Summary [6.5 out of 10]
The next iteration in the Thief series, this installment finds master thief Garrett caught up in a revolution after a job goes wrong and his childhood friend is lost after they stumble into some manner of bizarre ritual. Garrett tries to go about his thieving business but when he starts seeing visions of his dead friend and hearing her voice, he tries to solve the mystery of exactly what happened to her. The game has you executing contracts as well as going on story missions and while some of the missions are inspired and fun, more often than not the game feels like a chore. The game is geared toward stealth so it is no surprise that the combat isn’t amazing but in the times when you are discovered you have very little recourse than running and hoping that you can get somewhere safe. Usually the answer on that is no, however, and you are looking at a restart point. The balance here is pretty uneven too and you can go from doing well to instant death in the blink of an eye. Locomotion from one place to another also becomes tedious with having to sneak when not on mission and somewhat poor path finding. There are good elements here but they are buried beneath a lot of tedious mess.
What it’s Like:
Dishonored: From the steampunk elements to the First Person stealth and platforming, this feels an awful lot like Dishonored. Of course the Thief series has been around longer so it is likely that Dishonored cribbed from Thief but either way they feel very similar and hold some of the same frustrations. The perspective here can be difficult when you are trying to sneak but you don’t have the ability to see what is around you. Sure, you can peak around corners but far too often you walk right into guards because you have no peripheral vision whatsoever. The difference here is that in Dishonored when I bumbled into a patrol I could violence my way out of it but here you will have a very hard time fighting your way out of anything. Both games also offer fun and effective environmental exploits.
The Asylum Mission: I don’t want to get to spoilery here but there is a particular mission that takes place at an asylum that is creepy as hell and out horrors a lot of horror games. It offers up some nice puzzles with excellent ambiance and leans really heavily on exploration without abandoning the stealth aspects. This section is almost worth playing the game for by itself and is enormously effective.
Puzzles: The puzzles are pretty much spot on and make sense in the context of the game while offering the right amount of challenge to reward. These are intuitive and fun and I wish there had been more of them.
Graphics: The game looks good but falls victim to having been designed for last generation hardware. The environment and objects look petty great but the people, even in cut scenes, look a bit like they are made out of plastic. I would have liked to see more polish here as the rest of the game looks very pretty.
Controls: There is a bit of a curve here for becoming comfortable with the controls, especially if you have just come off of Assassin’s Creed IV, but the controls are generally intuitive and responsive. I am not sure about putting the attack button on the right bumper, but in general everything feels pretty natural and you won’t fight too much with the controller…unless you are jumping in which case there is a chance you will miss and plummet to your death.
Voice Acting: The voice acting here is very good and it does well for not being a star studded cast. The voice actors acquit themselves well and add to the overall ambiance and feel of the world you are in. Eventually some of the guards grate on the nerves but that isn’t the voice actors’ fault for repetitive dialogue.
Challenge: Even on normal levels the game offers up a robust challenge. While this sometimes translates into frustration, the multiple pathways available make for enough of a an out when irritation sets in. Even when you have sorted out your route, the difficulty in the execution is enough that you don’t feel like you are just walking through the experience but it generally isn’t so punishing that you are in tears. Generally.
Environmental Exploits: This is an added element that expands game play and offers up a greater variety of things to do and ways to accomplish tasks. From distraction techniques to knocking an enemy out, the ability to knock down chandeliers, crates and other such elements helps you really get in tune with the game and the environment around you. It is also just another way to problem solve and that is always welcome especially if you find yourself stymied by how to progress.
Combat: The combat in Thief is absolutely terrible. It is not at all the focus of the game should obviously be avoided but clumsily swinging a blackjack at enemies with swords and armor does not make for fun gameplay and adds a layer of frustration to the proceedings. The fact that it essentially breaks down to back and forth shot trading doesn’t help much. This is improved somewhat by focus and equipment upgrades but even then it is not fun and is just a chore to be involved with. Most of the time I just let the guards kill me and start over again.
Story: There are a lot of directions in which this game could have gone but the one it went down was really pretty boring. There are elements of political intrigue and all that but it is fairly hollow and half baked. The story between Erin and Garrett is not really developed enough to be terribly compelling and they way everything unfolds feels unsubstantial. Not only is the story thin, the substance that is there is built of things we have seen before and no new ground is really broken here. There is a lot of room for really cool things to go on here but instead we just get a story that is kind of blah.
Balance: The balance of the game is wildly uneven and will go from easy to punishingly difficult in the blink of an eye. There doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason either. In later levels I found I could be practically in a guard’s lap one second and they can see me hiding in the shadows from across the room the next. This is really annoying and there should be more consistency here when you have to base your strategy off of these sorts of factors.
Navigation: Between missions the navigation around the City is not a lot of fun and while you can run around rooftops and use back alleys it is a pain in the ass to get easily turned around while also trying to avoid wandering guards who can ruin your day if you aren’t paying enough attention. It isn’t as if the world is truly open or that there is a lot of stuff going on out here so it seems pretty pointless to have to wander around the City to find your next mission. There are several side missions to go on and I assume that is why the City is laid out the way it is but some manner of fast travel would have really gone a long way into making this part of the game less annoying.
Glitches: There are a few places I had to restart because my character would get hung up on the environment and unable to move…the first time this happened was in the first three minutes or so…and there are some really annoying load issues that happen fairly regularly that make this feel less than polished.
Conclusion [6.5 out of 10]
There are moments in Thief that are pretty awesome and it has some good stuff going for it but it is all wrapped up in a bunch of other things that are not so good. Unfortunately there is more of that stuff than the really great stuff. When it is ‘on’ Thief is fun and exhilarating but when it is not, it is an exercise in boredom and mediocrity. There is a lot that could be done here to make it a much more fun gaming experience and it is to be hoped that future iterations capitalize on that. Unfortunately for the time being Thief is just not that great.