When a company resurrects a dead franchise or simply reboots it, they run the risk of alienating the loyal old school fans or fending off newcomers because its mechanics are not streamlined. I’m an old school fan of the Thief games and it’s my favorite series of all time. The first one was released in 1998, with Thief: The Dark Project. This wasn’t the first stealth game, it was actually released after Metal Gear Solid, but it really changed what people thought of First Person Shooters. Instead of running and gunning through corridors, you had to slowly sneak, hide in the shadows, be aware of your surroundings, and have patience. It was the first time where lighting and sound was apart of the gameplay. Darkness was your safe-haven and your best friend. You had no radar to see any near by enemies so you had to rely on the sounds of guards walking around or chatting to have an idea where they’re at. You take the role of Garrett, an arrogant anti hero that had the charm of Han Solo and presence of Batman. The setting was a Steampunk/Victorian city called, well “The City.” Every mission had you entering an area and stealing loot and grabbing an item that your client wants. The stealth was intense, the immersion was fantastic, and the maps were so big that they allowed many ways to complete the mission. I was in favor for starting the series all over again. The last entry was Thief: Deadly Shadows in 2003 and it ended things nicely and to have it continue was foolish. But, how does the new reboot, simply titled, Thief stack up?
Let’s start off with the stealth. Many of us fans had concerns with the new game. Was it gonna turn out to have more action than stealth? A beloved stealth series, Splinter Cell, followed the same fate. Fortunately, it avoided this. You stick to the shadows and avoid altercations. You pretty much can’t advance through the game with a assassin type of mindset. They do that by having the combat nerfed so that you won’t rely on it. You can handle one on one with a guard but more than that will overwhelm you. Most times when I got caught I just reloaded the last save and tried to do better. You can knockout guards or unsuspecting people with your trusty blackjack. You can also use this move called the swoop. It lets you quickly dart across to another patch of shadow. This is a really neat mechanic and I’d say it’s a welcome addition. Unfortunately, this is all that Thief gets right.
In the previous games (well, Thief 1&2) you felt that the map was your playground and the amount of ways in completing your objective was endless. In the reboot, however it isn’t at all like that. They come up with 2-3 predetermined ways and you have to find them. Every mission it’s structured like a FPS. You go to point A,B, and C. To put out bluntly, it’s linear. It absolutely kills me to say that but it is. Any “open endedness” to a mission is a facade. Still talking about maps, I must bring into question. Is this game truly next gen? Because on larger maps are chopped up into different sections, separated with loading screens. In this game, the city is your central hub and while you are there, you can rob people’s houses. I thought this would be like little challenges that would add hours to the game, the last game did this same thing and it was tins of fun. Well, before you break into someone’s house, you have to pop open the window with your crowbar and then complete a quick time event, prying it open. This is done so the room will have to time to buffer and load. It becomes so monotonous and repetitive that I hardly wanted to do it. And really why should I? All the houses are vacant so there’s no challenge. It’s weird because there’s a citywide curfew going on, where the hell is everybody? Also there’s barely any loot involved. You’ll pick up a pair of scissors or a letter opener. I don’t feel like a Master Thief, I feel like a low life cat burglar.
My second problem is the the presentation. Let me say that this is a bad story. It’s plagued by plot holes that Godzilla could walk through. (2014 Godzilla) Thief games never had ground breaking plots. Although, that twist in the first game, good lord that was awesome. But, I expect something decent. I guess that’s too much of a high order. In the beginning of the game you and your protege, Erin (I’ll get to her later) go to this mansion to steal something for Basso the Boxman. Here you come across the “Baron”, pretty much The City’s dictator. Him and some other cloaked fellows are in the process of a weird ritual to bring in a new industrial age by opening up some kind of portal. Why you need to do this voodoo bullshit to do that is beyond me. Well, Erin accidentally falls through the roof and into the portal, whilst Garrett trying to save her, you both fall down into the portal or rift, I don’t know what it is and then BOOM you’re in a cart being carried by two dudes. You find out later from this old lady called “The Queen of the Beggars” that you have been in a comatose state for a year. Where the hell was I though? How did they find me? Wouldn’t the Baron do something with me? I mean I did screw up their ceremony. Now, onward to Erin.. Every avenue to make a side character unlikable, she goes through them. She constantly derides Garrett’s way of thieving. Garrett tells her to be aware of your surroundings and she says “It’s not about taking in the sights Garrett. It’s about taking in the loot.” This is THE MASTER THIEF. He trained you and your gonna be like that. If you’re not aware of footsteps and traps, there will be no loot. The old Garrett wouldn’t take that shit. Plus, what ever happened to Garrett being reclusive? She isn’t afraid to kill guards, which goes against the grain for master thieves. Garrett grills her on, but she comes back with, “Well at least he won’t get up to catch me.” By the time they do wake up you should be gone by then, which Garrett points out. She’s like the Jar Jar Binks of this game if Jar Jar was murdering psycho.
Oddly enough, that’s not the only parallel it has with George (ChinFlapMcGee) Lucas’ abomination. Both of them have monotone delivery from there actors. It’s like Steven Wright was the voice director. The usual actor for Garrett was replaced by Romano Orzari. He’s not horrible, but doesn’t hold a candle to the series regular, Stephen Russell. Everyone is so bland. Oddly enough, Basso does have character, while in the previous games he had no character. If the story doesn’t make you fall asleep, the voice acting will. Well, at least I get to hear a guard talk about cockrings. Remember when Thief games had class?
Something that is very apparent is that this game tries to hard to be Dishonored, which can very well be the best “Thief” game we’ll get. This game practically steals main plotlines from it. (Hey look I made a pun) I mean it has a plague that’s infesting the city. Remember that “Queen of Beggars” woman? She looks exactly like Granny Rags. It’s utterly shameful. Dishonored took inspiration from the franchise and was a enormous success. Eidos Montreal looked at and said “Well, let’s do that.” instead of doing something new. It’s ironic and quite sad.
For a game that has been in development for 5 years, it sure does feel half baked. Maybe Square Enix told them they are tired of wasting there money and to come up with something quick, which goes together with my “Let’s copy Dishonored” theory. I would hope that simple bugs wouldn’t be present in a “Next-Gen” game but no you’re asking too much. Guards will glitch out and just stand there for an eternity. Audio isn’t synced well in the cutscenes. I mean Christ, this stuff is easy to iron out.
I had my hopes with this game, but those hopes were beaten out of me by a blackjack wielding Jar Jar Binks. This will probably be the last Thief game we’ll see in a long time and honestly that doesn’t upset me. I will never consider this a part of the series and block out of my memory. Until Eidos goes bankrupt and EA buys them out. Then we’ll have to buy arrows through microtransactions in the next one.