Here’s a brief history of my time spent with the Thief series: the only game in the franchise that I played was Thief: Deadly Shadows. And it was just the demo on the original Xbox. It definitely made me want to purchase the game, given that I love immersing myself in stealth games, but at that time, I had no money for such purchases that didn’t involve Halo.
So here we are, in 2014, and Eidos Montreal has finally released a reboot of sorts starring our favorite master thief, Garrett. Being someone who hasn’t played the originals, it’s nice to see the franchise from a fresh perspective, devoid of what nostalgia can bring, but at the same time, I wish I had hands on time with the originals, to give myself a measuring stick of how this newest entry compares. Oh my personal dilemma. In any case, Thief, after playing just the prologue and chapter one, brings with it a kind of sublime stealth experience that will hopefully get better as more complicated obstacles are thrown my way.
In any stealth game that I play, I have one goal I try to achieve. To clear missions as stealthy as possible. This means, I’ll knock out my fair share of guards as long as I don’t kill them, as well as possibly taking the long way around just to avoid detection. I love taking the high ground to lower my visibility and I’ll even bypass enemies if they don’t get completely in my way, and I feel that Thief manages to let me do all those things so far, despite some linearity in the early levels.
Of course patience, for me at least, is paramount for survival. Garrett being a fragile fighter. I find that stealth games are just puzzles and I’m given tools at my disposal to bend some rules. The lengthy prologue, about half and hour, shows us the ropes as we learn to climb, shoot rope arrows, distract guards and stay in the shadows. It also gives us the new swoop ability, where Garrett can essentially dash in any direction to move from shadow to shadow. It’s like moving from cover to cover, but you can also use it slink back into the shadows just in case a guard spots you out of the corner of his eye. Also, by pressing “CTRL”, you’ll be able to move even slower, which is handy for reducing noise while wading in the water. I’m still not entirely sure yet, if this ability can be used for anything, but water.
The actual gameplay of thieving does make you feel like a badass, especially if you go in unnoticed and finally grab that piece of jewelry you’ve always wanted. There’s a physicality to it as you see Garrett guide his arms and hands toward the object of his desires. This level of feeling like you’re actually occupying space, also stretches out to opening drawers and cabinets. It seriously feels like you’re looting the place clean, almost like wiping your mouth with a napkin after you’re done eating.
During Chapter One, I enjoyed the fact that there were multiple ways into the jewelry store. You can go through the front door, the back door, as well as through the window upstairs. I’m not sure if there were any other ways in, however. While finding these entrances, it’s interesting what you might see and hear as you as you get to your chosen destination. There were beggars in the alley ways showing off the depraved state of the city and you can even hear conversations inside houses making you feel like there was some life to the town, even though the entire place is on lockdown.
After finishing Chapter One, Garrett makes his way to the clock tower, and I couldn’t wait to get to the hub and tackle missions and side missions on my own accord. While I had a little bit of trouble with performance with my 3 year old rig, turning down or off some of the more advanced settings, while still keeping normal settings on high, greatly helped with the framerate. There was also a new 44 MB patch that arrived yesterday that I have yet to try out, so hopefully that will help with the performance somewhat.
All in all, Thief makes me want to play more, bottom line. I haven’t even reached the part where I’m able to upgrade, unless I accidentally missed it, so there’s still more layers to uncover. But I will say that the stealth gameplay is there and it’s a rock solid foundation. Thief is essentially pure stealth, different from the offensive capabilities of say, Sam Fisher, but there’s something about the fragility of the protagonist, that makes the stealth stand out, creating a rewarding stealth experience.