When it comes to stealth games most people think of Splinter Cell, Metal Gear Solid and Assassin’s Creed amongst others. One of the genre defining series that gave inspiration to all these games is the Thief series, a first person title focused on remaining undetected and making away with as much goods as you can before vanishing into the night. With the latest title coming out we headed to Namco Bandai games HQ to get some solid hands on time.
Our preview started with a brief presentation headed by Game Director Nic Cantin covering the plot, the design mentalities and overall feel of the game was aiming for. During this we were shown some of the difficulty options there are when it comes to creating your own Thief experience, with everything from the standard guards being impervious to attacks from the front to the extreme such as death will send you back to the beginning of the game. Things like these will help those hard-core fans tailor their difficulty level to what they feel is the proper Thief experience to them. We were also shown the level of detail in the protagonist of this story, Garrett’s clothing and look, with particular attention to making him feel familiar yet unique.
When I finally got hands on I was given a relatively complete version of the game to toy around with to my heart’s content (or until the guys at Namco Bandai threw me out.) with all the side quests and collectibles attainable. As a base I kicked the game off on normal rather than setting up a game that would be borderline impossible and I was thrown right into Garrett’s story.
Since Garrett as a character is for the most part completely alone on most missions a majority of the dialogue is internal, between Garrett and himself, mainly to make off handed comments assessing the situation at hand and in some instances giving the player guidance in what to do next. Garrett isn’t the only one talking though, as guards will have individual conversations about things going on in their area/life and these tales sometimes give away clues to finding alternate routes or items of value.
The world of Thief is one of desolation and despair with the city looking like a medieval European metropolis hit hard by famine, plague and oppression. One of the most noticeable resemblances is the original Assassin’s Creed, a game that Cantin worked on as the lead art designer, but this city is much more shrouded in darkness, as one would expect. Each one of the games main areas is crafted extremely well and allows for exploration and traversal as much as the campaign levels do.
This level of craftsmanship is also extended into the story missions that take place in more open structures with multiple points of entry. The biggest draw during these missions however is the loot system where by almost anything that has monetary value is on sale with the old five-finger discount making each room a mix of risk and reward. Sure the sparkly jewel in the centre of a room full of armed guards looks tempting but is it really worth it? After my 5th try I would be inclined to say yes is damn well is. These items and goods can be used to craft or buy more tools and upgrades for Garrett and in return opening up new areas to explore making stealing as vital as exploration in getting your hands on the biggest loot.
Gameplay wise thief plays like a cross between the sneaky side of Dishonored and parts of more modern stealth games such as an instinct mode that highlights enemies. However where Thief really identifies itself is in the focus of getting in and out without raising any suspicions, rather than going in and murdering every last guard and his cat, thief gives you less combat abilities in order for you to be as quiet as possible. That’s not to say that you can’t knock a guard or two out on your way but it’s usually best to take advantage of Garrett’s effective dash ability instead of causing a scene.
On top of all this we were shown that there is a new challenge mode for Thief which aims to give players that pure heist feel that should naturally come with becoming the super thief that Garrett is. The biggest draw for fans of the classic games is that the bank level from one from the original Thief titles has been remade as a pre-order bonus level, rewarding those who are eagerly anticipating the games release.
If there was one theme that was being hammered home it was that Thief, while aiming to re-invigorate the series in a marketplace filled with stealth action games, aims to appeal to everyone from seasoned vets to the freshest n00b all while bringing a dark and mature feeling to a series that aims to re-position itself atop the elite of its genre. For those worried about its potential remake its safe to say that it’s in pretty good hands and you should be in for one sneaky adventure come release.
Thief is out 27th of February for Xbox One, PS4, PC, PS3 and Xbox 360
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