Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat – Thief is not a bad game. It’s entertaining and satisfying as hell to plan out and pull off the perfect heist. Yes, Thief does a lot right, and that’s why it’s so maddening that it takes so many shortcuts and delivers an uneven experience. For every time the gameplay is thrilling and you find yourself feeling like the master thief you’re supposed to be, there’s three or four times that the game fails to deliver on some of it’s most basic promises. A boring and sometimes incoherent story made and some questionable design choices add up to make Thief an entertaining but ultimately disappointing stealth experience.
This new reboot of Thief casts players once again in the sneaky shoes of master thief Garret as he attempts to steal from just about anyone he can. The plot is pretty lackluster and finds Garret returning to his hometown, creatively named The City and trying to steal from everyone he can while going up against the evil Baron (yep, again a creative name). I’d love to tell you what happened throughout the entire narrative but to be honest I got so bored with it all that I ended up skipping a good 90 percent of the cut scenes and dialogue. I tried, I really did, but I found myself not caring about any of characters or events presented to me over the course of Thief’s campaign, even when they were supposed to be big and game changing.
Published by: Square Enix
Platform:PS3,Xbox 360, PC, PS4, Xbox One
What works: Fun stealth gameplay| difficulty sliders
What doesn’t work: unoriginal gameplay| forgettable story| terrible level design
You’ll hide in the shadows, run across rooftops and everything else you’ve come to expect in the stealth genre, and that’s part of the problem. When the original Thief was released over a decade ago, the whole concept of stealth was new and novel, but a lot has happened over the course of that decade and we’ve seen games like Splinter Cell and Dishonored change the way we play the genre. Thief seems unconcerned with bringing anything new to the table and is content with just recycling the same ideas that it, and other games have done better in the past. By the time you really get into the meat of Thief, you’ll feel as if you’ve been playing it forever since so much of it is recycled from other titles.
That being said, it’s still incredibly satisfying to plan and carry out the perfect score. You’ll have a number of options in every scenario and you’ll often have to try them out via trial and error but it’s still wildly entertaining when it all works out. Thanks to a shadow meter in the bottom right corner of the screen, you’ll know just when you’re hidden and when you better rethink your plan. Even though a lot of it has been borrowed or recycled, there’s still a lot of thinking and planning that goes into this newest version of Thief and somehow it all still feels worth it – especially when you go into the options menu and tweak the ingenious difficulty sliders to suit your play style.
Sadly though, as satisfying as Thief can be, it still feels very limited more often than not. Navigating through “The City” often feels like a chore thanks to constant load screens, a worthless map and some of the worst level design I’ve seen. Dishonored’s Dunwall felt like a believable city complete with landmarks and character, “The City” is more of a mess of jumbled streets that all look the same. Need to go back and look for that trinket to complete your collection? You’ll have to navigate your way back through the streets and alleyways that look the same to do so. It also doesn’t help that “The City” often feels like a movie set where you’re not allowed to go beyond what you immediately see.
Though you have the choice of how you want to play through most of the missions, you’ll find before long that there’s a certain way the city is setup and you’ll find yourself not looking to formulate a plan but rather actively looking for what the developer did to create the world around you. It’s extremely distracting to have to follow the developer’s hand, especially when the game refuses to play by the very rules that it tries to establish. Certain ledges for instance you can leap freely off of, while others require a button-press and then there are some that you just simply can’t jump off of regardless. What makes them different? I still can’t figure it out.
Thief also rarely made me feel like the master thief I’m supposed to be. Sure, there were times when I was able to pull off the perfect score but more often than not I found myself finishing missions feeling like a smalltime cat burglar. Part of this is probably because for every diamond I stole, I seemed to go full kleptomaniac and grab twice as many random pairs of scissors or cups that I find laying around. It could have also been because of how many times I had to restart after being spotted because the game’s melee combat is so incredibly dull and repetitive that it’s often better to restart than engage enemies.
Everyone loves a good comeback story, but sadly Thief falls just short delivering. The core stealth mechanic delivers at times, but it fails to play by the very rules it establishes and picks and chooses when it wants to enforce certain gameplay mechanics. It’s still satisfying as hell to plan out and perform the perfect heist, but it always feels too easy (you can fix this with the very welcome difficulty sliders) thanks to some questionable design decisions. All of this combined with a silly campaign make Thief a game that’s enjoyable but could have been so much more.