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  Mechanic #102 - Episodic Adventure - The Thief
Posted: 06/10/09

An episodic adventure series, where certain elements are shared between each adventure.

  The Tales of Mallow Darkmarsh

This idea originally started as a story idea, following the exploits of a character called Mallow Darkmarsh - a sort of steampunk thief who discovers something he shouldn't have. However, I'm presenting a more abstract plot so that I can spend my time focusing on talking about the gameplay.

  Episodic Larceny


The premise is simple. It is a series of a half dozen adventures. You play a thief character and each episode is a single job. One episode might have you sneaking into a high security location to steal something, while another might have you posing as a foreign diplomat to gain access to a high society fund raiser.

Each job is a self contained zone, and could be considered something like a level from Hitman (but without the bald head and uber-violence). Once you start a job, you are in it until you succeed or fail. Failure means starting the whole job over from the beginning. It's not a stealth game or filled with action - it is an adventure game through and through - so replaying a mission should go by fairly quickly. The fact that there are multiple paths through a job should also help.

What sets the game apart is that outside of each job, there is a central, shared hub that you can walk around in and do things which might help you finish each job. Think of it as a small bit of town with things like shops and pubs to explore. Through this hub, you can acquire information and tools that can affect how you finish a job.

Like Hitman and something like Deus Ex, there are multiple mini-puzzles that can be solved several different ways, depending on what information you have or what tools are available. For example, there might be a guard blocking a door to a vault. You can knock him out with stun gas (if you have it), chat him up and try to convince him to move, dress like a guard and try to relieve him from his post, or perhaps set off an alarm somewhere else and hope he leaves to respond to it.

The town hub has a variety of mini-quests that one can partake in before engaging in a job. These quests revolve around gathering information and specific tools needed. For instance, if you want a guard uniform, you might want to get the guard drunk at the pub and steal it when he is unconscious. Or you might learn some detail about the life of a famous dignitary, which you can use to shmooze your way through a cocktail party. You might uncover the blueprints of the museum, complete with where the alarm sensors are and locations of hidden passageways and air ducts.

  Episodes Together Make a Season


The way the episodes fit together is somewhat unique in that, while the jobs themselves are self contained, each episode might contribute something new to the town hub. For instance, episode three might include a game center where you can go play darts. For episode three, this might be a mini-quest where you challenge someone to a game of darts and earn some valuable item or information from winning. However, if you have the episode installed, you can still access the game center in the other episodes. The more episodes you have installed, the larger and more complex the town hub becomes - though each episode comes with all the locations and items needed to at least win that particular job.

Each job has a single primary objective by which success is judged. However, there are multiple optional and secondary objectives you can attempt to complete. These earn you money and cheat tokens that carry between games, allowing you to purchase more expensive items and cheat codes like skins for the characters, play the game in full pig-latin, change character X's sex and personality, and other fun things to do.

Cheat tokens are spent when used, so once you've unlocked a cheat, it's available across all episodes from that point forward. Money, however, works slightly differently. Each job has little trinkets you can sell for money. This money becomes a standard starting salary for each game. For instance, if you get $120 / $400 in episode one and $300 / $450 in episode two, every time you restart an episode, you will begin with $420. If you go back and replay old episodes and collect all the trinkets, you'll have more money to start with. Certain items are very expensive and become easier to buy as you collect more and more trinkets, making it easier and easier to to collect the rest.

All items needed to complete a job are available in each episode, but collecting the trinkets may require more. For instance, you might have five lockpicks for episode six, but collecting all the trinkets would require at least ten. You can, of course, continue replaying the episodes and increasing your starting salary by finding trinkets, but you can also make money within each episode by doing mini-quests, gambling at the game center, or selling your friends into slavery (or something). The trinket collection only affects your starting salary. What you do with your money past that is up to you.


The focus on this episode adventure is on replayability. Sure, you can just work your way through the various episodes and reach the end, but you'll see a lot of locked doors that you can't get behind. The real nature of the game is to explore each job, complete each mini-quest, and collect each trinket. The rewards for doing so are some amusing cheats and the satisfaction that you've completed the season one hundred percent. Winning is only half the game.



Copyright 2007-2014 Sean Howard. All rights reserved.