While I know enough‘s been said about this level in Thief III: Deadly Shadows, I feel the need to just stress this once more. Shalebridge Cradle is pure and utter evil taken digitized form. Kieron Gillen wrote an excellent feature on just this single level in the March 2005 issue of PC Gamer. Those of you that’ve played this game and dared enter the Cradle will know exactly what I mean. It’s been a few years since, but no-one has ever even come close to achieving what the team behind Thief III did. The Cradle is the most important piece of level-design this last decennium. Having played games from the early 1980′s onward, feeling tense while playing Doom for the first time, while being startled by those damn facehuggers in Half Life, this…is something quite different. When you – as Garrett – enter The Cradle, you enter the Cradle. This level will envelop you, suck you into it’s evilness and scare the hell out of you. Not by yelling BOO! at every corner, no no. That’s for the amateurs. Shalebridge Cradle will immerse you, not impose standard scare-trickery. You will feel at unease while you’re inside that abandoned asylum. You will feel the tension as you explore. Trudging farther into The Cradle will make you feel increasingly disturbed, paranoid as noises far away will make you wonder what caused them in the first place. As you move around the place, in the dark, you will start to feel genuinely scared. The building breathes an evil you’ve never experienced before and you’ll start to wonder if the casing of your computer is fit to contain it. Unexpected noises emerging from your own room will start to make you a little nervous, while you take your eyes a few moments off the screen to look around you. Just making sure…
There will be no spoilers in this short blog, but a warned man has the advantage. If you, like me, have entered Shalebridge Cradle, unknowingly what would be lurking in there, you did not stand a chance. Shalebridge Cradle would take you down. However, if you’ve never played that level before, but would finally be part of gaming history, you have the upper edge. This warning may help you suppress Fear. Anxiety. Save you from Horrification. Save you from the claws of Evil. And save your life, as you hold out just a little more to fend off a heart attack caused by the most terrifying experience ever designed.
Just a few quotes from others:
IGN: “You see, for the most part, Deadly Shadows is not a “scary” game. It doesn’t take the supernatural detours of previous installments, but you will traverse some extremely creepy hallways and cellars before you’re done. Shalebridge Cradle in particular just has to be experienced to be believed“
Lasitus (a forum member of Gamespot): “Words cannot truly capture what you go through when you play that level.“
Four fat chicks: “Shalebridge Cradleâ€”nothing compares to that two-hour ecstasy of terror from Deadly Shadows, a mission so relentlessly petrifying I’m surprised it hasn’t killed someone yet“
Escapist Magazine:”Shalebridge Cradle in Deadly Shadows was one of the few game levels I played last year with all of my lights on (and I was still scared out of my mind).“
MobyGames: “One of the levels in particular, Shalebridge Cradle, is also one of the spookiest I’ve had the pleasure of wandering through in a game“
Gamespot: “One remarkable mission, which takes place in a haunted orphanage-turned-asylum, is especially nerve-wracking due to its thick shadows and claustrophobic corridors. What makes the place so creepy is that it’s almost entirely devoid of any living beings. Almost.”
Shadowwolf218 at Eidos forums: ” Now I’m paranoid, the music taking full effect…and I start climbing the stairs in the lobby….soft knocks. *Took off the headphones and looked around my room, went back to the game*“
Consequently, Shadowwolf218 started a poll there and it turns out that a quarter thought that the effect of Shalebridge Cradle was like: “An ambulence was called the next morning upon the discovery of my twitching, comatose body on the floor.“, while 50% thought: ” Ion Storm is evil…..that level freaked me out“. Another 13% agreed it was scary. Totalling: almost 90% thought it was scary, while 75% thought it was at the very least EVIL, and 25% thought the Devil himself appeared to them.
I leave you with that. Shalebridge Cradle is a master-piece.