May 26, 2021, 2:04 a.m.
(Last edited: 2 weeks, 6 days ago)
The Black Frog was one of the first series of FMs I played back when I was getting into Thief. It's a rightly famous series of maps, but I didn't get around to Gaetane's earlier series of missions, to which The Black Frog is technically a sequel. While I don't think it matters much if you play the L'Arsene series before The Black Frog, you must play the previous L'Arsene missions before you approach The Den, otherwise Garrett's... predicament won't make sense. All I'll say about those missions is they're generally good, and they have the added interest of showing an accomplished FM author learning her craft, gradually improving her skills and creating more and more complex and original missions, and telling a story along the way. The Den is, as you'd expect, only the most accomplished in the series.
It's also pretty long and complicated. It starts off as a tense escape from the captivity of thieves, but once you leave your "jail" you only find yourself deeper in their lair. From here the mission develops into a tricky and dynamic mansion heist. This "thieves den" features well-designed and diverse interiors, with as many secret passages as guards, and a lot to do outside of stealing the requisite loot: riddles, keyhunts, various dark secrets to uncover, and once you pass a certain point in the mission, a supernatural invasion. It really develops into one of the finest missions of the big-mansion-with-a-dark-secret subgenre I've played. There are some comparatively minor issues here and there, like required objects that are maybe a bit too well-hidden (which I remember being a point of frustration in The Black Frog as well), but this shouldn't scare you off from this fine mission, unless the monsters do.
From my perspective, it's an easy mission to recommend in all respects, from excellent atmosphere and design to gameplay that is dynamic as the evolving story.