[As Read on GIO.]
Don’t Stop this Thief…
…and let Him stay in the Shadows as well.
It’s been a long time since we last stood in Garrett’s shoes and many things have changed, but many others remain yet the same. This is equally comforting and disconcerting at times, especially in Eidos-Montreal’s newest outing with the master thief. There may have been a decade of down time in between, but some things never change, and that nostalgic thrill has been given a fresh coat of paint in Thief (2014). As usual, nothing is as it seems, and without ruining the story completely for you or brandishing a light on the more elusive characters of the game, I will say that as Garrett goes after a particularly rare artifact, some quite…unpleasant, and unexpected circumstances occur in quick succession. As with the previous Thief games, Thief (2014) mixes in a little bit of the supernatural as well, making for an interesting mind-game at times, and crossing the threshold of what is real and what is playing tricks on your imagination as well throughout the game.
Of course, that supernatural energy and aspect plays a somewhat key role in the story as well, for reasons that become apparent within about fifteen minutes into the game. Between a beginning that reminds me of Deus Ex: Human Revolution’s Missing Link DLC (conveniently another Square title), and some entertaining, interesting, and formidable characters- Thief’s narrative, while not its focal aspect, is relatively strong and an entertaining ride for sure. Best of all, said narrative plays upon the strings of gamers who enjoyed the first three titles, and gives new and returning players alike all the excuses they need in order to fulfill their greediest dreams and embark upon one daring heist after another, with no two turning out the same (unless you fail them, of course).
Despite its many flaws, the Thief series, and the original game itself, has been a strong argument for the stealth genre, and one of the best series for cautious, skilled players to show off their street smarts as well- at least on the screen. It has inspired other great titles and series such as Assassin’s Creed in more aspects than one, and has remained a name readily on many older gamers’ lips for over a decade. So, obviously, this particular game has some pretty hefty roles to fill and needs to cater to, and as you’ll soon see from the rest of my review, I think it did a pretty swell job in doing (or attempting to do) so. Despite some recurring issues appearing even in this new generation of gaming, Thief (2014) does an excellent job of setting up big moments, allowing you to feel the elation and satisfaction of successfully pulling off a daring heist, the failure of not doing so, and the general lucrative badassery of being a thief lurking in the shadows, always on the lookout for something nice and shiny.
Each of Garrett’s missions is varied in everything from design to skills required in order to complete. There is, as with many stealth games, a pretty large learning curve, but this only adds to the success and replayability of the game’s missions in the long run, stemming even from Dark Souls in some ways. There are several fresh gameplay ideas such as waiting in cover during a lightning storm, only to bolt quickly to the next shaded area as your previous one is illuminated profusely, and no two mission uses the same elements aside from core gameplay controls and platforming options. The pacing seems a little bit off at times, and can come off as slow or even tedious, but that is a sacrifice that should be made if you plan on successfully finishing each heist mission, and having a more realistic stealth experience. You can’t get by with simply charging through areas, or at least not successfully anyway- you will most certainly die if you attempt this, as the odds are heavily stacked against you.
Some missions have explosive action sequences, such as escaping a burning estate amidst the flames, dodging guards and fleeing civilians alike as you make off with your hard-earned loot. Others have more mellow, yet equally suspenseful and slightly cagey, supernatural moments. And still others- and the majority of the game, have many a stealth-conducive encounter, often utilizing Garrett’s hefty array of tools and arrow-related apparel. While it breaks from tradition in many instances, and has an incredibly unique arsenal, there are still many portions that are noticeably similar to elements of the former games- from a few tools in Garrett’s inventory, to the way locomotion plays out. Still- nothing feels really reused, and after ten years, everything still feels fresh- which is never a bad thing in gaming. This is truly as much an entirely new game as it is a reboot, much like Tomb Raider (2013) in that it stems from the same source, but starts fresh, and tells everything with a more mature, more epic tone and quality.
Thankfully, though the pace can be quite sporadic and even painfully slow and overly dramatic at times, when it changes things up, the objectives really improve throughout missions on the whole. I guess you could call its mission structure pretty linear, though there is an overarching hub world almost a la Halo 3: ODST in some ways. However, optional objectives and miscellaneous artifacts make the otherwise pretty linear experience that much more replayable, and as (once more) compared to Tomb Raider (2013)’s artifacts and valuables, make the experience more believable, richer, and beneficial. Not to mention they look neat. There should be no reason you just rush through levels without doing some hefty exploring, unless, of course, you’ve already beaten the game to one hundred percent- then I guess you’re exempt.
Thief (2014) wouldn’t be the nostalgic experience it is without the rousing amount of hidden booby traps and intrinsic, interesting environmental puzzles it utilizes during exploration and heists either. Picking locks to safes and cells, disabling impromptu alarms, and other mundane tasks of thievery are balanced with insanely complicated trap dismantling and other interesting puzzles as well, making for a fairly interesting mashup as you play. Breaking even further away from the overall linearity of the medium sized environments, each mission offers multiple pathways to a successful or failed heist, and you can play different ways or use different routes each time. Each way you go means you might find just a little bit more loot, or avoid a few more guards, or on the flip side run into heavier resistance and locked doors. It’s a great way to balance things out and really randomize the action as well, and made all that much better by allowing you to essentially ‘practice’ your skills in the side missions or smaller missions given in the main hub (essential to upgrading equipment).
Unless you’re really just abominable at playing as a thief, Garrett is pretty well balanced as a character in everything save fighting. He can literally swoop from shadowy corner to shadowy corner all Batman-like in the blink of an eye, use an eagle-vision clone to see pretty and important objects through other environmental objects, and utilize a sort of sixth sense in locating hidden levers and guards. His tools and equipment are original, expansive, and all very, very useful in plying his trade- from using a rope arrow for tying up guards, a water arrow for extinguishing torches, lockpicks, or pretty much anything else you can think of that could be beneficial to have. One thing is for certain: as with many stealth games, after failing multiple times, having that one perfect run just makes your day, and proves that trial and error may have its perks once it becomes more of a test and treat. You’ll really have to work for each and every new acquisition to your treasury, and it won’t be easy at all.
Unlike his assassin brethren, Garrett is better off avoiding pain than dishing it out, though he can successfully take down one or two guards if he is crafty enough in utilizing his surroundings. Otherwise, once you’re surrounded, his slow attacks and lack of a truly powerful stun or any counter moves makes him quite vulnerable. However, since Thief shouldn’t be about combat anyway, the experience remains unsullied by its poor show of combat, though it works when you need it to in small confrontations such as bumping into an equally stealthy guard coming around a corner. Granted, you can flee from combat, but the enemy AI is pretty crafty, and the end result will most likely be the same as attempted head-on confrontations. Therefore, be mindful of your progress, be cautious, and take every checkpoint as they come. One thing hasn’t changed even since the nineties, and that is that trial and error gameplay is very much a part of Thief (2014).
Despite its main gameplay revolving around staying in the shadows, Thief shines brilliantly even with its flaws and awkward pacing, trial and error frustrations, and sometimes shoddy minded AI (or quite clairvoyant AI, as it comes and goes). If you’re willing to slow things down just a little bit, the experience is incredibly worthwhile and exciting. This game, though technically a reboot, also shares many things with its predecessors which is great for old fans of the series. However, it also has plenty of new controls, items, and storylines to explore, making it a great starting point for a potential new saga and for newcomers as well. Despite it being a cross generational game and doing pretty well on each of the consoles from what I’ve seen, as with the original games, PC is definitely the way to go. You get better frames, graphics, and overall a better experience- so PC gamers, rejoice!
Concept: A reboot of a classic series that sticks nostalgically to its roots while maintaining a fresh, new presentation as well. A decent story and even better gameplay and moments highlight the duration of the game’s semi-linear pathway.
Graphics: Definitely showcases the new hardware for the next generation consoles, however it looks the best on computers, unless you’re system isn’t up to snuff. Thief doesn’t look too bad on 360 and PS3, but the other three choices would definitely be in your best interest if you have the opportunity to pick and choose.
Sound: The voice acting is handled quite well and really elicits the exact moods Thief aims for, however the soundtrack feels slightly out of place at times, though the tenser and more actiony moments fit in well with their mixes.
Playability: The controls handle phenomenally, the controls make sense, and overall the balancing and difficulty aren’t too terrible once you get the hang of things- just don’t come expecting handouts or any concessions to be given.
Entertainment: If you suck during one particular section, the game can become very frustrating, however the highlight of every mission is successfully scraping by without being detected, or at least making it to the final puzzle before escaping with your precious cargo in tow.
Replay Value: Moderately High.
Overall Score: 8.5