Thief is a stealth based action game developed by Eidos-Montréal and published by Square Enix. You step into the silent shoes of Garrett, a dark and solitary thief who is sent on a dangerous job by his old friend and fence, Basso. This is the biggest heist of Garrett’s life and it all comes crashing to a tragic end, where he and his young protégé Erin take a fall during a magic ritual taking place below. Garrett blacks out and awakes almost a year later to find the city has been infected with a sickness called The Gloom. Confused, Garrett attempts to find just what happened on that fateful night and what became of both his young protégé and the city.
Series reboots are tough but Eidos has tried to cater for both the Thief expert and the new players getting into the series. Experts will find a home in Thief’s custom difficulty mode to get back to the old Thief ways. If you don’t like the new Primal powers Garrett has received? Then get rid of them. If you don’t want a crosshair then turn that off too. Having this custom difficulty means that each player can leave has many options on to aid in their experience and it’s a great feature to see implemented.
The newest addition to Thief is Garrett’s “Focus” ability. Gained from the bizarre ritual, his right eye now glows a turquoise colour and enhances Garrett’s ability to see key items and intractable objects for a limited amount of time. For me, I’m in two minds about it because it became more of a “Hey stupid, look at all the blue shiny things” button while also acting as a great night vision tool. Loot already shines sporadically making it noticeable from a distance, so this seemed more for the ability to see alternate paths like intractable grates and strategic rope arrow locations.
Each level of Thief offers ample chances to sneak through shadows, extinguish torches with gas or water arrows, pick locks, and knock out guards. They also provide a great framework for getting the drop on thugs in the atmospheric environments. It balances its sneaking sections with first-person parkour that, while slow at times, can have the player searching the city for that extra ledge to leap to or extra rope arrow to attach and swing from. The game also switches to 3rd person when scaling walls Assassin’s Creed style which helps to see where you are going.
This also makes every encounter with both guards and the environment a puzzle in of itself. You can try and lure guards from their post before choosing to either knock them out or sneakily slip past, unnoticed or use the environment to your advantage and scale the structures. At the end of each sequence, you are given a rating that fits into three categories; Ghost, Opportunist and Predator. Each will depend on what actions you completed throughout the level, and adds some good replayability for those who want to be the master thief himself.
The more you explore each level, the more items you will be able to loot to earn yourself gold. This is useful to buy tools and players who explore the most will find store purchases quite easy, allowing for tools to be purchased earlier and gaining access to level routes that were until now inaccessible. Apart from loot, you can also find side missions while exploring the main city. This opens up the game further with extra things to do and new puzzles to attempt.
Slow and steady play really wins the race when it comes to Thief’s gameplay. You’ll need to move strategically in order to creep toward your goal, surveying each area for other routes. Garrett takes his own time searching through cabinet’s one section at a time, stopping to inspect collector’s items from every angle before stealing them. But beating all others for time till payoff is the story. It takes its time to wash its narrative over you before the eventual climax after 8-10 hours of story specific gameplay.
With any stealth game you have to get the mechanics correct and not just with movement. Things like lighting and sounds must also play a big part in successfully creating a stealth experience. Eidos have created a great stealth experience in Thief. Lighting reflects naturally allowing the player to correctly choose a path where they will not be spotted. Its design makes it almost believable that you can get close enough to tie a guard’s boots together and steal his coin purse undetected. There are shards of glass on the ground from previous scuffles as well as puddles of water that you have to be careful of, as one misstep can alert the guards to your area, forcing you to either run or reload your save.
While the sounds in game are good, it takes a different route when it gets to the cut/transitional scenes. For me, it didn’t seem like the audio levels were normalised for voice actors. This meant that some characters talked really quiet (mostly Garrett) to the point where I would need subtitles to understand them and then the other person in the conversation would be talking really loud. This coupled with the out of sync subtitles at times meant that I had a hard time understanding just what was going on in the cut scenes.
Another jarring aspect of the game was the QTE’s (Quick Time Events) that were quite prevalent in Thief. Now QTE’s aren’t bad when they are done right but Garrett can only seem to do one thing at a time before executing the next task. This was tedious as you would think that once you locked picked a door, it would open and you wouldn’t have to look down and press the button again to open it. The same can be said for chests, opening windows and lifting posts. This was also a pain when knocking out guards as you would have to knock them out, let them fall to the floor before picking them up and dragging them away leaving that extra bit of time to be spotted.
While getting spotted is never a good thing, it’s worse when the Xbox One Kinect does it for you. To the unknown player the Kinect will detect if you lean forward and force Garrett to use his swoop ability; a 5 metre dash without the need to press that easily accessible “A” button. At times this had me swooping with every step making me think I had a broken controller, and that’s not going to work so well when you accidentally swoop into a guard’s face. If you play Thief on Xbox One, go into settings and turn this function off pronto.
I feel what Thief lacks most is polish and direction above all else. Each element of the game could have been done just a little bit better and for a series reboot to not be polished, it feels as though you aren’t going to be pleasing anyone rather than the other way around. Whether you are new to the Thief series or an expert on Thief’s particular brand of stealth, my guess is your feelings will waver as often as a kid on a see-saw.