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Thief: The Dark Project

aka: Dark Camelot, Dark Project: Der Meisterdieb, Dark Project: L'Ombra del Ladro, Dark Project: La guilde des voleurs, TDP, The Dark Project, Thief: o Projeto Negro
Moby ID: 357
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Description official descriptions

Garrett, discovered on the streets as a beggar, is taken in and trained by the secretive organization known as the Keepers. However, Garrett's plans for his training is different than that of his masters and so Garrett soon parts company. Surfacing as a master thief, Garrett must enter forbidden places and appropriate the treasures of the rich and the powerful. Of course this line of work is offensive to many people including the rich nobles, the town guard and the religious order of the Hammerites. If Garrett can keep his head while he relieves these forces of their valuable trinkets, he should be able to do quite well....

Thief: The Dark Project is a first person game focused on stealth. It is set in a metropolis called "the City", a medieval fantasy world with some elements from the industrial revolution era of technology. Garrett's main skills are in using the shadows to avoid being seen (the level of visibility indicated by a "light gem") and to avoid being heard (different surfaces make different noises). Guards can be alerted by either, and remaining hidden is ever important. Entering combat against armed opponents is not recommended, though some enemies (notably the various undead) can be taken on directly or avoided. It is also possible to silently sneak on guards, incapacitate them with the blackjack, steal their keys, and move their bodies.

At Garrett's disposal is a wide range of equipment, including lockpicks, a blackjack, a sword, flash bombs, holy water, explosive mines, and a bow which fires normal arrows in addition to water, fire, moss, rope, and noisemaker arrows. Each type of arrows has a unique purpose: water extinguishes torches, moss covers the ground to soften the sounds of footsteps, ropes can be used to climb in certain spots or cross chasms, etc.

The levels in the game are fairly open, and most of the time there are several paths and ways to accomplish the objective. Certain objects can be interacted with, moved from place to place, or destroyed. The game has three difficulty levels distinguished by the amount of goals needed to fulfill. Lower difficulty levels may allow the player to skip some of the harder areas due to the lack of a mission objective leading there. On higher difficulties, additional requirements (such as completely non-lethal way of finishing a stage) may be added. Loot gained from Garrett's thieving can be used to purchase additional equipment for the mission ahead.

Spellings

  • 神偷 - Simplified Chinese spelling

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Credits (Windows version)

144 People (125 developers, 19 thanks) · View all

Reviews

Critics

Average score: 91% (based on 35 ratings)

Players

Average score: 4.1 out of 5 (based on 175 ratings with 15 reviews)

Novelty and perfection

The Good
Stealth has been an obscure, odd gameplay mechanic before Thief arrived and made it mainstream. Sure, there were stealth games, such as the groundbreaking yet nearly impossible Castle Wolfenstein or the interesting, yet arcadish and gimmicky Metal Gear. But nobody thought of making realistic stealth the core of gameplay, especially not in a first-person 3D game.

Thief is therefore a descendant of Ultima Underworld games and System Shock - revolutionary 3D games that used the capabilities of the engine to create immersive worlds and varied gameplay rather than focus on fast-paced action. Like those games, Thief is a masterpiece of game design, an essential link in an evolutionary chain that gave us some of the most advanced and beloved games of all times.

Thief is not just the first game to introduce full-fledged stealth-based gameplay in a 3D environment: it is the game that does it best. Its gameplay is so well-constructed that somebody out of touch with the history of video games would have sworn that its concept has been used countless times before and only perfected in Thief. In reality, it is one of those very rare games that deliver a new concept and a flawless execution of it right away.

The sneaking in Thief just feels right. Thanks to the generous level design, you never feel forced to do things a certain way. Yes, it is advisable to stay unnoticed, but you are not required to do so. You can incapacitate guards or simply try to avoid them. You can hit them with your blackjack and then hide their unconscious bodies. You can also try to take them on in direct sword combat, but be warned: even one-on-one fights are very tough, as they should be in a game where violence is the last resort. Most importantly, even with its strict concept, the game never feels rigid: you have freedom, you can dictate the pace. No solution is obvious, but none is obtuse. You can and should be creative, but even the hardest tasks are not frustrating because the game feels what you want from it, it is synchronized with your playing without being over-indulgent or artificial. That is something only very few games could pull off, and is one of the greatest achievements of Thief.

Your arsenal of tools is varied and impressive. The clever usage of the bow is one of the game's trademark inventions. Basically, your bow can act as a regular weapon in some cases, but it can also contribute to stealth. It is too bright in the hallway? Extinguish a torch with a water arrow from afar. Can't move silently on the pavement? Cover it with moss by shooting a special arrow. Feel the need to set something on fire? The appropriate arrows are at your service. There are also bombs and other cool little gadgets, as well as your trusty sword if things get too hairy. You can also grab, re-arrange, and throw different objects to distract enemies or for other purposes.

The game follows the fantastic GoldenEye concept of difficulty levels: the higher it is, the more objectives you need to complete in order to pass. This actually encourages you to play on higher difficulties to experience the game in a more complete form, and also means that playing on the lowest difficulty is by no means too easy: it is just less complicated. Also, a really cool touch is money management: you don't receive a salary or any awards based on your performance - you simply steal stuff which is then converted into money once the stage is finished. This further compels you to explore every corner of the stage in search of shiny golden things.

Level design is perhaps the most crucial element in game creation, and that's why the best game designers pay so much attention to it. Thief has a stellar level design that is seamlessly and masterfully interwoven with the demands of the gameplay and plays a key role in the creation of the game world. In other words, it is an integral part of the entire experience rather than just one well-made element. To illustrate, the secret areas in old first-person shooters were fun, but you could enjoy the game without them. System Shock, on the other hand, was built around exploration; it would lose most of its significance if it were linear.

Thief doesn't have a huge interconnected world like that game, but each and every level is an impeccably designed large area that creates the illusion of being in a real world while at the same time directly serving gameplay purposes. That is, it's not just about a vast environment with optional locations, but it's also not about conveniently placed passages that are there simply as an excuse to use yet another trinket. Such is the genius of level design here that you never feel you are "in a game", yet everything has its use precisely for game-related activities. There is so much thought and care put into designing those levels that even simple shooting gameplay set in them would elevate the game above the masses.

Equisite details make us forget the merely adequate 3D engine: Thief is gorgeous and will always stay so, because art always triumphs over technological limitations. Despite the uniformity of the setting, the levels are refreshingly varied: interiors of a lavishly decorate mansion, a desolate underground prison, mysterious catacombs, nostalgically beckoning stone-paved streets of a quiet medieval town, horrifying otherwordly realm - each location is unique, and you'll want to explore it again after you have finished the stage. Detail is everywhere, and you'll find yourself standing in empty rooms just to notice everything the designers have created.

No wonder that this results in an incredibly atmospheric experience. Thief is among the most magically atmospheric games ever made, perhaps on par with System Shock in that respect. The setting perfectly captures the cozily haunting "vibe" of the Middle Ages, and the touch of industrialization gives it its own peculiar flavor. It is "gothic" meets "steampunk": two of the most attractive visual genres are united in one game. You won't forget this world once you see a glimpse of it. It has little to do with supernatural elements: the stages with monsters are actually less absorbing than urban areas. Particularly the interior locations are masterfully done. And let's not forget the impeccable sound effects that are vital to gameplay as well as enhancing the atmosphere.

Far from being just a "thief simulator", Thief is a plot-driven game with a cohesive setting, based primarily on mission objectives as dictated by the story. While being somewhat in the shadows (much like the protagonist himself), the plot, evolving in stylish cutscenes, is interesting to follow to the end. Overhearing conversations and reading occasional documents helps establish the tone of the story even better. Thief also boasts a unique world with its own background information, organizations, religious beliefs, and so on.

The Bad
Most games that single-handedly define a certain concept are repetitive. Thief is no exception. It didn't use stealth as a harmless gimmick, as yet another option for flexible gameplay: it focused on it as seriously and as adamantly as possible. If Doom could get tiresome with monotonous shooting, Thief could get equally tiresome with monotonous sneaking. You'll have to avoid enemies and try to stay unnoticed pretty much for the duration of the entire game. The tension is constant, and there is no relief. You never get powerful - that's not what the game is about. But it is also counter-intuitive to our most basic instinct. Thief courageously and ingeniously opposed our primeval violent urges, but the abstinence becomes almost unbearable. It is therefore best played in short sessions, savored in small doses like a delicious, exotic meal.

Thief can also get quite hard, even on lower difficulty levels. Quicksave-abusing is not uncommon when you repeatedly try to pass a tough section and fail. Particularly hard are levels with undead enemies, which are perhaps the game's weakest link. It is fun to shoot zombies with holy water arrows when you first meet them, but after a while you realize that simply running past them is a better solution. If they really wanted to give us a break from sneaking (which I would welcome) they should have made those enemies much easier to defeat.

The Bottom Line
Thief is much more than a seminal 3D stealth game that popularized a gameplay element everyone have been inserting in their games ever since. It is also, miraculously, a nearly perfect incarnation of its revolutionary concept that few managed to imitate, and none have surpassed. But most importantly, it is a magnificent piece of game design for all players, a genre-crossing beauty with fantastic levels, deep gameplay, and haunting atmosphere. It is an essential classic proudly standing in the stellar row of the medium's highest achievements.

Windows · by Unicorn Lynx (181794) · 2014

An excellent game which defined a genre.

The Good
Being sneaky was not generally a priority in early first-person games. The famous "Doomguy" from the Doom games readily mowed down rooms packed with hell monsters with a double-barrelled shotgun and probably did not think much about trying to quietly evade them instead. Good thing, too. Who would want that in Doom? But game designers, somewhere along the way, realized that it could be fun to create a first-person environment in which the player would actually want to avoid direct combat. The result was the "first-person sneaker". And one of the earliest and best games of the genre, one which would influence the whole genre ever since, was Thief: The Dark Project.

When Thief came out, it was different than anything I had ever played. I remember getting it on a demo disc from Eidos. The first time I tried it, I was blown away. It was an experience which opened new possibilities of gaming for me.

Thief casts the player as expert rogue Garrett in a fantasy steam-punk world which resembles in many ways the middle ages. Although the world's mythology was not well fleshed out in The Dark Project, there was certainly enough information to provide distinct character. Whether reading a secret letter from a noble or listening in on a guard conversation laced with fantasy slang terms, there is a good sense of place in the game.

As a "sneaker", Thief is appropriately centered around stealth. The action is by no means fast. Rather, being slow and careful with bursts of speed at key moments tends to pay off. Garrett is not very good at direct combat, despite carrying a sword in case it should be required. If you do need to remove someone, a carefully aimed arrow or a swift smack with a blackjack is a far better way. Then quickly drag the body away before someone notices. Vanish into the shadows once again, using the interface's light indicator to show you how visible you are, to return to your business.

Atmosphere is heavy in Thief. The constant threat of being caught keeps things interesting. While observing guard routes carefully can put you ahead, longer or more complex patrols can be more difficult to predict. As a result, the game is constantly tense. Even when traversing ground already travelled, the player thinks twice about leaving the shadows.

Environments in Thief are rich and detailed, especially for their time. Exploration itself is a pleasure. The most impressive levels, perhaps, were the noble's castle with its grand decor and the magician's home with its insane design. In both cases, the player feels driven forward by the desire to see more.

A good thief will use sound to his advantage, whether by silencing himself or listening to his enemy's movements. The sound in Thief is great for its time. Certainly, it serves the purpose wonderfully.

Garrett carries a variety of tools with him to slant things to his advantage. Gadgets such as water arrows to douse lights and moss arrows to soften footsteps enhance gameplay options. There is definitely a variety of ways to achieve objectives and this keeps the game fresh throughout.

The Bad
One thing that can kill any "sneaker" game is thrusting the player into direct combat. Later in Thief, missions involving areas full of undead were frustrating and an unwelcome break in the otherwise brilliant gameplay.

Additionally, some objectives or puzzles are obscure and frustrating. This is common of older games. Nonetheless, it is a pain.

The Bottom Line
Even now, Thief is a fantastic first-person sneaker. It set forth many ideas which would become standards of the genre.

Windows · by Steelysama (82) · 2009

Steal this one if you have to!!

The Good
Incredibly deep and exciting gameplay! Thief takes the gung-ho notion of most fps games and turns it around on it's ear by delivering a game where the emphasis is not on jumping guns-blazing on enemy territory, but in snaking and infiltrating without being detected. Results? The most deep and nerve-wrecking experience you have ever had. Nothing compares to the feeling you get when you try to sneak past a guard and suddenly a false step makes him turn around and start looking for you in the dark, coming closer and closer while you pray the small modicum of invisibility the shadows provide don't fail you; or the feel you get as you frantically pick a lock while hearing footsteps coming closer and closer... or knowing that time is running out and you have to put that guard you blackjacked somewhere safe before anyone comes by, etc. etc. etc.. I could go on, and on, and on. The fact is that Thief combines a dark and lovingly crated atmosphere with the romantic yet nerve-wrecking feeling of being a thief, you know your enemies are out there, and the only way to defeat them is to hope they don't know where you are while trying to traverse some of the most intricate and finest levels ever designed (Constantine's mansion alone deserves to be nominated as one of the best levels, ever).

Thief introduced sneaking as a viable aspect of gameplay to the world, and if you think you know what I'm talking about simply because you played Metal Gear, Hitman, No One Lives Forever or whatever, then you have no clue whatsoever. This is the one and only sneak-sim, and remains unsurpassed to this day (except by it's sequel).

To top that off, the game makes the first really, really, REALLY impressive use of 3d sound in a videogame. If you are equipped with a surround set of speakers and an EAX or similar enabled sound card, then you are in for a treat. Enough sound channels to bog down a nitrogen-cooled CRAYII make sure that each and every sfx in the game comes from it's specific spatial coordinates, and there are even fantastic effects like the echos you hear on long hallways, or corridors, etc. fully recreated for your listening pleasure.

There's also the addition of a really cool storyline which fully exploits the fantasy-steampunk atmosphere and which is told via unique cutscenes that combine cel-animation, live action, and a lot of post-production magnificence into some of the darkest, most surrealistic imagery I've ever seen since The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Trust me, THIS is how you do cutscenes. Not by hiring the best 3D studio animators, or getting the latest Silicon Graphics Workstations, but by making them unique visual experiences on par with the game they come with.

Also: This game has the scariest zombies EVER. You have no idea the amount of times I screamed in terror when facing those bastards!! Genius I say!!

The Bad
Well, the graphics are not the best ever. They work, but the character models are truly bad.

As mentioned, the cutscenes are some of the best I've ever seen, but unfortunately they were digitized at a lousy resolution, resulting in a lot of blurryness when blown-up for fullscreen playback, a real shame.

Other than that the only real gripe I have with the game is that it relies a lot on dungeon-crawling. There's a lot of crypts, and caverns, and catacombs going on in this game, and that really hurts this game since it is much more fun to sneak around the urban locations of the game than journeying to the lost tomb of Krakatua in search of his magic wand; which also means you have to face off a lot of monsters and truly annoying critters... They would fix all this in the sequel, but no cookie for us now.

The Bottom Line
Thief: An engrossing sneaking experience by Looking Glass Studios. Go-Fetch-NOW!

Windows · by Zovni (10503) · 2001

[ View all 15 player reviews ]

Discussion

Subject By Date
Duality hribek (28) Mar 24, 2009
What can/ could You take away (add?) hribek (28) Mar 22, 2009
Garrett on steroids hribek (28) Mar 22, 2009
Garret looks like Nicholas Cage? hribek (28) Mar 13, 2009

Trivia

1001 Video Games

Thief: The Dark Project appears in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die by General Editor Tony Mott.

Basketball

Like other Looking Glass games like System Shock and System Shock 2, this game also contains a hidden basketball court. (See Tips & Tricks for details on accessing it.)

Development

Originally, Thief was to be a game called Dark Camelot where Merlin was a time-traveler but it eventually became Thief... before that it was a game involving Communist zombies!

Editor

Thief fans requested the level editor, so Looking Glass Studios released DromEd (subsequently included on the Thief (Gold) and Thief II disks), there are now hundreds of fan missions available for download.

Hammerites

"The Hammer of Light" in the game are a group of religious warrior/knights, similar to the Knights Templar during the height of their power in Europe

Inspiration

Members of the design team have said that books by Umberto Eco (The Name of the Rose among others) were a big inspiration for the atmosphere and setting of the game.

Taffer

According to an interview made by the now defunct PC accelerator to project designer Steve Pearsall the word "Taffer", which many fans went to great lengths to define as some sort of long-lost "olden" word, was actually created by level designer Laura Baldwin. It was originally meant to be some sort of slang for common criminal but it evolved from that point on.

Thievery

There is a group of people working on a free Thief inspired conversion for Unreal Tournament. It can be accessed it from http://www.thieveryut.com.

Awards

  • Computer Gaming World
    • April 1999 (Issue #177) – Runner-up as Best Action Game of the Year
  • GameSpy
    • 2001 – #40 Top Game of All Time
  • GameStar (Germany)
    • Issue 12/1999 - #45 in the "100 Most Important PC Games of the Nineties" ranking
    • Issue 03/2000 - Most Innovative Game in 1999
    • Issue 12/2008 - One of the "10 Coolest Levels" (For "The Sword". It uses the player's expectations against him - instead of the usual quick burglary, it sends him on a horror trip which manages to wear out Garret's earned self-confidence.)
  • PC Gamer
    • April 2000 - #27 in the "All-Time Top 50 Games Poll" (tied with Tribes)
  • PC Player (Germany)
    • Issue 01/2000 - Best 3D Stealth Game in 1999
  • Power Play
    • Issue 02/1999 – Best Action-Adventure in 1998

Information also contributed by Jack Lightbeard, Neon Hammerite, PCGamer77, Scott Monster; WildKards and Zovni

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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by robotriot.

Additional contributors: Trixter, blade51, Zovni, Indra was here, Rantanplan, Shoddyan, sfabien, Jack Lightbeard, Havoc Crow, Ms. Tea, Kidofthecentury, Patrick Bregger, FatherJack.

Game added November 1, 1999. Last modified January 22, 2024.