Thief

I’d been wanting to play this game for quite a while, but at the time of release did not have the funds or really the time to devote to it. And so ended up being loaned a copy.

For those not familiar with the Thief franchise, it’s a series of Stealth games where you play the Master Thief, Garrett who in-amongst all his nefarious deeds generally ends up being dragged into conspiracies and usually ends up saving the day as a result.

The newest Thief game is not ‘Thief IV’ as it was initially announced, and so it is not a direct sequel it is intended to be a ‘continuity reboot’ that follows another Master Thief named Garrett who operates in the same City, Audale several centuries later although really the level of technology within Audale hasn’t really moved much beyond the previous games. I believe the series is classed as a ‘low tech fantasy’ like we have a bit of rudimentary electricity but everything else seems to be gears and pulleys and wires.

The game throughout does have various shout outs and throwbacks to various events within previous games.

First up, gameplay. The gameplay is similar to games such as Dishonoured, Assassin’s Creed and Mirror’s Edge in which you are intended to utilize the environment to aid you and does allow accommodation of different play styles. Such as attempting to do the game in a pure stealth mode or utilizing a much more aggressive nature.

The ‘free running’ aspect of the game is not quite as free as Assassin’s Creed, but is fairly close in that it generally encourages you to take to the rooftops, it’s in first person apart from a few moments in which you have to shimmy across pipes and walls in which it fixes you into third person. Whilst you are able to look around the level you have a limited viewpoint as you are unable to change your perspective. This is generally workable and does encourage you to plan your routes a bit more.

And unlike previous Thief games you do not get the boon of the mechanical eye so there is no zooming. However you do get a ‘focus’ ability which allows you to pick up on environmental elements.

Combat. Thief being a stealth game of course is not intended for full frontal combat, and so doesn’t have a ‘combat system’ as such. You get various arrows which can be used to reach environmental objects/create paths or be used for combat reasons. You get a blackjack which of course is intended for the swift and silent take down of hostiles, however if you do end up in a ‘proper’ combat situation fighting is more ‘bludgeoning this guy with a blackjack until you can take them down’. As you do not get the dagger that you get in previous games, a few times I would have appreciated that idea but then the game is intended to encourage you to be ‘clever’ and use distractions and avoid combat as much as possible.

Resources in the game are fairly well distributed, you can usually find a few items dotted around areas and there’s a decent amount of traders throughout that allow you to restock your wares. And also allow you to buy various upgrades and ‘trinkets’ to provide you with boons that give you a bit of an edge.

The game encourages exploration as you would expect. It encourages you to get into many small little places and hidden areas to pick up a wide variety of loot, there’s enough side jobs to keep you busy and supplement your income and throughout the game are various unique ‘collectable’ pieces for you to dig out as you go around as well as pick/loot many pockets.And then there’s various ‘flavour pieces’ various notes and books to give you some attempt at depth and how the deep dark city works (and yes it can be very dark and even disturbing I give this game credit for giving me one ‘hidden area’ that make me feel rather squicked out to say the least)

Graphics wise, the game looks very good but then most games do at this point. As the game pretty much completely takes place at night the game is generally in shades of grey at least when you’re outside and I will admit it can be a little hard to see at times as at points there doesn’t really feel like there’s a lot of depth.

Audale lacks life, whilst of course the game is primarily set at night, you do get various people wandering around hostile or not. And whilst you get scripted dialogue that kicks off at various points, it doesn’t feel like people actually live there. When you run into NPCs they often stand and stare blankly, where in Deadly Shadows they’d have comments to make towards you when you did so and so it doesn’t really feel at points as if you’re actually in a level.

Atmospherically the game does do it’s job at points, like setting up some wonderfully tense feelings when playing through the Moira Asylum, Moira as a level is almost on a similar level to The Cradle but at the same time not quite. Like Shalebridge slowly builds up the terrifying tension when Moria smacks you right off with a jump scare, but I will admit Moira did make me very unnerved at points and was a challenge when negotiating how to get past the ‘Freaks’

My main bug bear with the game however, is Erin.

You see the lead up almost had me think f0r a moment we’d actually get to play as Erin, or she’d have an active role within the game. Erin is intended as Garret’s protege who evidently hasn’t been doing a great job, she’s rash, too fond of killing and the rest. She and Garrett have a snarky, aggressive relationship like quite a few famous master/student pairings throughout the years. And honestly to me maybe a ‘play the protege and watch them develop

And the thing is after about ten minutes of opening tutorial, in which we’re introduced to some weird freaky occult stuff as is par for the course of the series, Erin apparently dies. And then this sets the game in full motion.

Garrett then awakes ‘one year later’ after some form of miraculous rescue and sets the plot of the game in motion. Short version the City went to shit and there’s a mysterious disease wiping people out, corrupt officials and it gets worse form there.

And Garrett is of course trying to find out what happened to Erin, who we think is dead and who seems to be haunting him. Turns out it’s not the case she’s ‘alive’ as when she fell to her ‘death’ above the strange occult cult doing their strange ritual she managed to absorb the power of the artifact in use. And apparently had caused everything that’s gone very wrong in the game.

And well, it really feels like Erin falls victim to the ‘woman in the fridge’ trope. Which is not helped by the extremely ambiguous feeling at the end of the game in which it’s very unclear as if she actually got saved or if she died again. She the cause of the plot but hasn’t really got any real agency to do so as she’s in some form of comatose state for the most part and experimented on.

And then there’s just so many games and media that rely on similar plots that it’s at the least cliche. As really Erin is not a person within the game, once she ‘dies’ she pretty much becomes a thing to be fought over by the Baron, by Orion and even to an extent Garrett although his intentions are the ‘noble’ ones as he’s the one who wishes to rescue and free her.  And well maybe I would’ve personally preferred a game in which I was able to take up the role of Erin and play as her and even with this plot in there if it had happened without expending a female character.

Characterization in the game is a bit weak. Character’s don’t really feel like people more a bundle of traits, whilst Garrett does have some pretty amusing dialogue he doesn’t have much to go off than ‘snarky anti-hero’ and it feels like much the same for everyone. And whilst there’s meant to be a master/student relationship or even big brother/little sister one between Garrett and Erin I didn’t feel it, you get a few brief flashes of it throughout the game but little to really tell you much about them as a pair even the brief portion in the start of the game gives you little to go other than Erin can’t seem to follow the rules but doesn’t seem to have much beyond that.

The ending felt anticlimatic, I was expecting to see at least one more cutscene but it just finishes on one last shot goes to credits then runs through to the ‘End game plus’ in which I could run around the city all over again and replay. I’m not quite sure what I expected of the ending (maybe a little bit of solid confirmation of Erin’s fate)  but it felt a bit empty like there was nothing there and no real lead like I know Garrett would just go back to his thieving lifestyle

All in all, it’s a good enough game, has enough to keep you occupied for a decent amount of time but at the same time is a bit empty, I feel there’s potential that wasn’t used in terms of immersion and atmosphere and the game doesn’t really hook you into the story as much as some do. In a way I’m glad I didn’t buy this game at release as I don’t feel I would’ve got my money’s worth.

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