Thief – First Impressions
Of all the games I’ve played over the years, few I hold in the same honor as the original Thief. When I heard that a new version was in the works, I was filled with equal amounts of excitement and dread.
I’m a gamer. I understand what it’s like to have an over-zealous author spoil important parts of a game experience. My thoughts here are around the engine itself and my impressions around what is to come. Wherever possible I avoid revealing important game or story elements.
The options menu is impressive. It offers the ability to disable almost all of the in-game assistance modes. I highly recommend disabling focus, waypoints, and the mini-map right away, as well as anything to do with enemy health or threat bars. The waypoints are annoying and add little value. Focus and the mini-map are just cheating in my opinion, and the enemy threat/health bars are abominations. I see no RP way in which Garrett could keep a running map of what’s going on, and I find it tenuous that he could track the awareness of guards all around him.
I left some of the contextual highlight options enabled for now so that I can learn some of the new game mechanics that are available just so I don’t miss something obvious like “turn crank” or “lift board.” I’m planning to turn those off once I’ve got a feel for the new interactions. I’m on the fence about “Loot Glint”. The loot in the original game sparkled a bit, and there are a lot of non-interactive objects in the game world. As a minor nitpick, I find the glint a bit too bright and sparkly and wouldn’t mind an option to tone it down a bit, but overall I’m pretty happy with the options available.
The graphics are bloody gorgeous. Lights and shadows abound. This is the Unreal engine at its finest. That said, I have a pretty high-end rig and experienced noticeable lag when all effects were maxed; particularly with regards to shadows. Hoping that gets patched either in graphics drivers or in the game engine pretty soon. I’d like to be able to max everything out and I’m pretty sure my hardware isn’t the issue.
The prologue opens with a parkour sequence; ostensibly my least favorite type of sequence in a stealth game. Running quickly through areas means missed loot, secrets, and disorientation. I disobeyed the tutorial instructions and lumbered through the sequence slowly, exploring every nook and cranny as I went. I wasn’t punished for it directly, but my partner in crime was nagging me to keep up the whole way. Hoping those sequences are kept to a minimum.
Superb. Voice acting in video games in the nineties was pretty rare. There were too many hardware limitations. Instead, one had to imagine what characters might sound like, much like reading a book. Garrett was an exception, and Stephen Russell’s husky narrative brought a lot of the depth to the early character development. When Eidos decided to not engage with Russell for the new game, a little “eep!” slipped forth. Fortunately, Romano Orzari does a fabulous job. Garrett remains the same likeable cynic from the original, at least where his larynx is concerned.
The first-person view is pretty spectacular. Garrett’s holds out his hands when crouching like a full-on cat burglar, and the ability to see his (your?) feet when sneaking is very welcome. It adds a lot to the immersion of the experience.
During the first mission of the original game, you are asked to extinguish a torch by firing an arrow at it. The arrow has a small vial of water attached to the tip and, all aerodynamic issues aside, it’s a feeling I’ll never forget. “I can do that in this game?” was shortly followed by a feeling of “oh yeah! I’m going to like this.”
Check. From what I’ve seen in the first few hours they are going to be plentiful. Make sure to double-check areas you’ve been through, look behind doors, check inside crates, and stalk the guards. I’m going to be searching around in The City for quite some time to come it seems.
Similar to both Deus Ex and Dishonored in feel, this new version of Thief offers many different routes to a target. Even in just the first level, I have found a plethora of ways to break in, hide, and search for loot.
As with the rest of the graphics, the reflections are beautiful. Although in some surfaces, it appears that Garrett is a vampire.
The same care-bear hints from Tomb Raider are present. Ledges that can be mantled have a strip of white paint at the top. You’d think the bad guys (good guys?) would have learned by now that adorning their castles with hints about climbable ledges and other important areas only compromises security.
For all of the items that can be climbed, there are many that cannot, often inexplicably. Mantle onto that seven-foot crate? No problem! Step over that small metal pipe? Nope. That’s just too high for me.
So far I love it. There are niggles and little things I would change, but what I’ve seen so far is extremely promising. I can only hope the remainder of the game is as good as the first few hours of play have been.