I have to admit, I’m no fan of stealth games, however, in games like Morrowind, Oblivion and Skyrim and Deus X – I tended towards the sneaky approach – then mayhem. Fun 😉
In Thief however, you are all about leaving those enemies behind you, potential problems later on. No one should know you are there. And the game played pretty well I have to admit. It had its flair and it started off decently. Like story-wise you wished to know what happened and wanted to play more. There were a few snags along the way though. The story got blotched up in the city on a fire plot.
Stop me if you heard this one before:
– The city have two sides fighting for power and making a revolt
– You are stuck in the middle..
– Oh what’s that? I can stop now OK sure. Don’t you want to hear about the girl – this story has a girl too you know…
– Yeah she disappears
– and yes, you have to go to an asylum
– yes you have a vendetta with the big bad chief
– all of a sudden there are new even tougher enemies that could have quenched everything in the beginning
– but there is something new
– the hero
– your Garret gets shot in the…
– Not shoulder!
– see – eh didn’t see that one coming eh?
– If it hinders you later on the game?
– No you see, you kinda wraps some dirty cloth around it and off you go. But it looks painful in the cut-scene where all this happens…
OK, so while you surf through all the clichés and dodge from shadow to shadow using or not using the highlights, super power – er focus – and different tools to get the job done, it quickly gets repetitive. Why? Well you can buy a lot of upgrades and boost your abilities and such to make the game a bit more suited to your style – but the upgrades are costly – and it doesn’t really feel like they are adding anything to the game. This is a concept that comes from the Batman games IMHO – it may no be the first – but it is one of the few games that implement them well. You see Batman doesn’t have a shop, he doesn’t have a store – he gets experience though but some of his stuff he finds by making progress in the game. Thief starts off well by introducing the claw to make it easier to scale walls. These walls have some sort of grate and are covered with dripping pigeon shit…
Seriously, the games design is almost too much. It would have been more fun to actually have a free running system, or some more trial and error – but this games animations and stuck in motion is repetitive and since you have the same animations for everything that you will do – you kind of wish they had just skipped it altogether. If we concentrate a bit more – we have the controls. This is a standard supposedly-console clone. It has everything that a PC game should have, and it is a bit better than many since you can bind keys to the keyboard and mouse pretty effortlessly. The maneuvers are mostly pretty easy to trigger as well. For me – very much prefers to play with mouse and keyboard – I had no problems flying over rooftops and sneaking around the darkness. Even so, the interface of the game could have utilized a bit more the versatility of the keyboard and mouse that usually have several buttons. It is not bad, just not great.
Thief has some more things in common with the re-boot of Lara Croft franchise Tombraider. More so than just being a re-boot; they are both sort of environment puzzles, they are about using a bow to get you somewhere, there is the entire how you get about and how you should use some tricks to sneak around and such, but ultimately in the end – the game falls flat on one or several design flaws. Tombraider is a IMHO vastly better game over all. Tombraiders puzzles and bow is great fun to play. It is the great experience of the entire game really. Thief falls flat here because the bow feels kinda crappy and the blackjack is easily the best tool for someone who wants to get somewhere in this game – quick. Focus and one strike out enemies is much easier than trying to find something that the guards react to, or simply shoot them in the head have all a rather lacklustre effect.
Story wise then, well in the beginning we are comfortably led into to a city with a sort of standard story. I can’t say that after a few chapters that I really cared much, I just cursed and tried to go where the small circles pointing me to different quests. So story, unfortunately becomes dull after a short while and you kinda skips it.
The city, that should be this breathing entity of bustling life and yield plenty of extra opportunities to make more gold is the most frustrating part of the entire game. Where games like Dark Souls 2, Tombraider, Batman and the thought-to-be-similar Dishonered have great level design that leads to invite you to explore, have refined areas that are easy and fun to navigate but still offering real challenges – Thief offers a great difficulty to get from point A to point B because the city is really just a big dark blue smear that have sub-areas that are confusing and not so telling and going a straight line with most often lead to the wrong place. You will try doors, windows and narrow alleys just to get from one transit to the correct are. Honestly, this was one thing that made me give up on the game. I just saw one circle all over the other part of the city and thought – What the hell – why do I have to navigate through this shitty part all over again? Felt like Far Cry 2 with all the 5 minute re-spawning military stations you had to pass every time you had to go somewhere. It is fun to second guess your every turn. It was hell navigating this city.
Graphics – 20. Thief looks good, even great sometimes. The graphics are nice and takes advantage of a great card and making something of all those shadows. What it lacks though is the well thought through aesthetics and overall design and feel. Garret looks like an emo-kid that got lost. A bit too much rinse and repeat in the design for my liking. But it is a competent game when it comes to sheer graphic.
Sound -15 The sound is OK. It is of course made so that you should get placement of guards and environment effects like broken glass. This all works, but it isn’t impressive or anything. It is the sad truth that a sound-guy have no glory when it comes to the games – it’s all about the main score and gun noises. Here those last things are lacking anything memorable.
Game-play/Story – 14 The game starts off as fun to play but soon start to feel like a chore to be finished with. The many distracting and annoying animations for transitions, climbing, finding items etc. makes you go *BORED* rather than “Cool I found something…” and that isn’t good. The sneaking is OK, but I guess that for the real game to shine you have to pump it up in difficulty. Not making me wanting to finish it is just not a good score…
Controls/Quality – 17 The controls can be easily managed for keyboard and mouse support and everything feels OK. That said though, I don’t feel entirely in control over the moments and responsiveness of everything. I found that many times I thought that I was doing something but it turned out differently on the screen. Sometimes this leads to dangerous situation since many of the risky movements leave you over-exposed if you fail. The small windows for activation take downs, pick pocketing etc. doesn’t feel that great.
The game died on me once and so far I didn’t face more than one or two bugs that made me restart a level to get it to work. All in all I have to say that the games quality is sound – but it is missing its heart.
Total score: 66 is a score that I feel is pretty justifiable. Sometimes games get a score that isn’t reflecting the way a game felt or the game is simply more fun to play than its score. This time however I feel that 66 is a good score for my experience. The game is OK, but not more than that. For someone really into stealth games and perhaps a love for the series may get more fun out of it than I did.