Wot I Think: Thief

By John Walker on February 24th, 2014 at 2:00 pm.

It’s been a very long time coming, first confirmed in 2009, but the new Thief is out this week. Tomorrow in the States, Thursday in Australia, and Friday in Europe. Having just managed to get a copy of the game in time, I’ve done nothing but play Thief for three days in order to be able to tell you wot I think:

Oh thank God. It’s good.

While there’s going to be controversy, I’m arguing that it’s better than good. Thief, Eidos Montreal’s reviving of Looking Glass’s insurmountable series, is a superb game. It’s a tangible relief to write that. After years of really awful publicity, terrible press demos, and trailer after trailer of schlocky crap, our hopes were below waist level. But cast it all aside and chalk it up to abysmal marketing. While there is much to pick at, and I am certain there will be many who are apoplectic in their outrage, as a game within itself, Thief is bloody great.

As the fourth in what I suspect might be the best trilogy in all of gaming, previously from the best development studio that ever existed, yeah – it suffers a bit more there. That’s the Thief dilemma, right there. Eidos Montreal following up Deus Ex, arguably the best ever PC game, was a bold move. Following arguably the best ever PC gaming trilogy was truly gutsy. They weren’t ever going to better it, I don’t think. Neither Thief: The Dark Project’s genre-creating wonderment, nor Thief: Deadly Shadows’ astonishing terror and storytelling, were targets that seemed expectable. And yes, it falls short of them. But damn if it doesn’t get close in places.

Let’s get the worst of it out of the way: the story is incomprehensible shit. Pathetically, rather than Garrett’s previous wonderful self-driven motives, this time he’s avenging a girl. No, seriously. At the start he’s accompanied by an impetuous young scamp who insists on killing people rather than politely clonking them unconscious, and takes dumb risks. One such dumb risk sees her get in rather a lot of trouble, and from then on, depressingly, it’s her stupidity that acts as the motivation for Garrett’s pursuit of those trying to corrupt the City.

There are approximately four hundred and seventy-three baddies in the game, all linked by some nonsense about some magic stones and a disease called GLOOM, wandering in and out of the plot like lost pensioners. So much is set up and then never delivered upon, threads fray and go welcomely forgotten, and what’s there is bearded men shouting about power or their desire for it. Utter, utter bilge, horribly written, and a massively wasted opportunity to do something new or interesting with Garrett’s world. Fortunately, it matters very little, since it’s only there as an excuse to link epic, intricate and hugely enjoyable levels together.

It’s a big game. The game’s own clock records 22 hours, and that sounds right to me. Most missions took me at least an hour, some as long as an hour and a half, and many of the thirty or so side-quests (yes, thirty!) take between ten minutes and half an hour. And then there’s time spent creeping around the absolutely enormous city, exploring, trotting between fences and mission givers, or trying to fathom routes to various walkways in order to break into a tempting looking house. It’s big in a way first-person games haven’t been big in a very long time.

And it’s big within those missions, too. Each of the eight or so core chapters is set in a unique location, of stunning architecture and daunting scale. While there aren’t nearly as many alternative routes through some levels as the game clearly wants you to think there are, and often the funnelling can be a little too apparent, you’re still freely exploring enormous mansions, plazas and cityscapes. Each level is packed with vast amounts of loot to pilfer, lots of it hidden behind mini-challenges for the keen of eye, as well as all manner of collect-me-do special bits and pieces to incentivise you to replay and get the lot.

The detail is just exceptional. While character faces are oddly poor and repetitive, and lip-syncing is all over the place, the buildings and rooms are lavishly crafted. Each significant room within a massive complex feels unique and precisely crafted to tell the story of the person who may occupy it. It’s almost beyond compare, just how much care has gone into the location design, and it’s crucial stuff in a game where you’ll spend an awful lot of time crouched in a corner, waiting for your moment.

Accompanying this level of detail is the level of effort put into side quests. There are two characters within the city who will give you a series of optional quests to complete, each with their own (anticlimactic – see above) story, which offer a lovely level of depth and detail to distract you for a couple of hours each. And then there’s a remarkable 24 further mini-missions, scattered about the city, offering a little unique challenge each. The only issue with these latter tasks is that – unless I did something wrong that I’m unable to figure out – they didn’t become available until the final third of the game. That’s incredibly strange, and a shame, as it would have nicely fleshed out the long, long journeys around the streets.

So, terrible story, great missions. But what about the thiefiness of Thief? This is where it will get controversial. Blimey, just rope arrows will probably be enough to cause a schism in the gaming world that will lead to civil war.

Garrett’s movement is going to piss a lot of people off. It pissed me off too, until I grew used to it, and then only when it didn’t work properly. Garrett, you see, doesn’t have a proper jump button.

(…)

Calmed down yet? Rather than proper free movement that he obviously should have had, instead Thief embraces this ugly trend for contextualised movement. So spacebar, for most of the time, is used for “Swoop”. Now, let’s be clear, Swoop is the acing best. It glides you forward, over a short distance, in a way that lets you – well – swoop into hiding in moments of panic. Or just sweeping your way up flights of stairs because it makes you feel great. It’s not quite Dishonored’s ‘blink’, but it’s close.

But it will jump when you’re in front of a gap the game deems suitable to be jumped. Or climb where the game has designated climbing. And this is, without doubt, the biggest disappointment in the game. It survives it – it’s crucial to know that – but I was gutted. Figuring out routes across rooftops and up the sides of buildings is more fun the more free you are, and in Thief, a lot of that freedom is taken away. As such, you end up with dumb gimmicks like paint splooshes and scratches on climbable obstacles, and recognisable traits to jumpable gaps. Fortunately, of each there are billions, so there’s no shortage of climbing and jumping – and indeed it’s still possible to jump to your death – but, still.

This became much less of a problem for me the further I got. Accepting the system and working within it is pretty much the core of gaming itself, and there’s enough variation and opportunity here for it to almost get away with it. Almost. There are far too often obstacles that a toddler could easily scale, but Garrett won’t even try, and his refusing to jump certain gaps in order to force a challenge is maddening. THE WINDOW IS RIGHT THERE! JUST JUMP! But no, the game has a different route in mind. I’m certain some will bounce straight off Thief because of this, and I think it will be a huge shame for them as there’s a ton of good in here.

But for rope arrows there’s no bloody excuse. Where Thiefs 1 and 2 provided infinite joy by letting you fire them into any wooden material, 2014 Thief restricts them to incredibly few specifically marked beams. Rope arrows here are for puzzle solving, not for exploration. And that sucks HARD. Where Looking Glass cleverly restricted the use of rope arrows in key moments to cause you to think harder, here it’s the precise opposite. If you see the marked beam, get your bow out. “I proscribe prescribed rope arrowing”. That’s what I’m getting printed on the banner I’m taking to Montreal.

With everything else that might infuriate Thief aficionados, Eidos have demonstrated an almost amusing level of paranoia and compliance in the option settings.

For those who weren’t following in 2004, when Deadly Shadows came out there was oh so much fuss and bother about “loot glint”. I remain as bemused today as I was at the time, as angry, ANGRY people condemned the game’s twinkles on the stealable goodies. I do rather hope that the hilarious fireworks-level glint in this new Thief is a joking reference to this. However, it can be switched off. Along with a lot of things.

Waypoint Markers is the thing I killed right away – this gives you a floating guide as to where you should be heading for whatever task is currently at hand. It’s ludicrously hand-holding. You still have the help of the game’s map, and there’s an optional mini-map that hints too – although this too can be switched off! Also removable are Interaction Prompts, Navigation Prompts, Threat Icons (these are the most peculiarly complex visual indicators above enemies’ heads to show you what level of alert they are), Threat Health Meters, Reticule Feedback… You can even turn off your light gem (that indicates how lit up you currently are), and even even your health meter, arrow count, journal updates, and so on. You could, should you be mad enough to wish, essentially blank your HUD and play the game au naturel.

And most of all, you can switch off Focus.

That’s a big deal, since Focus is the big new addition to the game. This is a button that allows Garrett a resource-limited hyper-vigilant mode. Vision changes, and lets you see important objects boldly highlighted, reveals traps and the route toward their disabling, and with various addable tweaks, gives you hiding bonuses. It’s a mode I made good use of, enjoying how it let me pick out hidden treats, or spot secret passages and buttons I’d otherwise have missed. It’s incredible that they let you entirely remove this from the game, and Eidos are to be lauded for doing so. Hardcore Thief fans have a lot to work with here. And it gets even more extraordinarily involved than that.

One of the greatest things about the previous Thief games was that raising the difficulty meant lowering the number of times you could kill or attack. It’s a statement that I still desperately wish the rest of the development world would only hear so many years on, but Eidos have. Play on Master difficulty (which I opted for), and you cannot kill anyone at any point in the entire game, and you can only knock out armed opponents. To finish a 20 hour plus game packed with thousands of enemies with a zero kill count is a rare and wonderful thing, and I’m delighted that I did.

But here there’s a Custom difficulty level too. Turn off various factors and the game will reward you with kudos points. Take away quicksave (argh, no!) and you’ll get 180 points. Turning off Focus gets 50, only allowing stealth takedowns another 50, and removing the reticule scores you 30. Right, those are the easy ones. You can remove the ability to heal, or even lose missions if damage is taken. Go entirely insane and you can set the game to “No Kills Or Knockouts”, “No Alerts”, and even “Iron Man” which turns the game into a Roguelike – one death and the entire game is lost. Insanity.

Which all makes it a massive sodding shame that there’s no option to switch off the mother-hating E-bashing idiocy. For reasons best known to the console world, hammering at a single button is apparently a gamer’s paradise, and so here when jimmying open a window, or pushing up a narrow passage’s wonky beam, you’re asked to thump your E key with rapidity. WHY? WHYYYYYYYYYYY? It’s so unutterably annoying and stupid. This needs to be patched out, instantly.

Talking of what needs patching out, there are a fair few bugs in here. I had one conversation with a mission giver that was already ghastly gibberish, made only more confusing by being in the wrong order. And I had three crashes to desktop along my way. There were also a good few floating weapons, hovering guards, and at one point a pipe that hung in the air, smoking itself. Mostly these just amuse, but when I needed to shoot down a hanged man, who had been hanged apparently from an invisible skyhook, it became a little more confusing. Worse were the few occasions where I was spotted by guards through solid walls, but these were thankfully rare.

Where Thief falls short, beyond the meandering pantomime show and the lack of a proper jump, is that the city never quite takes on a character. The missions are packed with it, but the hub city itself – although enormous – feels too similar throughout, and lacks a distinct personality. This becomes uncomfortably apparent when the story declares otherwise, and here I realised even further the skill Looking Glass and Ion Storm displayed. They never felt the need to have the script inform you how much the city has shaped Garrett. In its clearly not having done so this time, Eidos certainly did feel that need.

I was also hugely disappointed by the swearing. I heard “taffer” precisely once, and “fucking” about a hundred times. It feels so wildly out of place, not least when uttered by Garrett. It’s indicative of just how weak the script is that it fails to grasp the inappropriateness, and ends up sounding like a stroppy teenager trying out the word on his dad for the first time. Whether the surprising amount of nudity in the game is inappropriate I’ve no idea. There’s a really very graphic sex scene (links to pic, NSFW) at one point, accompanied by a deeply peculiar sequence in which you watch a topless woman tweak a naked man’s nipples and beat his face, and (in context, I should stress) an awful lot of boobs. Rather splendidly, the same area of the game features the first incidence of a trans* character that I can recall in a mainstream game. (And I’m not talking about the screeching bearded lady who somewhat undoes the good later on.)

Oh, and there are boss fights. Two of them, near the end, and both are awful. Fortunately there are non-lethal solutions, but why the hell they thought they’d be a good idea after proving how bad they are at them with Human Revolution I cannot fathom. I raged. I got over it.

I would also be remiss not to mention the awkward similarities with Dishonored. Now, clearly Dishonored was like Thief, rather than the other way around. But here it does get awfully close to reversing that in places. Not just the art style, that mimics rather than matches Dishonored’s remarkable look, but also in an uncomfortable number of locations. The bordello and bridge crossing being the most uncanny. I imagine this is unfortunate coincidence, but all the same, it’s noticeable.

There’s one chapter that is definitely a direct reference to a previous game, however. Fortunately it’s that level in Deadly Shadows, and while it doesn’t reach that sinister majesty Jordan Thomas crafted, it offers some fantastic scares. It’s derivative, certainly, and it peters out dreadfully, but for a while there I was in that joyful place of being rigid with expectant fear, and laughing at myself for making yelping sounds.

That’s the most important thing to take away from my meandering screed. For the vast majority of the time, I had so much fun. It didn’t need to match its predecessors to achieve that. I have spent the last three days crouched in shadows, terrified of light, giggling with glee as I evade the gazes of patrolling enemies (some of whom even deliver a proper Thiefy “Doo be doo be doo”!), and stuffing every twinkly candlestick and golden pair of scissors I could find into my trousers.

Some will be furious about one aspect or other, and they will be loud about it on the internet. The context sensitive jump/climb/swoop button is going to be the launch pad that fires a lot of people out of the game in abject fury. But the truth is, I’ve had a fantastic time playing it. For where it falls short, it far more often had me crouched in a shadow, heart racing, waiting for the perfect moment to dart past a guard’s routine. It may be the fourth best Thief game, but it’s a damned fine game in its own rights.

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434 Comments »

  1. BobbyDylan says:

    The Contextualized input is a very bad idea. So do the bossfights and the narrow levels….

    Do you reckon it’s worth £19?

    • ran93r says:

      Might be worth £14.99 (if the code still works):
      http://savygamer.co.uk/2014/02/16/thief-pc-14-99/

      • SquidgyB says:

        Still worked last night.

        • Askis says:

          And it still works right now.

          • Cleave says:

            Has anyone (in the UK) ordered this and received their key yet? It’s out tonight isn’t it? The steam page just says it was released on the 24th but is available for pre-order.

          • ran93r says:

            My key came through an hour ago, already got it preloaded on Steam. I got sent the game key and the Heist DLC key.

          • Cleave says:

            Hm mine still hasn’t come yet, order is still listed as in progress on the site. I’ll not panic just yet though, probably won’t have time to play it tonight anyway.

          • Cleave says:

            Got my key now :)

      • Carra says:

        Thanks for the hint, still works! €18.17 vs €45 on steam…

      • CookPassBabtridge says:

        Any RPS regulars used SimplyCDKeys and had good experiences? Looks a good deal but I am paranoid of random CD key websites.

        • TWChristine says:

          I’m pretty sure that’s the site someone mentioned on another article last week I believe..there were several people that replied about how the name was sketchy but they had no problems. But then again, I’m like you and I personally would still hold off until I saw more people acknowledging it as legit. I was the same way about Green Man, because that name seemed to come out of nowhere all of a sudden.

          • CookPassBabtridge says:

            Hi TWChristine, thanks for the response (I removed all you guy’s names as I wasn’t sure of you’d all want to be name-checked at the top opf the article :) ). Yeah I had a rubbish experience with GMG that took a week to not-resolve and seriously dented my trust in them. I know Lewie wouldnt link to them for a while, but I think they got better. TBH I am Not That Amused by Thief (to use your ” ‘me’me”) but thats mainly because I am not really a fan of the series and still have the whole series to play in my Steam account. I should do that really. It does have unsavoury bits too. Mucky. Filthy, filth :D

            TotalBiscuit’s video, though praising, hasn’t done much to make me want to play it either so I think its going to be a ‘maybe buy in steam sale when its a tenner’ type thing :) Anyway, thanks again.

          • TWChristine says:

            Yea I saw it just before you edited it and my first thought was “Someone thinks of me as a regular! *stars in eyes*” lol Anyhoo, I haven’t had any problems with GMG myself, but then again the only thing I’ve used them for was to get a free copy of ARMA II. I find the prices that these places are listing the game at to be quite fishy, honestly. I’m not sure it’s like Thero_Mantic is saying, but for a game to just come out and be already discounted 50% or so..not sure I’d want to be giving my credit card # to them. Even if they are legit, I sometimes wonder how secure smaller places can be (but then again with all the hacking of major sites in the past years, I can’t really say much) compared to something like Steam.

            As for the Thief games, I was understanding they were kind of taking this one as a reboot type deal sort of like with Tomb Raider? Or perhaps it’s actually considered the 4th in the series.. Either way, I would say to definitely give the first game a good try. It took me a while to get into it when it came out, but once I finally did, I really started enjoying it. Kind of stuck on the 2nd one though (which I finally got not long ago), and the third isn’t terrible from what I’ve played.

          • CookPassBabtridge says:

            Cheers I may well boot it up then. And yeah I sort of think of this place as an online gaming pub, with regulars in The Snug writing puns on the bottom of the pudding blackboard, whilst watching the Landlord (insert RPS Journalist Of Choice here) chuck some young oik out for not minding his P’s and Q’s :)

            Favourite part is when the new barmaid brings down her stuffed toy collection during a lock in and serves heavily discounted drinks.

          • AngelTear says:

            Yea I saw it just before you edited it and my first thought was “Someone thinks of me as a regular! *stars in eyes*” lol

            Same :D
            Thanks CookPassBabtridge. Unfortunately I couldn’t be of any help ^^”

          • CookPassBabtridge says:

            No worries :)
            Whose round is it?

          • Cleave says:

            “not sure I’d want to be giving my credit card # to them”

            You can pay with Paypal which is safe as houses. The fact that a Paypal option is there would suggest it isn’t a scam to me.

          • Abndn says:

            I got an e-mail saying they’d cancelled my order since I had “failed to provide [them] with the appropriate information required to verify [my] identity”. This was nonsense of course and I told them so, and they soon sent me another explaining that it was a mistake. An hour later I got my key and it worked just fine, downloading on Steam right now.

        • thero_mantic says:

          My understanding of key sites was that they abused a legal grey area and that the sales from the keys don’t actually support the developers. If anyone knows differently feel free to correct me.

          • Neurotic says:

            I wouldn’t call it a correction, but my own understanding is that they actually buy bulk quantities of keys from the publisher, probably at some kind of special rate. So the pub gets the money they want to get, and the site then does whatever they do with the prices. Possibly the keys are bought so cheap that even with the epic discount, it’s still profitable for them (and they don’t have brick and mortar-level overheads either). There are some genuinely legit key sites – the one I often use is called OKS (Online Key Store) (a French firm)* – and they sometimes send you scans of stickers containing your key code. The dodgy rep may possibly come from the ‘old days’ of key sites that were largely dominated by companies based in Asia, who required scans of some kind of photo ID and then wanted to telephone you for confirmation of y our first order before you became a ‘trusted’ customer. Happily this is unnecessary nowadays.**

            *If I’m not allowed to say this, could we keep my post but just redact the names?
            ** I know all this because I’m an expert on buying MMORPG subs and game keys from every corner of the web and eBay, having been for many years an ex-pat in a foreign country without a bank account native to that country. In fact, my expertise began back in 2005 when I was desperate to get into the WoW OB. :D

        • Carra says:

          I bought total war and the last metro game from simplecdkeys. Got my steam key minutes after ordering.

          It is a bit of a gray area. Keys bought in Russia etc are being sold over here. Then again, it won’t even be this cheap during the next steam sales.

        • Miresnare says:

          The site looks a bit shaky, but my key has just came through and it’s activated without issue.

          • Miresnare says:

            Although it’s a shame because although I’m apparently well past the minimum specs, it’s so stuttery to be unplayable.

        • Einherje says:

          I acquired an Origin key for Kingdoms of Amalur through a keysite once. It worked fine, but a couple of months later the game disappeared from my account. I contacted support, who explained to me that my key was tracked to a stolen batch of games and revoked. They reimbursed me, although they were in their good right not to. Good on you EA!

          You might think that I learned something, but I made an account for Simplycdkeys yesterday, tempted by the lusciously cheap key for Thief, only to chicken out as I decided against gambling with my Steam account which contains a lot of games. I did however experience something curious. Being pretty stoopid, I registered my Simplycdkeys account with my real phone number. And what do you know, since this morning I’ve been spammed with text messages from http://www.freelotto.com. Apparently I’ve won £2.500.000. Twice =D

    • LevelHeaded says:

      RPS paid review #371 sez: it’s worth it.

      • Gap Gen says:

        Protests over deeper Eurogamer integration and widespread corruption of WIT officials spiral out of control and mods ban several commenters. Outrage at these actions causes protests to grow and the forums call for the resignation of the site editors. RPS Verdicts of Stalin vs Martians are toppled. John Walker flees on a rolfcopter as commenters storm into the editor’s private mansion, wandering round, gas-masks hanging from their necks, gawping at John’s opulent two-bedroom flat with its spacious back garden, verdant golf simulator and pirate-themed restaurant. Kieron Gillen is released from Comics and speaks in front of rapturous crowds, promising more rambling, sexually-explicit monologues while representatives from Eurogamer and Polygon negotiate with Graham Smith over the site’s future. In Istanbul, while tackling commenters, a group of freelancers pour soup all over themselves.

    • Revisor says:

      No, it’s not worth it. Read this scathing review from the Sneaky Bastards (whose web site is right now being hammered to bits):

      http://pastebin.com/TD4waGdv

      • Emeraude says:

        Thanks a lot, had issues loading the site.

      • MrThingy says:

        Talking of hammers, are the Hammers still in the game?

        No hammers = not interested. Their loveable fundamentalist nuttiness was an essential part of the city and if it’s all gone socialist I will be VERY pissed off.

        • Emeraude says:

          You’re going to be really disappointed… there’s a few nods to the old lore here and there, but it seems glaringly absent from the new game.

          • MrThingy says:

            Nooooooo. ;__;

            Ah well, thanks for the heads-up. You’ve spared me the 14.99 which was the absolute maximum I was prepared to pay for this.

            I shall return when it’s staring up at me, all Bambi-eyed in the Steam sale begging me to take it for 2.99

      • Jackablade says:

        Hm. Well that makes things complicated. Generally Sneaky Bastards and RPS are my go to for deciding on whether I want to pick up games that I’m not entirely sure about.

        The two are so diametrically opposed that I’m even more confused about whether I want in on this new Thief. Is it ‘supurb’ or is it ‘a disaster the likes of which we could not fathom’.

        • brassdragon says:

          Both reviews have been very helpful to me but I’ve come down on the side of Sneaky Bastards.

          A lot of John’s enjoyment seems to be based on his ability to ignore the obviously flawed design (the terrible plotting and dialogue, the movement restrictions, the boss fights.)

          If this was a game without pedigree, the thing could be painted as an unpolished gem. Unfortunately for Eidos Montreal, when you ‘reboot’ one of gaming’s most tightly crafted and immersive titles, I can’t just forget the past titles and enjoy it on its own few merits.

        • Faxmachinen says:

          Based solely upon Total Biscuit’s “WTF is …” video and John’s comment about it being worse than Deadly Shadows, I feel that the Sneaky Bastards review hits the coffin nails square on their heads.

        • scatterbrainless says:

          Yeah, John seems to be saying that it is a good game when taken entirely on its own merits, most of its shortcomings really existing only when juxtaposed to the other games in the series. Unfortunately, much like Human Revolution, by aligning yourself with an existing IP you are setting an historical standard of comparison by establishing expectations that it is perfectly viable to criticize the game for disappointing. And the things that John critiques are all the things that I wanted from the new Thief game: the open, non-linear interaction with environments, the dark, heavy lore, Garrett’s jovial cynicism, the pervasive environmental atmosphere: without these it can still be a good game, but with the Thief name stamped upon it their lack guarantees disappointment for me.

      • brassdragon says:

        The most damning line of all: ” At no point does Garrett sneak into a building, steal an object, and then leave the way he came; he always follows a linear path through an environment to be suddenly spat out at the other end.”

    • PimpMasterGrand says:

      Does this work in the US?

    • BladeOfDarkmoon says:

      if this post is deleted it is done by the woman hating gays that say mens nipples ok. womens nipples no. did you play witcher 2? it starts with full frontal nudity. the average age for gamers is 34 now. stop being childish and realise sex is a natural thing. your John Walker obviously is incapable of offering a mature comment on a mature game. never returning. and you can thank John Walker for that.

  2. DXN says:

    It sounds pretty inexplicable that you had so much fun, John, because as you describe it they’ve taken all the good and unique bits of Thief and made them rubbish. It was the soul of those games, the atmosphere and sense of place and weirdness and magic that made them memorable to me. I guess maybe I might be willing to let that go and just enjoy the game if the mechanics/gameplay were interesting, but you make them sound pretty crap as well. So, uh, I’m glad you enjoyed it, but it really doesn’t seem…. good.

    • TurdBurglar says:

      This. The fact that the game is Thief, yet there are levels with NO LOOT, and you don’t even need it because you’re showered with money at the end of each mission. And then they force you into funnel combat sections so you can activate a cutscene. Mechanics feel like someone made a shooter and then replaced the gun with your hands hovering in front of your face.
      It’s a decent stealth game, but it’s an awful Thief game.

      • c-Row says:

        It’s a decent stealth game, but it’s an awful Thief game.

        That’s good enough for me.

      • John Walker says:

        Not a single one of the things you say there is true.

        • Morlock says:

          John, how does the game compare to Splinter Cell? It appears to me that they share the same philosophy with regards to freedom and interaction.

          I would also like to know more about the combat in this game.

        • Emeraude says:

          Even “It’s a decent stealth game, but it’s an awful Thief game.” ?

          Interesting conundrum.

          More seriously: not totally surprised; from your past comments on Dishonored I gathered we don’t play that kind of game for the same reasons, would makes sense that you like this game.
          To each their own.

          Hell, you enjoyed the “swoop” move, while what I’ve seen of it in action so far makes it a major grippe for me.

          • kament says:

            You can disable the swoop. You can even slow the overall movement down. I for one am curious how that works.

          • Emeraude says:

            You can, but then what is the influence of that move on the level design ? That’s what I would need to confirm.

            The way I see it, adding such a move without implementing more or less subtle changes to the level design would be like, say, adding Megaman X’s dash and wall jump to Megaman 1.

            As with the whole UI customization (a commendable move if anything, and proof to me that people on the development team cared), it reeks of aimless design that doesn’t really seem able/willing to decide on what to do and doesn’t seem to know how to do it.

          • kament says:

            I don’t think that swoop is powerful enough move that it influences level design. It just a little aid that lets you to play risky and adds to the pacing. The core mechanics is still avoiding the light, and you obviously don’t need the swoop for that.

            As for the UI customisation there seem to be, just like the PR guys said time and again, more than enough visual (and audible) clues in the environment so you can disable the UI and still be able to get your bearings. I’d say it’s an excellent example of careful and thoughtful design that is aimed at satisfying just about anyone.

          • Emeraude says:

            I don’t think that swoop is powerful enough move that it influences level design. It just a little aid that lets you to play risky and adds to the pacing.

            I’d say it detracts from the pacing. I’ve seen someone basically spam that move between shadows, sometimes even back and forth, totally destroying the necessity for slow meticulous, sound-driven exploration of the old games. Just devise the path and swoop.

            As for the UI customisation there seem to be, just like the PR guys said time and again, more than enough visual (and audible) clues in the environment so you can disable the UI and still be able to get your bearings. I’d say it’s an excellent example of careful and thoughtful design that is aimed at satisfying just about anyone.

            From many reviews and my own personal observations, I get the reverse impression: the contextual base for verbs quite often make their end result unknowable from the visual/sound cues unless you use focus. The very same kind of structure can be climbable or not depending on the designer’s choice, and nothing really tells you that until you’ve tried.
            Which is bad design in my opinion for that kind of game.

          • kament says:

            Erm, but that’s what I was talking about: with the swoop you can play at faster pace if you so choose. It’s obviously the reason why it’s even in the game; after all, it’s not the first time major stealth title speeds up. The point is, you don’t *need* to spam the swoop or even use it at all. You can turn it off, slow the overall movement down and play it safe. I haven’t seen anything that actually *requires* swoop. Have you?

            As for the UI… look, there are *scrathes* indicating you can climb there. They’re all over the place, apparently (which is not a good thing imo, but oh well). And switches, ladders, rope-beams etc are easily discernable, too. Alertness of the guards, shadow and light, noise level—you clearly don’t need UI to assess those.

            I don’t doubt for a second there are some spots where the game doesn’t react as you might expect by the looks of it, but I got over similar frustration with rope arrows in Metal Age and with places not quite so dark as the lightgem suggested in Deadly Shadows so it’s really no big deal. For me, anyway. Trial and error was always part of Thief gameplay (any gameplay, really), so I don’t have an issue with trying something to discover if it works.

          • Emeraude says:

            Erm, but that’s what I was talking about: with the swoop you can play at faster pace if you so choose.

            I guess that’s where our difference in perception comes from. You seem to think giving that choice is a good thing, while I tend to see it as a bad one.

            I haven’t seen anything that actually *requires* swoop. Have you?

            Well, yes, that was my point:. The level design *hasn’t* been ironed out around the existence of this verb.

            As for the UI… look, there are *scrathes* indicating you can climb there.

            On buildings, yes. But why that crate was climbable, and not that other one remains a mystery to me.

            I don’t doubt for a second there are some spots where the game doesn’t react as you might expect by the looks of it, but I got over similar frustration with rope arrows in Metal Age and with places not quite so dark as the lightgem suggested in Deadly Shadows so it’s really no big deal. For me, anyway. Trial and error was always part of Thief gameplay (any gameplay, really), so I don’t have an issue with trying something to discover if it works.

            The difference being that in TDP and TMA, the gameplay being system-based, the experimention for the most part lead to understandable, knowable, and replicable results. You learned from experimenting.
            Here every experiment is basically a one off that imparts no learning.

            Granted, I’m in an uncomfortable position to argue, given I’ve barely played the game so far, and am still contemplating whether it’s worth the hassle to try to play it to completion to form a proper opinion.

        • Zephro says:

          I have 2 questions, having read some other reviews (polygon and Eurogamer were very negative).

          1) How linear are the levels? Some of the reviews seem to suggest they are very linear and puzzle driven, other reviews say it’s a bit of a mix.
          2) How is the characterisation of Garrett himself? As I have heard some mixed things about that.

          Apologies if this was in the review and I just missed them.

          • John Walker says:

            Levels are mixed. There are a couple that are far too scripted. But there is often choice about approach, and more often freedom in what order you do things.

            Garrett is poorly written, but mostly he’s an avatar rather than a character that gets in the way.

          • Zephro says:

            Thank you!

        • Syra says:

          I’m just glad it seems you weren’t overly biased by all the negative build up this game has received on RPS and other places. I’m genuinely happy it can be fun!

          • John Walker says:

            It’s important to take away from this that we just write what we think about things. The trailers and previews have been really poor, and we’ve been exceedingly worried. So we’ve said so. Playing this game I had a fantastic time, so I said so. We don’t have agendas, just thoughts.

        • jakeroth says:

          Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory really is quite worth it, and it’s technically a PC game now what with being on the Steam.

      • Sharlie Shaplin says:

        It’s what many were expecting I guess, gameplay wise it’s Thief in name only. Might give it a try in the future if they patch it sufficiently, see for myself.

      • LennyLeonardo says:

        Um, I think this guy’s username is a homophobic slur? Or have I had too much coffee?

        • Sharlie Shaplin says:

          For a moment I thought you meant me, and was confused. However I looked further up and yes, that is used as a homophobic slur.

          • LennyLeonardo says:

            Your username does look like it might be a slur from a parallel universe 1930s. But yeah, I’m glad it’s not just me.

      • garlandgreen says:

        Its alien:resurrection

      • BladeOfDarkmoon says:

        only the tutorial levels force you into a funnel

      • Jerykk says:

        “This. The fact that the game is Thief, yet there are levels with NO LOOT, and you don’t even need it because you’re showered with money at the end of each mission. And then they force you into funnel combat sections so you can activate a cutscene. Mechanics feel like someone made a shooter and then replaced the gun with your hands hovering in front of your face.”

        What are you talking about? Every single level has loot. Tons of loot and much it is hidden pretty well, rewarding exploration and thoroughness. I tried to be as thorough as possible and I still failed to get all the loot in every mission. And while you do get money for completing missions, it’s not that much. Definitely not when you’re playing with the difficulty mod that makes things more expensive. And there are no tunnel combat sections. I played through the game without ever being detected and without ever neutralizing anyone.

        This is probably the best review of the game I’ve read. Acknowledges the game’s failings but also its strengths, judging the game as a whole rather than focusing solely on the negatives. The Sneaky Bastards review was surprisingly harsh, especially considering their review of Hitman: Absolution, a game which suffered from most of the same flaws as the new Thief yet received a much more positive review.

        I’ve played (and enjoyed) a wide variety stealth games. Thief, Splinter Cell, Hitman, Manhunt, Tenchu, Metal Gear, Mark of the Ninja, Velvet Assassin, Commandos, Desperados, etc. When I play an RPG or other genres that offer stealth options, I almost always opt for the sneaky approach. Perhaps the breadth of my experience frees me from the constraints of nostalgia and allows me to enjoy games that aren’t exact remakes of their predecessors.

    • Flakfizer says:

      Because so many now build without consideration for the Master Builder, His mark is no longer upon the life of The City, and the taint of The Trickster will always seek entrance.

  3. ZIGS says:

    (…)and stuffing every twinkly candlestick and golden pair of scissors I could find into my trousers.

    That can’t be safe

  4. Jockie says:

    Good to read! I was expecting a trainwreck of a game based on the previews. I may actually have to buy this now.

    I’m guessing a lot of the things you mention will kill any interest of the more hardcore Thief fans though.

    • Faxmachinen says:

      I only needed to read as far as “And yes, it falls short of [Thief: Deadly Shadows]“. ‘Nuff said.

    • Runs With Foxes says:

      It does sound like a trainwreck to me.

  5. blobb says:

    your just saying its good to be contraversial

  6. FFabian says:

    Ha funny – Ars Technica just published a Thief review titled:

    Review: Thief reboot should have stayed hidden
    Incoherent writing, braindead AI, and too much running around hamper the sneaking.

    • Horg says:

      ”braindead AI”

      I’m curious as to why this wasn’t mentioned at all. The A.I., more than anything else in the new Thief, was going to determine weather or not I buy into it.

      • derbefrier says:

        He probably didn’t think it was that bad. I mean stealth games can’t have smart ai by definition or you would just get seen every time. Even the old thief games AI while good isn’t that smart and very easy to get by once you learn it. I haven’t read these other reviews but I have to wonder what the hell they were expecting the AI to do.

        • Serpok says:

          I assume it was good enough for him.
          Hardly can expect more from a person that believes hexcells games to be difficult, challenging and engaging puzzlers.

        • Zenicetus says:

          Right, Dishonored was well-received and the AI was no great shakes in that game either. You’ve got a few static targets, and then guards on fixed patrol patterns you have to study. They’re reactive if you blow it, but that’s about it.

          A stealth game can be judged on how well the AI pathing for the level design is done, but otherwise the AI can’t be too smart or you’d never finish the game. Especially since people expect 20-odd hours out of games these days, which means you’re going to be sneaking past or knocking out a huge number of enemies.

          OTOH, I haven’t played this new Thief (and probably won’t until it goes on a massive sale), and maybe the AI and pathing design is unusually stupid, which would make the game too easy.

        • MadTinkerer says:

          Stealth games require the AI to be predictably dumb as a game mechanic. Complaining about insufficiently smart AI in a stealth game is like complaining about insufficiently smart AI in a bullet hell shooter or platformer.

          Genres you want smart AI: twitch shooters (multiplayer bots, specifically), CoD clones, strategy games, sports sims, beat ‘em ups, other games the complaining reviewers are used to as opposed to stealth games.

      • mouton says:

        Excuse me, but when was AI in stealth games good? The genre practically relies on AI stupidity.

        • Horg says:

          As a comparison to the earlier Thief games, the A.I. in this Thief is a colossal disappointment. No where near aggressive enough, suffering from asthma and chronic amnesia. The guards can’t really fight you, they can’t chase very far, and when they reset it’s like you were never there. There is little tension and the difficulty level is about as bad as Dishonored. Thief did better than this over 10 years ago in the Dark Engine. In 2014 we can reasonably expect more than this.

        • Emeraude says:

          O.K so let’s differentiate good into two subcategories:

          - Actually somewhat realistic and showing form of what we would call intelligence.
          - Pretty limited but totally fitting for the expected role it has to play in the system in which it is placed.

          Most people saying a game – especially a stealth game – has bad AI don’t think of the former, but of the later.

          • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

            It’s important that the characterisation of the enemies fits well with their AI capabilities too. If the enemies sound intelligent but pathfind into a brick wall, players will cry “bad AI!” But if Benny pathfinds into a wall, the result is more acceptable. The original Thief games used this to good effect, writing most of the enemies to be of low intelligence.

        • The Random One says:

          I’m still waiting for the stealth game which has you invading facilites controlled by alien beings poorly mimicking humans.

          IS THERE SOMEONE THERE *twitch* THAT WAS A RAT *turns around, sees another guard* HELLO. BOB. HOW WAS THE. FOOTBALL. GAME YESTERDAY

          • MadTinkerer says:

            Or a TF2 mod where you are Halloween Soldier (robot costume) infiltrating the Gray Mann (robot faction) base…

    • BladeOfDarkmoon says:

      probably played in rogue mode. try custom master iron man mode.

  7. IshtarGate says:

    Still reading the review, but error alert: Deadly Shadows did not have rope arrows, it had the climbing gloves.

    • Morlock says:

      Yes, only the first two games had rope arrows. This was as always a well-written review, and it was informative, but this mistake needs to be fixed :)

      Sounds like I will have a lot of fun given the right expectations.

    • onodera says:

      I remember hanging onto a wall in Auldale while a guard underneath was going completely mental in his impotent rage. I nearly expected him to have an aneurism right there.

  8. c-Row says:

    From the (negative) previews I had the impression that the verdict on Thi4f had already been spoken even long before the game would actually get released. Glad to see RPS are above such thinks like a dark shadowy figure on a roof top.

  9. Blackcompany says:

    And this was a positive review?

    I was optimistic, in the beginning. Since you claimed it was a good game and all. Strangely, though, I kept trying to find some mention of the good bits in the review. Kept thinking to myself “and surely, the good stuff must get a mention here somewhere.” Or some such.

    But I didn’t find it. I found a mention that it was a good game. There in the beginning. And I found a whole lot of reasons to not like it. Contextual movement. Narrow levels. Shameless mimicry of Dishonored. Boss Fights. As if those have any place at all in a Thief game.

    What I couldn’t find here, was any mention of a reason why its still a good game. Despite lousy writing. Mediocre world building. Bugs. Boss Fights. Despite all these things, and with almost no mention of why, its a good game?

    Think I will wait for a Steam sale, myself, and maybe not even then. We will see.

    • John Walker says:

      Try reading all the bits you ignored.

      • Blackcompany says:

        This was supposed to go here:

        My apologies. My remark was not intended as insulting or condescending. And re-reading the article, I did notice talk of the Swoop mechanic, and all the hidden secrets. Also, the numerous side quests seem like something of a boon. Also, the ability to finish a modern AAA game with a zero kill count might itself be worth supporting in gaming.

        I think the problem is simply that the number of negatives strongly overshadow the positives. Perhaps its just that, with that many cons – and with one of them being Boss Fights, on the heels of DX:HR, no less – it makes it hard to focus on the positives aspects of the game. Which is a shame, as I wanted it to be good.

        So again…sorry if I came off as condescending or some such. Not my intention.

        • John Walker says:

          What I’ve tried to do in this review is explain that I had an enormous amount of fun playing the game, but wanted to be absolutely clear about all the things that would likely put some people off. To have just written about how much fun I had would have been an unhelpful buyers’ guide in this instance. I had fun despite all the issues I raise, and in some cases, with them.

          • dustin says:

            John, this review was extremely well-written, both in terms of clarifying your enthusiasm, but also pointing out weakness. The fact that RPS eschews quantitative ratings makes it one of the best sites out there.

            Good work. And now I’m going to download Th44f.

          • SillyWizard says:

            Indeed. What Dustin said.

          • Dances to Podcasts says:

            I’m actually with the original poster. The pros comes across far less clearly to me than the cons, making the conclusions seem disconnected.

          • P7uen says:

            Well if you were someone who thought “I don’t mind those things, I just want to have fun” then the pros might have come across more clearly, so maybe you think more “those cons bother me a lot”.

            As he mentioned, that was the whole point of describing Wot He Thought.

            So, job done!

    • Nate says:

      I noticed the same thing, strongly enough to actually go back and count paragraphs. I found a number of paragraphs where the thesis was along the lines of “This is good” roughly equal to the number where the thesis was “This is crap.”

      It still felt like there were a lot more of the latter than the former, though. I think this might have something to do with the nature of honest reviews. It’s very easy to specific about what doesn’t work. But what does work is so often so much more ineffable. It’s much the same with music reviews– adulatory pieces written about music are thoroughly void of referent.

      • newc0253 says:

        John Walker’s review of Thi4f, summarised.

        I really, really, really enjoyed playing this game despite the fact that it is terribly written, is not as good as the previous three games in the series, has a number of highly irritating features (although in some cases you can them turn off), has two terrible boss fights, and generally underserves a much-beloved protagonist and setting,

        Although I guess, having read his review of Mass Effect 3, it is apparent that Mr Walker excels at loving a game despite flaws that any other person might regard as crippling and/or unforgivable.

        What’s especially odd is that, from his other reviews, I’d have figured that Mr Walker otherwise takes things like story and characterization and writing in a game seriously. But, only up to a point, yeah?

    • belgand says:

      This is actually the sort of review I like. I find that the negatives are usually the most important aspects of a review. Everything else can generally be assumed to be either positive or at least acceptable. In this case John starts by saying he liked it… however there are problems and then he proceeds to explain what they were. This means that while he felt it was satisfactory enough to succeed despite those problems not everyone necessarily will. Read them and make your own decision if they’re something you can live with.

    • BladeOfDarkmoon says:

      Thief being steampunk is what Dishonored tried to emulate

  10. Viroso says:

    Man, if it weren’t for you saying you enjoyed this game, I’d take this as an entirely negative review. Horrible writing, funneled movement, borrowing a lot from Dishonored.

    The most interesting thing was tweaking difficulty options, which sounds like a way to force you to play for the Big Boss rank in a Metal Gear game. Not that forcing is bad, I’m just pointing out how other games reward the player for playing with extreme self imposed limitations, like giving you a medal if you do things the hard way.

  11. razgon says:

    22 hours is a big game now? Well, compared to Call of Duty single player part I guess but…other than that?

    • BobbyDylan says:

      Indeed. I’m 200 hours into Europa Univisarlis 4, 300+ hours into Crusader Kings 2 and 160 hours into Kerbal Space program.

      Hell, Even Skyrim had about 80 hours of fun in it.

      • Bull0 says:

        Sort of comparing Apples and orange Smarties there mate

      • Emeraude says:

        You’re small time. I know people with years of playing clocked on MMOs.

        • BobbyDylan says:

          Please show me a MMO Single player game.

          • BTAxis says:

            Well… Kingdoms of Amalur.

          • Emeraude says:

            Any that is played by one person not interacting with others ?

            Hell, far too many “MMOs” have less interacting necessary between players than some “not massively” multiplayer games.

          • phuzz says:

            I play every MMO as if it was a single player game.
            I don’t enjoy them much, but at least I don’t have to talk to anyone.

          • Cinek says:

            SW:TOR

          • SillyWizard says:

            Please explain how Thi4f is more related to CK2 or EU4 than it is to WoW. At least in your standard MMO, you move a character about and have him or her perform actions directly.

          • Grygus says:

            Isn’t that a pretty good working definition of the Elder Scrolls games?

          • BladeOfDarkmoon says:

            Dark Souls. it is Mingle player. so a Single player MMO

      • Viroso says:

        You’re comparing a scripted action game with games that have infinite replayability. For action games 20 hours is more than usual.

      • phlebas says:

        Conversely, I watched Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing and it only lasted about an hour and a half.

        • Zekiel says:

          Yeah! I finished that really wishing they’d looped the same dialogue 10 times. That would have given it more longevity and then I’d feel I was getting my money’s worth.

      • SuicideKing says:

        I played Pokemon Sapphire for 500+ hours spread across 6 years. And your point is?

    • kament says:

      For a Thief game? Definitely.

    • derbefrier says:

      That’s pretty normal for these types of games. Its very rare for first person games to have 100s of hours of unique content.

    • Werthead says:

      Checking my Steam list (or old play-through notes) for linear FPS or TPS action games and completion times:

      ARKHAM ORIGINS: 22 hours
      DISHONORED (and both DLC): 19 hours
      BIOSHOCK INFINITE: 18 hours
      FAR CRY 2: 17 hours
      SERIOUS SAM 3: 17 hours
      ARKHAM CITY: 17 hours
      ALAN WAKE (and DLC): 15 hours
      TOMB RAIDER (2013): 14 hours
      HALF-LIFE: 12 hours
      SiN: 12 hours
      THE BUREAU: 13 hours
      DARK MESSIAH OF MIGHT AND MAGIC: 11 hours
      METRO: LAST LIGHT: 11 hours
      MAX PAYNE 3: 11 hours
      ARKHAM ASYLUM: 11 hours
      HALF-LIFE 2: 10 hours
      FEAR: 10 hours
      METRO 2033: 8 hours
      MIRROR’S EDGE: 8 hours
      BRUTAL LEGEND: 8 hours
      SPEC OPS: THE LINE: 7 hours
      MAX PAYNE 2: 5 hours
      ALAN WAKE’S AMERICAN NIGHTMARE: 3 hours

      So, yeah, for a FPS/action/stealth game, that’s really not too bad at all. It’s longer than DISHONORED with both DLCs added in and even stacks up well against RPGs: it’s about the same as a relatively fast play-through of FINAL FANTASY VII (22 hours) and doesn’t compare too badly to my last DE:HR playthrough (28 hours, director’s cut with DLC).

      • Jeremy says:

        Lawyered.

      • Jason Moyer says:

        I have no idea how people flew through Dishonored so quickly. It took me a good 30+ hours just to do the main campaign.

        • Jigowatt says:

          Yep, I don’t understand this either. The main campaign took me 40 hours, and the DLC around 20 hours. I can only think that these people must blitz through it just following objective markers, not bothering to explore alternate routes, side missions or read any books etc. Seems a waste to me, but to each their own.

          • Keran says:

            Dishonored wasn’t made with stealth in mind. I don’t play FPS/stealth games with the same OCD that cripples my every playtrough of an RPG, so I wasn’t trying to find everything in Dishonored, just completing the main quest and side-quests. But being rather sneaky – or just bored enough near the end so as sometimes not to bother being sneaky – I breezed through the latter parts of the game.
            And I mean it when I say it wasn’t designed with stealth in mind. After entering the lighthouse/fortress near the end there’s an objective that can be achieved in thirty seconds with two or three Blinks. And that’s the final – or maybe penultimate – mission! I was shocked. It really seemed like a poor design choice.

          • Werthead says:

            I certainly explored every level, tried to find every coin, book etc (though failed miserably, given the count at the end of each level). I did play on Medium, which made it more straightforward. I got about 40% of the achievements and mostly took a stealth/takedown approach, though a couple of areas I did managed to ghost.

            As mentioned above, DISHONORED is weird in that Blinking past guards, over buildings and gates etc is often much quicker than actually engaging in combat and killing everyone in sight, which often involves killing a few people, retreating, circling around, repeat and is much more time-consuming.

          • Jigowatt says:

            Well strangely, my play-through was entirely ghost + non-lethal, so I never engaged in combat at all! I did do a fair bit of back tracking (to see where each different route led), and would obviously load and try again if I was spotted. But even if my 60 hours (for campaign + DLC) is an over-estimate, and the reality is more like 50 hours… that’s still 30 hours more than your 19! Weird.

      • BladeOfDarkmoon says:

        The Dishonored playthrough? was that attaining ‘mostly flesh and steel’ ‘Ghost’ ‘Clean Hands’ ‘Shadow’ achievements? I dont think so.

  12. LooneyPoirot says:

    Well now read three reviews, Kotaku, PC Gamer and this and they all give a wide spectrum of opinions this is going to be a Marmite game if ever there was one. Although reading through John’s enthusiasm for the game I find it hard to temper my own cynicism. I love this series and I think I will keep my memories and money for another game. I fear I am to set my old Thief ways this may be my loss but I am sure newer younger thieves will shoulder the swag bag and venture silently forward. Good luck my peers may your haul be worthy.

  13. duncanthrax says:

    > But it will jump when you’re in front of a gap the game deems suitable to be jumped.

    I’m outta here.

  14. internisus says:

    If you turn off Focus, are things like switches and levers and traps still discernible within the environment? I want secrets in Thief to feel like secrets in Grimrock; I want to have to look at surfaces in order to perceive hidden things on my own, but doing that requires those things to be visually distinguished from their surroundings. Are they?

    I find myself deeply dissatisfied by the idea of using x-ray glow vision to spot buttons hidden in walls and paintings that open secret passages, but I’m also uncomfortable with the customizable nature of the game. Did they sufficiently craft the gameplay to function well enough if you turn off the handholding features?

    • LynkS says:

      No.

      • internisus says:

        What is truth, and what is but dream?

        • SuicideKing says:

          Everything is a lie.

        • BladeOfDarkmoon says:

          to quote the only rule of Chas Majik, also used in Assassins Creed. ‘Nothing is true, Everything is permitted’

    • Emeraude says:

      One trouble I’ve seen emerge front the contextual jump only design policy, which I find maddeningly frustrating: you can notice a pressure trap, but then you can’t jump over it.

      I’ve not seen enough of the game so far to make proper judgment, but what I’ve seen seem to confirm my fears as far as traps are concerned when you choose to turn off focus. Let’s say it worked, but far from gracefully in my limited experience.

      • internisus says:

        I can certainly understand that being frustrating, but if it is possible to visually trace the pressure plate to a nearby mechanism and disarm it then I can live with this; I’d just pretend that jumping it was too risky. This is made easier by the fact that I would always choose to disarm rather than avoid for the simple satisfaction of it (probably reinforced by scoring, I’d imagine).

        • Qazi says:

          The Ghost wouldn’t want to disarm it though.

        • kament says:

          From what I’ve seen of the gameplay you can see the traps easily enough without Focus and walk around them without disarming.

        • Runs With Foxes says:

          “Let’s pretend the game isn’t shit and then it will be good.”

          • BladeOfDarkmoon says:

            are you speaking from experience or just quoting other idiots that also dont have experience.

      • vagabond says:

        There are some traps that you can’t avoid or jump over, and that you can encounter before you can buy the wirecutters used to disarm them. You don’t actually need to get past them, they’re just guarding some extra loot. It might strike people as un-thiefy, but you can hit the pressure plate with your cudgel and then cross them before they have time to reset.

    • SandmanXC says:

      Maybe.

  15. sinister agent says:

    If only you could talk to the taffers. Now that would be something.

  16. kevinspell says:

    “It may be the fourth best Thief game, but it’s a damned fine game in its own rights.”

    Then change the fucking name…

    • rikvanoostende says:

      When it’s about a guy in shining armour they must name it “Knight” instead. Since it’s about a Thief, I think it’s appropriate.

    • Sharlie Shaplin says:

      Burglar or Second Story Man don’t have quite the same ring to them. I suppose they could have called it Rogue, or as 95% of people on the internet spell it, Rouge.

    • BladeOfDarkmoon says:

      it is a reimagining of the first game. kind of like what SqEnix did with Tomb Raider (2013)

  17. NotFakeBarry says:

    There’s a really very graphic sex scene (links to pic, NSFW) at one point, accompanied by a deeply peculiar sequence in which you watch a topless woman tweak a naked man’s nipples and beat his face, and (in context, I should stress) an awful lot of boobs. Rather splendidly, the same area of the game features the first incidence of a trans* character that I can recall in a mainstream game.

    I don’t suppose there’s any more information on how well they’ve handled the character? I’d be more than a little wary of them handling this issue appropriately in normal circumstances, but in the ones listed here I am deeply worried.

  18. finalfanatik says:

    This is where I get murdered on the internet, but I never played the original Thiefs…Thieves? Am I missing out on a keystone of gaming here? Do they still hold up well?

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      Yes and yes respectively. You can get the original on GoG (needs a teensy bit of faffing to get the cutscenes to work properly, but it’s worth it).

      Not sure about 2 & 3 – I hope so, I’d quite like to play 3 again.

      • finalfanatik says:

        Yeah, they’re all on there for $10. I’ll take one for a spin. I super enjoyed Dishonoured and I get the feeling (from what I’ve read, at least) that it seems to have more in common with older Thief games than this new one (aside from the unfortunate art-direction collision).

    • John Walker says:

      They really do. I replayed the original Thief a while back, and it’s still utterly amazing. I wrote about it here:

      http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/retrospective-thief-the-dark-project-article

      • finalfanatik says:

        Cheers John. I’ll have to have a look into them, in that case.

      • Perkelnik says:

        Absolutely. Im playing through Thief Gold right now and its a blast. Although the levels are quite tricky to navigate sometimes, but it is part of the Thief charm.

    • Zekiel says:

      Be warned that they really do look dreadful. But they also sound amazing.

  19. Jesse L says:

    Eurogamer says there are no choices about where to go and how to get there, but John says you explore huge, whole mansions and etc. Not sure what to think. And yes, like everyone is saying, this is a positive review that spends 80% of its length discussing the bad parts. I like that we have the option of turning off HUD elements and especially the go-to-here mission markers (damn all mission markers forever) but I’m left uncertain of what a great moment in this game feels like. I can guess, but it seems like there are a lot of elements to forgive along the way, and my gaming time is too valuable to play games I know I’ll have to partially forgive in order to partially enjoy.

    PS – for those of you of the tabletop roleplaying bent, there’s an RPG nearing the end of its Kickstarter now that is strongly, strongly inspired by the first Thief games, as you can tell from its title: ‘Project: Dark’. Stealth has rarely, or never, been handled in an interesting way in a tabletop RPG before, but the designer, Will Hindmarch, clearly loves Thief, is dedicated to bringing that experience to the table, and seems clever enough to maybe actually do it. I’m linking you right to an actual play report:
    http://platonic-solids.com/2014/02/10/on-project-dark/

    And to a Kickstarter update describing the central mechanic: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/wordstudio/project-dark/posts/754738

    I’m not involved in any way with this project. I just want Thief-lovers to know about it.

    • John Walker says:

      I am confused by Simon’s description there, and worried he may not have switched off the Waypoint Marker. As I say, it’s not as open as it wants you to think, but there is still plenty of freedom when it’s not getting all scripty.

      • Sheng-ji says:

        If you think about the rooftops level in T2, one of the finest levels in one of the finest games, it was pretty directed and yes you had a few paths to choose between but it was certainly not open world – is that a fair comparison John? Are the big buildings completely open, like T2′s bank level?

  20. Sobric says:

    Good review John, I’m looking forward to playing Thief later this week. I’m not sure about the contextualized movement, but if it’s smooth enough I don’t mind that too much. The jump key was hardly integral to the original Thief’s atmosphere.

    The only really disappointing piece here is the lack of atmosphere in the City as whole, although I’m pleased to see that the attention to detail in individual rooms and levels is very high as that was the defining factor that created the memorable moments of the originals.

    • Qazi says:

      Jump and Mantle were integral to Thief. It was very much a first person platformer as it was a stealth game.

      Leaping across the ledges and rafters of the Bonehorde above the Undead, stacking crates and navigating the dark recesses of Shipping and Receiving, climbing the ruins of the Lost City. Don’t get us started on how important it was for the Life of the Party.
      The very nature of the blesséd Rope’n'Vine arrow demanded the illusion of freedom to choose when and where you jump off and what you try to mantle to.

  21. Soup says:

    I might try this out at some point, but after John’s review of Human Revolution I hope you’ll forgive me if I read this with a generous pile of salt.

    Also, it seems a little hypocritical to scoff at people complaining about the glinty loot only to rant about mashing E.

    • sinister agent says:

      Hardly. Sitting there repeatedly mashing a button is pointless and fucking idiotic. It serves no purpose and has no advantages. Loot glint (and suchlike) has pros and cons. And, y’know, the glint thing can be disabled. The cretinous mashing can’t.

      • Zenicetus says:

        Button mashing does serve a purpose from the developer’s perspective. It lets them show cinematic sequences that either couldn’t fit the game’s default controls, or else they’re just too lazy to make the controls work for that scene. Like the “riding on the Kayran tentacle” bit in Witcher 2.

        I’m not excusing it; I hate QTE’s and it’s a big factor in deciding which games to buy. But I can see why some studios that really want to be making movies instead of games use it.

        • malkav11 says:

          QTEs may serve a purpose depending on the game. Hammering a single key is horrible and needs to die, not least because I find it’s sometimes asking me to hit the key more often than is physically possible, as in the original God of War. (Where until I plugged in a turbo controller I never got past the first boss fight because I literally could not hammer the button fast enough to perform the maneuver required.)

  22. Orija says:

    I don’t get it. You keep calling it a good game, yet I still didn’t come across a reason to call it so.

    • SillyWizard says:

      Because despite a number of issues, it still manages to be extremely fun?

      • Dances to Podcasts says:

        A review should explain where the fun is, though. The reason I came away with here is ‘it’s a stealth game and I like stealth games’, mainly. If you scroll up, you’ll see that more people had this problem, so it’s not just one person’s interpretation.

  23. Mbaya says:

    An interesting review, it sounds like (as I try to do) you’ve made the most of what you were given. I don’t know, it seems gaming is going backwards at the moment…elements of the previous games that worked so well, discarded or rejiggered into…well, either nothing or a healthy dose of key bashing.

    I however, am really impressed by the amount of options they’ve given the player to remove HUD elements and customise the difficulty. It should not be understated that I think this is brilliant and something other games need to take serious note of.

    Saddened to hear about the swearing and nudity…yes, yes, it’s all fine, “death is acceptable in games but nudity isn’t?” etc. – but it would seem it’s the Hollywood side of things showing itself, I feel there are better ways to express titillation and anger than breast physics and the F word being used a hundred times doesn’t hold much appeal.

    It almost sounds like the game is a great game…by todays AAA standards, if the previous entries in the series hadn’t yet been made. Not that I want to get into the ‘in my day…’ speeches or rose tinted glasses. I can however say I’m more interested now than I was, but I do think I’ll wait until I see it sparkle suggestively in a sale before I swipe it away.

  24. derbefrier says:

    Interesting. Sounds like what I expected and maybe even a little better than that. Still not gonna buy it since I have other games I would rather spend my money on right now but this looks like something to pick up a year from now when its cheap.

  25. Totally heterosexual says:

    RPS IS ADDICTED TO EIDOS MONTREAL MONEY ENEMAS

    Seriously though, did not see this coming.

  26. Laurentius says:

    So I see It follows the trend acurately, it’s good but actually it’s pretty bad, just like Syndicate or XCOM reboot. I’ll pass.

    • phlebas says:

      I’m guessing more like the XCOM one, assuming you mean the update rather than the FPS reinvention. A lot of people liked it.

  27. RProxyOnly says:

    What a lot of tripe.

    How the hell you can come away with so much claptrap disguised as a ‘professional’ review….Frankly I don’t know how you have the balls, John.

    Not only have you and other writer on this site persistently stated over MANY weeks how the fun, uniqueness and gameplay have been sucked out of this ‘remake’ (cash-in)… but it also is being UNIVERSALLY panned as a buggy generic rip off of Dishonoured.. with an average ACROSS THE BOARD score of 7/10 (a few 6′s here, a few 8’3 there.. but mostly sevens).

    Comparing what you/this site has said over the past months and the shite you are writing now.. I have no option but to consider that you have your hand in someone’s pocket.

    A more blatent turn around I haven’t seen since the MS debacle.

    Why the fuck do I waste my time coming here.

    At least I don’t have the cheek to draw a wage for the shite I write.

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      I realise that there were a lot of words up there, some of them quite long, but please at least *try* to read an article before you comment on it.

      Here, just to help, I’ll extract the relevant words – they’re right up the top, so I can only assume you stopped reading after the first sentence:

      “After years of really awful publicity, terrible press demos, and trailer after trailer of schlocky crap, our hopes were below waist level. But cast it all aside and chalk it up to abysmal marketing.”

      If you have difficulty with any of the words, just put your hand up and ask one of the teachers.

    • John Walker says:

      Oh God you’re too frighteningly stupid. Go away.

    • drewdupe says:

      It’s almost as if he finally got to play the game and it wasn’t exactly 100% like the trailers and PR people said it was.

      • Deadly Sinner says:

        It seems like they listened to fans as well. I recall climbing used to be in third person, for example.

        • Sheng-ji says:

          They made a tremendous amount of changes based on fan feedback – and got criticised for that too. They were literally in a position where they could not win, such is the nature of the internets at the moment.

          • Emeraude says:

            To be fair: on many respects, the changes they made could be equated to dealing with symptoms while ignoring the underlying issues that were being criticized.
            As I said up-thread, I find it commendable, and do believe from it that people at Eidos cared. At the same time, I remain far from convinced it addressed the issues raised.

          • LionsPhil says:

            To be fair, many publishers claim such, then fail to deliver, or only do the first version to make the second more appealing.

    • JamesTheNumberless says:

      Let’s see, game he was expecting not to like came out finally and he enjoyed it a surprising amount, in spite of its numerous flaws, your experience may differ. That’s more or less accurately described as “wot” he thinks, isn’t it? Did you come here for something else?

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      How dare you base your review on your experience of playing the game, not on pre-release marketing? And you make money from these scams! It’s shameful with a capital SHAME. You rotter.

      • Grey Cap says:

        And how dare you deviate from the Metacritic mandated enjoyment level? For shame!

    • karthink says:

      > Why the fuck do I waste my time coming here.

      Yeah, why do you?

    • SillyWizard says:

      Extremely happy to see this, after previous interactions with you. Have a nice life!

    • Stardreamer says:

      “Why the fuck do I waste my time coming here.”

      An excellent question, with a mind-blowingly simple solution…

    • Fox89 says:

      “At least I don’t have the cheek to draw a wage for the shite I write.”

      I agree. That’s a blessing for us all.

    • The Random One says:

      This comment is so stupid, it created the 7/10 review meme retroactively.

    • SuicideKing says:

      You manage to be substantially more annoying than Claptrap though.

  28. aepervius says:

    “the first incidence of a trans* character that I can recall in a mainstream game.”

    Isn’t Nier’s Kainé the first ?

    • Jams O'Donnell says:

      That would depend on whether Mr Walker can recall that one, I’d expect.

    • Smion says:

      Birdo?

    • fuggles says:

      Birdo, or poison from final fight. Or shepherd.

    • JamesTheNumberless says:

      Nobody expects the trans* inquisition

      • JamesTheNumberless says:

        The first game that comes to mind for me is the legendary Rex Nebular and the Cosmic Gender Bender.

        Not in relation to trans*, you understand, it’s just the first game that comes to my mind.

    • Emeraude says:

      Just occurred to me: wouldn’t Erica Anderson from Catherine count ?

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      I wonder if Father-Mother counts.

    • Jupiah says:

      Kainé is intersex not trans, but it’s not like you’d know that from playing the game anyway. Her intersex status is only explained in a Japanese only supplementary encyclopedia that obviously never made it to the states.

      Which is weird because her intersex status is actually pretty darn important to her character and backstory. If you’ve only played the game and not looked up a fan-translation of that book on the internet then you’d probably be pretty confused about why she was ostracized and abused by her village from a very young age for no apparent reason.

  29. Jams O'Donnell says:

    This is exactly what I’d anticipated — not a disaster by any stretch, but not a “true” Thief game. Which is fine by me — I’ve already had three of those, and anyway my “new Thief” itch was scratched by Dishonored. I’ll pick this up when I find time to play it.

  30. Meat Circus says:

    Eidos Montreal * boss battles = no.
    Maths fact.

    • Qazi says:

      They outsourced the boss battles last time. I’ve not got around to experiencing the retouched ones in Director’s Cut though. Are they still terrible?

      • Stellar Duck says:

        They’re better, I suppose, but they’re fundamentally the same. And they still lead to the same nonsensical cut scenes.

      • rpsKman says:

        No matter who makes them, they still can’t work in the game. I’m still not sure what I was supposed to do in the last one and I finished the damn game.

  31. kament says:

    Thanks for the great read!

    Frankly, I don’t get the obsession with free jumping. I really just do not get it. Especially in a game like this. You don’t jump in Thief unless you’re deliberately trying to draw attention of the Watch or some scary things lurking in the dark. And currently replaying the Deadly Shadows I wish to God I could know exactly when Garrett’s gonna climb that fucking obstacle and when he’ll just jump stupid making a lotta noise and spend the next few minutes hiding from whatever will come to investigate.

    So, yeah. Not a thing for me, thankfully. Quite the opposite even. As for the story, well, shit. While I can’t exactly praise neither of the Thief games for the story (say, why is Garrett so interested in some prophecy? It’s no better than avenging a girl, really), they are tangible and solid enough. So that’s a pity, though I still hope to find it to be better than you said.

    As for the rest it’s really nit-picking. Little things of no particular importance that grew enormously (to the point of being unhealthy) vital to the fans who, quote, know the games by heart, unquote.

    • Mbaya says:

      I think it’s about time we started seeing characters make appropriate noises or complain when they have to do something such as jumping. If I needed to get past a box these days, I’d sit on it and swivel (careful! :P) while groaning, complaining about my age and why there’s a stupid box in the middle of the room anyway. Hmm, dark corners, spooky groaning, things going missing…I think I’d be less a stealthy thief and more a sturdier poltergeist.

      I tend to agree though, sometimes I enjoy working within the games systems more than I enjoy jumping about like a lunatic (as a frequently do when given a free jump key).

      • kament says:

        Ha! I just remembered the opening to the Portal 2. “Say apple. Apple!” Jump. Jump. I guess it’s just that I don’t tend to fool around in my game, trying to, I don’t know, play the role? But for those who like to experiment with their game free jumping could be crucial and sans that they’re disappointed. Hey, I get it now. Thanks. ))

      • Sharlie Shaplin says:

        It should also be possible to fail at jumping over something, so you end up landing on your face feeling total humiliation.

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      The loss is that with such a system, you can only ever go places the developers intended you to go. A lot of the fun with Thief [+ 2 & 3] was going places were you weren’t really meant to. (Or at least you felt you weren’t meant to.)

      Hell, in quite a lot of the originals levels you could jump/climb your way outside of the map. It gave a strange sense of achievement – like you’d outwitted the developers.

      Also, it meant that you could cross levels/solve problems in ways that didn’t have to have been planned.

      e.g. you need to get through a gate that is patrolled by guards. You can douse the torches at time you approach so that the guards are all looking the other way and sneak through (clearly the intended approach). Or you spend ages collecting all the boxes from around the level, stack them up and climb over the wall.

      • Mbaya says:

        I feel this is in part a problem with how some games are made today. Older games (and of course a few modern titles, just less so from the bigger publishers) seem to put the mechanics first and certainly had less handholding so circumventing the planned route can allow things to carry on different to what was planned. These days, if you don’t enter a specific area when you were supposed to, or knocked out two guards the game just doesn’t know what to do anymore and refuses to allow you to progress until you backtrack and figure out just exactly what you broke.

        I’m always up for exploring the unexplorable though, just as long as I don’t get stuck or fall through the world and hit quicksave rather than quickload :D

      • kament says:

        I see your point, but I still think it’s just not what Thief was ever about. But some people right here in the comments have already announced that little things like that were exactly what made Thief great and without them they’re just not interested.

        I mean, really?

        • Ergates_Antius says:

          Oh I’m absolutely with you on that. Though I’d say that they were certainly *part* of what made Thief great – so their absense is a palpable loss – but it’s not a deal breaker. You won’t find a bigger Thief fan that me, and I’d still prefer rope arrows and free-jumping any day of the week, but I’ll judge this game on it’s own terms.

          • kament says:

            You’re right, of course, and I might’ve gone too far, but what I meant to say is that jumping is not as important for Thief as for, say, Mirror’s Edge. That game was really about jumping, and a huge part of fun was calculating when to hit the button. Thief is not that kind of game and never was, that’s all I was trying to say: it was about hiding in the dark first and foremost, although jumping and climbing and such did add something to it.

            Funny though, they took away free jumping but added gameplay sequences reminiscent of Mirror’s Edge.

        • Runs With Foxes says:

          “not what Thief was ever about”

          Let’s go over what it was about then. Thief was about player freedom. Agency. It was about giving control to players. About crafting a map and placing players into it with an objective and little else. Thief was about an intimate connection with the environment you were placed into — and that’s where free jumping and mantling comes into it. If you see a ledge, you can mantle onto it because you choose to, not because the game flashes a contextual prompt. If there’s a gap, you can choose to jump over it, not because the game automatically jumps over it when you get close.

          This shortcoming in environmental connection is evident elsewhere too. There are no sound differences between surfaces in this reboot, for example. The only times you make more noise is if there’s broken glass scattered around. In the originals you had to take note if you were walking on carpet or wood or metal and adjust your movement. It required a close connection with your environment; you needed to pay attention. It’s what made the originals so immersive, because you had to watch and most importantly listen.

          These are the things Thief was about, and this reboot doesn’t seem to understand that at all.

          • Mman says:

            This post sums it up perfectly, and also shows the reason why the announcement of a lack of non-scripted jumping and climbing made it obvious the developers had no idea what Thief was about (or intentionally made a fundamentally different kind of game).

    • Zekiel says:

      It is funny. As Mbaya says, jumping could actually be regarded as immersion-breaking. How often do we actually jump in real life? How often do real-life soldiers in a combat situation jump?

      But it’s one of those things that we’ve come to accept and expect in games – which actually serves to increase immersion by enabling freedom, even though its wholly unrealistic. I still remember finding it weird in the Witcher 2 (and 1) that you couldn’t jump, so even a small platform would require you to walk round and find the stairs rather than just stepping up it (as you would in real life) or doing a small jump (as you would in an FPS).

      • kament says:

        I agree that some obstacles in the Witcher games were a little jarring, but I think that’s because they were basically ankle-high platforms. Some games actually let you traverse them without pressing any additional buttons, so I think it’s not really the free jumping that was lacking.

        • Zekiel says:

          You are quite correct.

          Witcher 2 added to the oddity by having waist- or shoulder-high obstacles that you *could* traverse – by going through a laborious “climb ledge” animation that snapped Geralt to one exact spot in order to do the animation and therefore looked very odd. And also took a frustratingly long time.

          Anyway I think I may have gone off topic…

      • Runs With Foxes says:

        ” jumping could actually be regarded as immersion-breaking”

        No. This is the same logic Eidos used to excuse it, but it’s complete bullshit. Immersion is not about realism. Immersion is about consistency. Immersion is a product of giving players free control in a consistent and logical environment. That’s why the originals were immersive. That’s why the original Deus Ex was immersive. That’s why DayZ is immersive. That’s why this reboot, which constantly takes control away from players, is not.

      • Rikard Peterson says:

        “Jump. Crouch. Touch. Toggle Maps.” :)

    • Consumatopia says:

      It’s not so much that free jumping is so great as that context-jumping/swooshing is so terrible, for all the reasons everyone is talking about throughout the thread.

    • malkav11 says:

      The story, per se, wasn’t that much of a much, but then again it wasn’t terribly present, either. But the cutscenes were fantastic in their design and atmosphere, and the in-level dialogue and written bits were also great. Those quotes from the various factions leading into each cutscene? God, so good. Of course, they already lost those as of Thief 3.

  32. neofit says:

    How exactly does the save system work? The WIT speaks about a quicksave, but we’ve been had before. Do you have a proper reload that restores the game state to where it was when you saved it, or does it pull a Farcry 3 on us?

    • John Walker says:

      Nope, proper quickload. It’s odd though – I didn’t get into this, but the game overwrites quicksaves with autosaves, which is a pain in the arse. You can perma-save at any point though, to avoid this. And yes, it reloads at that exact point.

    • Werthead says:

      FAR CRY 3′s save system does score some points for uniqueness though: it bends time and space in a manner that would befuddle everyone apart from Stephen Hawking.

  33. tellrov says:

    You didn’t talk at all about the thing that’s getting panned the most, which is the AI.

  34. merbert says:

    I’ve played it.

    It’s awful.

    It’s hammy, wooden, rigid and soulless.

    Mind you, I did steal my copy….bonus points for irony?

    • rpsKman says:

      Well, your opinion is kinda invalid fi you don’t have the game, no?

      • merbert says:

        I DO have it.

        When did I say I didn’t have it?!

        I just said I STOLE my copy….hence ” bonus points for iro….” ahhh forget it….

    • skyturnsred says:

      You’re a fucking scumbag for stealing it, regardless of quality.

  35. WHS says:

    So here’s why the contextual jump button thing concerns me: it seems like it increases the already-high potential for the game to become a glorified obstacle course, in which every location has two or three or five distinct, linear routes in. That was the problem with DX:HR–you never felt like you were finding your own way, just picking door A, B, or C. Of course, DX:HR had free movement, so free movement is no assurance of really free-ranging levels, but it’s not hard to see how a contextual jump button could exacerbate Ubi’s already-troubling tendencies towards railroading the player.

    Dishonored by contrast is the gold standard in this regard. The levels were so complex that it virtually always felt like you’d just forged your own path through the environment, going in the window, out the basement, back in through a moat, etc., in a way the designers couldn’t have ever predicted.

    So on the spectrum of Dishonored to Human Revolution, where does Thief fall? This is the deciding question for me.

    • WHS says:

      The Prince of Persia games are particularly terrible in this way. Eventually you realize that there’s A Correct Path through the obstacles, so movement just becomes a matter of timing button-presses as you move down a predestined route. It’s basically QTE gameplay where the button presses aren’t displayed on the screen.

      • Obc says:

        aren’t you describing every jump’n'run game ever? PoP (especially PoP04) has a lot of such areas which are basically jump and run trials, so it pretty okay there.

        • ulix says:

          He’s certainly not describing Mario 64, Sunshine, Banjo Kazooie or Banjo Tooie, which were very open in their level design.

          Even the quite linear levels in Mario Galaxy 1 & 2 (still the best two games of the last 5 years) usually have obstacles that allow different approaches.

          If you’re already skilled with the amazingly responsive controls you may use a longjump (to get *over there*) or a triple jump (to get *up there*), if not you can try a series of normal jumps or a backflip. But it will usually take longer that way.

          I guess it’s the difference between good an bad level design in mostly linear games.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      I’m surprised more people don’t talk about this. Good nonlinear level design is all about crafting a believable world. Deus Ex did this extremely well for the most part, unlike DX:HR.

      On a personal level, I vastly prefer an interesting, interactive world to a tightly crafted game experience. I can just look at a good map (particularly of a city or just a single building) in a tabletop RPG book and feel inspired. That’s increasingly rare in AAA games, though.

    • Qazi says:

      “Ubi”

      Why do you confuse the two Publishers so?

    • Deadly Sinner says:

      I though DX:HR had the feeling of freedom in the hubs, but the main mission areas were a bit linear feeling.

  36. FunnyB says:

    I’m sorry if I missed it somewhere in the article, but is this a reboot of the series? Or does it continue on from the other games?

    I mean, is it the same Garrett in the same City years later, or a complete reboot, clean slate kind of affair?

  37. tikey says:

    Ask me about GLOOM.

  38. Lars Westergren says:

    > our hopes were below waist level.

    Anticipation level: CROTCH!

    Thanks for a long and well written review John. And thanks RPS for the “no review score” policy, as that tends to just lead to endless arguments if one game really should get higher/lower score than other recent games.

    A good story is important to me, so it is a shame that one of the few things this and other reviews seem to agree on is that it is not very good. Still…. it sounded like there were enough things to like here that I might enjoy it for what it is, rather than a sequel in one of my favourite series.

    There were rumors that the “design goals” of the game have switched several times, as producers came and went. I’m guessing that during at least some phases of development they were aiming for a “cinematic action title”, but got cold feet when they saw the weak sales and backlash against titles like Syndicate and The Bureau: XCOM Declassified and and started moving the pendulum back towards a more old-school stealth game again. Changing goals part way through might explain a loss of polish.

  39. Casimir's Blake says:

    Watching Total Biscuit’s WTF IS video is enough to ruin what little hopes I had.

    Looking Glass, missed more than ever.

    I would sooner recommend people run over to the Dark Mod or ttlg.com and download some missions for the old Thief games.

    • morbiusnl says:

      ehm, the wtf review was pretty positive.

      • Sheng-ji says:

        Not having seen this WTF vid yet, TB generally tries to make a review where no matter what he felt about the game, people can get enough information to make up their own minds – so while TB may have found it a positive experience, I’m sure he would have made it so that people who won’t enjoy the game will be able to figure that out based on the information he presents.

        • Cleave says:

          You’d pretty much have to draw your own conclusions with that WTF is. He’s absolutely awful at it, for example when he throws a bottle to distract a guard then goes and stands in the middle of the well lit room where the guard will return to after investigating the noise. He still enjoyed it though, even after ending up in a (seemingly impossible to lose) melee fight with pretty much every guard he went past.

  40. Bo_Flodin says:

    Is there an option to switch off the story? It should be a must in most games. More gaming less CRAPPY wannabe movies

    • Zekiel says:

      Didn’t ME3 have that option? I couldn’t really understand why, since the narrative was actually largely the point of Mass Effect, but there we go.

      • Sharlie Shaplin says:

        ME3 had three modes. Action, role playing and narrative. Action made the story parts into a linear non interactive story with the default Shepard. Narrative removed all challenge from the game play, for people who just wanted the story. Role playing was the classic full experience.

        • The Random One says:

          Narrative should remove the fighting sequences and replace them with a text box saying AND THEN SHEPARD KILLED ALL THE ALIENS. Lowering the difficulty doesn’t make uninteresting combat interesting, it only makes it tedious instead of frustrating.

          • Sharlie Shaplin says:

            I agree. Also action should have removed all the cutscenes, and replaced them with a short text describing what happened. “Shepard looked badass and punched people in the face, FIGHT!”.

  41. Prolar Bear says:

    I’ve never played one of the originals, and this seems very interesting. Looks like a rather flawed game, but a good one nonetheless. Also, good review…some of the articles out there are bashing the game for being linear (without going indepth about the level design), as if that were automatically a bad thing.
    No spiders in this one I hope?

    • Emeraude says:

      Well, that’s automatically a bad thing when you try to place yourself into a series of games renowned for their non-linearity.

      I don’t think anyone is going to complain that Ikaruga or Final Fight are linear. Linearity in a game that prides itself as part of the Thief series though ? Going to be met with a lot of negativity from fans, obviously.

      • Prolar Bear says:

        Fair enough! I’d still at least play the game and see if it gives the player some branching paths or a decent illusion of freedom, though.

    • qrter says:

      There are spiders in the original games, rather nasty ones. No idea about this installment.

  42. soopytwist says:

    You had me at “jump”. I’m out.

  43. Stuart Walton says:

    The context sensitive switch between swoop and jump is an awful idea.

    Earlier Thief games had a similar problem with the mantle move. Attempting a jump and then mantle (both activated by space bar) could fail, resulting in either a long fall or a hard landing that alerts a guard. The Dark Mod resolves this problem by giving mantle its own key binding.

    If you do decide to put context sensitive controls n a game there should be no ambiguity as to what the button will do when you press it.

    • qrter says:

      Reminds me of the ‘take cover’/'jump over obstacle’ key being the same in Mass Effect 2. Vaulting right over the cover you were just trying to duck behind, such fun.

    • Josh W says:

      I got the impression from trailers that the game had magic hands, um, probably better described as context sensitive hand animations to add physicality to your interactions with the environment. I would like to have seen those used to mark out things you can jump, or mantle, with the character adjusting his attitude when you come up to something climable automatically. The uncharted series used this in third person excellently to give low level feedback on what in the level was traversible, as have many other games. It works even at significant speed. I suspect a first person situation would make that even more effective, although the number of possible angles would mean you’d have to create the animations in a flexible way.

  44. JamesTheNumberless says:

    Such lackluster rants and clichéd accusations, and yet the commentators have had since 2009 to work out how to react to this review. So unprofessional, I hope nobody is paying them to write this crap.

    I bet none of them even went to internet commentary school at all. 7/10

    • Deionarra says:

      They just don’t make comments like they used to.

      I’ll probably pick this up and see for myself how good the game is. From John’s description of the level design it doesn’t sound that far removed from the older games. Going back and looking at them again I was surprised at how many of the levels I recalled as being excellent in Thief 2 had fairly linear approaches to the target building and only open up once inside.

      • pepperfez says:

        It’s really just that they call them “comments”. I have a certain expectation for comments (previous comments have been among the best things on the internet), and these are just something different. If you want to publish a short bit of reactive text below an article, fine, but if it’s not a real comment don’t call it one.

  45. Wulfram says:

    I could have done with more elaboration about why the level design is good, because that seemed like the substantive thing which makes it a good game.

    But I guess tthe game is not really for me, anyway. I only really like stealth mechanics because they allow stories that aren’t killathons.

  46. But I Powerup From There says:

    “…some nonsense about some magic stones and a disease called GLOOM, wandering in and out of the plot like lost pensioners.”

    Excellent line. I’m going to use that to describe all meandering Generic Fantasy Balls plots from now on.

  47. Stellar Duck says:

    Might pick it up some day when it’s cheaper.

    Thing is, I don’t doubt John enjoyed the game, but I’ve also read enough here on RPS to know that John and I have very different things we want out of a game. So I’m not convinced that it’s worth picking up for me for now.

    I gather that the lack of jump also means you can’t stack crates? What a shame.

    From what I’ve seen in videos the AI leaves a lot to be desired as well, just as the level design seems overly reliant of the player jumping over a wall or the like and then seeing that he can’t get back up. That’s a terrible thing! I’ve been playing TDM again recently and I love breaking into a place and egressing the same way I got in. I’m very much NOT a fan of levels closing up behind me. What if I wasn’t finished exploring or messing about?

    So, yes, I have no doubt at all that John likes the game and it does sound like it’s an alright game, in a limited sense, but it’s not the game I wanted.

    For now I’ll stick to The Dark Mod and Dishonored. At least Dishonored let’s me jump and climb as I please. :| Also, Dishonored is not called Thief, so it get’s off the hook for some of its flaws.

    Edit: One question though, if I may: when you mention the game having a map do you mean a terrible meta map in a menu like in Far Cry 3 that makes no sense or hand drawn maps of a piece of crumpled paper like in the Thief games? Because if it’s the former, I’m sad.

    Actually, now I want to talk about how Far Cry 2 had the best map ever made and how Far Cry 3 was a load of rubbish that messed up everything that was brilliant about FC2.

    • qrter says:

      What still worries me is the mention of the story being completely shit, and that John thinks that isn’t that important. I would say that one of the reasons the original games were as good as they were, was the strong narrative.

      • derbefrier says:

        Eh he mentioned it was bad what more do you want? Not everyones enjoyment of a video game relies on the story and in this case it didn’t seem to hinder John’s enjoyment so what else is there to say?

        • qrter says:

          Where did I say I wanted him to say more? I was pointing out how John and I (apparently) have different views of what made the original franchise great. So he sees the lack of a decent story as a small minus, and I read it as a big minus.

          • SillyWizard says:

            It sounded to me like he appreciates Thi4f more for being its own thing, than as a continuation of the trilogy. Therefore, the shitty story can be more or less dealt with as it is in most other games with shitty stories: recognized, and promptly ignored.

            If the gameplay is as fun and rewarding as it sounds, no amount of inane story is really going to hamper that. The two bits of the game — play vs narrative — should be weighed on their own strengths.

            We have no yet achieved an era in videogames in which story and the telling thereof can really be taken seriously. On the extremely rare occasion that a game has a worthwhile story, it’s an aberration, and is definitely worthy of attention. Shitty stories, in the meantime, are the norm, and are to be expected.

      • phlebas says:

        I’d say it’s quite telling. John’s generally quite big on story, and he didn’t find it a problem. And while the story was part of what made the originals so good, only a part. You’d still have challenge, atmosphere, imaginative design…

    • Arglebargle says:

      Yeah, as Stealth/Puzzle games are not a top draw to me, the other parts of the game have to be pretty decent to keep me in. This review is filled with ‘it’s great, except for this and this and this and this’. Many of which are of pretty serious importance to me. The bad story and bad UI comments are pretty telling, though of late JW seems to happily ignore story. Unless it gores his ox. Anyway, this review pretty much puts this in the negative, until prices go down, and I feel like making a risky purchase. Certainly doesn’t sound like I’d have fun with it.

      Of course, that probably means this is a good review, as it gives me enough info to make a decision.

  48. Colej_uk says:

    This is good to hear! 90% of the internet have decided they hate it already without playing it, but I always thought it looked better than what people were expecting. The detailed options have sold it to me I think, I can’t wait to drive myself insane by playing it on the aforementioned rougelike setting!

  49. drewski says:

    It’s odd to read a supposedly positive review that focuses so much on negative things.

    Given I’ve still got Dishonored sitting here, this is probably one for the Steam sale.

  50. seamoss says:

    If you want to see what all the fuss was about with the original games, you can get a free Steam key for Thief Gold here. I think it’s a promotion for the release of the new game – not sure how long this will stick around, so get yours today!

    • Runty McTall says:

      Just tried it and Amazon said “US customers only”. Alas.

      • Guvornator says:

        Get an Amazon.com account – it’s extraordinarily easy. You just need a fake US address, which a bunch of websites provide. You can and indeed should use your own credit card and it’s billing address – using a fake credit card is an obvious no-no.

        • Gentle Banana says:

          Or just add a US address to your existing Amazon UK account, if you have one. That worked for me. Thanks for the comment, seamoss, you extremely helpful person you!

          • Guvornator says:

            I prefer to keep them separate on the off chance that Amazon belatedly decide that they’ve got a problem with people giving them money who aren’t supposed to. TBH, I don’t think it’s a major issue, but you never know…

        • The Random One says:

          You should list your address as 2710 Thomes Ave., Cheyenne, WY. It’s only right.