I remember watching my friend who introduced me to video gaming play the original Thief games, when I heard a new one would come out this year I could hardly wait.
While my schedule has only permitted me the time to play a handful of hours of the game since its release February 25, I wanted to share my impression of Thief’s first few hours.
When things go bad in Thief, the game shines.
When a plan goes south, as mine often do, the game presents plenty of options. Between a varied selection of tools, level design allowing different routes and the choice to play the unseen ghost or aggressive predator, Eidos-Montréal’s new Thief title has let me feel in control of my own chaotic mission.
The feeling is exhilarating.
Thief forces me to make split second decisions and live with the consequences. While the game has a quick save, its best moments came when I discovered a previously unknown light, dog or guard and had to change my plan on the fly.
At the end of one mission, the alarm had gone off and guards started actively searching for me. I dodged posted and patrolling guards moving towards the gate I had to climb to exit. I reached the corner of the building with the gate and watched what I thought was the only guard leave to investigate a distraction I caused.
I ran around the long way to avoid the distracted guard and darted for the exit only to find another guard still posted almost immediately below it. I felt my heart stop as the footsteps of the returning guard started to sound. Crouched in the shadows I saw the posted guard turn his head for a moment and without thinking I rushed at and up the wall beside him, clearing the gate just in time.
When I landed on the other side I literally yelled out loud in excitement.
The most memorable moments arise when its challenges interact. Thief has its own lockpicking mini-game: moving the mouse to hit pins, lock them in, and so on. Trying to pick a lock while listening to the footsteps of an approaching guard proves more difficult than either picking the lock or avoiding the guard does individually. Flinging open a door and shutting it just in time to avoid the guard seeing me still gets my heart rate up. How ever small a moment it is, it drew me into in the game far more than its plot, which has done a decent job on its own.
Each level presented its own connected puzzles without a heavy hand that forced my choices. The lack of direction makes the amount of options feel larger than they actually are. Not having a designated way to get from point A to B made me feel like the way I completed a level was entirely my own, not just an option created by a designer.
The first mission after the tutorial starts with lightning flashing, rain pouring and an internal monologue telling me I had to go through a jeweler’s second story window to avoid the city lockdown. Dropping onto a wide section of road with abandoned carts and unattended personal belongings, the level presented a handle of ways to approach the shop, and even more things to steal. Sneaking from obstacle to obstacle, I had to time my movements between the flashes of lightning in such a way as to avoid the roving guards. At each new obstacle I had a chance to look around, steal something worth a few coins and plan my next dash.
Eventually I found myself at the end of the series of obstacles, flush against a pile of goods and a locked box. I managed to pick the lock with just enough time to clear out the chest, duck out of the guards’ sight and dart into the cover of darkness. From there, I followed a path under the road and to the far side of the jeweler’s shop. Then I started my next adventure.
I finished the mission in a little over 30 minutes, about half the time I have spent on the other missions. I got a nice breakdown of how much loot I had missed and the way in which I handled the mission. Thief also gives the player an analysis their play style: ghost for players who avoid notice and leave no trace, players using the environment while still avoiding an uproar get labeled an opportunist and those who use violence and force to complete a level become a predator.
I thought I had thoroughly worked my way through the level, but seeing I had missed so much, I will probably play through it again before too long. While I managed to make it through that level with no points towards the predator playstyle in future missions, I have earned a few points by knocking out guards, which I try to do less and less with each mission.
The first hours of Thief have done their job, I want to play more and, as time allows I will.