Thief is one these sleeper hits that you might have accidentally missed. Initially released in 2014, it did not get much attention from gamers across the world. With that, Thief is one of the best and prominent examples of the genre of stealth-actions, a unique, very rare and wonderful game, a marvelous experience for everyone who loves classical games of this kind.
Gameplay-wise, it’s a typical stealth-action game. You hide in the shadows so as not to be spotted by guards, steal valuable items behind their backs, open locked doors with a lock pick, find places to put unconscious bodies of stunned soldiers there, search for secret places. This is a common list of actions that can be found in almost any stealth game. Thief makes the things different due to some details.
First of all, the main character has a special vision that allows him to see key objects, which can be used for different purposes. Special focus mode highlights all items that can be stolen, doors that can be opened, traps, guards and witnesses of crimes, including animals that may notice the character and raise the alarm, cabinets, where the main character Garrett can hide and passages for further movement. It makes the game very convenient but does not force you resort to it too often, most of the time you can progress in a mission without it.
Secondly, the character has various tools at his disposal, including wirecutter to disarm traps, razor to steal highly valuable paintings and wrench to open grates and vents. The latter is the most important one as it allows reaching otherwise inaccessible parts of a map so as to avoid guards or traps, which is highly important for an unique, stealthy walkthrough. Using these items gives the game new feelings and provides replayability and alternative ways of walkthroughs of the missions.
Thirdly, the main character has a bow and different kinds of arrows, which facilitate the walkthrough. Chocking arrows make the guards cough for a few seconds, which is enough to sneak behind their backs, stun them or escape the pursuit. Water arrows extinguish the torches, rope arrows allow getting on the top of the building using the rope. Other types of ammunition have their own unique effects too. This allows players to adjust the completion of levels to their preferences and vary it to their tastes.
The game has a rating system, which counts every important action in the game. Depending on the actions of a player, the game rewards the gamer for remaining undetected, use of environmental kills (it happens when a player, for example drops crates on soldiers standing below them), stealing all loot, predatory stuns from the air when the character jumps and stuns passing below guards. Each walkthrough takes into account the number of lock-picked doors, stunned or killed enemies or civilians (animals and birds are also counted, by the way), many different other things including the amount of raised alerts. Depending on the actions of the player, the game assigns a rating: predator, opportunist or ghost. I managed to get a ghost rating in some of the missions but it does not mean anything. You can get any rank depending on your actions so don’t restrict yourself and play as you like.
One additional thing to notice is how the game rewards a player for explorations of levels. Each of them has various items, which you can steal. This brings you money that can be spent on upgrading your gear or purchase of focus points that are needed to unlock additional abilities that can be used in a focus mode. It provides a variety of options, makes each walkthrough of missions unique and adds replayability value. During the first walkthrough you may want to invest money into improving a bow, during the second one into developing concentration skills. This is wonderful, isn’t it?
Speaking of levels, all of them are very well made. It’s just a brilliant work. Many different ways of completion of a mission, alternative routes everywhere, hidden opportunities, perfect positioning of lighting, very well decorated rooms, outstanding visual style of streets – these are particular traits of this product. It’s exactly that kind of electronic entertainment where you fully immerse into the atmosphere of a world thanks to the perfect level design. Vents allow you to find alternative paths, beams allow you to use rope arrows to move in the air by leaping from a rope to a rope.
As for the city, it looks fantastic. Developers let you to explore it as much as you want; you may enter some random houses to find loot there or accidentally overhear some conversations to receive the lead about valuable items stored somewhere. The city just lives its own life. Rebels agitate on the streets, guards patrol every corner, ordinary citizens go about their business. All of this creates an impression of living inimitable world.
Speaking about graphics, they are just amazing here. Screenshots can’t demonstrate the gorgeousness of certain locations and amount of small details that make them look beautiful. The game supports all modern technologies and it’s clearly seen. Graphics are not outdated and you even can’t believe that the game was released six years ago. Everything looks realistic to that extent that Thief can compete even with games of the current generation. People, who worked on lighting and shadow effects, deserve the special praise. Game looks outstanding thanks to them as well. Shadows create a distinctive immersive atmosphere that fits the mood and spirit of the game. In general, the game looks incredibly good, near perfect at certain moments.
Voice acting leaves ambivalent impressions. On the one hand, minor characters are very well voiced and sometimes it’s a pure pleasure to listen to random bystanders when you encounter them on a street or in a tavern. On the other hand, voices of the main characters don’t match their images and you might expect the characters to have other voices, which would be more appropriate for them. As for the sounds, they perfectly match the atmosphere of a grim, dark city and sound flawlessly. Music in the main menu is remarkable and in general, this part of the game leaves positive emotions, but doesn’t seem exceptionally good at the same time.
Storyline is the weakest spot of the game. It disappoints from the very beginning by displeasing personality of Erin, the follower and companion of the main character Garrett. She seems to be self-motivated, self-centered and vile from the very beginning of narration and this friendship between two so different from the moral point characters certainly frustrates as you learn more about her and her habits and attitude to life. Then, the story makes a huge gap in a year, without giving an explanation to anything and Garrett, suffering from amnesia has to learn what happened with the city, people around him and what his role and the role of Erin were in the events, which occurred during his forced absence.
The storyline definitely could be much better. The characters just seem to be so typical, full of stereotypes that you can easily tell the role of each of them in narration and following events of the game. Thief has different personalities with their hidden agenda, but you can easily guess the motivation of every of them. Not only that, but the game still does not answer all the questions: where was Garrett during the past year? How did it happen that he had the part of magical force of the Primal inside him but did not feel nor did not use it? The game leaves many other questions and demands DLC, which I gladly would buy.
Another thing to be noted is that all main characters are endowed with only one prevailing personal trait, whereas Thief is the game where you want to see more characters that are complex. Trader Basso cares about his own wellbeing and profit, Thief-taker General is imperious and too selfish, Baron Northcrest is dogmatic and opinionated. If characters had different personal traits, probably you could like them more but now they just play important roles in this performance and you clearly see which ones.
Speaking about controls, they are definitely good but could be better. One button is for hitting enemies, another is for dodging them, the third one is for healing, the forth one is for taking food. The fifth button is responsible for activation of concentration, when Garrett can see some important for him objects, which are highlighted in this mode. In general, switching between arrows on PC version using the mouse wheel is not so pleasant as playing using gamepad. PC version suffers from the same problems as other multi-platform products – there are too many buttons, which makes playing the game sometimes slightly uncomfortable, because you may push the wrong button, for instance to activate the focus vision, whereas you did not want it. With that, controls are responsive, interface is very well done, the diary and the map are functional and in common, everything works well.
Thief is exactly that kind of game that you want to play more and have more content for it. I wish there could be DLC with additional missions – the game is too good to be left without it. It’s a marvelous experience, unforgettable twenty-three hours spent in the game. I highly recommend Thief to everyone, especially these who love stealth-action games. I’ve played plenty of them and – trust my experience – this is one of the best of them. My congratulations to the developers. The game is near perfect and aside a few problems with the plot and controls does not have any disadvantages. Speaking about the level design and the gameplay this is the perfect job, this is how a game should be made. Well done, Eidos-Montréal.