Date Released: February 25th, 2014
Developer: Eidos Montreal
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform: [Reviewed: Xbox One], PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
Rated: M for Mature
Thief is one of those landmarks in gaming that reinvented an entire genre and paved the way for others to follow suit. Back in the day Thief was known for its dynamic stealth gameplay and how players interacted with light and shadows, using it to their advantage and using sound as indicators of enemy presence and noise level. Of course as the trend would have it, after a decade since its last game, this “first person sneaker” marks the return of Master Thief Garrett and his trademark five-finger discounts.
This reboot follows the exploits of Master Thief Garrett who returns to his home town to once again rid it of excess riches and valuables. Accompanied by his partner in crime, Erin, they set to pull off a heist of the mysterious Primal Stone. Things take a turn for the worst when our duo stumbles across a ritual using the stone to unleash unnatural energies. In an accident Erin is swallowed by the stone and Garrett is knocked out in the process. Fast forward one year and our Master Thief wakes up to a city completely ravaged by disease and begins his search for answers of what transpired. But along the way he can’t help himself if he were to make some detours to a few shiny trinkets and artifacts to help fill his pockets with coin.
As the title would suggest, the main focus of the game is about breaking and entering, locating, and bagging as many valuables as you can while remaining out of sight and keeping to the darkness to conceal your whereabouts. Stealth and discretion should be your first and last line of defense against the common light dwellers, while violence and straight confrontation is only relied on as a last resort. I understand that this type of gameplay won’t suit many players expecting fast and intense looting action. The subtlety needed to progress smoothly has players taking their time to observe carefully before jumping into the unknown and to search of multiple means to solve one problem.
But just because Garrett prefers the comfort of the shadows that doesn’t mean he’s defenseless. Armed with a versatile compound bow, Garrett can use a wide assortment of arrows that serve different functions along with standard ones. Water and fire arrows are tipped with containers that will explode on impact, either dousing out flames or setting one yourself and rope arrows provide a way to climb up to certain location that is out of reach by normal means.
Players are also armed with the Blackjack. which it meant to knockout rather than kill, which means if you get yourself cornered you won’t be dealing any heavy or lethal blows. With the very simplistic combat controls, some exchanges goes as followed: you and your opponents smack each other you attempt to dodge only for it to fail miserably and then you hit the guy so many times that you and up giving him a concussion and he passes out. But if you’re engaged by more than one person your best option is to run away.
After the accident in the beginning of the game, Garrett has awoken with the supernatural abilities of Focus, a heightened sense of perception in his right eye that highlights enemies, searchable compartments, and loot. You can also upgrade this power to allow for even more benefits like seeing the footsteps of guards behind walls or slowing down time around you. If that all seems like a giant win button then you’ll be glad to know that there is an option to turn off Focus completely so you can rely on skill alone.
The missions themselves, whenever you get around to them, actually offer varied and daring heists. In one mission you find yourself stealing to your hearts content inside of a jewelry store and in another you will be navigating through smoke and fire in a collapsing building in search of a legendary vault. One mission in particular had you investigating a seemingly abandoned asylum filled with creaks and moans echoing throughout the halls, cementing this as one of my more terrifying moments in gaming.
Contained within The City are many riches to steal that only the deft hands of a Master Thief can acquire. The more you take the more coin you pocket and in return you can use your ill-gotten funds to purchase upgrades, new equipment, and trinkets that grant passive abilities. While on the prowl, eavesdrop on people to see if they reveal any intel, what you may learn are the locations of items that will fetch you a pretty penny. To make even more cash on the side, Basso, Garrett’s only friend, can give out jobs to complete.
Exploring The City is will be a love/hate situation for some. Searching every nook and cranny for valuables is not only fun, but it makes you feel like a real Thief; picking locks, finding secrets, and catching your breath as someone who got uncomfortably close walk away none the wiser is really exhilarating. But my main issue with the The City isn’t really the layout – it’s the map.
Maps in games are handy nearly every time it’s in a game: it points towards your destination, the distance to get there, color coded sections, and sometimes indicates where you’ve been and where you have not. Thief does half of those things. Arrows pointing where to go is pretty standard, but when you have a multi-sectioned, multi-tiered city to explore and your map is as vague as an amnesiac’s recollection then you’ve got a bit of a problem. A bold X to mark places completely ransacked, different colors for doors, windows, and transition points; these would’ve gone along way of insuring a smoother experience, less backtracking, and fewer instances of finding yourself in an already cleared out home.
Even if the The City is constantly shrouded by perpetual night, this is one of the better looking games for next-gen hardware. If you upgraded to an Xbox One, PlayStation 4 or PC, these will fully capture the beautiful aesthetics of this Victorian, steampunk inspired world. There are some texture pop-ups that occur on consoles right after a lengthy load screen or in the beginning of a cutscene and the framerate does tend to dip at times. PC on the other hand is definitely a beauty, running smoothly with a solid framerate and sharper textures.
Garrett’s movement and agility translates superbly on screen with the games tight controls and fluid animation, making players feel like a master thief. Granted that most of your time will be crouching to avoid making any noise, Garrett does have his Swoop ability. Whenever Garrett needs to move quickly in and out of cover, or to make a hasty retreat after pickpocketing someone, he can quickly dash or “Swoop” in any direction without producing a sound, making this one of Garrett’s most used skill.
Unfortunately I wasn’t as engaged with the story as I really wanted to be. Most of my time was focused on picking locks, snatching coin purses, and locating unique loot. Even on missions I was more concerned with stuffing my bag than solving some problem with a dying city or something of that regards. That doesn’t mean that the game isn’t filled with rewarding and intense (sometimes scary) moments. Edios Montreal did a great job reimagining the world of Thief while stepping over the line on what made the original game’s gameplay tiresome a little too often. I had succumbed to trial-and-error a few times and felt compelled to retry again because I wanted remain hidden throughout. But if you can look past the slower pacing then Thief will definitely satiate your twitchy stealing fingers.
Overall Rating: 3.75/5