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SummaryMeet Garrett, he steals from the rich and gives it... to himself!
The GoodTen years ago, I found Thief: The Dark Project lying in my local game store for a mere 5 Euros. I remember my fourteen old self being very impressed by the term the game uses to describe its gameplay. First Person Sneaker. Yup, before Thief, yours truly only knew about the First Person Shooter. I always thought games in first person were limited to this: go from point A to point B, gear up on weapons and go kill everything in your way! But since 2004, after having the pleasure of plunging through System Shock and Thief, I finally knew that First Person can be a lot more than just Shooter. And now, I still am very grateful to have stumbled upon these two games.
But enough about that little origin story. Thief takes place in a rather unique setting as it mixes medieval architecture with Victorian age technology as well as a healthy dose of magic and supernatural elements. A world filled with darkness and danger where the rich and powerful hide inside their huge villas and castles to avoid beggars, diseases and thieves like you.
You are Garrett, a thief who steals from the rich in order to prevent his ribs from meeting his spine. He is also one of the most badass video game characters I have ever seen in the wonderful medium of video games. For one, he takes on every job he can get his hands on. Nothing worth of value is safe from him, no matter if it's located in a mansion, a factory or in haunted catacombs. He steals from everyone and everything without any fear or regret, including criminal kingpins, religious fanatics, the undead and even under the divine nose of A FUCKING GOD!!!
That's right! Garrett doesn't even sheer away from stealing from deities and not only does he get away with it, but the theft even leads to the death of said god. Eat your god killing heart out, Kratos!!
Thief, like virtually every other game set in first person released in that era, is a level based game where you have total freedom of where you want to go. In order to complete the level, you have a series of objectives (primarily steal a specific object or meet a certain person) with higher difficulties giving you more and tougher objectives. Such as collecting more loot or killing no humans. Locations include city streets, mansions and more haunted places like a deserted town and mines filled with zombies, ghosts and other nasty beings.
The game puts an extremely strong emphasis on stealth and for one perfect reason. You're Garrett, a thief! No John Rambo, Gandalf or Ezio Auditore Di Firenze. Although Garrett has a sword and knows how to use it, he can only take two or three blows from a blade before going to thieves' heaven. It is vital to be patient and to remain in the shadows, avoiding all full frontal contact with enemies as most of them are stronger, faster and deadlier than you. If they suspect you to be in the area, they will search every corner and cranny for you, turning their heads all the time and keeping their weapons ready. And if they find you, they will run after you like crazy and causing other guards to join for dinner with you serving as the main course! Your only chance of survival? RUN! Run your ass off and pray to the gods that you will find a hiding spot in time and pray even more that they have lost track of you! And in case you do manage to sufficiently damage a guard (damn, lucky you!) he will run for back up.
One of the aspects I love the most about Thief: The Dark Project is its level design. Every level is huge and has lots of secrets and the attention to detail is astonishing. Walk through the first level's mansion and hear guards chat about trivial stuff like bear fights, the closure of a prison or other plain gossip. Enter the kitchen, steal the freshly made bread and apples (and eat them for health) and read a complaint from the butler about the food's quality. Does it matter to you or the game's plot? No, but it does add a lot in creating a deep, engaging world that is a true joy to explore. You also have a map, but unlike in most other games. The map is just a still image with the part of the map you are now in highlighted in blue. This is a great idea in my opinion, since it forces you to orientate and remember your surroundings rather than just relying on all fully detailed map as in most games.
Another aspect in which Thief shines, is in its atmosphere. The music and sound effects are phenomenal and give the game a dark, brooding and at times very unsettling feel. The music is very ambient, slow and can be ether relaxing and soothing or dark and threatening. In addition, you better keep your ears wide open for incoming footsteps and humming knights standing guard. You know, the last time I felt that sense of danger and tension was when playing DOOM during my childhood. When you go through all these dark and dangerous places, you cannot help but feel that you have just entered a place you are not supposed to be. You constantly feel on edge, wondering if that particular door in front of you either contains loot or a ferocious guard, ready to cut you in half!
As mentioned earlier, sound plays a vital part in this game. As it allows you to eavesdrop on conversations and to listen to the footsteps of nearby security. But be careful, as sound can be as great a foe to you as it is a friend. Not every surface you will walk over is a grassy lawn or a soft carpet. Run over marble or steel and you will make as much noise as Lemmy from Motörhead makes while playing Ace of Spades! Yes, they will hear you coming from the other side of the god damn planet.
So in order to be as discreet as possible, Garrett has a nice arsenal of equipment such as a blackjack and a bow with various types of arrows. These include traditional steel tipped arrows, water arrows to extinguish torches, moss arrows to soften all hard and noisy surfaces and noise arrows for distracting enemies. Between missions, you can use the loot from your previous adventure in order to buy all these fancy tools. However, you only have a limited budget to spend so you better think ahead. No try before you buy!
The BadI found that the game's level design tends to become more sluggish as the game moves on. Maybe it is because supernatural elements begin to take over when you have gone past the first half of the game. Replacing earthly settings with dungeons and plant filled caves and switching human guards with ratmen, swarms of flies and other fantasy stuff. I personally think that a game called Thief should involve more traditional thieving. Or to tell it in Garrett's own words: "break into a guarded mansion, steal a fat nobleman's priceless treasure and leave quietly."
The following point is not a bad thing per se, but keep in mind that this is a whole different ball game than you may be used to from first person games. It is not a fast-paced shooter or a dungeon crawling RPG. It is a stealth game where patience, meticulous planning and perfect timing is essential in order to fully enjoy this game. If you managed to adapt your play style to this genre, you will certainly enjoy Thief as it is meant to be!