Having a title like thief, and having to talk about it objectively, is certainly not an easy task. It is undeniable in fact the importance assumed at the time, and then over time, by the release of the first and original title in 1998 – whose today’s Thief is practically the fourth chapter – made by lamented Looking Glass Software, basically defining the genre stealth.
To face today this new incarnation of Thief we must, inevitably, forget its ancestors (the trilogy ended in 2004), children of the design and gameplay style of the 90s, and also other recent releases that have redefined the genre. criteria (who said Dishonored?).
Dedicating to the game with this awareness makes all the distance from another videogame era, and embeds this creation of Eidos Montreal in the midst of the present age, with all its strengths and weaknesses.
BEING THIEVES TODAY
Thief puts us in the shoes of the once again Garrett thief, engaged in stealing valuables (jewels, documents, rarities) from homes and people. The prologue introduces us to a City whose steampunk style just mentioned is the scene of a mysterious disease that takes victims upon victims, manned in every corner by armed guards, and it is in fact on a wagon full of corpses that we manage to enter it. Our purpose, which then represents the main quest line, will be to investigate a dark ritual set up by the Baron – a power figure of the City – in which our protege, the thief, lost her life, almost a year earlier by the events narrated. Erin.
The City is a gloomy and dark place, as one might imagine, characterized by strong (and functional) contrasts between light and shadow, and within this we move, looking firsthand through Garrett’s eyes. The gameplay is almost entirely aimed at stealth, and for most of the time we will find ourselves hiding in the shadows, walking slowly on non-noisy surfaces and, above all, stealing everything that comes within range.
For each chapter of the narrative it will be possible to wander around the city in search of places and people to rob, often also supporting the good number of secondary missions and driven by the desire to find the greatest percentage of loot possible. The game is basically all there is to it.
In fact, it will be very rare that, once discovered by the guards, you will find yourself facing a fight, and this for two reasons: the first is related to a certain annoying sense of failure that is generated once discovered; the second, which interests us more objectively, is that the combat system of Thief is sketchy to say the least. Once a guard is alerted, in fact, the fight is resolved in a dodge and strike loop. Little even from the point of view of effectiveness, and being surrounded by more than one guard means basically being already dead. The simpler way to escape or that of reloading from the last save.
A STORY IN SHADOW
The stealth approach itself, after all, sometimes convinces little, or rather it never deviates from itself. Each zone, with the paths of the guards and the various elements of the environment that play in our favor or not, is usually faced by trying and trying, until you learn the first and second.
In this context, the AI of the enemies does not shine which – when not afflicted by sporadic glitches – often leaves something to be desired. For example, not seeing each other from an awkward distance or angle, or coming back to calm down after we have unleashed a ****, just because we were a few minutes in the shadows nearby.
The same problems also affect some modes designed specifically to distract the guards: we could for example throw objects to attract enemies elsewhere. Those sometimes rather than get distracted get alarmed, making our attempt in vain.
In general, and wanting to be not too severe, the main structure of the gameplay remains enjoyable in long stretches, especially as we said in the numerous side quests, in which Garrett ‘plays the thief’, and which allow us to wander around the city to do that. who does it best: stealing.
Instead, the main plot left me perplexed: a poor plot, at times banal, which winks at the occult and with predictable twists that, above all, rarely includes in its development the skills of Garrett as a thief.
The city still appears alive, although sparsely populated, and it is quite interesting to come across many types of documents or overhear various conversations of civilians and guards. As for the exploration phases within the same city, Eidos Montreal has not implemented a real free roaming, and therefore we will often find ourselves – changing areas or entering some homes – to witness the loading of a new section. This, combined with a level design that is not at all brilliant, leaves very little to the enthusiasm of the player, at least after the first impact of curiosity with Garrett’s skills has vanished.
Speaking of these: Garrett’s main skills are hiding in the shadows, pickpocketing, pickpocketing, as well as a natural propensity for light steps and jumps.
To reach our goals we can use different types of arrows, especially the water ones to extinguish the fires and those that allow us to fix ropes to reach the highest points, the aforementioned objects to be used – pulling them – to distract the guards (especially bottles), and a feature called Concentration.
This, which can be activated and deactivated as needed, allows us to view every potentially interactive element in the environment, as long as the relative indicator bar is not completely empty, and therefore torches, drawers, values, stairs, gratings, and so on.
However, Eidos Montreal has thought of all types of gamers, making many types of aids deactivable, such as the indicator of the level of visibility of our alter ego (in light or in shadow), directions in the map and the use of concentration. Wanting to disable everything, Thief becomes a challenging game with a high degree of challenge, without prejudice to the defects found.
TOO MANY SHADOWS CONCILIATE SLEEP
Basically, the excitement that this new incarnation of Thief left me was soon boredom. Or rather, the lack of emotion after the very first moments.
A game in many ways enjoyable in its stealth nature, but which takes place in a not particularly charismatic environment, within a story that does not shine at all, and that does not allow the approach to vary from pure sneaking in a level design without flickers .
Someone will like Thief, it’s not a bad game at all if you fall in love with the only possible approach and setting.
But from a title like this we would have expected something else.
If, in short, the goodness of a game lies in a widely customizable level of difficulty and the possibility of entering a villa from the cellar or from a window, well, this does not coincide with my idea of a good game.
The attempt by Eidos Montreal to ferry a historic brand towards a current game design has shown, in short, many flaws, despite the five years of work (or at least announcements of the same).
AUTHOR’S COMMENT Thief will not fail to make it enjoyable for lovers of the stealth genre, but we are absolutely far from the glories that we would have expected. Garrett’s story, which began in 1998, would have deserved more attention. The title that comes out of the hands of Eidos Montreal seems to be done quickly, with a useless plot, a barely sketched combat system, ancient graphics engine, little freedom of movement and ugly level design.
Thief remains, with its history and its charisma: but is it really enough?