Friday, December 21

Thief Gold Review

I played on: PC (GOG)
I paid: £13.47 (The entire series)
Available on: PC (CD-Rom, Steam and GOG)
Notes: N/A

While Thief was certainly not the first game to rely on stealth gameplay it was one of the first to do so from a first-person perspective. The result is a very interesting game to go back and look at.

When this game works well it’s amazing and outdoes a lot of modern games. The thrill of breaking into some rich snobs house and stealing all their valuables is amazing. All the best missions will have you breaking into the property of the rich and wealthy. You’re objective is to steal a certain amount of gold via lose change and expensive belongings. For a game that’s 20 years old, the stealth is amazing. Shadows and lighting work very well which helps create interesting and tense moments. I’m not sure it holds up against other similar games like Dishonoured but that’s not to say it’s not worth playing. The use of unique tools like the rope arrow help keep Thief feeling like it’s own thing. Deciding where to use these very expensive special arrows is the hook to this game. The water arrows help put out torches and other sources of fire so they are essential. However, the more wealthy people you visit will have electric lighting in parts or all of their property.

This brings us to the amazing world building of Thief. The city suffers from a large wealth divide with most servant locations only having wood floors and fire for light. These poorer places are therefore ideal ways in or around the richer areas. Your footsteps will be louder and harder to silence on metal, marble and hard surfaces. It’s always best to look for wood or carpet to mask the sound of your movement. This tells the story of the wealth divide without the need for cutscenes or obvious notes. You’re able to see it for yourself and even use it to your advantage. It’s almost poetic that you’re able to use the way the rich exploit the poor by only allowing them the bare minimum.

Graphically Thief has aged badly, that much is obvious. While saying that Thief was impressive back in 1998 is certainly true it doesn’t change the fact that now it’s not. I find these graphics charming in a nostalgic way as I grew up in the ’90s. However, Even I have to admit that I had trouble making out what things were and found myself getting lost within mazes of a single texture. This is much less of an issue when you’re within the city or a single house. It becomes a major problem when you start to explore more abstract locations that you may be unfamiliar with. The worst places I found for this problem were mines, caves, tombs and so on. You have loads of different pathways all sprawling outward and every surface around you has the same texture. The only help you have to make out the different pathways is the lighting engine. This is not fun, it’s annoying. Thief should have stuck to what it’s best at visually which is the more residential and urban environments.

All too often Thief feels afraid to do what it’s best at. A decent amount of the game will have you fighting the undead and other supernatural monsters. The combat is awful and these levels are always the least enjoyable. During the good missions, it makes sense that Garrett was not decent with a sword. He’s used to sticking to the shadows and using the environment to avoid combat. Similar to games like Silent Hill the combat sucks because it’s supposed to. If you play Silent Hill or Thief by fighting every enemy you see then you’re playing them wrong. This doesn’t hold up with Thief because you’re forced into situations where fighting is your only choice. Most the time you can use stealth to move around these creatures but it’s never as fun or tense as with guards. Zombies are an especially annoying enemy as they require you hit them with holy water before finishing them off. Until they have been fully destroyed they can’t be stopped so don’t even try fighting them. This means on top of costing you lots of expensive holy water and water arrows sneaking up behind them is useless.

These situations become more and more common as the game progresses and it’s a shame. I found the more I played Thief the less I wanted to continue. I can’t deny that the earlier missions hold up really well even today but the latter half really doesn’t. Despite the original Thief ageing rather badly overall I am looking forward to seeing how the series changed and evolved. If you’re curious about the origins of this series and genre then it’s worth checking out although I don’t think it’s worth finishing.

Recommendation Rating: 4 out of 10.

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