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Abermore review: an indie Thief-’em-up that steals your time in the worst way

More like Aberchore

It all started going wrong when I died taking on the old McDuckitt job. In Abermore, you play as a thief making a name for themselves in its titular city. Every day you wake up, leave your apartment and hit the streets, chatting to the locals, picking up a bit of info, even gambling a bit. The folks you meet are from the shadier side of society and they'll hire you for jobs. Sometimes it’s simple burglary, sometimes it's breaking a vase, or snatching a specific bit of loot. There’s even a guy who keeps trying to offer me wet work! It all boils down to the same thing though: sneaking around some rich guy’s place, disabling the security, avoiding or taking down the occupants, and getting out without being caught. Afterwards, I fence the loot and head to bed.

It's all building up to Abermore's central heist: The Feast of the Lucky Few. It's also my only chance to rescue the famous Hanged Man, a dame I met on the boat over here. They're the thief of thieves! A living legend! But the tyrant king grabbed her before we got ashore and she’ll be executed in eighteen days if I don’t break her out. That’s eighteen nights to prepare, eighteen jobs to build the resources, the connections I need for the heist of a life time. A terrible shame, then, that alarm bells started ringing almost as soon as I started playing.

I’d broken into the old McDuckitt place on a hot tip. The house was dripping with loot, but the miserly old bastard was too cheap to spring for decent security. I’d rinsed the joint, grabbed all I planned to and more. Had to take down a couple of menials, but gently, no murder. I’m a thief, not an assassin, damnit! I was on my way out when I opened a door and found myself face to face with the cleaning lady. I could have sworn she wasn’t there a moment before. Had Lady Luck deserted me because I’d gotten too greedy, or had I just got cocky and careless? The fear in her eyes matched the feeling in my gut. I went to grab her, but I was too slow and she was right next to the house panic button. These alarms are littered all around Abermore's various residences, and when raised there's nothing to do except hightail it out of there. I heard gates slamming down, the hiss of poison filling the room and the clank of those Luck-damned Hounds springing to life, mechanical knights that pack a mean right jab. Maybe Old Man McDuckitt wasn’t as cheap as they said. I ran for it, but was too slow again. The last thing I felt was two and half feet of polished steel sliding into my back.

Abermore is a strange place. It’s not as evocative as THE City (y’know, Garrett’s place) or Dishonored's Dunwall, but it’s nice in its own way. Quaint, sorta independent, if you know what I mean. The locals are a friendly bunch, but they all want something in return. Early on, they set me a test, an easy job, something to show that I had the right stuff. Absolutely breezed it, but the cracks were starting to show. The houses look normal enough on the outside, but on the inside they’re just plain weird. It's possible it's just a side effect of being procedurally generated, but they also just don’t make a lot of sense. You open a door expecting a bedroom and BOOM there’s a kitchen. The buildings even rearrange themselves if botch a mission and go in more than once. How’s an honest thief supposed to make it around a place if they can’t get a feel for it?

A snowy cityscape in Abermore

If you do run into a spot of trouble, though, there are failsafes to give you a second chance. As for my McDuckitt job, it turns out that Lady Luck, the guiding force in this place, wasn’t quite done with me. I was offered another chance at breathing and walking. Only the first one was free, mind (and we know that’s never gonna work out), but what choice did I have? I wasn't quite ready to meet my maker yet. So I shake on the deal, figuratively speaking, and find myself back at the McDuckitt place in an air duct. Primo hiding spot, for sure, but there’s a problem. The vents at both ends are locked and I’m outta lockpicks. I don’t even have the scrap in my pockets to throw together a makeshift one, and the place is still filling with poison gas. Certain death is staring me in the face. (Ed: this isn't a quirk of the proc-gen houses - the exact thing happened to Katharine when she burst on a mission as well).

The wooden interior of the bar Lady Luck's in Abermore
Lady Luck's is a tavern that acts as your main story hub. Sadly, the Hound Pits Pub, this ain't.

Then everything goes black again. When I come round, I’m back in my bed, all fresh from a good night’s sleep and my pockets heavy with the cash from the previous night’s take like none of it happened. Out on the streets, I walk up to the courtier I’d spoken with the day before. She’s making the same complaints about the king she made the day before. It’s the same day for sure, but this time there’s a weird arrow floating around in my eyeline, like some kind of cursor. Not supposed to be there. I feel that sensation again, of being reset.

I wake up in bed again, no arrow this time, thank the Lady. I rush through the city to the black market. It’s the same day, but this time there’s no McDuckitt job. It’s a different guy giving a different job. I take the job (what else am I gonna do?). I’m nervous, but positive. Third time’s the charm, right? What else could go wrong? That’s when I slip through a wall, leaving me half in, half out of the world, like some kind of ghost.

The player aims a sleeping dart at an unsuspecting citizen sitting at their dining room table in Abermore

That’s how it’s been ever since. One step forward, two steps back. Sometimes I’ll make it through a whole day, but even those days aren’t good. One time, I got frustrated, accepted a little wetwork. Searched the whole place, top to bottom, and didn’t find a single person who matched the description of the target. Ended up going on a spree, wiping out half the folks in the place in the hope of getting the right guy before I ran out of ways to kill people. Turns out the crossbow bolt recipe I’d bought was a dud and I couldn’t build any more ammo. Still haven’t figured that out. Another time I’d done a perfect heist, a clean sweep, like a ninja ghost’s fart. On the way out, I fell through the floor, got trapped in a grey limbo.

Abermore is a dame that I want to love, but she’s got nothing but contempt in her heart for me.

The real heartbreaker is that I want to like the city of Abermore. It has so much potential. There’s real love in those streets, and so many toys to play with on a job. They have a secret bug cult! I gotta know what’s going on there. But right now, it's too rough and ready to recommend playing. It wants to riff on the same 'go with the flow' style of heist and sneaking as Arkane's Deathloop, but feels about as rickety as one of McDuckitt's ghost-knight automatons. I've been told the devs are currently working on a patch to fix up some of these game-breaking bugs, but at time of writing it's not going to be ready for launch. As it is, Abermore is a dame that I want to love, but she’s got nothing but contempt in her heart for me.

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