If a game has collectibles or little trinkets that need a home, you can bet your bottom dollar that I will be scouring the environment to find them all! Thief brings out the OCD monster in me, making me risk my life (in game of course) in order to pick up those gleaming candle sticks conveniently placed next to those two guards. That said, I really don’t mind spending hours looking for such meaningless items as the game is enjoyable from the start.
Thief evolves around a thief (who’d have known?) named Garrett, who, after waking up from a year long sleep needs to find out what exactly in going on in this new world since his departure from it. During his time in sleepy land, the city has acquired a strange plague of sorts know as the gloom, something which Garrett thinks he may have after events start to get weird. As the story unfolds, you find yourself sneaking around the homes of the rich and poor to snatch up mission related loot with your nimble fingers.
The thieving in the game allows you to not only progress through particular missions, but also gives you access to a currency which you can use to purchase upgrades for Garret and new tools. The screwdriver and wire cutters for instance, give you access to new locations in each mission, thus opening up new experiences for you rather than the game being too linear. Buying these items early on in the game opens up new pathways to help you get around quicker, the tools are also a must if you want to steal particular items such as wall plaques and valuable paintings. You have the option to purchase new equipment after each mission you complete, you can even store unwanted items back at your ‘safehouse‘ should you want to keep them for later.
Combat, like in the majority of stealth games, is a no-no here. Garrett doesn’t seem to bode well in fights, so they’re best avoided. If you do happen to get caught in a fight, try and defeat enemies on a one to one basis, any more than two enemies on your hands and you should expect death. Whilst Garrett can dodge and fight back, his attacks aren’t very powerful to begin with, though I can’t include this as a bad point of the game as stealth games generally want you to keep quiet and unnoticed. Doing that isn’t exactly hard either, stick to the shadows and you should be good to sneak around at your pleasure without disturbing nearby enemies. A gauge in the lower left of your screen shows you when you’re covered in darkness, also accompanied by a shadow effect around your screen. For the most part, even on the mid-range difficulty level, enemies were not able to detect me at close range so long as I was in the shadows. I could be at the tip of their nose and they still wouldn’t see me, a flaw indeed. I would like to see the AI more attentive, they seem pretty docile, at least the humans enemies are. Dogs and birds will quickly alert the enemy when you’re nearby, they are the real foes here, not man’s best friend.
New to the game are the focus and swoop abilities. Focus does exactly what it says on the tin, allowing you to focus on special items in the environment. If you can interact with something it will glow blue, so if you’re stuck and need a helping hand, the focus ability is your best friend, but it’s a limited resource as it uses energy. As you progress through the game, you’ll have the option to purchase focus points from the Queen of Beggars, which may then be spent to unlock even more focus skills. You can upgrade your dexterity, sense and speed to name but a few and they all help with combat (should you need to fight) and general thievery such as picking pockets. The swoop ability comes in handy when wanting to sneak around from shadow to shadow and pass unsuspecting enemies quickly and quietly, so long as they’re not looking in your direction. The swoop is a dive and lunge in one movement, it’s quick but enemies are more likely to detect you, especially animals. I found myself travelling around the game constantly swooping to get around quicker as the game in parts can be awfully slow. Like focus, the swoop ability is also a limited resource with Garrett soon becoming tired after multiple swoops in a row. If you’re going to swoop, be mindful of where and when you do it.
The game is generally beautifully presented, though most of the games’ colour palettes are dark due to the gloomy tone of the game. Even so, the games’ environments each have their own characteristics that play a role in the game. That being said, the world isn’t as populated as I would like it to be, in fact the world seems deserted. Though there is a lockdown on the city, you would expect most of the remaining inhabitants to be locked up inside their homes but that isn’t the case. All homes which you can thieve from are empty, so the risk of being caught in the act is non-existent.
Sadly, I did experience some problems with audio and video synchronization with some characters audio starting before you could visually see them speaking. Game freezes were also present with the screen turning black, but audio continuing and some cutscenes lagging for a few seconds. The voice acting is okay at best, with Garrett constantly sounding depressed, it’s hard to know whether he knows more emotions or not.
If you like to customise how you play and love a challenge, Thief has your back with its custom settings and this redeems the game somewhat. The customisation settings enable you to remove any mid-chapter checkpoints, disable the focus ability and remove the entire HUD, but there are plenty more options should you wish to ramp up the difficulty even further. On top of this you’re also able to adjust the difficulty of the game in general, starting out on the easiest difficulty doesn’t provide you with any problems so it’s best to start from the middle and work your way up. What the game wants to provide you with is its best feature, what it does provide you with all in all is something lack luster most of the time.