Bottom Line: Fun, but deficient in most aspects
For once, you took the virtuous route and refused a job; an assassination, more specifically. Apparently, the assassination took place anyway, and your ring was found at the scene of the crime. You've been set up, and now's the time to find out who's responsible.
The Ring is a very sloppy mission. It has numerous brush and texture alignment errors, buildings that look rushed from both the inside and the outside, roombrushing and pathfinding problems, poorly placed AI, and at least one potentially mission-ruining bug. Nevertheless, the mission is fun despite its problems. The six-day construction time mentioned in the readme was enough to make the level enjoyable, but it could have been far better.
Exploring The Ring is pleasant, and there are many places to see in a compact space; finding your way into some of these will give you a sense of accomplishment, as careful observation or a difficult infiltration of the sheriff's (second?) house will yield a key to a previously inaccessible area. There are many interesting tucked-away spaces, though of the mission's four secrets three have to be found in order to complete the main objectives. The mission's biggest draw, I suppose, is its extremely high loot count, distributed in a totally chaotic manner; I don't think there's a single building or space that doesn't contain treasure of some kind, although you might find this loot inexplicably tucked away in a difficult-to-see nook or sitting on a dark ledge. Meeting The Ring's loot requirement on extra is a nearly impossible task without a loot list handy.
A combination of an excessive ambient light, and high light sources (some torches are twenty feet in the air) with very large radii, makes it nearly impossible to judge the safety of an area by the shadows covering its ground; thus it is difficult to plan safe routes past the cops. Other than this problem, and the too-bright area in front of the sheriff's house, the lighting is solidly designed. The loud floor surfaces, on the other hand, are badly placed. One long passage, which might otherwise have a major strategic role in this mission, is rendered almost useless by the fact that it's floored with tile. The sensitive entrances to the sheriff's manor are, for the same reason, also made frustrating to pass. The standing AI are often poorly placed; for instance, there are frequently cops standing right in the way of some vital route, whose evasion requires as much luck as skill. The patrols tend to be good, with the notable shortcoming that too many AI are sometimes placed on the same path (this is particularly troublesome when a closed gate causes them all to pile up against it). In playing this mission, you are almost sure to proceed by blackjacking everybody; ghosting it is for masochists.
The scenery is blocky and misproportioned; every house is a tiny shack, many have second stories with no fathomable way to get there, and half of the sheriff's residence is taken up by a single staircase. The texturing is alright, but quite repetitive. I could find no scene in the level that I would consider of OM quality.
Nothing in this level acts to create any emotional engagement, or even any sense of depth or vividness; the houses and such are plainly nothing more than locations for loot, ambients other than the sound of rain are rare, and the readables do nothing to build the location. The plot, in its outline, is better than most, and could have been developed more; nevertheless, the mission provides nothing more in the way of story than the book which satisfies one of the objectives, a readable whose placement and origin are inexplicable. With just a little more effort the story could have been reasonably fleshed out, with its paradoxical elements explained; perhaps, for example, we would have found that Garrett is able to eat his ring after retrieving it because he really doesn't want it stolen again (note that eating the ring will make the mission unbeatable).
The Ring is an example of how a severely flawed mission can still be enjoyable. Nevertheless, there are plenty of missions which manage to be technically solid, emotionally gripping, and/or well-plotted, in addition to having fair gameplay.
Story: 4 -- It's better than the usual mansion-heist, giving a good reason for Garrett to undertake the mission (and later on, a solid antagonist) but none of the further narrative possibilities of this plot are developed.
Atmosphere: 2.5 -- This mission fails to develop this locale or to give any sense of the people therein; much less does it provide emotionally tense situations. Still, there's nothing that outright ruins what immersion you may have.
Gameplay: 5.5 -- Good exploration, satisfying (if chaotic) distribution of loot, alright sneaking. Frequently, though not ruinously, poor design of floor surfaces, lighting, and AI placement.
Architecture: 3 -- Buildings tend to be blocky and extremely undersized. The mission has no aesthetic value, although there's no place that actually looks ugly.
Reviewer's Score: 4 bronze (4 on the ten-point scale)
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