Review: Thief (2014)

With a lifeless city and dull story & characters, you won't end up feeling like a master thief, more like a petty thief.

Whenever I start playing a stealth game I feel the sense of challenge and tension throughout, making getting past the enemies almost a puzzle. That’s easily the only thing that Thief manages to do well at with the multiple paths and choices to get through a mission, light particles and some cool scenarios, but like I said that’s the only thing that it does well as the game falls flat with dull characters that make watching paint dry more  fun, a map that’s clunky and a bit of a mess to traverse and look at and a story that all about misses every mark. It just made me wish that this reboot hadn’t bothered trying to connect the old with the new at all or maybe that’s just because of my high expectations.

You play as Garrett, a master thief who returns home to The City now ruled by a tyrannical Baron and his brutal Watch. When the citizens rise in a bloody revolution, Garett’s thieving skills are all he can trust as he walks a fine line between politics and the people, revealing a dark secret that threatens to tear his world apart.

Now, as stated above, Garrett is a supposed “master thief” but when you’re stealing forks, candle stick holders, pens and cups its makes you feel less a master thief and more just a petty thief going from house to house with a bag that says swag on the back. Garrett himself lacks charm, is dull and has just about as much character and personality as a wall. At least Robin Hood was likeable and charming. Add this with very poor lip syncing, lagging cutscenes and a lifeless city and it just gets worse.

You’ll feel more like a petty thief than a master thief.

For the true stealth gamers going for a true stealth play through, you’ll need a lot of paitence waiting for the right time to move as the AI will spot you a mile off if you make the slightest movement into the light. It’s also best to stay out of sight so as to not have to deal with the combat in the game which is repetitive and and incredibly frustrating dance of dodging and attacking the enemy when you are able to get a hit in. It’s a little easier when you are against one but when it comes to two or three you might as well press the restart button or just run because it becomes frustrating. But what this game does well is it keeps you reminded that staying in the shadows and keeping out of sight is the best option which every good stealth games does.

Stealth is where Thief manages to bring it back, not by much but enough that its worth a challenge to make it through the missions without detections. It’s hard but fair and not so brutal on you if you make it through. The one thing this game does very well is the use of shadows and lighting effects, which make you feel like you can creep right up behind the enemy and they wouldn’t know you were there. The problem with the AI however is that it isn’t always so responsive and doesn’t exactly work to its full potential at all times – it’s part of what makes the game fail.

The AI will sometimes just walk into walls and I had the odd occasion of it just sometimes not responding when I tried to distract them and they would just completely ignore it but when they do react it leaves very little room for error, as they will react to dead or unconscious bodies and open safes. They will also react to your arrows if and when needed and will act exactly as you would expect them to if used in the right way. But the problem is that there is so limited time to use the special arrows such as rope, water and fire. The only time I ever found that I was really able to use them was in the open world parts of the game other then that in the missions. It felt clunky and like a one trick pony where you might need to use them for a certain mission but other then that they won’t be needed.

The combat mechanics can be incredibly frustrating.

What lets the game down is the clunky movements through the city as you run across the ledges and then get stopped as you reach the edge as some ledges will either just let you fall straight off of them while others require a press of a button and some just won’t allow it. It just makes everything feel less smooth and more just of a hassle. This with a map that’s a maze of side streets and dark alleys left me scratching my head many times wondering where the hell I was going. I could sometimes spend up to an hour just trying to find my way to a side mission or a main mission as there are no clear directions to get their on the map. The only thing that is good with the movement in the game is Garret’s swoop ability that allows you to glide forward sometimes into different patches of darkness. It makes you feel more like a master thief and makes me wonder why more of these mechanics weren’t included in the game.

The other main problem with the game is the loading screens, especially on the PlayStation 4 where they can last up to and over 30 seconds at a time. It makes the game feel less fun more of a pain and makes the game feel very old as well it feels less like next gen and more like last last gen.

As for the story missions in the game, a couple have variety and feel visually and creatively brilliant, whether it’s a colourful brothel or a dark and dank asylum, but other then that the missions in the game all feel too much of the same with this dank bland colour palette. The level design for all the missions in the game, apart from the select few, feels claustrophobic and closed in with every mission being small corridors and tight corners. Making it hard to be a master thief when your dealing with tight corners and no where to hide. The only thing good about the missions is the branching paths which make it able to be played in different ways making for great replay value.

The stealth mechanics pretty much save the game from being a flop by being challenging.

Garret’s focus ability, which reminded me a bit of detective mode in the Batman games but done badly, makes things less easy and more of a pain as it makes things harder to see in an already dark game which doesn’t really help. You are able to upgrade your focus and make it so that you can make stuff such as the lock picking mini game, which is already simple in its entirety even easier. It feels less like help and more like they are trying to bottle-feed you through the game. Thief also allows you to upgrade your combat so you have take down the enemies quickly and with ease but that completely defeats the purpose of the game and makes it feel less and less like a stealth title.

One great thing about the game is that you are able to scale the difficulty however you want it to – I played the game on normal difficulty and never felt to overwhelmed. But the fact that you are able to adapt the difficulty for the game and adapt it to your play style makes for a better game and lets fans of the series play it how they want to. My play time took just over 20 hours mostly due to the fact that I would spend many hours just trying to find my way round the city and the rest of it trying to make it through the game without detections. You are able to get through the game quicker if you go for the to hell with the consequences approach and just kill everyone in your path but I wouldn’t recommend it.

Overall, Thief has strong stealth mechanics going for it and I just wish that they had done the rest of the game as well as they did the stealth. Getting through a mission without being detected is a challenge and makes for good gameplay but with bad AI, a dull story, a lifeless city and even duller main protagonist it doesn’t help make the game any better. The only thing I can say for this game is to take it with a pinch of salt and enjoy the odd mission and story mission that are done well because when they are done well, they are done to perfection.

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