Great moments in PC gaming: The Shalebridge Cradle in Thief: Deadly Shadows

(Image credit: Eidos Interactive)

Great moments in PC gaming are bite-sized celebrations of some of our favorite gaming memories.

Thief: Deadly Shadows

(Image credit: Eidos Interactive)

Developer: Ion Storm
Year: 2004

Horror's great when it's contrasted with not-horror. If it's all spooks all the time that can get tiring, but when you aren't constantly being frightened until your bones climb out your mouth and run away, you start to relax—and that makes the eventual explosion into real horror work even better. That's how it is with the Ocean House Hotel in Bloodlines, and that's how it is with the Shalebridge Cradle in Thief: Deadly Shadows. 

By this third game in the series you feel like a proper master thief, able to slide into any building and immediately start taking it over, one unconscious guard at a time. When you break into the Cradle, a former orphanage turned asylum turned abandoned haunted house, that feeling gets turned on its head. The building itself has become a living malevolent being, a witness to so many nightmares that it's stuck repeating them forever. You're not breaking into a building, but entering the psychic landscape created by everyone who ever lived there.

(Image credit: Eidos Interactive)

Asylums are normally cheap creeps in videogames, but the Shalebridge Cradle avoids some of the cliches. "The doctors are just as scary as the patients" as one of the notes hidden there reads, and it's the discovery of how those patients were mistreated that provides a significant part of the horror. Lobotomized, branded, heads and hands encased in protective wire cages, subjected to something called "the wet-wraps treatment", they've now been transformed into puppets. The staff also persist as shadowy figures, nonchalantly going about their business as the memory of the fire that eventually led to the Cradle being closed down burns in perpetuity around them.

Thief: Deadly Shadows is a stealth game, but the greatest act of stealth in it is the way it sneaks this horror show in unexpectedly, even though the series is famous for its scary levels. Like a bottle episode of a TV show, the Cradle level focuses on a single location to get all the drama it can out of the situation, but it's a bottle that's slowly filling and you're liable to drown.

Jody Macgregor
Weekend/AU Editor

Jody's first computer was a Commodore 64, so he remembers having to use a code wheel to play Pool of Radiance. A former music journalist who interviewed everyone from Giorgio Moroder to Trent Reznor, Jody also co-hosted Australia's first radio show about videogames, Zed Games. He's written for Rock Paper Shotgun, The Big Issue, GamesRadar, Zam, Glixel, Five Out of Ten Magazine, and, whose cheques with the bunny logo made for fun conversations at the bank. Jody's first article for PC Gamer was about the audio of Alien Isolation, published in 2015, and since then he's written about why Silent Hill belongs on PC, why Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale is the best fantasy shopkeeper tycoon game, and how weird Lost Ark can get. Jody edited PC Gamer Indie from 2017 to 2018, and he eventually lived up to his promise to play every Warhammer videogame.