The “Thief” series is one which spans multiple titles, platforms and development studios, through it all however, the basic aim of the franchise remains unchanged – to deliver exciting stealth / action gameplay. However, rather than being a by-rote plunge into the past, the Thief universe firmly plants itself into shall we say, “steampunk” territory. The end result is that you’re left with a format which is at once fresh as well as intriguing.
The latest entry in the series, which is well on its way to completion, is nothing less than a full reboot of the entire series. But don’t worry, you’ll still be controlling master thief, Garret, with his Robin-Hood-like ethos and tendency to avoid violent confrontations. Moreover, aside from being released on the PS4 and Xbox ONE, the game is also set to drop on Microsoft Windows as well as the last-gen systems, the PS3 and Xbox 360 (perhaps in February 2014 sometime).
But enough about release details, the real question is, how does the game look and play, right? Well, the first think you should know is that this is a game that essentially remains spread out amongst two different worlds, if you will. In other words, while you get the impression that you’re in some sort of old-world European city, replete with token diseased slums, there are also fairly modern technologies interspersed. You’ll certain see such things as torches donning hallways, but a few feet down from them you might also see an electric lamp. It is this uncertainty (as to what time period you’re in) which really adds a bit more mystery to the environments. A great example of this is in Garret’s arsenal, which contains a wealth of modified arrows which can do everything from put out a fire to spray knock-out gas or even allow the master thief to extend a rope up to another landing.
While it’s not a truly open world title where you can fully explore a gigantic landscape, there is an abundance of interesting side missions, many of which aren’t accessible without exploration on your part. For instance, you’ll eventually need to go meet up with an old roguish friend named Basso in order to locate work. He’ll of course ask you to snatch such items as a watch or a painting, but the fun lies in HOW you accomplish these tasks. With most missions there will be multiple points of ingress, as well as additional bonuses granted to either remain undetected or avoiding knocking out guards or spilling their blood. In most scenarios you’re going to want to simply avoid confrontation, opting instead to bathe yourself in darkness, utilizing distractions and patterns to mask your entries, exits and exploits.
While some things are more intuitive than others, the game presents you with a new power – focus. In short, you can use it to locate objectives, solve puzzles or uncover hidden features. For example, maybe you turn on focus and suddenly you see a climbable drain pipe that you missed or a light source which can be readily extinguished to mask your entrance. Similarly, you can also use focus to help Garret perform better pickpocketing maneuvers or even assault your enemies. Moreover, your abilities are upgradeable over time and you can even purchase new equipment once you’ve completed a mission. It’s these kinds of RPG-like features which make the game worth exploring, perhaps even lending itself to additional value on subsequent playthroughs.
All in all, this Thief reboot is a fairly slow-pace affair, not exactly chock-full of the sort of action we’ve come to expect from other stealth-oriented offerings like Splinter Cell or even the Hitman series. But don’t get the wrong idea; this more deliberate pacing is actually a good thing as it presents gamers with a complete stylistic departure – something they can retreat to after spending hours blasting away baddies.
Of course it’s still too early to tell just how much of an impact this Thief reboot is going to have on the PS4 / next-gen crowd, but if the demo is any indication, it should be well-received. Naturally, anyone who enjoys stealth-oriented gameplay is going to be especially fond of this title, particularly those who are attracted to such things as Victorian-era art/architecture and “steampunk” themes.