We are living in a post-Dishonored age. Normally that’s something you wouldn’t think about as a gamer; Dishonored was good, but not “landscape-changing” good. Until you play the latest, and very anticipated, Thief.

Bringing with me no baggage from previous Thief games, I couldn’t help but see this new entry in the aging franchise as a poor knock-off of Dishonored - but one missing a lot of the fun of that title. Of course, fans will suggest that the opposite is true (Dishonored stole from Thief, see what I did there?) Given that the last Thief game, Deadly Shadows, released in 2004 (Dishonored came out in 2012), it's fair to say that Dishonored did a lot of its own thing, too.

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The comparisons are between the two games are far too easy to make, so to be fair to Thief I will try to not mention them from now on.

Thief’s world is claustrophobic. The buildings loom in on you. It's not a free running open world, full of shadows to hide in. The walls of the ramshackle buildings lean in and offer very few walls to climb. The map is completely unhelpful. The world of Thief is not a place where challenges happen, it’s a challenge itself.

Discard intuition as you play, objects do not do what you think they will. Some windows open, most don’t. The same goes for doors. You will know guards can see you when they start yelling that they’ve seen you and the alarm is raised. Even when you’re completely hidden, guards will often pass by while looking right at you, as if to say “we know where you are, we’re just not allowed to let on yet”. Don’t bother fighting; run or restart.

But the game doesn’t start like this. The opening sequence is all sneaking through the shadows, stealing valuables, avoiding guards, and running across rooftops like a first person version of Assassin’s Creed. Then in the space of a cutscene, suddenly you are trapped in this world of dead ends and infuriatingly closed windows.

The main game follows master thief Garrett, a year after he disappeared while on a job. He returns to his now disease-ravaged city in a corpse wagon with no memory of what’s happened to him since that night. His protege Erin disappeared at the same time, and Garrett’s connection to her serves as the reason he keeps pushing forward in his quest, rather than leaving the city and its weird plague called “The Gloom”.

As Thief is a first-person game, you’ll get very used to seeing Garrett’s hands, but if you look down at his feet you may be impressed that they they don’t look like they were suspended from beneath a terribly made marionette, as they are in most FPS titles. That I am listing this as a positive in the game should tell you a lot of what I think about it.

Each mission or “job” can be attempted in a number of ways. You can choose to be stealthy and make no contact with guards, or you can knock out everyone you see. At the end of the level you're graded on a scale from Predator to Ghost (which would be much more fun if it referred to the movies.)

Darkness is your friend and at every opportunity you should douse all light sources. Doing so oddly creates mist, even inside houses. I assume this is meant as a visual depiction of of how you hide so well, and not a visual bug. In the bottom left hand corner of the screen is a small dot that shows how well hidden you are. Annoyingly, the only useful readings are "black" or "white;" the grey shades in between give no indication if guards will spot you or not.

Garrett has a super-thief sense that lets him see things he can steal and bad guys. I was annoyed to find that this vision was not like “eagle vision” in Assassin’s Creed (what did I say about not comparing to other games?), in that it doesn’t stay on, but instead drains over time and doesn’t build back up by itself. Once drained you’ll need poppies to fill the meter back up, something the game failed to mention. As a result I found that I never used it, I just couldn’t see the point.

While the game claims multiple routes and multiple solutions, I couldn’t help but feel funneled towards particular routes. Perhaps these were the easy options and I was missing stronger challenges and greater rewards by not walking across the extremely well lit courtyards and instead skulking down darkened alleyways.

There was actually a fair bit I enjoyed, too. The way you had to keep checking your environment, even what you were walking on, to make sure you wouldn’t alert the enemies. Also the fact that sound in the game was important, rather than an atmospheric element (with the always-on cameras that come with the new consoles, I’d have loved an option for the microphones to pick up ambient noise in the room, so if I swore the guards might hear it.) I realised that I’d need to keep an ear out for guard dogs after gliding into a shadow right next to one.

When Thief first came out it was a revelation. You could play a game and not kill people; in fact, you get points for not killing people. Since then the stealth mechanic has become really nuanced and lots of games use it. Sadly, Thief has come out not long after a game that did this stuff quite well. Moreover, that game was a lot more fun to play. Thief isn’t terrible, it’s just not as good as other games, so in a way I want to say leave Thief for a while; come back to it when it’s on sale, wait for it to be a steal.

"Hours and hours of crouching while looking at your hands"
- Thief
Follow Own it? Rating: R13   Difficulty: Medium   Learning Curve: 15 Min


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Comments Comments (20)

Posted by Romulus
On Thursday 6 Mar 2014 4:18 PM
Good review, but after reading it I was not sure hoe it scored a 7.1 out of 10. It sounds like I should be giving Thief a miss and downloading the expansions to Dishonored.
Posted by rocketman12
On Thursday 6 Mar 2014 4:28 PM
Had real potential but squandered it, shame.
Posted by Coddfish
On Thursday 6 Mar 2014 5:09 PM
I was cautiously looking forward to this, sounds like it didn't quite live up to expectations. I'll probably still pick it up when it hits bargain bin prices, though.
Posted by Allycat
On Thursday 6 Mar 2014 5:59 PM
Hmm, hardly sounds like a resounding success
Posted by Locky
On Thursday 6 Mar 2014 8:05 PM
That's a shame. I loved Dishonored and with no sequel in sight yet, I'll probably give this a rental some time, just to help scratch my stealth game itch. Disappointing it hasn't even been rated well enough to make it on to Playstation Plus?
Posted by SpawnSeekSlay
On Thursday 6 Mar 2014 8:56 PM
Alot of reviews are going the way of comparing Thief to Dishonored, and they are all saying Dishonored is better in all aspects. Stealth, Immersion, Lore, World, Mechanics, Combat.
Oh well Im still bound to get it on PS4 , and by the time I get a ps4 the game will be cheap or even free on PS+
Posted by supabowl
On Thursday 6 Mar 2014 9:07 PM
Still waiting for my copy to show up. Mate says he really enjoys it. Hoping I'm not disappointed
Posted by reavers
On Thursday 6 Mar 2014 10:19 PM
Up till now I've been hearing about this and it seemed very promising. Might be a good game to play when I get the chance to
Posted by CloudAxel16
On Friday 7 Mar 2014 12:10 AM
My biggest gripe with the game is loading times. Man put me of exploring.
Posted by ALK3MiST
On Friday 7 Mar 2014 1:24 AM
nice review, but i still have to check it out for myself
Posted by rocketman12
On Friday 7 Mar 2014 10:49 AM
There would always be a Dishonoured comparison.
Posted by thetechnition20
On Friday 7 Mar 2014 11:28 AM
Not sure if ill get this one after what ive heard
Posted by StratosEagle
On Friday 7 Mar 2014 2:39 PM
If you can get past the loading screens and navigational oddities, this is an O.K. game. Also its a bit unpolished. Characters can sometimes get stuck in audio loops. Listening to the same thing over and over can get tiresome. For the long time thief fans like myself the best advice I can give you is when playing this game make use of that customisable difficulty option to get the best thief experience. While this is no match for the original thief, both in narrative and in game play, there are things you will definitely enjoy. In my opinion 7.1 is the right score for this game.
Posted by k_game
On Friday 7 Mar 2014 4:57 PM
Too bad... was really looking forward to this game
Posted by grieving
On Saturday 8 Mar 2014 10:01 PM
Thought it was more of a 7.163 kind of game personally.
Posted by Bappernz
On Tuesday 11 Mar 2014 12:16 PM
thanks for the info NZG
Posted by Meanvision
On Thursday 10 Apr 2014 6:12 PM
Ended up picking this up on the 50percent off sale and glad i did, ive really enjoyed it so far, on the final chapter now, (asylum level was great with the lights off and headphones!)
Posted by nzwarriorcc
On Friday 11 Apr 2014 4:13 PM
Thief would have been a better experience if it had not been restricted to an fps platform. I was really looking forward to seeing and playing it but it's a little bit of a let down. Hope Watchdogs is a better play.
Posted by nzwarriorcc
On Friday 11 Apr 2014 4:15 PM
7 March 2014, 04:57 PM Reply to k_game
Too bad... was really looking forward to this game
Did ypu play it yet or just rely on the reviews?
Posted by dmap
On Friday 23 May 2014 6:41 PM
I really looked forward to this game and when I started playing it I was impressed , then it started to drag ,I felt it repeated a lot , the maps were hard to follow and it lacked something I'm not sure what .
I hadn't played a game like this before and maybe wasn't patient enough but for me it came across as bland.
The concept of the game is great but it felt like most levels required pretty much the same thing .

I really wanted this to be a great game and probably hyped it to much myself from simply wanted something different to play on my PS4

The game has hours of playtime and if you are patient enough could potentially double that ,
Unfortunately just wasn't me