Thief: A Review

As is evident by the several reviews on this blog and anyone who knows me, I’m a gamer. Not only am I a gamer, I’m an optimistic gamer. When I see something coming out that I think is going to be pretty nifty, I reserve it and eventually get it when it drops. There are certain companies and franchises that have built up credibility with me, like Assassin’s Creed, Halo, Fallout, and until recently, Bethesda and Zenimax. See my Open Letter to Bethesda for reasons why I’m not as forgiving of Bethesda and Zenimax these days.

I had been a fan of the Thief series for years, and rather enjoyed the first-person stealth action. Though it had faltered over the years, and no one had heard from the franchise in years, I was excited when I heard a new entry into the series was being put out, and by Square-Enix, no less. I remembered how fun Deus Ex: Human Revolution was, even with the heavy philosophy at the end, so I was looking forward to Thief being resurrected into a successful franchise for the next generation of gamers. I thought that surely with the technical knowledge and experience of working on as many Triple-A titles as the team had, and the rich and complex world of Garret the Thief, it would be an amazing game that would, like the original, set the standard for first-person stealth games.

I was wrong. Oh great googley-moogley I was wrong.

Thief misses the mark almost right out of the gate. Let’s start with the basics. While the prologue does somewhat well showing how to move around and use the various tools that you come across in the game, it’s inconsistent. If I can jump one wall but not one that looks exactly the same as the first, that’s bad. When the only places I can use a rope arrow, the equivalent of a grappling hook in the Thief universe, is an obviously marked rope-wrapped beam sticking out of the roof of a building, it’s worse. When the minimap looks like something a meth-addled baboon playing Pictionary would draw and is about as informative, it’s really and truly horrible.

There were promises of an open world to explore, places to steal valuables, and different ways to steal these trinkets, and each of those promises was broken. There was a trail of breadcrumbs the size of houses, going from one place to the next, and it was obvious that there was no open world. You see, when I’m told a game is open-world, I think Skyrim, Fallout 3, Just Cause 2, and Grand Theft Auto. The exploration options were limited and in fact seemingly almost discouraged. Not by the AI, though I’ll get to that in a minute. It was discouraged because there was very little there when you explored. You find a house to rob? Great! You go in and… there’s no one there. At all. No dogs, no birds, no sleeping family. You could walk through the house singing “Hooked on a Feeling” in falsetto, naked, the lights burning, and knocking over every breakable thing that you could find and no one would know or care. It was disappointing, to say the least, especially as there were more than a couple of places like that. There was no real reward to exploration.

Now, on to gameplay. The sneaking around that Garret does is actually well-done, as long as you aren’t trying to, you know, actually move anywhere vertically. As mentioned before, you could hop some fences and not others. This just kicked out my suspension of disbelief. It’s the same kind of wall and I can’t jump over it? Nope, not trying to corral me down a certain path at all. Rope arrows only worked in certain places, and you couldn’t swing on them with any success. These were ropes for going up and down, and that was it. I know that sounds ridiculous, but understand that in the stealth-based genre, with such luminaries as Assassin’s Creed and Splinter Cell (made by the same company, no less), the one thing missing was a grappling hook. Something that made climbing a bit easier, and finally a stealth game had it! And it was utterly freaking useless. Great, Square-Enix. Thanks, that’s great.

The atmosphere of Thief, while starting off interesting, gets drab and dull rather quickly. Unlike the Arkham series, which realized there is a whole palette of colors, Thief relies on black, almost-black, kind of-black, gray, drab-black, and a shimmering blue highlighting “important” things, but said highlighting sends everything else black. It was like going through a stereotypical Goth’s closet, and it was boring. The streets were empty, with one or two plot devices (read: guards) here and there and were easily bypassed. It was boring, and sapped my desire to explore even after finding the empty-of-people houses. It tried for how Dishonored felt, and while Dishonored actually pulled it off, Thief felt like they took the leftovers from Dishonored and threw black paint over it and tried to call it “atmosphere”. I call it “terrible”.

I’m not even going to get into the mess of the story. Yeah, it was that not-gripping.

All in all, I’m disappointed. I really just wanted something to tide me over until Titanfall drops, and took a chance on Thief. I’ll be very careful from now on with Square-Enix titles, which is unfortunate. I can’t recommend not getting this game enough. It had so much promise, and it didn’t deliver. Don’t get it.

 

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~ by Walker on March 1, 2014.

One Response to “Thief: A Review”

  1. Totally agree with you here. This game just fell flat for me. It is too bad. Great review.

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