Thief Review

👤by Tim Harmer Comments 📅07-03-14
Concluding Thoughts

When many fans first heard of the venerable franchises return after an absence of almost a decade they were, understandably, enthusiastic. The fact that it was developed by the same studio which brought us the excellent Deus Ex: Human Revolution was further justification to be looking forward to the release. It comes as something of a disappointment therefore that Thief is some distance from being a classic.

Graphically, the setting and atmosphere is almost pitch perfect. The City feels dank, dirty and oppressive in just the way you imagine it should. Unfortunately the implementation butts up hard against the technical limitations of either the platform or the game engine, preventing any sort of true open world feel. Loading screens are hidden behind stock 'opening window' CG or moving through a passageway strewn with barrels and logs, and no amount of repeated presses of ‘E’ can hide that fact.

Frustrating isn't the first word one should use for any game, but it does come up all too often with Thief. Despite an in-game map, navigation is at times difficult, especially around fixed watch stations rather than patrol routes. The map is only of moderate value and takes more time to bring up than it should, creating confusion when looking for alternative paths to take especially when not on a Chapter mission.

Core gameplay is where Thief begins to come into its own. The stealth mechanic is good, even if at times you’re pondering how the City Watch desperately needs to improve the vision testing portion of the entrance exam. Although you’re perhaps not being particularly ninja-like in your movements, getting past each guard in a mission feels like an achievement as you sigh with relief. Even though they can be fought off with judicious use of combat techniques, getting spotted feels like a failure state which often results in death (quibbles about being killed outside of line of site notwithstanding).

Much like the recently rebooted Tomb Raider - also published by Square Enix - the game rewards the completionist who wishes to acquire every collectable and uncover every secret. The vast majority of the game’s backstory is hinted at through documents and unique treasures found around the world which are easy to miss, potentially warranting a second playthrough or replaying selected chapters. However in this respect it often breaks the 'show, don't tell' rule of good storytelling which we see in many other classic games. Whether it’s enough to keep you playing is really down to your approach to games in general.

While Thief won’t be held up as a classic of the genre it is still a creditable game that is well worth trying if you enjoyed the original titles in the franchise. It certainly impresses us enough to make us interested in a sequel or additional story DLC. Unfortunately it doesn’t feel by any stretch of imagination to be a ‘next generation’ title due to the rigid solutions to reaching your goals and the lack of emergent gameplay.

For £30/$60 you’ll get around 14 hours of gameplay, more if you’re a completionist. The story is serviceable and keeps you interested throughout, but it’s the atmosphere and stealth gameplay which keep your attention. When played as a FPS with RPG elements it’s frankly mediocre, but if treated as a hardcore ‘if you’re spotted, you’re dead’ style game it holds some genuinely tense and chilling moments. Unfortunately these moments are too few and far between for many people’s tastes.

If primarily stealth titles such as The Last Of Us or particular elements of Deus Ex: Human Revolution are your thing you could do worse than giving Thief a look. Dense in atmosphere and with a well-realised world, the game rewards the sneak and punishes the gung-ho in equal measure. Whilst not a classic, it doesn’t disgrace its more illustrious predecessors in the franchise and in of itself justifies a continuation of the series.


+ Strong Stealth Elements
+ Engaging Plot
+ Enough collectibles to satisfy your inner magpie
+ Good graphics
+ Excellent atmosphere with some truly tense moments


- Basic AI
- Predetermined pathways
- Confusing navigation
- Sub-zone transition AKA ‘Press E repeatedly’ mechanic
- No truly original elements.

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