Thief (2014): A Sort-of Review

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So, I’m going to start this off by admitting that I’ve never actually played any of the original Thief games. I got into computer gaming when the series sort of fell into obscurity for the younger generation, and the people I hung out with at the time had little interest in video games. I have read about them, and may get to playing them in the future.

So, this semi-review is based solely on the 2014 reboot, and I probably won’t discuss much about it in relation to previous games.

I saw the game advertised at EB Games, and pretty much pre-ordered it that day. I’ve been getting more into stealth games as of late—Dishonored is likely responsible—despite my inability to be patient with most things. Having read that the original Thief games were stealth-based to the point where you could fail a mission if you accidentally killed a guard or got caught, I thought it might be a good opportunity to teach myself a bit about stepping back and observing and acting in the right moment instead of rushing into things.

But let’s talk about the game proper.

So far, I’m really enjoying it. The City looks fantastic. It a wide-open environment with a lots of places to explore and loot. I can visit an area multiple times and always find a spot I missed. The sneaking mechanics are unique, asking the player to slip through shadows, across rooftops, and even change the environment to suit their needs. The sneaking about is great and it does force me to observe guard patterns to avoid a fight.

Which I want to do, because in a straight fight, Garret is about as formidable as a marionette with a wooden stick.

The stealing is the best part of the game. I love lock picking and deciphering safe combinations based on documents I pick up along the way and flipping picture frame switches. I think what really makes the thieving engaging is that stuff doesn’t just disappear when it’s stolen. You actually see Garret reach up and swipe a cup from a table, or lift the lid of a trunk, or pluck a woman’s earrings from her ears before stashing it away.

He’s got really long, nimble fingers. It’s a bit hypnotic.

The NPCs in Thief have always been known for their intelligence. It shows here too. Guards notice when doors are left open or when torches are put out (some even re-light them). It forces you to further observe before making any changes to the environment, or take advantage of a guard when he goes to turn a light back on and has his back to you.

Now, I’ve been playing this game on the least difficult setting, so I don’t know how things change from lower to higher difficulties. One thing that this reboot does is allow for the player to take a slightly more action-based approach. You can slaughter guards with blast arrows or light them on fire or nail them in the face with an arrow. I find this choice…interesting because right at the beginning of the game, Garret makes it clear that he detests killing. So, it doesn’t really make sense for his character if the player can go blowing up guards, does it?

The purpose of this seems to be a way for today’s gaming market to get more enjoyment. However, this isn’t Dishonored, where you can choose to make it a stealth game, or just murder anyone in your path. Corvo Attano can take hits, has many weapons good for head-on fighting, and can use a variety of spells.

Garret has a blackjack for knocking guys out and if you have more than one guy on you, you’re pretty much dead. His fighting prowess is virtually non-existent. Running is always the better option if you’re caught.

However, the game does have the option of a “custom difficulty” setting. This allows the player to select factors—being seen, killing guards, etc—that will cause them to fail a mission. Implementing these factors will force players to take whatever approach they want. I’ll likely be manipulating them for the pure-stealth I’m seeking, after I finish my low difficulty run-through first.

Aside from that, I think my copy has a few technical glitches. Subtitles appearing at the wrong time, or when no one is talking. Sometimes I can’t hear Garret speaking (and he’s not exactly loud to begin with). Also, apparently every guard in the city has either slept with Polly the dockfrock, or has been on her waiting list for two months. Anyone else having issues like this?

Honestly, this being my first Thief game, I don’t have much to compare it to. I think as a game on its own, it’s fun. If you want to know how it is compared to the old games, I’d recommend asking an old taffer—preferably one who isn’t a purist.

Now I just have to see how many side jobs I can do before I’m forced to go to the Moira Asylum. I may have not played the originals, but I’ve seen Let’s Plays of Shalebridge Cradle. If the asylum is the reboot’s tribute to that particular mission, may mercy be granted on my cowardly soul.

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