XXL’s Game Corner: ‘Thief’ Doesn’t Steal Our Hearts
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Developer: Eidos Montreal
Publisher: Square Enix
Released: Out Now
Thief is a franchise that has been around since 1998 when Thief: The Dark Project made its debut. It’s now been ten years since there’s been a new Thief game, with 2004?s Deadly Shadows being the last time it was seen on consoles. Now, new developer Eidos Montreal is bringing the stealth series back in a reboot of the franchise.
In Thief you play as the master thief Garrett, who returned to his hometown of The City after some long time away. Unfortunately, he finds that The Baron has taken over, ignoring the plight of the amassing poor in the streets and the plague ravaging his subjects and he plans to do something about it. Strangely enough Garrett who is supposed to be a master thief feels the need to steal everything he sees including junk like forks, pens, cups and other objects that seems to have no purpose to the mission. His indiscriminate kleptomania makes him seem more like a petty thief than a master, though. Garrett is also armed with a special ability called “focus.” This ability allows Garrett to perform certain actions faster, but he only has a limited amount to use. Focus is used primarily to reveal interactive objects and slow down time, but can easily be ignored if you don’t want to use it. Thief allows you to upgrade Garrett in a number of ways, from the gear to equipment upgrades, special trinkets and tokens that give you bonuses. Everything costs in gold. Even focus upgrades are offered in exchange for tithes to the Queen of Beggars.
Stealth is the name of the game in Thief and thankfully Eidos Montreal gets this mechanic right. The game provides a number of options for sticking to shadows and it’s a good thing because you’re going to need them. Garrett can take out any guards he encounters from behind well enough, and you might be able to take out a few guards with your bow. But in a stand-up confrontation with more than one guard you’re going to come out on the losing end more times than not. In most situations running and hiding is almost always the more advisable option. You can alternatively knock enemies out and drive an arrow through their eye, or even toss bottles and jars to make them get distracted while you sneak past. There are also environmental kills such as having lumber fall on their head or other distractions like setting the oil they are standing in on fire. Choosing what and when to steal is made even more difficult simply because the game gets its key stealth mechanics so right. There’s an impressively tactile feel to your explorations, as you speed from one pool of shadows to the next or check paintings or furniture for secret catches – the controller buzzing subtly to tell you whether you’re hot or cold.
Unfortunately, despite the stellar stealth mechanics the longer you play through the game the repetitive nature of Thief starts to become more pronounced. You can only hide from guards, wait for your shot to get past them, steal anything not nailed down and knock people out so many times before this gameplay loops gets old. Some suspect enemy A.I. also plagues the game as you’ll run into weird behavior from the guards as their actions are inconsistent. Sometimes you’re taking out a guard’s buddies in broad daylight and he doesn’t even notice. Other times you’re quietly sneaking up on him from behind and he’ll suddenly whip around without any provocation.
The XXL Endgame
Thief is not a terrible game, but it also isn’t as good as it could’ve been as it doesn’t quite pull it all together. The stealth mechanics work very well, but are undermined by the spotty enemy A.I. Excellent graphics set in a world with flawed level design, the only thing Thief manages to steal is your time. – Written by DJRhude (@DJRhude)
XXL Rating: M
Thief was reviewed for the PS4