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Thief II: The Metal Age is the second instalment in the Thief series, released in 2000. Based upon the original, but upgraded Dark Engine, the sequel is comfortably similar to the original game, but with many improvements to ensure the continued popularity of the series.
In a rare move in the software industry, Looking Glass Studios actually listened to the fans criticisms of the first game. This sequel revolves much more around Garrett looting and stealing from the rich of the city, while attempting to unfurl the mystery behind the Mechanists, rather than fighting the strange monsters like those encountered in the first game.
On the streets and rooftops of a darkened city, where magic and technology mingle and the forces of a corrupt sheriff lurk just beyond every shadow, it takes someone with a soft touch and even softer step to stay ahead of the law, and steal enough to survive. For an honest thief like Garrett, the choices are clear—profit... or perish.
Players once again occupy the weathered boots of Garret-master thief, expert in stealth and unlikely victor over the mad nature god, the Trickster. It's been over a year since the events portrayed in Thief: The Dark Project, and Garrett's life has returned to a kind of chaotic normalcy, marked by daring independent thieving runs and lucrative "jobs". But the cost of business has just gone up, and Garrett may end up paying with his life.
Enter Gorman Truart, newly elected sheriff and bane of the city's underworld. More than just an elected official sworn to uphold public office, Truart is a man with dark, unknown intentions. The poor and desolate are snatched from the streets, never seen nor heard from again. "Semi-legitimate" operations run by well-known wardens are raided and shut down. The increase of guard patrols has lulled the residents into a false sense of security, while corruption, graft, and treachery run rampant through the sheriff's organization. To a certain master thief, these events could probably be overlooked if not for one very disturbing fact: Sheriff Gorman Truat wants Garrett dead, and will stop at nothing until he succeeds. It's your job to keep Garrett alive, and discover the reason for the sheriff's vendetta.
The action in Thief 2 is set against the intrigue and mystery of the well-established city, where several factions struggle to satisfy their own, often opposing, agendas.
Foremost are the Mechanists, Hammerite separatists who abandoned their original leadership after the Order's disastrous run-in with the Trickster. The Mechanists are just as fanatical as their Hammerite cousins, but far more technologically innovative. Their advanced technology has altered the very landscape of the city, and they've won favor with the local nobility by handing out plenty of high-tech toys. The city's criminal element isn't as lucky: the Mechanists have also been suppling the Sheriff with sophisticated security devices, like mechanical beasts specifically created to hunt and kill, security cameras and turrets that shoot deadly cannon balls.
Directly opposed to the Mechanists are the Pagans, the last remnants of the Trickster's forces. With their forces depleted and their infrastructure weakened, the Pagans act as saboteurs and guerillas, spreading their anti-technological message by performing daring hit-and-run raids against the Mechanists.
And then there are the Keepers, the enigmatic holds of knowledge who observe all of the city's events but never actively get involved. Instead, they continue to persuade Garrett to act on their behalf, as their warning rings in his ears: "Beware the Dawn of the Metal Age." As an ex-Keeper who abandoned the order and its secluded, monastic lifestyle, Garrett couldn't be bothered with prophecies or portents of evil. He's played the hero once, and wants nothing to do with his former associates... no matter how persistent (or right) they may be.
In addition to the main protagonist Garrett and the usual assortment of the Keepers, Hammerites, Pagans, and Viktoria, there are many new and some old faces in the game:
- Father Karras: A brilliant ex-Hammerite who founds his own faction, the Mechanists. Karras was the Hammerite who invented the mechanical eye given to Garrett in Thief: The Dark Project. He is extremely smart, very charismatic and creative genius; unfortunately, all these talents are put to negative uses, and Karras really does seem borderline insane throughout the story, and without a doubt sociopathic. However, this does not impede his ability to manage the Mechanists and gain hundreds of devout followers throughout the city, including a majority of the rich, powerful aristocratic crowd. All of his creatures are imbued with his voice.
- Sherrif Gorman Truart: A brutal, conniving head of the City Watch who appears to be the main source of Garrett's troubles at many points throughout the game. Abusing his power and authority garnered by his position at City Watch, Truart collects bribes, rounds up the poor and less-desirable people for Karras to test on, brutally suppresses the criminal element of the city, and treats Garrett as a personal enemy.
- Lieutenant Mosely: One of the City Watch's two lieutenants working under Truart, Mosely is one of only a few who resent to Truart's abuse of the system. Eventually, this distrust and dislike of Truart and his methods leads her to betray the City Watch and secretly protect the Pagans from Truart's vendetta against them.
- Basso the Boxman: Originally met in the first Thief game when Garrett has to rescue him from Cragscleft Prison, Basso makes a brief appearance in the first mission of The Metal Age, as you attempt to rescue his true love, Jenivere.
Garrett only carries three real weapons:
- Blackjack Garrett's trusty blackjack comes in handy for two things; knocking out an unsuspecting person from behind, or striking against a surface to attract an enemy. Unlike the other two weapons you can carry however, equipping the blackjack will not increase your visibility or slow your movement speed.
- Sword Garrett carries a sword only for his own protection in an emergency. He is a master thief, not a warrior. As such, only in rare or unavoidable circumstances will he actually attempt to fight with another person. The sword can be used to backstab an unalerted enemy and kill them immediately, and also can be used to cut wall tapestries that hide many secrets of the game.
- Bow Perhaps Garrett's most useful tool, the bow can be used with a plethora of different ammunition.
- Regular arrows are available for dispatching enemies, triggering switches, and distracting guards from a distance.
- Water arrows are regular shafts with a crystal filled with water at the tip, as opposed to the regular broad arrowhead. These can be used for putting out torches and gas lamps, cleaning bloodstains, and even disabling the furnaces of steam-powered beasts.
- Fire arrows are similar, but carry a highly-combustable substance within the crystal. These can be used for distractions, re-lighting torches, or doing immense damage to various targets (including the otherwise indestructible security cameras).
- Moss arrows spread a thick layer of moss over a surface, allowing Garrett to move much faster (or merely land) on a loud surface without attracting any attention to himself.
- Gas arrows carry a powerful knockout gas in their tips, allowing you to incapacitate numerous enemies at once with one arrow.
- Rope arrows can be fired into a wooden or earth surface and deploy a length of rope that allow Garrett to reach otherwise-impossible areas.
- Vine arrows are very similar to Rope arrows, but can be fired onto metal-grate surfaces.
- Noisemaker arrows emanate a humming noise as they fly, and continue to make random clicks and knocks once stopping. These can be useful for distracting patrolling guards or other enemies.