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The Dark One

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The Dark One last won the day on April 20

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  1. Disclaimer: This mission is not set in Canada. William Steele 1: In the North (by grayman) is the first part of the long-running William Steele series, which stars the titular character. Steele, unlike most other Dark Mod protagonists, isn’t a thief by profession, but a guard in the service of a nobleman after he left his home after a fight with his father. Realizing that he’s forgotten the reason they fought in the first place, he decides to head back home, but his employer has an issue: He’s earned the ire of another noble named Harcourt, who’s put out a bounty on him. Steele decides that, before he heads back home, he needs to repay his boss by stealing the gold bar serving as the bounty and disarming the threat. I’ll say right now that In the North is an excellent mission with a well-designed mansion with multiple little touches that make the whole mission a solid experience. The mansion feels like an actual mansion, carefully split up yet still allowing you to easily get from one end to the other. Unlike Sir Taffsalot’s Sword (which was made much later), the mission gives you more paths to explore, ranging from parkour to secret passageways. The difficulty is fair. Guards are plentiful, but can usually be avoided with some waiting. The only real chokepoint to me was the courtyard early on, since I had guards coming in and out of it almost constantly. The loot goal isn’t hard to hit either. One of the things that sets this mission (and other grayman missions) apart is the storytelling. This mission was one of the first I think to feature the NPCs doing idle events, like examining pictures or sitting down for a break. There are other little touches, like the visiting noblewoman with the mute bodyguards that give the mission a little bit of flair. There’s also a “shift change” at a certain time that moves the guards around, making some places easier to get to but others harder to access. The story is also stronger than some other missions; beyond the little touches involving moment-to-moment life in the manor, there are also quite a few readables and optional objectives. While you can argue that there are perhaps a few too many readables in your inventory by the end of the mission, they’re all useful, either giving worldbuilding about the history of the manor and it’s attached chapel and catacombs, or giving hints about loot and characters. The optional objectives have results ranging from loot to warm fuzzies to an ending cutscene. It allows you to “choose” how Steele reacts to what’s going on around him in a way that most Dark Mod missions don’t allow, even if it is a little limited. The only real gripe I have is that the voice of an important NPC is a little quiet, although you get an objective to do what he said after his request, so it’s a very minor complaint. The mission can also be considered a little on the easy side: you have plenty of equipment and if you blackjack a bit, you’ll have a pretty easy time. But then you miss out on all those little quirks of the NPCs! I didn’t have any problems personally on my first, blackjack-heavy run, but players interested in immersion might want to restrain themselves. All in all, an excellent, must-play mission. Highly Recommended.
  2. Mother Rose is grayman’s Halloween contribution, and a worthy one. Our hero is laying low in another city when he overhears a conversation at the bar. A local doctor had been complaining of his house being haunted, presumably by the ghost of a woman whose child’s coffin was stolen. Said doctor had hired people to exorcise the spirit, which went about as well as you’d expect. Now the doctor himself is missing, and our hero decides to take his chances with the angry ghost for some money, placing himself firmly in horror movie protagonist territory. Mother Rose is a short, but well-constructed mission, even though most of it takes place in a small house. The mission is set in the dead of winter, and the dark, abandoned houses (along with some creepy music), results in an unsettling atmosphere that fits the Halloween theme perfectly. The mission is quick when you know what you’re doing, but tense if you don’t... especially once Mother Rose herself comes into play. I believe that a common problem among horror missions (even good ones) is that once you get past the horror elements, the mission either becomes too easy (since you know what's coming and how to avoid it or deal with it) or tedious (since the horror is killing you over and over). While Mother Rose doesn’t completely avoid the former issue, the titular monster avoids some of the pitfalls. She’s slow, but utterly relentless in her pursuit of you, and because she can move through walls and ceilings, it’s easy to be caught off guard by her if you’re running around the house in a panic and not paying attention to how she’ll get to you. That said, it’s still easy to lure her and juke her...but there’s still a challenge in it if you’re not careful or are playing the mission for the first time and don’t know what to do. On a final note, I like how the mission lets you play a decent person, which seems to be a trend in greyman’s missions (not that I object). All in all, a fun, short, Halloween mission. Recommended. My apologies for being late on this.
  3. And now, we’re going to Grayman. Rest in peace Sir Taffsalot. Sir Taffsalot’s Sword is a tribute mission by Grayman to the titular user. The in-universe Sir Taffsalot is currently off fighting barbarians in the north, unfortunately allowing his ceremonial sword to be stolen. Our hero learns that the sword is now in possession of a noble suspected of scamming his fellow nobles, and sets out to steal it, and some first editions of Sir Taffsalot’s adventures. You start off the mission in a small alcove, and the first thing you see when you exit is the manor you’re targeting with the setting sun as a backdrop. It was a great first impression of a Grayman mission, and the design lives up to the opening. The manor is well-designed, with plenty of places to hide and the ability to turn off the lights to make it easier to slip through the halls (although the guards will turn them back on). The difficulty is fair, and I’d argue that it’s surprisingly flexible no matter how you play: While the loot goal on Expert is quite high, it’s optional. This is relevant when you realize that a good chunk of that loot will come from the paintings around the house, and guards do notice when they go missing. As a result, you either have to hit some sort of perfect cycle where you grab what you need before anyone sees it, or accept that some of the guards will be on alert. If you’re playing on expert, you can easily decide to see if you want to take the risk and if the guards start getting annoying, you can always complete the mission normally. I was a little disappointed that the mission doesn’t offer a lot of alternate paths to get into the manor. After the impressive opening, I thought that there would be a lot of options, but there’s only two, and one of them is quite risky if you don’t know what you’re doing. But the inside is well designed, feeling like a house and giving you multiple hallways and rooms to loot. The mission is obviously simplified if you’re a blackjack fiend like me who knocks everyone out, but it’s still fun to explore. And on a final note, I enjoyed the book samples. All in all, a worthy tribute mission to a long-time contributor. Recommended.
  4. A Night to Remember is technically Fieldmedic’s second-to-last mission (said last mission being Not An Ordinary Guest). Technical issues meant that it was taken down, but after some fixes were implemented by Bikerdude it was put back up again, hence why I’m just now getting to it. The mission stars the same protagonist from the later Not an Ordinary Guest, Sir Henry Doyle. Doyle is a nice enough chap who’s drowning in gambling debts that have resulted in his de facto servanthood to a noblewoman who uses him to steal from other nobles. Doyle has attempted to flee to the home of one Cromwell, but is contacted by the noblewoman who wants him to steal the blueprints to the Gottfried II, Cromwell’s in-development airship. In theory, this should be a simple job: The guests are asleep, there are no guards on the estate, and the only hard part should be taking enough loot to make it look like a break-in. Needless to say, things go very wrong very fast. This was made as a Halloween mission, and serves its purpose well. The horror elements are well-done, and do a good job of throwing the player off. Almost every room has some minor haunting, and it does a good job of reminding you that you’re trapped in this manor with a bunch of very angry beings. Said beings patrol the halls, damaging you if you get too close and sometimes ambushing you by walking through the walls. That being said, they’re easy to evade once you know where they are, but a new player can easily find themselves stuck waiting for the entities to move on. The manor itself is well-made, with some models that I haven’t seen in other missions. It feels like a mansion, and isn’t too confusing or difficult to navigate. The mission is thankfully free of the jank that you find in some of Fieldmedic’s other missions, with the only issue I noticed popping up very early in the mission; when chasing someone, you can take your time to explore the servant’s wing, even though the mission is supposed to fail you if you go too far off the person’s trail. Difficulty-wise, I found it fair, barring one secret location which you need to access on the highest difficulty (and possibly the next lowest, but I don’t think so). You can find out that it exists and where it is, but I thought that it was very easy to miss how to access it, since the two places aren’t connected (but are close). But on the whole, I enjoyed this mission. There are some minor problems, but it can still provide some good moments of haunted house horror and is one of the more unique missions in The Dark Mod. Recommended.
  5. And now, a quick one. The Arena (by ERH+) opens with an intro describing a land where time flows, now long abandoned by its creators and spiraling out of control with no way to stop it and reduced to a fancy tourist attraction. This is just set up for throwing NPCs in a huge arena and making them kill each other. It’s all quite cathartic, and interesting to see how the NPCs react to others when hostile. Sadly the player usually has to get them riled up first, but the fights are fun to watch, with some you’d expect to slaughter falling first, and the average mook enduring to the end. You have access to almost every common TDM NPC, as far as I know, including a few that I had never seen before. There are also a few missing, mainly new ones, such as the ones from Volta 2. You also have access to a wide (and unlimited) variety of weapons for picking off the stragglers. The mission, while it doesn’t really end, does have objectives. You have to kill 50 NPCs, but for some reason kills done by the NPCs themselves count, giving you no reason to jump in at all. The knockouts needed are easy to get with some well-aimed gas arrows (as the lighting and metal make blackjacking difficult), but ultimately the objectives are just pointless. It might have been necessary for some technical reason that I don’t know about. All in all, a fun little time-waster. Recommended, if you want some catharsis.
  6. Phew. Been a while. A combination of life and computer issues meant that I wasn’t playing much Dark Mod for a bit, much less working on reviews. I’m a little more caught up now, so hopefully I can provide some more content while playing my next block of missions. Thank you all for your support, it really does mean a lot to me to know that people enjoy reading these. ------------------- My reputation as a reviewer is riding on this! A Reputation to Uphold (by Springheel) is a sequel to A Score to Settle. (Although you don't need to play that mission to understand what’s going on here, barring a readable reference to those events.) This time, Corbin is after something of actual value: a necklace that was swiped before he could get at it and is now in the possession of a criminal organization. It’s due to be sold to a fence, forcing Corbin to follow the seller and buyer...or not. Reputation’s main gimmick is that it has three different play styles, similar to Fieldmedic’s “Not an Ordinary Guest.” On “Shadow” it’s a traditional follow and then steal mission (although you don’t have to follow very closely), “Timed Shadow” keeps things the same but gives you a time limit to steal the necklace, and “Break-In” forgoes the stalking altogether in favor of making you at least partially visible, even in shadows. It lacks the same variation as the above mentioned mission, but does provide some replay value. The problem is that, to me, there wasn’t enough variation. Timed Shadow was an interesting curiosity, but because I had no idea what the limit was during the mission (about eight minutes, as I found out in the thread), it’s hard to tell if I blazed through it with time to spare or if it was much tighter than I thought. Break-In is the most interesting, but once you’ve played the mission twice getting to it (as I did), you know what you’re doing, although I know one item is slightly moved around across difficulty levels. Graphics-wise, it’s similar to A Score to Settle: Lots of dim, uneven streets and doing an excellent job of selling the fact that you’re creeping around in gang territory, with a few “handy” touches here and there to sell it. Like its predecessor, I wish that there was a little more to do, although there is a neat little Easter Egg and reference to a previous mission, if you can find it. Difficulty-wise, it’s fair. Like I mentioned, after going through all the difficulty levels, you’ll have a pretty good grasp on this straightforward mission. There aren’t as many unique parts as Score, but it’s still well-done, and the latter two difficulties do present a fair challenge, especially to the ghoster. Of note for said ghoster is one piece of loot in particular that’s impossible to get without at least swinging the blackjack with wild abandon, or firing an arrow into the darkness. Getting the loot goal isn’t super difficult though, even on Break-In where it’s a required objective. All an all, a slightly over ambitious but still very solid mission. Recommended.
  7. Hey thanks! Good to know that someone likes these things, typo-filled though they are. I never did get around to putting in screenshots though, couldn't find a good site/didn't understand the sites I was pointed at (and I kept forgetting to take screenshots/got dragged out of the mission by them). Sadly, that's not my final time, that's my review time. I timed how long it took me (roughly) to write this review in honor of the mission's speedbuild origins. I guess I could keep track of that in the future, since I play these missions twice for reviewing purposes and it might be interesting to compare them. That'll be a few more reviews down the line, since I'll be going through my backlog/doing replays for a bit. Once again, thank you. --- I don’t have anything to settle, really. A Score to Settle is probably Springheel’s best mission. This time, Corbin isn’t after something as prosaic as money (although there’s plenty of that), but vengeance. In the time he’s been gone (see The Builder’s Influence), the Bowley Boys have gained a new leader, Sykes, who’s running a vicious ship that has left his gang in charge and one of Corbin’s fences dead. Just killing him would make the gang situation worse, so instead a fair bit of humiliation is called for… A Score to Settle is a very urban mission. Instead of fancy mansions, you’re slipping through the mean streets and slums, breaking into a gang hideout. Everything feels grimy and dim, with uneven, stained roads and small tunnels giving the impression that you're creeping down back alleys. It all fits the sordid (and somewhat funny, honestly) nature of what you’re trying to do here. It’s a more story-bases than most missions, and while actually breaking the scenario is hard, it is a little too easy to, just via natural curiosity, to complete most of the mission before ever meeting your contact. Difficulty-wise, it’s quite fair. Streets are wide open and made for sneaking, and even the closer confines of Sykes’ hideout give you room to maneuver. The loot goal is high, but optional, and most of it is found in one place. I do wish that there were a few more places around the city to slip into for loot, but that’s a mild gripe. The difficulty only really shoots up with the final sequence, which is bound to send ghosters into fits of rage. But it’s done well, and creates some good chaos and confusion. There are also a few other little elements of this mission that I like, such as that trap in Sykes’ hideout, and how the mission uses the environment to allow you to progress. Although I admit one needed jump is a little too high, resulting in some (like me) seeing it, trying it, and then assuming that you need to do something else, or get a little bit higher. It also makes it a little hard to recommend to someone new to the mod, since it requires a little familiarity with it. But all in all, an excellent mission. Recommended.
  8. In honor of the speedbuild origins, I present a speed build review. Go. A Matter of Hours is Springheel’s latest mission, meant to show that you to, can make a mission quickly. The Bowley Boys have got their hands on a valuable crown, making them a prime target for Corbin, our hero. Unfortunately, a raid is planned, meaning he only has a matter of hours to sneak in swipe it. Sadly, this does not mean a time limit. But the mission is hard enough. Springheel’s other missions tend to be more story-based affairs focusing more on unconventional objectives, like tax records or dumping gang leaders down toilets. This time it’s much simpler: No readables, no plot, just swoop in and grab it. The mission is well done, with good lighting and enough junk lying around to make it seem like the player is in an industrial warehouse clumsily converted into a hideout. It’s not a major part of the mission, but for something made it six hours it looks good. The mission is also quite hard. Part of this is due to a blind spot or two, such as the one separating the warehouse proper from the hideout, forcing you to duck into the light and pray that no one is there. Some of the loot is also beneath bright lights, and getting at it will all but force you to either have excellent timing, or use your two knockout (on the highest difficulty), on two particular guards. And you still need to have excellent timing. A challenge is fine, but the mission came off to me as very tight, and giving little room for misused equipment and knockouts. This is probably due to the speed, but nonetheless. Exploration is rewarded well, with tools scattered about for the careful thief willing to look in the piles of junk. There were also some reports of performance issues, but I’m pleased to say that my four-year-old piece of junk that sounds like it has a chainsaw embedded in it and probably is clogged with so much dust that there are new forms of life growing in it, could run it fine with almost no noticeable slowdown, nothing more than I’ve gotten in far larger missions. All in all, a fun little challenge, especially for those who want a bit more careful stealth. And for those who want to know how simple it is to make a solid mission. Recommended. Final time: About thirteen minutes (and last minute edits that I didn't notice until I posted this here).
  9. Finished this a couple of days ago. Very good, if different from the previous William Steele missions. It hit on the creepy exploration I like in TDM, I could have just run around in this place with no NPCs for a while. The inn and the theater in particular had good atmosphere. Everything felt like it was just lived in, and is now rotting and decaying. Very well done. Plot-wise I do have a minor question:
  10. I have nothing witty to say here. The Gatehouse (by Bikerdude and GoldChocobo), is an atypical mission. For one, it’s technical a conversion of a Doom 3 map. For another, this time you aren’t playing as a thief, but as Matthias, a Builder acolyte who’s reaching the climax of a year-long pilgrimage to track down a sword touched by the Master Builder himself. Obviously it’s not just sitting in some guy’s attic, but deep in an abandoned castle dubbed “The Gatehouse,” forcing our actual hero to track it down. This mission stands out from the norm in a third way: It’s mainly a puzzle mission. The higher difficulties do toss a few revenants at you to slip by, but for the most part you’re solving puzzles and dodging death traps. It’s all done quite well, and while you don't have many brain-teasers (barring a mirror puzzle which can be somewhat brute forced with a little observation), you’ll have to search and think a bit, as well as quickly react to the latest challenge. Some are fairly creative too, such as one of the final hallways. And the final challenge is one of the most entertaining (if at times tricky) challenges in The Dark Mod. The mission also has excellent atmosphere, conveying a crumbling, haunted ruin, with dark crawl spaces that you’ll be watching in case something nasty climbs out. It’s genuinely creepy, with hints of what happened to transform it into the mess it is today waiting for you if you’re willing to look. It’s a minor element, but well-done. There are a couple of issues that can kill the immersion a bit, such as spiked balls not always hurting you but instead landing on your head so perfectly you’d think it was a flat metal plate, but these are few and far between. All in all, an excellent tomb crawler. Perhaps I’m biased, since I’ve been wanting one of these ever since I played Samhain Night, but Recommended.
  11. Blackmail is such an ugly word. Sir Talbot’s Collateral (by the combo of Baal and Bikerdude) is an excellent little mansion mission that sets our cautious hero against the titular Talbot. On the surface, he’s clean, but he’s trolling about for a professional thief, and a demonstration of our hero’s skills is called for. And hey, if a little bit of “collateral” is found, all the better… This mission is quite well-made, and very non-linear for a mansion mission. Once you get access to the wine cellar (which can happen very early), you essentially have access to most of the mansion, via vents and secret passages. On my replay I was worried that you could break the mission this way, but there's enough separation to ensure that even experienced players will have to duck through the halls. Difficulty-wise, it can be tricky, as knockouts are limited (although only Expert will fail you if you exceed it) and guards are plentiful. You have plenty of places to duck into, but expect some close calls. One oddly placed light in the kitchen gives you a little too much darkness right in the center, even though guards should be able to see you crouching right there! But that was the only odd light I found. The loot goal is fair, if tight, but higher difficulties will require digging in nooks and crannies to find what’s needed. I also sometimes had an issue with guards being alerted seemingly at random. I would put out a light or swipe something, and they would walk past it four times before noticing that something was amiss on the fifth. It didn’t seem to increase my stealth score, so I assume it was either a bug or a misunderstanding on my part about the alert system. This mission is quite fun. The blue ambient light makes it look different, and there is much to be found for the curious thief, including optional objectives. The readables are done well and provide useful hints on how to proceed. What I mainly liked was that the mission rewards, but does not demand, exploration. It’s certainly needed on higher difficulties, but if you’re playing it casually, you don’t need to dig everywhere...but you’ll miss out on secrets and equipment. I think this is actually a good intro mission for new players, since it hits a lot of high points but doesn’t crush if you miss things. Highly Recommended (was just Recommended but I decided to bump it up like a year and a half after writing it)
  12. You have a point, it helps that there's less missions in The Dark mod so it's harder for missions to slip under the radar. I mainly brought up Lords and Legacy since I don't see it talked about much at all, as opposed to something like Requiem, which I still see brought up. Unusual missions might slip under as well.
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