Return to the City

Author: Melan & Bikerdude
Released: March 1st 2011
Download: Here

Back among these old walls again, it seems. The alleyways and courts beckon, the smells and flickering lights the same as ever. Have I been away so little that I remember them all? No matter. This time, my objective once more brings me to the Builders: one of their workshops has recently received a shipment of potent explosives. Although inert before it is treated with a volatile compound, there is bound to be a mechanician who will pay a good price for the lot.

Back when this mission was first released, there was a noticeable drop of framerate in locations due to poor optimisation, which only took some of the fun out of playing it, but I persevered at the time despite this. It’s lucky that I decided to hold off doing a review since, because the mission had finally received a much needed update which aimed to optimise the entire map, not only increasing the performance considerably but also adding in a few additional locations to visit, along with other fixes and changes. It was a pleasant surprise to walk around the corner upon loading a new game to find how smooth it ran in comparison. Enough about the technical aspects though and onto the mission itself. Much like the title suggests, it takes place within a part of the city that manages to create an atmosphere similar to that from the first Thief game. Only part of the experience actually takes place around the city streets and there’s not a great deal of places you can enter from here when ignoring the Builder’s monastery, your main target where the explosives can be found. What the mission does offer is the vertical aspect of exploration, for the player to enjoy mantling between buildings and making use of rope arrows. If you can see an open window or some ledge, it will likely be possible that you can get there. Though admittedly it was a shame there wasn’t much more to explore around ground level, but when compared to the older version, there is plenty more to see this time round already. Exploring the city indepth is going to be the only way to find the relevant object to complete the bonus objective afterall, or you can otherwise skip ahead and take care of the main objective instead.

Visuals have vastly improved in the update, with what had already looked good then now contains more detail than ever, yet still performs smoothly. For example, one of the side alleys with stairway used to be fairly plain and bright, while in the new version got a little facelift. Lots of plant life is now placed amongst the dirt including a couple of trees. More decoration has been added to the buildings, mostly around windows, while some of the texturing had been changed to create a grittier appearance. These changes to textures have also allowed areas to become more consistent with one another throughout the mission. The overall outcome is simply an improvement to what was there and feels like some much needed depth was given to these areas. The same is done in various other places, expanding the city and even including more ambiance sounds. There’s one section of street in particular that used to be a long path but has been given a bend in it’s layout using an extension to the nearby building and this even improves the lighting aspect here too. Another nice lighting change is in the monastery attic to really bring out its shape that much more. These changes helps to compliment the solid level design and makes every section feel alive. It’s difficult not to mention the update so often because I cannot emphasis enough how better the experience turned out to be and I’m glad Bikerdube took up the role to help start it. The monastery itself is an appealing sight outdoors and a central piece to the level, standing tall and proud, making good use of the blend between the blue bricks and bright windows all over. It’s only unfortunate we don’t get to see additional areas in here. I was actually hoping that we would be able to enter the door with the note attached to it this time to find out what was beyond. Lighting in general works in favour for both the visuals and gameplay. The city streets are fairly dark with the occasional lamp placed here and there while the indoors are lit up quite well. In both cases it doesn’t distract from the stealth aspects and work well without being too disadvantageous for the guards outoodrs and providing some nice shadows for the indoor locations.

Takes focus on the vertical aspect of exploring the city which remains the most enjoyable part of the mission, with some great looking design and lighting throughout. The update provided a huge boost in performance and offers new areas to check out along with other various fixes and changes.

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  1. May 10, 2011

    Elo Ryan

    Glad you enjoyed playing the revision, but I think you missed a few locations. In the ally with smoke and dirt did you go through that door on the right, there is whole other area beyond to explore. High up in the ally with the trees there is a little bonus for getting up there. In the ally that used to have stairs, there is a small room to explore with a readable that links to the high up area near the start (hint:chantry) there is a bonus for getting up there. In the builder compound there is a bonus for finding a way upto and into the bell tower. And lastly the builder compound had numerous visual improvements over the previous version, special the dungeon.

  2. quakis
    May 10, 2011

    A majority of those I found, probably missed one or two areas, likely in every mission I play. The door to the right of the third screenshot was especially nice considering there was nothing there before. The bell tower too, since I remember climbing around that area in the original and not finding anything special. I looked up during the revision and noticed an open window which was good to see. There really is a lot more stuff to find, I even had to check back on the older version to make sure I was correct in my findings.

    I did however forget to mention the deadly spikeball of doom found in the dungeons. Anything that touches it will instantly die and can be placed along the NPC’s paths to kill them off. That thing is dangerous.

  3. May 10, 2011

    “I did however forget to mention the deadly spikeball of doom found in the dungeons. Anything that touches it will instantly die and can be placed along the NPC’s paths to kill them off. That thing is dangerous”

    LOL, awesome.

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