Thief (2014)

Damnit, I am so conflicted about this game…

When the new Thief was first announced (as Thi4f), I was cautiously excited. Been a fan ever since Thief 2, which was probably the most solid of the series, gameplay-wise. Thief 3 got a lot of bad rep, but that was mainly due to the consolization of the game, resulting in smaller overall areas with lots of transitions. The hub and the continuity between the missions however, added a lot to the overall concept, and the Cradle mission was out of this world.

Thief has been in development hell for a while, and there were different announcements made. At some point it was rumored that it would be a reboot, but that was later said to not be the case. I became more cautious when they announced that the voice actor for Garrett had been changed, but the first trailers still looked amazing. Now I have the game in front of me, am through the prologue and the first mission - and don’t know what to think.

On the plus side, the game is gorgeous. I love what they’ve done with the City, it’s dank and dirty and gloomy and just the right environment to move around in. Lots of different routes across rooftops and through dark alleyways. I do however wish that the contiguous area was bigger. As is, there are, again, lots of transitions.

Sound is good, although you need to turn off the music - it is way too prevalent, the cues are unnecessary and it distracts from the environmental perception, which is important in a game like this. Any Thief fan will tell you that the sound design in the previous games was revolutionary, and an important part of the experience. In this game, a lot of people talk too much, and the spatial awareness isn’t always as good - but that could be owed to my stereo headset. Sometimes a guard standing on the other side of the map sounds like he’s right next to me.

The gameplay - when it’s stealth, its good. Stick to the shadows, take out guards or avoid them, steal stuff. Unfortunately they’ve turned the blackjack into a QTE takedown - close in and press Q when the interface prompts you. This takes away the thrill of a well-executed blackjack attack. The usual arrows are still there, although Garrett’s shortbow has been replaced by one of those quick-folding compound bows (much akin to Hawkeye’s bow in The Avengers movie). Seems a but out of place. Also the bow doesn’t have a sight anymore, instead a cursor crosshairs is used.
And of course, they couldn’t resist ‘modernising’ the gameplay. AC-like platforming (with pieces of the wall that ‘suddenly’ give way, forcing you to quickly move on), ‘swooping’ (a short sprint to move between cover) and the focus view (a heightened awareness mechanic also found in the Batman games, Dishonored or Tomb Raider - utterly unnecessary for Thief)…

But the worst part is easily the change of the character. While the game seems to be creating some form of continuity from its predecessor, it’s almost like you’re playing with a different character. Stephen Russell’s voice acting has been replaced with some nobody, resulting in a character that lacks the right balance of broodiness, cynicism and dark humour. This new Garrett is bland, he talks too much and his lines seem forced. Along with the Creedification of the game, this is most likely to put off series veterans.

I can’t say much about the story yet - except it employs the amnesia trope, which is really getting a bit old. Might write more after I’ve played further, but so far my recommendation is: wait for the Steam sale.

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I’ve been keeping my eye on it, and the comments have not been positive. I took it off my steam wishlist, and I have no desire to get it.