Playing In The Shadows
It's been nearly 10 years since Thief: Deadly Shadows released for Microsoft Windows and the original Xbox. It was in fact the only instalment of the franchise to appear on a console, as both Thief: The Dark Project and Thief II: The Metal Age were PC exclusives. However, Eidos Montreal's fourth entry, a reboot simply called Thief, will debut on all major platforms this time around, both current and next generation. Whether you're late to the franchise or a returning veteran, Thief will introduce you to a new breed of stealth game.
Thief begins with a typical Prologue, introducing gamers to the play mechanics as well as providing a necessary back-story. Garret, the master thief, has returned as the main protagonist. He and his overly confident partner, Erin, set out to steal the Primal Stone from The Baron, ruler of The City. Things go badly, leaving Garret unconscious and unaware of what happened to his protégé. When Garret wakes up, The City is overwhelmed by both the greed of The Baron and a plague referred to as the gloom.
Thief is known for being one of the pioneers of the stealth genre. Although titles such as Dishonored have since followed in its footsteps, in its resurgence, Thief once again establishes dominance. More than just storytelling with linear game play, players are free to explore a vast and detailed world they can approach any number of ways. If you're eager to uncover the plot, enjoy the chapters and leave the surrounding world until later. For those more interested in discovering the secrets hidden in The City, there's something to be found - or collected - in almost every shadow.
In order to master Thief and discover all that The City has to offer, youll need to put in a lot of work. Aside from playing through the story, which could easily take in excess of 15 hours to complete, The City is huge. Broken down into several smaller districts, players can spend hours hunting down documents, collectibles and just common loot. Perhaps it's here where the game earns your money. If you do manage to steal everything The City has to offer, you can always increase or customize the difficultly level. Nearly all of the features in Thief can be turned on or off, creating your own unique experience each time through.
Beating the story and collecting everything in the game isn't just a matter of moving from one building to the next. Quite frequently, you'll find a document in one location, leading to a second clue further on down the line. This injection of problem solving will appeal to players who enjoy going for those rare, hard to unlock collectibles.
The Beauty Is In The Details
Given how much depth was put into designing The City, you'd almost expect the layouts of buildings to be repetitive. Surprisingly, that's not the case at all, as the amount of variation in the environment is impressive. Each time you enter a building, you find a different layout than the one before. In addition, almost all of them have two or three points of entry, allowing players to choose their approach as well as their escape.
One of the subtler yet impressive play mechanics is the opening and looting of drawers. For example, there are likely hundreds, even thousands of drawers to look through. If you are trying to track down every last collectible, you'll be happy to know that once you check a drawer, you can't open it again. It doesn't seem significant, but if you missed something and have to backtrack, this feature can save you a lot of time. It's small details like this that demonstrate Eidos Montreal's attention to detail.
Thief is not without its annoyances. It wouldn't be fair to call them problems because none of the issues are even close to game breaking, but our first popped up before playing, optimizing the display settings. Thief, like many dark games, requires you to adjust the brightness. However, rather than allow you to do this with a built-in slider, players must adjust the brightness through their televisions or monitors. It's not a huge issue, but adjusting them each time you start or stop playing a game is less appealing.
The in-game controls are generally smooth, but there is one potential conflict to be aware of. For console players, the button to steal an item is the same as the one to peek out from behind cover. It doesn't happen often, but it's frustrating when you try to snag a coin from a crate and end up diving for cover.
Putting The Steal Into Stealth
Thief is an excellent stealth game. There are different ways to approach almost every situation as long as you play with stealth. Players who enjoy the run-and-gun, hack-and-slash approach probably won't enjoy Thief. The combat in Thief is designed as a last resort, so those who wish to make it their primary approach will feel unsatisfied.
If you seek a well thought out, well executed stealth game that will take dozens of hours to master, you can't go wrong. Even though Thief is a single-player experience, there's enough depth that it will keep you engaged and entertained for a long time. Imagine the look and feel of Dishonored, with a focus on collectibles that would rival The Last of Us. Stealth fans and achievement hunters should pick this game up as soon as it releases.
GAME's Verdict: 9/10
- A massive, beautiful and dark world that will challenge you to discover all of its secrets.
- Plenty of collectibles that will test both patience and problem solving skills.
- Chapters that allow for various approaches, increasing the replay value.
- Players who prefer a loud, violent approach to games won't find much value.
- Minor conflicts with the control scheme can pull you out of the story and back to reality.
- The brightness display settings could be more user friendly.