Thief was meant to be a reboot of the franchise (original game, Thief: The Dark Project -1998 and the much loved games that came after)- that is something that comes with the pressure of high expectations. I know that I, for one held great anticipation for this game. With that in mind, does this game really deliver a great experience? Not just for fans of the franchise, but newcomers alike?
Being one of the newcomers to the franchise, I came up feeling indifferent to this game. It has some truly great elements and I believe from my research it stays true to the franchises “first-person sneaker” style. The elements of the game I really enjoy are also the ones that let it down- what was great in the beginning soon becomes tiresome, and this same play-by-play runs systematically throughout the whole game. The environment layout is practically all the same, each with perfect cover in place to sneak between and enemies that will walk the same tracks over and over so you can time your moves.
The story starts with our antagonist anti-hero- Garrett, making his way through the city to meet Erin, a fellow thief and one he seems to have history with. They play kiss chase through the city until they reach Northcrest Manor in search of the Primal Stone, where they stumble upon a ritual taking place to activate the said magical relic. Erin and Garrett begin fighting- the result is the supposed death of Erin and Garret blacking out, to awaken back in the city.
The game is basically Garrett’s journey to finding out what truly happened to Erin. Whilst the opening chapter makes for an interesting one, the rest of the story falls flat. Every chapter feels so similar – a big building to loot whilst dodging your enemies line of sight and satisfying your craving kleptomaniac urge, whilst finding and uncovering an extra little piece of Erin’s story via hallucinations. It all becomes grey after a while, when the game play is so much of the same all of the time, it becomes hard to play for long sessions, which means the story becomes meaningless.
Thief however does make for an interesting conflict of interest, on one hand I found myself wanting to collect every single piece of loot I possibly could. On the other hand I really wanted to play the game and not kill a single person! It isn’t possible to do both. Trust me I have tried (although you can go back and play chapters again). It really brings out the OCD collect-it-all part of me, which I’m pretty sure I developed from a deep love of Pokémon cards as a child.
I can honestly say that this game is quite gorgeous, as dreary and dark as it is- it’s done in such a style that works perfectly in keeping with the timeline and style of the narrative. It’s almost looks like a toned down Terry Pratchett novel.
One thing that also lends itself the Terry Pratchett novel comparison for me is the side quests. I found the side quest actually more enjoyable then the main story, they added a breath of fresh air which was much needed when I felt like the game was getting stale. The individual story of each side quest was a kooky oddity-which felt worlds away from the main storyline. I will not divulge too much on these because I believe they are one of the games greatest assets.
What I believe is the games greatest let down is the controls and fluidity of the player movement. This is the same frustration I have with Deus Ex: Human Revolution, the controls feel blocky and square. I mean that your character feels rigid, which in fact inhibits the stealth side of this game more than anything. The same problem made Deus Ex which was a beautiful game, feel dated and impaired. This feels, at least to me, to be an Eidos Montreal trait and ultimately a headache for me as a consumer.
My experience had with this game is one of great expectations met with something entirely unexpected. The game as it is, is beautiful with out a doubt and at points even scary (I will leave that for you to discover if you choose to play). It brings a unique play style that makes you think about how you can approach situations with the resources at hand – it does this; although truly no matter what way you do it there will only ever be one outcome. This in turn leaves the game feeling inevitably boring after long periods of play. I found it impossible to play for more than a few hours at most. The truth is I really wanted to like this game, and it has a few jumpy parts and good scene settings, but does that make up for the lacklustre story and blocky controls? In my honest opinion, whilst playing through the really well orchestrated sections, you forget about the shortcomings and get absorbed into an exquisite yet spooky experience. But sadly, these sections are few and far between.
Published by: SQUARE ENIX, Eidos Interactive
Xbox One Version Reviewed (Also on PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and PC)