The sequel to "Initiation" is Jack Farmer's sophomore effort into mapping for TDM, and it certainly shows that he has found his feet with creating virtual worlds in TDM. This time around the mission is much more succinct, focused and properly dimensioned.
First we are greeted with an admittedly flashy introduction cutscene which does a good job of setting the scene for the player, as well as hearken back to the old days of Thief briefings, the narrator is no Garret, but it gets the job done. It turns out our job is to crash the party on the crazy inventor (and arachnophile) Halfrid, whose new invention is going to be sold to the highest bidder in the morning. We are sent out by the Hidden Hands to get information on this invention, and also rob the prospective buyers blind. It is a good setup for a straightforward night of thievery, which in my mind gives it a passing grade on story.
The location is Halfrid's "summer cottage", which is certainly more of a mansion. Despite the misnomer the place is rather easy on the eyes, and Jack Farmer's outside-the-box approach to lighting and light coloration gives visual interest, if a bit eccentric. The interior is well designed and decorated, aside from the comically oversized stairwell which can get a pass. There a few interesting juxtapositions in the map with super advanced technology that is sprinkled in throughout the medieval steampunk mansion, for example the hydraulic steel garage doors to the stables and an overhead projector with a slideshow inside the mansion, which fits right into the mission's idiosyncratic vibe.
This brings us to the gameplay in the mission, which unfortunately is a bit lackluster. The player will realize early on that the mission will be a long key hunt, as the provided lockpicks won't open very many doors for the player, and there are several choke points that require keys. There is a little bit of variety sprinkled in by having to hunt for codes for some combination locks, and hunting for equipment as that is quite sparse on the outset. One redeeming part of the mission is a treasure hunt for some gems based on a note with more-or-less cryptic hints. The readables spread out through the mission do their job of guiding the player in certain tasks, while leaving the player guessing on others. Some of the flavor readables are entertaining, while others are more bizarre which I suppose fits the mission's vibe.
Overall the mission is well worth a playthrough, unless you find keyhunts unbearable, and is a substantial improvement over the previous mission in my mind. With a bit more deliberation on gameplay elements this could have been an excellent mission, but as it stands it stops at good.
star 7 / 10