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Thief Review: Master of None


After an extended development cycle, Eidos Montreal’s Thief reboot has been released. How fares this new interpretation of the progenitor of the modern stealth genre? Our review illuminates all.


For the sake of clarity

In this review, Eidos Montreal’s Thief reboot will be referred to as “Thief”, whilst titles in the previous Looking Glass Studios/Ion Storm trilogy will be referred to as “The Dark Project”, “The Metal Age”, and “Deadly Shadows” respectively. All four games as a whole will be referred to as “The Thief series”.

Thief is about waiting. But not waiting for a gap in patrols, or an opportunity to silently knock out a guard. It’s about waiting for the next three rooms of the level to stream into RAM, as you mash X to jimmy open a window. Waiting for the camera to fly back into Garrett’s head after it swooped down to street level to show you something was happening. Waiting for first-person animations to play out as Garrett slides open all five drawers of a table, one-by-one. Waiting for each cutscene to throw the story further into disarray with nonsense plot mechanics delivered through poorly written dialogue.

We’ve been waiting over five years for Eidos Montreal to deliver its reboot, but upon playing it we discovered we were just waiting for it to be over.


IT’S NOT MUCH, BUT IT’S HOME

Okay, but which bits am I allowed to climb up?

Okay, but which bits am I allowed to climb up?

Eidos Montreal’s take on The City is visually dense yet artistically flawed. It is a mess of grey, wooden surfaces; a kit-bashed Victorian sprawl. Every district of the hub is comprised of a single palette of colour, texture and geometry that lacks the unique character of the previous trilogy’s environs. The supposedly rich districts of Dayport look no different than the supposedly run-down streets of Old Quarter. It looks like the concept art is running in real-time, but the hub’s actual layout feels like a complex series of cramped alleyways and side streets that is all but impossible to navigate without the use of a map. There are so few visual reference points one alley from another, or one courtyard from another.

The hub is savaged by constant load screens

 
But it’s Thief’s technical limitations that kill the potential for any strong sense of place to arise. The hub is savaged by constant load screens; whether they be actual hard cuts to a piece of concept art and a loading bar, or repetitive animations that see Garrett shimmy through small nooks whereupon players must mash X to lift a plank. That Thief is incapable of keeping a level that even approaches something the size of even one half of Deadly Shadows’ infamously bisected mission locales in memory at any one time is damning.


MISSION RUNNING

There is a level streaming gate immediately outside this first room.

There is a level streaming gate immediately outside this first room.

This technical limitation destroys the chance for Eidos Montreal to design some truly Thief-like levels. At no point do you feel like you are infiltrating a whole and complete locale, because the game is simply unable to render one. Instead, missions follow a depressing linearity, in which Garrett regularly clambers over obstacles and drops down on the other side, only to discover that there is no way back up, so that the game can flush the previous locations from memory. This happens with such surprising regularity that, at best, Thief’s missions feel like a linear progression of smaller, non-linear interiors. At no point does Garrett sneak into a building, steal an object, and then leave the way he came; he always follows a linear path through an environment to be suddenly spat out at the other end. These paths feel claustrophobic, as most interiors conform to a series of narrow corridors or walkways.

At no point do you feel like you are infiltrating a whole and complete locale

 
Within a small selection of these sandboxes is the potential for some classic stealth gameplay. But occasional successes on the micro level do little to dispel consistent failures on the macro level to approach anything resembling the top-tier mission design of the original Thief trilogy and its slew of accomplished fan missions. Further harming the experience is a lack of opportunity for players to engage creativity with Garrett’s toolset. There are often multiple paths to your objective, but each exists as a defined route which requires the use of a tool to complete the pathway; for example, using a screwdriver to enter a ventilation shaft (yes, these return from Deus Ex: Human Revolution), or shooting a rope arrow into one of its static anchor points. Thief lacks even the barest illusion of progression through systemic creativity. We’d give all the loot in our clocktower hideout for a single box to stack.


FIRST-PERSON FATIGUE

Cynical quip in 3... 2... 1...

Cynical quip in 3… 2… 1…

Eidos Montreal’s concept of immersion is short-sighted. Every swipe of a piece of loot must be animated; every piece of incidental dialogue must be brought to your attention with “Hold the right stick to observe” prompts; every scripted event must be perfectly framed by swooping the camera out of Garrett’s head and down to the scene of action. Though an attempt to maintain full body and hand awareness at all times as admirable, looting animations quickly become tired and repetitive. The act of stealing becomes tedious. Peeking around corners with a sticky cover-like system becomes problematic, too, as the button to enter cover is the same button to swipe a piece of loot. We’ve lost count of the amount of times we’ve entered a cover stance on the corner of a table, instead of picking a silver goblet from the top of it.

Often, these first-person animations feel jarring. This is usually because there is a sudden jolt in the position of the first-person perspective as the camera aligns its pitch to begin the animation, or because the player’s position is physically moved slightly to that of where the animation needs to start. Strangely, this jarring motion makes Garrett’s hands momentarily leave the camera’s peripheral vision, then reappear to complete the animation. This feels like it defeats the purpose of having the hands on-screen at all times, as there is no smooth transition between their default on-screen state and their action during an animation.

Geometry that implies it should be climbable simply isn’t

 
Unfortunately, it’s the developer’s approach to navigation that is most problematic. By holding a sprint/traversal button, Garrett is able to climb up or over certain elements of geometry. But those elements which can be scaled are not clearly defined enough that they can be easily recognised in the middle of a tense pursuit. Often, geometry that implies it should be climbable through its position relative to Garrett simply isn’t, whilst geometry that can be scaled is not easily differentiated from the rest of the level. Some of this is alleviated with the use of Garrett’s Focus ability, especially in identifying the grate panels which allow him to use the grappling claw to scale extra high. But players should be able to parse the environment without Focus. They should be able to go where, within logic, their character is able to go. The visual complexity of the city is therefore something of a facade; actual paths through it feel like hotspots.


FAMILIAR FRIGHTS

The Moira Asylum. Reminds us of somewhere…

Eidos Montreal continues the Thief series’ tradition of including a horror-themed level in its campaign. Here, the developer has opted for an embarrassing retread of the key beats from Deadly Shadows’ infamously terrifying Shalebridge Cradle. Yes, we’re back to another insane asylum; one that attempts to play upon expectations by including no enemies in its first half until power is restored by switching a generator on. Thief simply doesn’t have the atmosphere required to accomplish what The Cradle did.

Thief simply doesn’t have the atmosphere required to accomplish what The Cradle did

 

Yo G, what up!

Yo G, what up!

This horror level introduces a new supernatural enemy; human experiments that have been corrupted through plot events to ultimately resemble pallid zombies. The way that these enemies function is perhaps the one element of Thief that we are unequivocally positive about. These freaks, as the game refers to them, suffer damage when they enter the light. This flips Thief’s stealth mechanics on their head; suddenly, light is Garrett’s friend, and the shadows are the enemy. Fire arrows become extremely useful; you’ll be searching for unlit torches to ignite with them in order to protect yourself from a pursuing abomination. Perhaps the coolest experience we had with this reboot was leading a group of freaks into a dark room, then shooting the light switch with a blunt arrow and watching them burn to death from the damaging light source. It’s a simple reversal, but an extremely effective one that requires you to rethink the uses of Garrett’s toolset.


MODERN SHADOWS

Thief’s new swoop mechanic, which allows Garrett to quickly and silently glide a couple of metres, is a fun and interesting addition to the game’s first-person moveset. It is an effective, useful panic button that quickly avoids potential detection situations without violating the core tension of the game’s light and shadow interplay. Swooping into bright areas will still cause you to be seen, and swooping over broken glass will still make a noise. Unfortunately, there exists the potential for players to exploit this mechanic, as multiple swoops can be rapidly chained together to completely remove players from tension areas far too quickly and quietly. Because different surface types do not produce noises at different volumes, there is little need to pay attention to the environment when broken glass isn’t lying around.

The AI seems incapable of tracking players over short distances

 
Whether players are swooping or not, the AI seems incapable of tracking players over short distances. In more than one instance, we were being pursued by multiple guards who, after we rounded a dark corner and stood still, completely lost sight of us. Dropping to a lower platform or climbing to a slightly higher one than the AI causes them to believe you’ve run off entirely, as they are incapable of pursuing you across elevations that are not of their own. The multiple mezzanines of The City’s hub makes escaping a fight trivial – as long as the traversal detection works as intended. If you can’t escape, knocking out a single guard, front-on, is as simple as continually clonking him with the blackjack, after which the ability to perform a cinematic third-person takedown will appear with a button prompt. Multiple guards are trickier but still simple to take down in direct combat; dropping a flash bomb or firing a choke arrow will put the guards into a disabled state where they can then all be knocked out in a single hit from behind. Given the claustrophobic nature of most levels, pulling this off can sometimes be tricky. However, by and large, Thief adequately discourages direct combat, despite it being very much possible. That said, the AI also does not encourage a completely stealthy approach either; for example, guards will audibly react to doors being opened in front of them, but they will not stop and investigate. Put simply, Thief’s AI doesn’t provide a particularly tense or thrilling stealth experience.

How immersive.

How immersive.

Garrett’s new Focus vision is unwanted, yet actually necessary. Thief suffers from the same visual complexity as Deus Ex: Human Revolution, which makes it difficult to differentiate elements of the environment which are interactive, from those which are simply static objects. The use of Focus highlights everything interactive in bright blue; doing so is often necessary to figure out where a switch is that you’re supposed to press. We often could not tell which doors we could interact with and which we could not without using Focus to see a blue handle highlighted. As we often ran out of Focus and Poppies to replenish it, we’d find ourselves scanning over a room and repeatedly tapping the Focus button, as doing so still highlights usable objects for a short period even when the Focus meter is at zero. In an attempt to alleviate this, Eidos Montreal has included an object highlighting feature, which illuminates interactive objects in a darker blue shader than the one seen with Focus. However, it only functions at short distances, thereby leaving players to scour the environment – not because they’re exploring, but because they simply cannot see what is actually interactive. This is the most useful Focus-related mechanic. Other upgrades, such as the ability to disable guards in a single hit during combat, or to see footsteps visualised through walls, actually detract from the stealth experience by gradually removing tension from threatening situations.

Thief suffers from the same visual complexity as Deus Ex: Human Revolution

 
Thief does introduce a couple of interesting takes on existing stealth mechanics. Failing to correctly set a pin during lockpicking creates an audible ‘clunk!’ that the AI will pick up on and investigate. This makes cracking a safe next to a sleeping guard extremely tense. In addition, Thief has rethought the context of stationary security devices, like cameras and alarms, with the use of caged birds or caged dogs. Moving too quickly or making too much noise near these caged animals causes them to cry out, bringing any nearby guards to the scene. It is a clever, thematically appropriate rework of a classic stealth obstacle.


BACK TO THE ARCHIVES

"Grr, I'm going to kill you, etc."

“Grr, I’m going to kill you, etc.”

Eidos Montreal claims Thief’s more scripted and directed approach to mission design is due to a focus on the narrative. It’s a sacrifice made in vain, for the plot is weak, poorly written, and wrapped up with one of the most unsatisfying, non-sequitur conclusions that makes us wonder whether a couple of scenes are missing. Put simply, this is one of the worst stories delivered in years. We are thankful Garrett’s original voice actor, Stephen Russell, is nowhere to be found. Occasional references to the Keepers, the Trickster, and the Hammerites are less throwbacks for hardcore fans as they are reminders of how much better things used to be. The secondary antagonist continually shows up for no reason other than to growl at Garrett; these encounters culminate in a Deus Ex: Human Revolution-style boss fight which, as some small consolation, can be completed non-lethally and without being detected. We’d go so far as to say this doesn’t really make up for other cutscenes which result in Garrett being outwitted, or in a forced detection state in the gameplay that follows. Hitman: Absolution suffered from a similar loss of agency; both games are all the poorer for it.

Cutscenes result in Garrett being outwitted, or in a forced detection state

 

You don't actually see this happen.

You don’t actually see this happen.

One of the major plot points is the conflict between the elite ruling class and the downtrodden underprivileged. Over the course of the game, The City undergoes a violent revolution, with the underclass rising up to usurp their rich rulers. Eidos Montreal’s intent was to convey this revolution through changes to the hub world over the course of subsequent visits. However, the same technical limitations that necessitate the hub’s constant load screens also prevent the developer from truly conveying a revolt. Players may see a couple of guard NPCs swapped out for a couple of members of the uprising, who wear ridiculous juggalo face paint. A vocal revolutionary will deliver a rousing speech at the top of his voice… to all of three observers. Concept art that accompanies the loading screen of a city in the throes of revolution shows crowds of people storming through the streets with torches – whilst the actual hub that follows is all but deserted. Eventually, Eidos Montreal sets a few buildings alight upon a later visit, but the civilian NPCs follow their normal, casual patrol paths, showing no signs of panic about the fact that everything around them is on fire. Not only is Thief incapable of rendering large areas, but it’s incapable of filling its smaller areas with enough NPCs to convey the primary thrust of its narrative.


MASTER OF NONE

Not to be confused with Kaldwin's Bridge.

Not to be confused with Kaldwin’s Bridge.

Thief is a disaster the likes of which we could not fathom

 
Thief is a disaster the likes of which we could not fathom. There is no easy way to say it; we just did not think the game would be this bad. So we must ask: how did this happen? Is the game’s five years in development, with multiple restarts and lead creative churn, the key factor here? Is Eidos Montreal misguided in its attempt to focus on narrative when Thief’s story is this flimsy? Has the developer’s attempt to cater to as many players as possible resulted in mechanics that work against the core experience of the series? Does the developer possess a completely different concept of immersion to us – theirs one of regular cutscenes, full animation and high detail visuals, and ours the more abstract sense of place that arises from the creation of whole and consistent locations? Does Eidos Montreal simply not understand what made the original Thief trilogy the masterpieces that they are?

The answer, unfortunately, is all of the above.

Sneaky Bastards

34 Responses to Thief Review: Master of None

  1. By DieHard, February 25, 2014 at 12:24 am

    Can’t wait for this game to unlock on Steam. I’ve been a fan of Thief series for years, I’m so glad were getting a new one.
    It’s okay that you have your opinion, but everything I’ve seen so far looks amazing, and there are few highly positive reviews already. I know I will enjoy this, and so will most people.

    • By Murray, October 14, 2014 at 9:16 am

      Hi @DieHard,

      I too was holding out hope. How did you go with it?

      I really didn’t like it, and gave up playing after about 3 or 4 hours.

      It just didn’t have open levels, there were no choices, it was lame.

      Did you end up enjoying it?

  2. By Chronic, February 25, 2014 at 11:28 am

    @DieHard: I doubt you’re a fan of the Thief series if you think everything seen so far looks amazing, considering it throws all the good things of Thief out the window and represents a step back in everything but graphics. Most likely you’re only an online marketer though anyway, getting paid scraps to advertise a game online in the hopes that it will boost sales.

    • By tetracycloide, February 26, 2014 at 3:20 am

      Ah yes, the classic ‘anyone who likes this thing I don’t like must be a shill’ retort. I hope in time you will realize how petty it sounds to resort to such things as a knee jerk reaction to disagreement.

    • By Aashay Sukhthankar, February 27, 2014 at 8:40 pm

      So you mean to say that you are a “TRUE” Thief fan while he is not. And that he doesn’t find anything bad with the game so he is “factually wrong”? Besides, you went ahead and accused of him being a representative sent out to create hype for the game just because he has an opinion different from you and you consider your opinion to be absolutely right?

      If you do not agree with him then you can just tell him that. But resorting to such accusatory quips with no substance or backing is just immature.

    • By ANRQAngel, March 8, 2014 at 8:18 pm

      I am a huge fan of the series, and I myself was expecting the best version of it yet to date. While it is a great game on it’s own, and to be honest I actually enjoy the tiny cutscenes where Garret’s hands move to interact with stuff, I am greatly disappointed in the fact that the game is resource heavy on pc, and a lot of what made thief great had been taken away. I had kind of hoped they were at least done with the supernatural creature/race bullshit only to discover their own version of Gollum in the ancient ruins. I have to admit though, I think they could have done a better job had they used ubisofts anvil engine

  3. By S., February 25, 2014 at 5:31 pm

    @Chronic: Entirely possible that he is legitimately excited for it; I have several friends that are. That said, I’m going into it expecting a trainwreck and only to tide my stealth appetite over until Ground Zeroes comes out next month.

    In the commentary for DXHR, the designers repeatedly talk about how much they struggled with the extreme limitations of their engine and toolset, and I think a lot of that is what is on display in Thief. Why Squeenix can’t pony up for them to use UE4 or another modern engine is a mystery.

    • By Jacob Albano, February 26, 2014 at 6:36 am

      This game uses Unreal Engine 3, whereas Human Revolution uses the Crystal Dynamics engine. For comparison, this is the same engine as Dishonored, Borderlands, and Bioshock Infinite.

      There’s no good excuse for the technical limitations on display.

    • By Chronic, February 26, 2014 at 1:36 pm

      I never said he can’t be legitimately excited for it, I just doubt that he is if he actually was a fan of the old games as he claims.

      @tetracycloide: I guess you didn’t actually read what I said since I never claimed he was a shill for liking what I don’t like. I claimed he was a shill for saying he is a fan of the old games and sees no issues with the new one.

  4. By Wulfgar, February 25, 2014 at 9:53 pm

    There are so many problems with this game, but i think they failed just at the beginning of development: game engine and level designs. This game should be made more like Skyrim or GTA (more not the same. i don’t think full sandbox would be good for thief game. we would end up with another AC)

    • By KenTWOu, February 28, 2014 at 7:12 pm

      Light and shadow based stealth in a Skyrim/GTA sandbox environment? No one can pull off a game like that.

  5. By Jean, February 26, 2014 at 2:44 am

    Thanks for listing all the issues with this game be them big or small. It was a general failure for a stealth game. It’s shame this is what we were given after years of wanting another game.

  6. By tetracycloide, February 26, 2014 at 3:15 am

    I honestly find it pretty surprising that this conclusion is so departed from the one arrived at by John Walker over at RPS. Obviously I don’t expect you both to be of one mind on everything but neither did I anticipate this level on contrast. I don’t know what to make of it.

  7. By Tbone, February 26, 2014 at 4:35 pm

    Just my humble opinion here, but I’m really not understanding the flack this game is getting. Granted, I’m only a few hours in but I’m enjoying it quite a bit. Then again, I’m a sucker for any stealth game.

    • By SneaksieManfool, February 26, 2014 at 11:02 pm

      If you enjoy a stealth game that does not have a “jump” button, linear gameplay (basically it’s telling youo where you have to go and going back is no option) mashing [button] to open object – I think you’re playing the wrong kinda stealth games Tbone…

    • By TitsMcGee, February 27, 2014 at 3:28 am

      Reviews on this game seem to be a mixed bag. I’ve played around 4 hours of the game so far and I have to agree with you. I’m really enjoying it! Agree with most of the negatives like the small levels, wonky storyline and performance issues. But I’m enjoying the core gameplay.

      I think this instalment of Thief is going to be a love/hate relationship. I just hope the negative press doesn’t stop the devs from taking another shot at the series. Look at how many shitty tomb raider games came out before the reboot made a decent comeback.

    • By Nessa, February 27, 2014 at 11:12 am

      I think the reason a great many people, myself included, are incensed about this game is because of how much it devalues a beloved cult franchise. The original Thief games were utterly unique, and rather than focusing on graphics contained sprawling, truly open levels full of all manner of secrets. Rope arrows could be used anywhere to create all manner of unconventional paths and the player relied on a very limited toolset to grab their loot and escape. Being spotted was almost a death sentence- Garret was intentionally terrible at combat and it was totally impossible to snuff lots of guards with cinematic QTE’s. The flawed protagonist was also a major draw- Garret was paranoid, greedy, and more than a little short sighted but was totally unpretentious and had an excellent sense of mordant humor. The “new Garret” has a generic love interest and is basically a brooding, ninja-like AAA antihero fighting for the people. The new Thief isn’t an awful game, but its blatant disregard for its classic pedigree means a lot of die-hard Thief fans are extremely disappointed that this is the sequel they got after ten years of waiting.

    • By Aashay Sukhthankar, February 27, 2014 at 8:33 pm

      @SneaksieManfool–Your interpretation of “right” and “wrong” as absolute definitions of stealth games is pretty hilarious considering your statement reeks of fallacy of composition.

  8. By Doomguy, February 26, 2014 at 10:22 pm

    RPS praised this game, and guys in NeoGAF thread seem to love it. Most players agree that turning focus & waypoints off and choosing highest difficulty is required, after that game game becomes proper Thief sequel.
    For myself, I just finished chapter 2 and I’m LOVING it so far. Thief 2 is one of my favourite PC games btw.

  9. By Kawwah, February 27, 2014 at 9:33 am

    Bullshit review.
    Thief is not a disaster. Some people are just so drunk on nostalgia that they can’t recognize a good game if it hit them in the face.

    Only point I agree with here is that Moira Asylum is not like Shalebridge Cradle and that the Cradle is a good ton more scary. But Moiras still have some pretty damn scary moments.

    Was exploring a corridor with some rooms in them, when I suddenly heard a lady speak, out of nowhere. I looked around, but there were no one there. I continued onward when I heard her again, and as ai turned the corner there was a silhuet standing down the hallway, looking at me, before she slided off behind the wall. I followed her, but when I turned the corner all I met was a dead end. That was pretty damn scary, and I loved it. If you don’t like the new Thief, fine. But don’t call it a disaster, because it’s far from.

  10. By Aashay Sukhthankar, February 27, 2014 at 8:22 pm

    Honestly, the review seems to be written from a pre-conceived perspective that the “new Thief game was anyways gonna be bad, so it’s bad anyway”. Also, the reviewer did not take the customization of difficulty into account of his review which is a big puzzle to me as that was one of the main unconventional features Thief brought to the table for not just the stealth franchise but also next-gen.

    That said, the reviewer is judging the game by setting a bar w.r.t. The Dark Project, The Metal Age etc. What he/she so foolishly forgot was that Thief is a REBOOT. A reboot allows for character reconstruction, narrative and setting reconstruction and probably some amount of homage to other interpretations of the character. Quite exemplary to the nature of the review would be to compare a Sean Connery James Bond film to a Daniel Craig Bond film and rap on about how Craig is so much a lesser Bond than Connery.

    My opinions here on the Thief trilogy and the new Thief. The trilogy may have had its moments, but there was little development upon thieving mechanics of the game. Lockpicking was so easy and unintuitive, pickpocketing was a simple matter of sneak–approach–press button to pocket–run. In the new Thief, we have mechanics developed to make Garrett a master Thief ranging from sensory lockpicking to safecracking to precarious pickpoketing. And to anyone saying that the AI tends to be unresponsive, easy and dumbed down I’d like to propose a challenge to complete the game on the custom difficulty with a point value of 700 or above.

    To top it all off, the review features a couple of ad hominem attacks that tend to detract from the review of the main game and drive off-roads into Deus Ex territory and some seemingly subtle hints to Eidos’s “failure” to deliver.

    I can respect an opinion about an issue. But the mere lack of mention of new additions to the franchise such as a challenge mode, custom difficulty and a blatant over-focus on how Thief is not Thief should provide enough substance for people to stop calling this a review and rather call it a “I don’t like this game. Here’s how it is bad and BAD it is”. If people really are irritated with the name “Thief” then let’s refer to this game as “Robber” from now on.

    Once again, I can respect your opinion but please do not call this review if you do not want to pass holistic judgment on the game by assessing ALL that the game offers and nitpicking on elements.

    • By Aashay Sukhthankar, February 27, 2014 at 8:25 pm

      Food for Thought: Check out this video.
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HpmeOB0Zyu0&feature=c4-overview&list=UUy1Ms_5qBTawC-k7PVjHXKQ

    • By Thanatos, February 28, 2014 at 3:26 am

      @Aashay Why should the game be judged on its own merits when the game wasn’t created on its own merits? The game is using the Thief name and legacy to sell copies.

      If you don’t want your game compared directly to Thief 1, 2, and 3, then DON’T CALL IT THIEF. It just makes it glaringly obvious what the deficiencies in the game are when we have concrete examples of games that did it better.

  11. By D-500, February 28, 2014 at 5:33 am

    Agree on a lot.

    Basically, the game has some good core gameplay and nice design ideas, but it all seems to have been seriously toned down by technical limitations/problems, a messed up development cycle and too much over-simplification in certain areas.

    The game has a good atmosphere, a nice art style, gives you a nice time stealing and a lot to do in terms of main missions and side quests. It has this nice supernatural element reversing the L&S stealth mechanics and very cool mini-games.

    However it lacks the sandbox style and openness of the previous Thief games. Also comparing it to other games like Dishonored or the old Splinter Cell Games or the upcoming Metal Gear just shows the game is way too linear and restrictive, has to many loading screens, is not able to create real immersion, because despite the awesome concept of the hands as immersion element it is not able to show a load of normal Citizens/Civilians in an area or make that area accessible from multiple directions.

    It does have a lack of real threat if you are in the houses of the citizens in the Hub world, considering that in a lot of houses there is no way anyone can walk in and catch you stealing.

    It has an over-simplification of both controls – in terms of a “one-button-does-everything” mentality – and the non-existent free jumping.

    It can not actively show a big area without an in-between cinematic or loading screen or contextual action.

    And the story is basically understandable but is not only very weak but also can not get you to immerse yourself in it in a meaningful way. Garret(the voice actor) tries to hard to be the old Garrett and fails hard at it, while giving a completely split experience between “the master thief who does nothing wrong” (a wrong image of Garret btw.) and “the voice actors personality” which comes up once in a while within the dialogue.

    The side characters are either not fleshed out enough or total stereotypes (aside from 1 or 2 exceptions) and the side missions only have to do with stealing something over and over again. I know, Garret is a Thief, but I see a lot of wasted potential here where they could have actually fleshed out the background story much more. The plague, the tyranny of the baron, the difference between rich and poor, etc. Side missions dealing with such topics could have added more layers to the story and made it more interesting.

    And the visual design, I have to agree there, is just not different comparing the poor districts with the rich ones.
    On top of that you find a lot of loot lying around in poor districts as well, where you might have rather expected anything valuable to be hidden pretty good between whatever the people come up with to hide this stuff so the city watch can’t take it.

    All in all, an “okay” Stealth game with a very good core gameplay, but lack of a good story, sandbox maps or immersion. Linearity and poor story design are paired up with inconsistency in which objects you can climb an which not, lack of threat while stealing stuff and a lot of wasted potential.

    My personal opinion.

  12. By Kimono-Box-Fox, February 28, 2014 at 4:34 pm

    The tragic failing of this game is two-fold; first in failing to preserve or even rekindle a setting on par with the original Thief series–that is, in that series’ strong voice acting, storytelling, and unique factions, creatures, and overall mythos–and in its clumsy attempt to replace organic sneaking and exploration with cinematic elements like pre-animated takedowns and looting gestures at every turn (as if the game is expecting a round of applause between your every action).

    As a Triple-A game, this will pass (which isn’t saying much)–however, the game is lacking in an identity of its own, and feels the strain to constantly parrot high points of the original mythos, while hiding behind the defense that “If Dishonored Looked Vaguely Like Us From Ten Years Ago, We Can Look Like Dishonored And Sell It”. Which, apparently, they can.

    A blatant attempt to cash in on familiar names and gameplay elements, soured by bad execution and an absolutely macguffin filled storyline on the level of an Uncharted installment. A revolution needs you to thwart a despot, there are buried ruins and artifacts desired by an occult group within the city that is somehow behind all the misfortune of the tale, and there’s a growly, snarly villain whose only purpose is to state “I am an asshole”, much akin to the villains in Human Revolution.

    Play the original trilogy to wash this down, in a manner akin to washing down The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull with the first three Indiana Jones films.

  13. By Aashay Sukhthankar, March 4, 2014 at 5:13 am

    @Thanatos
    1.) It’s a REBOOT. That gives them relative freedom to redefine a character. Biggest example: James Bond. And EM mentioned that sometime in 2012.

    2.) The game was created on its own merits a lot more than you think. The focus of the game was more towards mehanics, A.I. than level design-Something I really appreciate. It carries the Thief name but it’s a REBOOT so the expectations from the game need to be different as it’s not a Thief game from the Thief 1998 universe but from 2014 in a new universe.

    3.) Let’s stop calling this a review because it is not only a poor excuse for a review but also a complaint. There was no mention of challenge modes, difficulty options (completely new not to just Thief but to gaming), audio & AI bugs, sound design, narrative etc.
    The major theme of the so-called “review”: Thief 2014 not= Thief 1998. Let’s take a step back and realize what are the expectations of a review before branding an opinion as a review.

  14. By Yell Retorts, March 8, 2014 at 4:43 am

    In regards to combat, suffice it to say the character is set up morally against it; so why would you get into fights? Not to mention on the difficulty I was on I was no match for guards, I could barely run away with reduced movement! I couldn’t buy any of the combat upgrades -they were disabled-

    Also on personal notes. When invested The asylum was terrifying! I was playing on a SSD in 3D, so load times were small and the 3D is BEYOND EXCELLENT. I liked the final boss fight. The swoop mechanic turns the game into chess (you can know the distance of the swoop and literally plan four or five moves in advance knowing each step along the way). I loved the reversal you spoke of when light becomes your friend (though I never actually battled the creatures!). Also, I never had to use Focus, not once. That’s not to say I didn’t when I was getting stuck but I never got to a problem I had to beat with it. Also the way you can rebind keys to other functions and they don’t unbind the first is excellent I could configure buttons to do two things such as the blackjack key also knocking people out and the doge key also being unequip.

  15. By Yell Retorts, March 8, 2014 at 4:45 am

    I think you get out of a media as much as you are prepared to put in it. I think if you are willing to try and enjoy this game you will be thoroughly rewarded with a surprisingly cerebral game for the AAA market.

    To give context, I play a lot of stealth games (every 3D metal gear, Hitman, Tenchu, Mark of the ninja etc.) I’ve even played all three Thief games before this one and The Dark Mod. So I can compare this game fairly rigorously with other stealth games I have played.

    Firstly, it is clear this game is unfinished. The sound effects and bad lip syncing in the first cinematic CLEARLY indicate that, I work in video production, there is no way someone who worked on that project for years would WANT to let it go out in that state! So we know we are playing an unfinished game.

    So the way I played this game was: Master difficulty, Slow movement, No reticule No unnecessary equipment and I turned off all of the HUD except for item highlights (I occasionally turned on the minimap when I was really stuck).

    What I was left with was a game where I had to look at the environment, not my HUD, to find things out, and sure enough, despite comments to the contrary, almost all the spots you can climb are visually indicated on the model be they by scratch marks, grates or the amount of space on top of the objects. There were times when this was not the case, but more often than not there was a visual clue (like a rope arrow point near it. In the underground of the asylum) which clearly marked that there was SOME way to get to it but you’d have to figure out how.

    So in short I was left with a game where I would get stuck, go around in circles and have to draw out the level on a piece of paper to make head nor tails of it. It altered the gameplay, getting to vantage points was often the first port of call so I could go get a cup of tea and watch how everyone moves in the level, time their paths etc.. This game is best appreciated slowly.

    I would bet that the smallness of the levels was probably mandated by the average processing power of people’s computers more than the level designers. And they did a bloody good job of making those things dense. They looked spare until I took off the HUD and then their full depth came out. I cannot recommend this enough Disable the HUD! If this gets good sales the next one will have bigger more open levels with more options to create paths of your own, especially if everyone comes together to preach that being the way forward.

  16. By Silver, March 12, 2014 at 1:27 pm

    @ Aashay

    1) James bond was NOT a reboot. The new ones were simply made closer to the novels. and FYI a reboot is not a justification to trample over a franchise. And more often than not, Reboot = Lies. Besides, It makes absolutely no sense to reboot a game that was already doing well.

    2) Companies now want to take game franchises and “reboot” them and make a really low end game yet carry the weight of the brand name. If they ( the Devs) wanna make a game like this they didn’t need to tag it with the thief name. There is almost nothing left that made this series what it was. They could have easily made a -insert non-thief name- and ACTUALLY made a game on its own merits. But they didn’t they made a “game” to carry the name and try to make shameless sales. period. There was no effort or work put into this that a corporate Dev company could make this was amateur hour on the consumer’s dime.

    3) I am fairly certain that you might be someone from marketing, you reek of it. There are entirely obvious flaws/problems with a lot of this game that even a noob in the industry would shy away from. its almost as if they gave this game to a bunch of college students that have yet to graduate from their respective schools, to “have a crack at it” and work on a real tittle in the industry. But even then that would be fair to say because, like I said, even THEY would make this bad of a blunder.

    • By Aashay Sukhthankar, March 19, 2014 at 10:38 am

      1.) Reboot-”Something, especially a series of films or television programs, that has been restarted or revived” (Oxford Dictionary). It doesn’t matter what direction Thief or James Bond or Tomb Raider took with their IP (film or game). Whether they came closer to the literature, went away or any other direction.
      Reboot=Lies is an opinion. The concept of a reboot has existed since God knows when. Why they rebooted it is their choice. When you hit the reset button, you’re not supposed to keep expectations from the new product that the company is getting out. Yet people do for God knows what reasons. They made a reboot, their choice. You don’t agree? Don’t sell your opinions as facts that everyone should adhere to.

      2.) “……make a really low end game yet carry the weight of the brand name.” Why? I don’t tend to think so. Sure there’s fan curiosity but “rebooting” is understood to be “reinventing” something. People seem to be stuck in this odd place where they still expect the same things from a reboot. It seems they haven’t understood the dictionary definition of a reboot and its applications to franchises.
      About how you feel about the game, well I agree that there are sound and audio bugs, random AI bugs and texture poppings in the game. As mentioned by ‘Yell Retorts’ it’s an unfinished game.

      3.) Hahaha! Of course! Did you also know that I work for PR in Splinter Cell Blacklist for Ubi-Toronto? I also work for Klei Entertainment in marketing cuz I loved Mark of the Ninja. And I’m also working for Konami’s competitors cuz I don’t like MGS:GZ and I’m openly expressing my criticism about it. Such an argument as yours would garner ridicule and laughter outside of the internet. In my previous posts and points I mentioned that there are objective flaws in the game that would not be acceptable (sound, visual, blah blah). I’m not defending the game’s flaws. You seem to perceive me as an enemy because I hold an opinion of the game that you probably don’t want to see excel at all. My hypothesis could be wrong though, but that’s what the majority of Thief haters that I have met have expressed.

      To conclude, my criticism on this article was never about the guy’s/girl’s opinions on the game. It was on the fact that this article is called a “REVIEW” and when you say you have reviewed something, there are some expectations that are asked to be fulfilled in a review. All this article professes is an opinion and that’s fine. But there is no assessment or even mention of some other elements of the game-Custom difficulty, bugs, glitches. And I still say to date: “Change the title of the article. Its title is misleading and makes one expect a review when one opens it to read”.

  17. By Byron, March 16, 2014 at 8:35 am

    I’m a big fan of TDS, TMA and TDS. While I admit that TDS has it’s flaws, the inclusion of a city hub (as opposed to the mission-to-mission aspect of the first two games) was a welcome change for me. I also love the Thief 2x unofficial expansion for TMA. I occasionally fire them all up and make a new play through, just for old times sake, or to see if I remember where all the loot is. While I was quite resistant, I finally broke down and got Thief 2014 (I’ll refer to it as T14 from now on).

    Alright, so here’s my take on it after completing the game.

    Cons:
    Contextualized takedowns (rather than just letting you bash them with your blackjack, you’re forced to use the “instant win” button to knock them out)
    Combined buttons (including the swoop/mantle – which oddly only appear on the PC version – and interact/peek)
    Contextualized jumping (see my above reference to mantle, rather than jump)
    Contextualized rope arrows
    Contextualized pickpocketing
    Loot (Yes, the loot was really pathetic. How many ashtrays, syringes and door bells
    can you really steal? Not to mention it more often than not felt like scavenging rather than stealing.)
    BMS! (a.k.a. button mashing scenes)
    Lack of noisemaker arrows (albeit, the inclusion of throwables was a nice touch)
    Story/plot
    Lore (or lack thereof)
    Maze-like city hub (finding my way around was a nightmare at times)
    No Stephen Russell (although the new VA has grown on me)

    Now that that’s out of the way, let me just add that I loved it. Yes, there are many, many problems with the game (you’ll note the many “contextual” cons I listed). Problems I would love to see fixed in a future patch (though I very much doubt it will happen), or at least looked into for the next installment. I find it an unworthy successor to the Thief series. At best it’s the worst of the Thief installment. However, it still manages to shine at times, in spite of it’s flaws.

    I disabled Focus, the reticle, healing (meaning no food), navigation prompts, threat icons/health meters, pickup notifiers, object highlights (that annoying blue glow) and set it for stealth takedowns only and no alarms allowed. With those settings, it feels so much more like a real Thief game (even though it still falls short). The ability to customize the difficulty is one of the primary reasons I’m so forgiving towards EM and this game. I’d like the ability to disable many of the contextual settings I listed above, but those aren’t an option sadly.

    I’d say that RPS and SB are both right in their views, and both wrong. It’s not a “superb” game as RPS stated, nor is it a “disaster”, as stated here. It’s somewhere strongly in the middle of those two. Whether the game is enjoyable in spite of these flaws will depend entirely on the individual. For me, I can forgive it due to the complexity of options for customization it gives me (see my list above). I still won’t consider it a true sequel/prequel/reboot/what have you to the Thief franchise, but I can see myself enjoying it through repeated playthroughs.

  18. By MissNoFace, March 16, 2014 at 6:03 pm

    I have to say, everyone I know who has played it, including myself has nothing but good things to say about Thief. My friends, my boyfriend and even myself conclude that we really enjoyed it. I couldn’t truly understand why you seemed so upset about the game. I mean, there were little things that may have been irritating like every other game I’ve ever played, but nothing to make me concur to your disappointment. Guess you can’t please everyone.

  19. By Karen, April 25, 2014 at 11:04 pm

    I have never been bored playing a game before. Ever. An entirely thing is to dislike a game, but to be bored by it? Not necessarily. And yet that is exactly what happened with “Thief,” particularly by the end of it (last two or three chapters). What does that say about a game?

    When so many elements fall apart, there’s very little to enjoy. The plot is such a mess I eventually gave up on it. What else is left, then? Lore? What lore? Oh, you mean those vague and superficial references to the old games…

    Characters? The only decently written character is NewBasso. The rest–Erin-the-child-from-TDS included, which I hated being forced to care about–have suffered along the way with the plot’s constant rewriting and final butchered mess.

    And so what’s left is the gameplay/mechanics, which aren’t unique or rewarding enough to make up for what else is lacking. Actually, this part was bad too.

    This is supposed to be a Thief game. Even as a reboot, it has a legacy to carry… and it doesn’t. You can’t ask fans of the series with a strong emotional attachment to be objective about it (objectiveness is a fallacy anyway). This game merely makes use of a popular title and a popular character, but nothing more.

    Anyway, for anyone that is interested, I recommend you check this in-depth analysis of the game: http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=22587

  20. By That Dude, November 2, 2016 at 1:53 pm

    Your review shows some hammers, but its obvious you have poor taste. The game delivers a lot more than meets the eye. I’m glad I only skimmed a few sections of this long winded garbage.

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