Eidos Montreal and Square Enix have resurrected one of my all time favorite PC series with their remake of Thief. When Thief: The Dark Age came out in 1998, I was hooked. I loved the stealth game play, the maps that contained multiple maps to my goal, and the visuals of the game were some of the best in the industry, at that time. When I had heard that Eidos and Enix were going to remake Thief for a 2014 release, I was beside myself. I wanted this game more then Watch Dogs, Titan Fall, and Dark Souls II combined! What I got, was disappointed. Thief just wasn’t the experience that I wanted in my remake.
Thief begins the game by introducing the player to Garrett, This is the same Garrett that appeared in the first three Thief games, but as an older and wiser version. The introductory level also introduces you to Garrett’s young and brash sometimes partner, Erin, who epitomizes everything that Garrett is against in a thief. In this level, you and Erin are charged with stealing a small gem like object from the Baron’s stronghold in The City. As Garrett and Erin reaches the stronghold, they come upon a magical ritual, which causes the building to shake. Garrett and Erin choose this time to have one of their annoying little squabbles, which leads to Erin’s apparent death and Garrett being put into a coma for a year.
One year later, Garrett comes to and is taken back into The City, just to find that The City has fallen victim to plague and brutality. Garrett heads to his hideout to check his belongings, then immediately crosses town to visit his handler to see if he has any jobs available for a thief who needs money.
The story line for Thief works ok for me, not that great but I have seen much, much worse. My issue with the story is that, when looked at as a whole, the story feels disjointed and incomplete. It very well could be the consistent load times that appear during game play, or the score screens after each level, but the story never feels like it is a whole story. I found it much easier and more enjoyable to view each level as a story upon itself in Garrett’s life, much like how Hitman is set up with it’s levels.
The other issue that I had with Thief’s story, was the characters. I’ll talk a little bit more about their design later, but who the characters were and how they acted drove me absolutely nuts. Erin is a brash, arrogant, and loud character, who has no reservation in getting into an argument during a job, while there are guards just ten feet away. Erin also sees guards as objects that needs to be removed and has no objection in killing them. Garrett, on the other hand, is the veteran that hates everything about Erin and how she does it. Garrett chastises Erin every chance he gets, especially over her killing of a guard, and yet as the player you will eventually kill your fair share of guards during the game. Erin is an annoying teenager type character, and Garrett is a know-it-all hypocrite, I never liked either one at all during the game.
Thief is, at it’s heart, a stealth game and Eidos has done that right. You are giving a light sensor on your heads up display that shows you how much light is shining on Garrett. This helps keep Garrett in the dark, which is key to completing your levels well. Garrett also has an array of special items and moves that help him maneuver around The City, completing his tasks. Garrett has his trusty bow with him, including his water, fire, rope, and broad tipped arrows that can be used to move around or take out obstacles. Garrett also carries a blackjack and grapple, rolled into one that he stole from Erin during the prologue. Before each mission, Garrett has the chance to buy more equipment using the cash from his last job.
This new Garrett also has some new moves to help him finish his jobs. There is a new dash move that allows Garrett to move quickly between two points, usually from shadow to shadow or to close the gap between you and a guard that is walking away. This dash move is the more helpful of the two new abilities and allows you to get Garrett out of trouble quickly and quietly. The other move, Focus, is a some what cheap feeling ability to me. Focus is context based, and will either slow down time if you are in combat, or show you items in the world that you can interact with by making them glow. When you enter a room and hit focus, everything that can be picked up or interacted with will glow a soft blue, so that hidden safe behind the portrait won’t stay hidden long. This feels cheap to me because it takes away from the exploration and discovery of the first Thief games that I enjoyed so much. It was much more rewarding in finding the merchant’s hidden vault on your own, and not just by clicking Focus to find what items you can interact with.
My biggest complaint with the game play of Thief is how you move around The City. The City allows for multiple paths to complete your jobs, which is great, but Garrett cannot utilize many of the sections that you see around you, and must stick to your chosen path until you are given the option to choose another path. Playing games like Assassin’s Creed have absolutely ruined how I see the way Garrett should move around The City. Some ledges you can drop down, others you can’t and you won’t be able to tell this unless you try to. Movement does nothing to make Garrett feel like the master thief he is. If Eidos wanted a great example of how Garrett should feel in movement, they should have just taken a look at Dishonored, that would have worked fantastically.
The visual design of The City is great, and it looks just fantastic on the PC. If you have a machine that is beefy enough, the PC version is the only place that will get you 60 frames per second at the highest graphics level. I, unfortunately, do not own one of those types of PCs, but the game looked great and ran great at the setting I choose. The look of The City is one of medieval Europe meets Industrial Age Europe, in a similar vein to the original games. The world is appropriately dark and dreary, and the lighting effects look great and give you a sense of where not to be.
Character sound and visuals are a completely separate matter. Garrett’s design is all over the place, and I have no idea why the man is wearing a corset. I truly believe the reason Garrett stays in the shadows is due to the fear of being seen and dying from embarrassment. Original voice actor Stephen Russell has been replaced as the voice of Garrett by Romano Orzari, and this moved had caused a huge stirring of disapproval from the Thief faithful. Russell, as I remember, was fantastic as the voice of Garrett, while Orzari seems bored and flat in his delivery. Ultimately, what this feels like is a different Garrett than we had years ago, and Eidos may have been better served in making the main character Garrett’s son, rather than Garrett.
Thief by Eidos Montreal and Square Enix is a mediocre game at best. While The City looks fantastic and the game play, at times, makes you feel like a master thief, ultimately the story and character design just isn’t enough to make me care enough about this reboot. If you take each chapter as a separate game and focus on that section, then the game seems to get better – especially when you can change the difficulty per each chapter and try again with harder artificial intelligence. It’s when the game is taken as a whole that my feeling of joy for Thief seems to fall apart. It just doesn’t live up to the original game, and maybe that’s my issue. It is almost impossible to view a remake of one of your favorite games objectively, and truth be told I am not going to try. My advice to you is, if you played the original and loved it, you may be in for a big disappointment with this new reboot. Overall, the game just comes of as “okay”. Thief is available now for the PC via Steam.
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