Thief 3: Fearsome

By Shamus
on Apr 21, 2006
Filed under:
Game Reviews

In the past I’ve made a few posts (here, here, and here) about funny or amusing moments in Thief 3. It might sound like this game is silly, but that’s only because I’m highlighting the weak spots. In truth, Thief 3 is the most frightening game I’ve ever played. I’m not kidding. This game can be truly alarming and terrifying in one or two spots.

One of the reasons for this is the nature of the game itself: You are supposed to hide from stuff. There is something primal about hiding in the shadows and trying not to move as a foe passes by. They are going to get close enough that you could reach out and touch them, and you know that discovery means death. There are foes that you cannot beat in combat. There are foes you are not intended to fight. There are undead in the game that act a lot more like the movie undead and less like the Doom-style target dummy zombies. They are tough and hungry and tend to keep getting up. Your only hope is to hide from the suckers.

This is very different from games like Resident Evil or Doom where you have to fight things. With a little meta-game thinking, most players realize that anything a game throws at you is something that you can defeat one way or another. You have one form of interaction: You shoot it. Guns make you feel safer, even if they aren’t very effective.

But there is one point in the game that really pushes the experience over the top. Suddenly, the game changes gears and throws you for a complete loop. The result is amazing.

Part of the reason this section of the game works so well is because this isn’t a horror game. It isn’t trying to scare you all the time, so when it happens you aren’t desensitized. It’s unexpected.

Spoilers follow. If you think you might play someday, don’t ruin it for yourself.

The Shalebridge Cradle

For most of the game you are dealing with guards and thugs. They are tough and dangerous, but they’re human and you know how to deal with them. Things can get a bit hairy if they start searching for you, but it’s nothing like the trip you take to the Shalebridge Cradle.

The Cradle was once an orphange. Then part of the building was converted into an asylum / hospital. Later it caught fire and a lot of it burned down. In the words of Garret, “If there’s a way to cram more misery into one building’s history, I can’t think of it.”

It has a bad reputation among the townspeople, and at some points I heard them telling each other spook stories about the place. Then the game actually sends me there. The building is stone and iron, so the shell is still there, and parts of it weren’t fully consumed by the fire. Still, I have no idea what to expect. Certainly there aren’t guards inside.

It builds slowly. I get there and it really does seem deserted. I spend half an hour exploring the outer area, sneaking around. The game has me rattled already and I havn’t seen a single threat. I hear movement and knocking, but it always seems to be coming from around the next corner.

Rainwater flows freely through the ruined structure, filling the place with rot and mildew. The Cradle itself has a malevolent presence. The buildng is a house of suffering and horrors, which have taken root and grown over the years. There are dreadful rooms in there. Rooms of bars and spikes and chains and cracking plaster. Places where the doctors tried to come up with new treatments for their insane patients. Wrapping people in scaling towels. Restraining chairs. Electroshock. Prison doors. Lobotomising proceedures. Cages. Skull-drilling. Restraining tables and rust-colored tubs.

Former patients roam the hallways. They wear rotting restraints and sacks are tied over their heads. Are these animated corpses? Ghosts? Or are they just just part of the bad memories of the cradle that I now inhabit? What am I supposed to do with these things? I don’t even have the nerve to get close enough to try and knock one out. Not that I expect that to work. The metal “medical” gear affixed to their heads looks more painful than anything I might do to them. My only choice is to hide.

As I crouch in the dark corner of one of the treatment rooms, I think about what a long way I am from the silly castles and noble houses I’ve been robbing. I want to go back. I want out of this place.

I find what I’m looking for, which is good because I’m keen to get out of here. The Crade really does seem to be alive somehow, and as I’m sneaking around, avoiding the nighmarish inhabitants, the Cradle is watching me. It wants to keep me.

Then things get really weird…

The longer I stay in the Cradle, the stranger things get. Eventually I find myself in the “memories” of the building itself – in the past. Before the fire. I can see the Cradle as it sees itself. I can enter old areas that have long since been reduced to rubble. I become like the other inmates, and no longer have my weapons or tools. Unarmed and helpless, all I can do is hide and run from the strange, shadowlike ghosts of the former staff.

It’s amazing how well this works. It’s far more frightening than anything I’ve seen in Resident Evil. It’s worse than Doom3, which had huge, loathsome beasts. But facing huge monsters with a shotgun isn’t nearly as as frightening as being defenseless against the unknown. Being in “hell”, surrounded by goat heads and spikes isn’t as disturbing as being in a very plausible approximation of a mental asylum that uses middle-ages era “medicine” on the patients. And combat is less terrifying than being weaponless.

You couldn’t make an entire game out of this experience. It only works because the player has spent the last twenty hours of gameplay dealing with more conventional dangers. If I spent twenty hours in the asylum, by the end the inmates would be more annoying than anything else. They would be roadblocks on the way to whatever puzzle I’m trying to solve at the moment. You can’t keep the scare-o-meter cranked to 11 for an entire game, and you shouldn’t try.

There is a lesson here for people who want to scare the audience. I hope they catch on. I’d like to see more games with this much skill at setting the mood.

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20201Feeling chatty? There are 41 comments.

From the Archives:

  1. foobario says:

    The Shalebridge Cradle was, beyond a doubt, the creepiest level of any game I’ve ever played or seen. The voice acting was chilling (“… the Nursery Tower, where the babies used to be…”) and the atmosphere was pretty immersive. The only other time a game scared me so much was the time in ‘Undying’ (it might have been in the demo) where a hand reaches over your shoulder and snuffs out the candle you’re holding, and suddenly you’re in the dark with no idea what else is in there with you. But that creepiness only lasted a few seconds… the Shalebridge Cradle kept it going throughout the whole level.

    Returning to more traditional Thief gameplay after that level, where all you have to worry about is guards and Hammers kicking your ass, was a relief… but when I finished the game the first level I replayed was the Cradle, and it was still pretty creepy the second time through.

  2. The creepiest section of any game I’ve ever played was the asylum segment of “Zork Nemesis”, but it sounds like this was substantially creepier.

  3. …but the most scared I’ve ever been in a game was the first time in X-COM I tried to invade an enemy base. Yikes!

  4. Dan says:

    I noticed that you left Silent Hill out. (NOTE the movie came out last night) We have dissucsed it before but the other reason such a game is scary is not the characters but the mood setting sounds in the game

  5. Dan says:

    these sorts of things are frightining because they are the unknown and unseen. this allows your brain to run amuck and you end up scaring yourself. which i think is a fantastic way for a game to crawl under your skin. one takes these disturbing noises and often applies them to whatever scares him/her the most. this i would think, would make things easier on the game designers. so they don’t have to try and invent somthing that scares a modern american.

  6. Dan says:

    I would also like to point out that in Silent Hill, even after you find what the source of the unknown noise is you still don’t know what it is. god i love those games

    Silent Hill 3 monsters don’t fall under this catagory. They just sucked

  7. Shamus says:

    Steven: It’s funny you mention X-Com. I played the game in the past year, even though it came out ages ago. You are right… that game was pretty scarey. Even more impressive that a TURN BASED game can be so scarey.

  8. Shamus says:

    Dan: Pat saw SH last night. It’s apparently very true to the spirit of SH 1 & 2. It has the classic locations in it that we know from the game, and has the same changes that happen to the environment.

    He was creeped out, which for Pat is saying something.

    I want to see it, but Heather can’t go near this movie.

  9. Shamus says:

    I don’t know what the deal was with SH 3. 1, 2, and 4 are very different from one another, but they were all brilliant. 3 wasn’t horrible. It was just… meh.

  10. Shamus, at the time I had exactly the same reaction: how can a turn-based game be raising my pulse rate so much?

  11. Dan says:

    check out the newest penny arcade

  12. Eric Sivula says:

    X-com got me on my first mission. I left during the day to go to a UFO that was harvesting at a farm. By the time I go there the sun had set, and I had not sent my troopers out with electro-flares.

    I think what sets you off is not just the darkness, or the sounds of the aliens skittering about, it is the responses of your troops. If they have the ability, they will shoot out into the darkness at what they hear. They can and will break from combat and run off into the dark in a panic. Your squad react in a manner that feels appropriate for humans facing an unknown threat.

  13. HC says:

    I still remember the first snakeman terror mission I tried to break up in X-Com. My squad went in, and we encountered Chrysalids for the first time. The first time a zombie hatched out… the first time a soldier became a zombie… nightmarish.

  14. DVS says:

    I like your title for this post: “Thief 3: Fearsome”

    Much of what you say might be due to the fact that in modern American English, the word “horror” no longer means “fearsome”.

    As a genre, “Horror” used to be about what you describe so well in this post. Something is disturbingly abnormal, and the protagonists have to experience it while they are outclassed and really just want to be somewhere else. Consider the great movies and stories that were “horror” in the first half of the twentieth century.

    Nowadays, the genre “Horror” need not be about what is “horrible”; what is “scary” can suffice. A movie or story can be called “horror” if it simply evokes a few instances of fright or disgust, without ever creating a sustained ambience of otherness and dread. There used to be a genre called “thriller” for this type of tale, to seperate them from “horror”, but that term has faded away (I have no idea why).

    Since a “thriller” can be done inexpensively and badly, and still sell well, we consumers get dozens of them for every popular movie or story that is classically “horror”.

    As a gamemaster of pen-and-paper RPGs, I have twice tried to run a “horror” campaign and both times failed miserably. Partly this was due to my limitations as a narrator. But largely it was due to the simple fact that it was not a fun genre for the players. They cared about their characters. Thrills are fun — dangerous challenges of short-duration work well with RPGs. But horror was not fun — when the setting succeeded in making the characters uncomfortable and wanting to be somewhere else, then the players of those characters also wanted to be doing something different.

    Horror in computer games tends to work much better, when it works. As you and the other commentors said, the places in the game with real horror were among your least favorite the first time through and among the favorite places for re-playing — once you as the player no longer feel trapped in the wrongness of the setting, you can not mind that your character feels unpleasantly trapped, better focus on the game-mechanic merits of that part of game, and even get a feeling of confidence or power in no longer having fear at this point in the adventure.

  15. DVS says:

    Last night I talked with my wife about this, while we were getting ready for bed. She thinks I’m wrong about a few things, and I’ll stand corrected.

    First, I make too much of a dichotomy between “horror” and “thriller”. A good horror tale contains a few thriller moments. Think how un-horrific several of Lovecraft’s stories now seem, and these tend to be the stories with are lacking of thriller moments.

    Second, she has seen a well-working RPG campaign with horror. The key elements to maintain the ambiance of dread and otherness were:

    (a) One or more enemies that were immensely powerful and only probably avoidable: meeting them would almost certainly result in some player deaths, if not extermination of the entire party. The players could have 95% confidence that by being careful and smart they would avoid these chief foes, but there was always the chance they were in the next room/building/town, just there to keep an eye on their minions or whatnot.

    (b) Normal rules that are now broken: for example, healing magic now exacerabates wounds instead of healing them (is this why Holy Water is bad for zombies?). The player characters keep stumbling into these oddities, being surprised and troubled each time. Most enemies find the exceptions irrelevant; a few smart foes know all about them and make the most of it…

    (c) NPCs the player characters care about are in deadly peril, or can easily get into such dire situations.

  16. Katy says:

    I’ve already recommended this game on another thread (post?), but I thought it’d be appropriate to recommmend “Siren.” Pretty much most of the game is hiding and sneaking past zombies (your wrench or fireplace poker won’t do so well against two rifle-wielding zombies with good sight and hearing). The relief after finishing each section is immense but always returns full force with every new section.

  17. ian says:

    Shamus is right the only reason you are compeled to even try to complete the shalebridge level is because it seriosly messes with your mind

  18. MintSkittle says:

    I got X-com not too long ago, and it really messed with my mind. I blame the terror missions. I had to stop playing because I wouldn’t leave my room for nothing after dark. I was half convinced the aliens were just waiting for the right moment to get me.

  19. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Both thief 1 and 2 had their horror moments(the crypts with zombies,ruined church with undead hammerites and the eye always speaking to you),but yes,this was the scarriest level in any game Ive ever played.The ghost speaking to you,imagining what all that equipment was used for,..Its all simply brilliant.

    As for X-Com I also creaped out the first time one of the squad became zombified.Psi manipulation was even worse(one soldier becomes theirs,half of the squad panics and runs away).And the sound…

  20. Conal says:

    Hi Shamus, a friend points me at some of the great posts in your site, and having just played through Shalebridge for the first time (lucky me), I read your thoughts and thoroughly enjoyed them.

    Overall, Thief 3 is great, in my opinion, but the Shalebridge sequence is a triumph. I completely agree that this is the way game designers should go (at least some of the time). Fear is the word, all right.

    By the way your “DM of the Rings” is inspiration all of its own…. :-)

  21. Shamus says:

    Conal: Thanks. Glad you enjoyed it. :)

  22. Bruce says:

    Space Hulk was a great game for cranking up the tension and is sort of turn based. It was a bit like Aliens in that you are a sargeant in control a team of armoured marines exploring various ruined and deserted space ships (hulks). It switched between a first person shooter view as you walked around, and a top down view for giving orders to your marines. They used 3 great methods for creating tension.

    First was your radar (top down view) which was a bit like the motion tracker from Aliens. However it’s range for picking up movement was bigger than it’s range for showing it on the map. This means it would start to beep before anything actually appeared on it and sometimes nothing would appear. As you move through the map you could be attacked from behind, in front or either side.

    Second was freeze-time. To give orders to your men, you went into the top down radar mode and clicked on each marine to give them an order. This happened in real time, so while you were doing this, things kept moving. Normally this was fine while the map was empty. However when the Aliens appeared things got a bit more frantic (i.e. the Alien Genestealers were bearing down on your men as you frantically ordered them in to position to give covering fire). Also note that while doing this, your own character can not see or defend himself. To help you with this was freeze time. You could hold in a button which froze time, allowing you time to give orders. However this time was limited and never really gave you enough time to get round everyone, but it helped. Once your freeze time meter ran out, you had to wait for it to re-charge which meant you were back to giving orders in real time.

    Lastly, the gameplay itself. Weapons had a tendancy to jam and your Marines had little chance in hand to hand, so ideally you needed to position the marines to cover each-other. Sometimes you had to leave one guy on his own and cross your fingers…

  23. Miako says:

    Robbing the Cradle

    …. morbid

    …. creepy

    Don’t go to any haunted houses designed by this GM!

  24. Ivy Storaci says:

    I remember when I had first played this level, I was scared out of my mind. I told my boyfriend, and he had to constantly reassure me that the area before the “inner cradle” is absolutely safe. I couldn’t go on. The noises, the atmosphere…

    But now, I find myself purposely playing this game just to entirely be apart of the experience again. Just recently, I had played, and for the first time I found myself taking my time to really explore. And everytime I’ve gone through, it has never repeated itself. I goofed around and decided to try and really piss off the puppet in the morgue. I used fire arrows and it fell, so I ran to try and get the bag of teeth, and it sprung up to kill. While it screamed, I screamed and finally killed it with flashbombs. I laughed hysterically after it happened, but to scream as though it were within my own living room, jeez. I’ve never gone in any other cells beyond Lauryl’s painter’s. To hear the crying, screaming, the vicktrola,… I find myself having Role-Plays as a patient in the fate of Miss Arthur and the staff, to somewhat be apart of the whole experience at another level.

    These creators have definately left an impression on my gaming experience, and I have to rate Thief: Deadly Shadows as the best game out of everything I’ve played in the past and present and most likely future. Never could you find a level that makes someone so in touch with their emotions without gore and violence. It plays on your mental fears…I love it.

  25. Lacynth says:

    How about the Hotel level of Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines? That has some very creepy moments, and even though you are a big bad scary vampire, it still send shivers up your spine, because you don’t fight anything in that area.

  26. Tannen says:

    You rather over-dramatized the cradle. But man is it really taffen scary.

  27. Toby says:

    I Have Resciently completed thief 3, and i got Sooo Creeped out n frightened my M8 had to finish off the cradle bit.

    At 1st i thought those patients where Undead, so i was alittle not scared but freaked out, and then i followed one and back stabbed him, and i walked abit, then it got up n i Crapped my pants n stabbed it to death, ran off, hid behind a wall somewhere then came back to it, It got up a 2nd tme so i knifed the HELL outta it and ran for my life, then my m8 cmae n took over cos i was Scared outta me mind!

  28. Toby says:

    …I Also Never EVER Expected to end up in a plce like that, i just thoguht it was a Medevil Splinter cell. then i wind up in the most demented place in any game i have ever seen or played

  29. Toby says:

    ..PLUS i’d say the most frekiest parts of that place is how thepatients distort the lights an they saz and shiver realy fast, And when you ge to certain areas you heard Ambiant noises such as babies crying and other various derranged noises

  30. Toby says:

    But i loved how they made it so you’d never think of places like that until your deep inside it, then the place really messes with your mind, nd that bit where the girl says about the cae in the storm cellar, tat if yo go in the Cradle will see you and will wan to keep you, I also read on a note just outside the cradle in the tow that this guy made a bet to stay in there and he hadn’t been seen in nine years, i wanted to eventually find that guy!

  31. Mike says:

    Shalebridge Cradle = plain and simply the only video game experience I’ve ever had that produded disarming fear. Its a gaming horror masterpiece of epic proportions yet to be matched – and doubtably ever to be surpassed.

  32. Robel says:

    First time I entered the Cradle I had no idea those ex-pacients were roaming around. I could hear their sounds but I didn`t know what they are. I went to the tower, where there was one of them, and didn`t see it (it was walking around and it was a bit further from me) so I tried to grab loot. There were paintings with jewels on them and I couldn`t reach them. I got very close to them, and entered the light. I went for the jewels in the painting and saw they were a sort of eyes, and that the painting was painted in blood. I looked at it very closely and I was freaking out on how horrible it looked. It was continuously sending chills down my spine. Then out of nowhere the undead ex-pacient starts screaming and hitting me from behind. I swear I was never so scared in my life. My heart was beating like a sparrow’s.

  33. Carol says:

    I would actually say that Abyssmal Gale was worse than Cradle.

    In Cradle there is enough space to see around and one can figure out where patients are by sound. Also, if you ran across something in Cradle, the extra space allows you run for your life, or at least so much that you are in better position to fight. Sneaking around in the past is even easy actually.

    In Abyssmal Gale you can’t see that far, and breathing and moaning and all that sounds like coming from every single direction at the same time because of the holes on floors. It’s almost impossible to know where the enemy is and there isn’t enough shadows and space to hide, and when you run, only options are out of the room and along the corridors of ship. Odds are that at some point you stumble out of a room walking corpse right on your heels and, oh, what do you find? Another zombie right in front of you. (Happened to me on both times I played the level.)

    Still one thing: Cradle is the official haunted house of the game and there are ghost stories about it and when game areas and new levels load there are small hints of Cradle being a not-so-nice place. It’s former orphanage and former asylum, so there is some expectations of what is to come and number of patients is known. Also it’s quite easy to figure out in witch areas the un-dead will be. One also receives guiding, how to get out of there. In Gale you are trapped in a labyrinth, where you have no idea how many zombies there is left and when you will face next one. I’m not a claustrophobic, but still a small, seemingly closed place with zombies is – in my mind – really horrifying place.

  34. Dannythemusicman says:

    Thought I’d chime in on this blog – The Cradle is by far the most horrific experience I’ve been put through in gaming. I still cannot get my head around just how well made this particular level is. I’ve completed Thief 3 at least 4 times now and I really hate it when the ‘real thiefers’ tell me it’s the weakest of the lot. It ain’t, it’s a damn good game and the Cradle is the icing on the cake IMO.

  35. Tom says:

    A good sign of horror done well is when the audience starts wildly imagining and filling in the gaps and ambiguities – the Cradle definitely caused me to do this. For example, the former inmates seem a bit like the zombies encountered elsewhere in the game, which one assumes are just dead flesh somehow made alive again and acting with some kind of consciousness – and yet, you soon come to realise they are different somehow. They can’t be killed, for example, and rather than mindlessly shambling about like typical zombies, they actually display behaviour consistent with their former lives, which strongly suggests something else is going on.

    Perhaps they can’t be killed because, unlike regular zombies, they aren’t actually alive at all – while all of this is conjecture, one thing is definitely stated by the game, and that is that the building itself has an identity, a consciousness, a will. And I begin to wonder, perhaps the cradle itself is the only entity present – using the dead bodies of the former inmates as mere puppets (they’re often called puppets by fans), still totally inanimate in themselves, acting out their routines from its heyday like a child reenacting their favourite story with dolls. Another thing I wondered is why the staff appear totally black silhouettes. The obvious metaphor is of faceless authority, of course, but I took a more physical perspective – the staff tower was destroyed by fire, with the staff in it, whereas the inmates’ accommodation survived – presumably, then, the bodies of the inmates were left intact for the cradle to play with, but the staff were reduced to carbon soot. What if, then, the staff are black because moulding their ashes back into their former shape is the closest the cradle can get to having the original staff to play with? The cradle doesn’t seem, to me, to accept its death, it wants to continue to exist and function in the way it did before – and, ironically like a madman in denial, it forces the dead remains of its inhabitants to move through its shattered halls, replicating the motions it remembers them doing and wishes they could continue to do on their own. Perhaps the cradle began to develop a will of its own even before it was closed down, coercing or manipulating the behaviour of those within it.

    I don’t know how much or little of this is canon, or was intended to be conveyed by the designers. But none of it is explicitly stated, and just to have fired the imagination of a player like myself to such a degree as this, is a testament to how incredibly well they did their job.

    It’s just a shame how hard it is to convey the level’s brilliance to someone who hasn’t already played a lot of Thief. You need to have been conditioned by all the previous levels to think and act in a certain way, in order to be really unsettled when the cradle level starts to subvert the established rules. Seen cold, for example, the outer cradle is just a dull, empty building. To an experienced thief player, however, being thrust into such a maze of rooms with no guards anywhere is quite jarring. Get a little further in and you’ve got to turn on the electric lights – and there are lots of them, and no torches; the water arrows you’ve relied on heavily before are now just so much dead weight, and you realise how little else you’ve got in the way of equipment for whatever lies ahead. Turning on the generator for the lights makes a colossal racket, too, which is guaranteed to make any real Thief player panic and run for cover from the suddenly glaring lights, expecting swift death to come swarming from all directions – and they only get thrown even more off balance when it doesn’t. And the escalation never lets up from there to the end of the mission.

  36. PhoenixUltima says:

    As much as I agree that the Shalebridge Cradle is really fucking creepy, there is one flaw with it, and ironically it’s the one you’ve ascribed to Doom 3 and Resident Evil: you very well can fight the things. Being undead, flash bombs damage them just like they do zombies (and if you didn’t know that, let me point you towards Thief 1 and 2, where undead had the same weakness). And if you know the Cradle is coming up you will have no problem maxing out on flashbombs, as the game gives you enough money to buy a small castle, let alone essential supplies. Fire arrows and landmines work as well, though you can’t carry a lot of those. And there’s holy water too, which works as both a direct weapon and as a deterrent (undead won’t cross puddles of holy water).

    The shadow staff members, on the other hand, can’t be fought, which makes them much more fearsome. I believe they’re invincible as well, so even when you go in as yourself you can’t do much other than hide, though flashbombs will at least temp-blind them (you know, if you have any left).

    Also a fear-killer: when you realize that the first half of the cradle actually doesn’t have any hostiles in it (in the present, anyway), which relegates that part of it at least to merely “creepy” status, rather than “threatening”.

  37. Jon says:

    I actually had some time over the holiday to relax away from work. I just played this game for the first time. I had bought T:DS a while back but I had never gotten around to installing it so I did and spent my vacation playing it.

    Needless to say, when I got to the Cradle I did anything but relax. I consider myself a person that doesn’t scare easily at all. That level, however, scared the crap out of me.

    I know I jumped on more than one occasion and specifically remember one of those puppet things coming back to “life” after I knocked it out. That was an appetite ruining moment to say the least. Once I even went back down to the basement to try to blow up the fuse so I would have more places to hide. It was late at night, I was home alone, and I had the headphones on. Anyone who has played it knows how I was feeling.

    I thought the whole game was just great. I don’t play many games anymore because I think a lot of them are lacking. I’m not into any of the gory stuff because I think it is a cheap way to try and scare people. Shalebridge Cradle, however, was a true head trip and worthy of serious accolades.

    Happy Holidays people!

  38. Tom says:

    I played Thief: Deadly Shadows on XBOX simply because it looked intriguing in the GameStop store. SO very glad that I did, as it is now one of the best gaming experiences of my life (44 years old), and Shalebridge Cradle is the apex. I was immediately drawn into the world of Garrett, the City, the Keepers/Hammerites/Pagans storyline, etc.

    Having never even heard of the Thief series before, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but every expectation I could have had would have been overwhelmed. For the commentor above who feared the Abyssal Gale – I think that it was only there to prepare you for the Cradle.

    I played this game in my drafty garage, on an old 65 inch Mitsubishi rear projection TV, in the dark, after everyone else was asleep in my house. I have never had an experience like the Shalebridge Cradle in my life. Colossal, suffocating dread. Several times I just couldn’t move the character on screen for fear of what was coming next. I just sat there, afraid, not knowing what to do to alleviate the chill that was scrabbling up and down my spine.

    Some people think that the first part of the Cradle isn’t very scary because there aren’t any enemies. But I would argue that that is the very reason it is so dreadful. The absolute lack of anything materially threatening is what makes your mind scream out as the water drips and the pipes creak and the wind(?) rustles around you… and then there are the echoes of children’s laughter and the sing-song rhymes of children at play (in THIS place?!?). It is moving through the outer cradle, fully expecting that every corner/shadow/doorway is going to reveal (what, exactly?), that makes the terror creep into the back of your mind and weld itself to the most primal places in your brain.

    When you finally make it to the inner cradle, you are almost relieved to see a glimpse of some real(?) enemy. And then you notice that they don’t quite walk right, and something is “wrong” about them, and then you notice that THEY ARE REALLY FAST! Holy Crap! Rip open that door and hide in there… uh, too late, the Cradle has claimed you as one of its own…

  39. newdarkcloud says:

    It’s been years since this was published, but:

    “Rainwater flows freely through the ruined structure, filling the place with rot and mildew. The Cradle itself has a malevolent presence. The buildng is a house of suffering and horrors, which have taken root and grown over the years. There are dreadful rooms in there. Rooms of bars and spikes and chains and cracking plaster. Places where the doctors tried to come up with new treatments for their insane patients. Wrapping people in scaling towels. Restraining chairs. Electroshock. Prison doors. Lobotomising proceedures. Cages. Skull-drilling. Restraining tables and rust-colored tubs.”

    Should be building, Lobotomizing, and procedures.

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