There are two things I've been persistently hearing about Thief III: Deadly Shadows for over a decade: first, is that it's an inferior disappointment compared to its highly-regarded predecessors, and second, is that the Shalebridge Cradle level is so good that it completely makes up for all of the game's shortcomings. Upon completing the game, I feel like I've been somewhat misled all these years. There's a ton of notable detraction from the precedents established in Thief and Thief 2, but it's really not a bad game at all, or even a bad Thief game. The Shalebridge Cradle, meanwhile, is a really well-designed level, but it didn't impress me nearly as much as the constant years of hype led me to expect.
There are merits for both arguments -- I can agree with both, to an extent -- but I feel like people have been exaggerating the extreme positives and negatives of this game for years, when Deadly Shadows is just kind of an average game all around. There's a lot to criticize in this game (and indeed, I'll be doing a lot of that below), but there's some really good stuff at work here, too. It's a pity that the game had to compromise so much for a new platform and a new audience, and that some of its more brilliant ideas didn't work out like Ion Storm intended, because I actually kind of like Deadly Shadows, despite all of its flaws.