There’s one franchise that most stealth fanatics keep close to their hearts, and it isn’t Metal Gear Solid. It’s Thief; the original PC classic is revered as one of the best stealth/action titles in the history of gaming, and the sequels were also well received. But we haven’t seen a new entry since Deadly Shadows in 2004, so the upcoming reboot, in the works at Eidos Montreal, is a long time coming. By the time it releases in February of next year, there will have been a decade-long gap between Thief installments…and damnit, that’s just too long.
But at least we can take solace in the fact that it is indeed coming. The iconic Garrett returns and his new playground is “The City,” which is most reminiscent of the engrossing environment created by Arkane Studios for the award-winning Dishonored. Garrett hasn’t become an action hero (thankfully), as the developers have worked hard not to sully the good name of Thief. Stick to the shadows, steal priceless treasure out from under the noses of aristocrats, and execute silently when necessary. The streets of The City are stricken with pestilence and plague, and a tyrannical ruler is making the people suffer.
Therefore, Garrett feels more like Robin Hood, as opposed to a morally bankrupt looter who grabs anything from anyone. The backdrop should be stunningly effective, and the gameplay will center on your ability to remain quiet and unnoticed. There will be a central hub where you can upgrade your gear and sell what you’ve stolen, and you can select from a variety of missions. One thing to remember: This is not an open-world sandbox game, so don’t think it’s like a darker, slower version of Assassin’s Creed. No, we get a linear adventure with a potentially fantastic narrative, which is key in my eyes. The story should be a huge part of this experience.
In peeking at the released footage to date, and in analyzing what Eidos Montreal has said thus far, I’m confident that Thief will be precisely what the long-time fans desire. Yes, he has a few weapons, like a sword, but those are supposed to be last resorts. Getting involved in multiple confrontations is a bad idea; in fact, you likely won’t survive more than one or two, so you’re forced to be stealthy. Some may not like this, as the current trend in gaming is choice and freedom; as far as I’m concerned, though, true stealth demands only one approach. It’s not just about being quiet, as you’ll have tools and misdirection abilities that keep you safe.
You’ve got arrows, for instance, and the Claw, which is a grappling hook that allows for faster vertical movement. Garrett also has otherworldly skills, such as the ability to see guards and treasure through walls. This is done via Focus mode and when this mode is active, time slows, which allows you to pick pockets if you so desire. Another interesting element is the blurriness of Garrett’s peripheral vision; this will force you to be very aware of your surroundings, and reminds you that in fact, humans can’t see very well in the dark. It’s not uber-realistic but this simple nod to authenticity definitely amps up the immersion factor.
There will be various platforming elements as well, and straightforward first-person maneuvering could be similar to the free-running we saw in Mirror’s Edge. Combine it all, and you’re looking at a true-blue successor to some of the most esteemed stealth games ever made. If you’ve got the requisite patience, strategy and deft touch, you’ll probably love the new Thief reboot. This series deserves to be a big part of the industry, and it’ll serve to remind everyone that some gamers still want a strategic, tactful, stealthy challenge. The entire world hasn’t gone shooter crazy…at least, not yet.
9/18/2013 Ben Dutka