This year at NYCC, Square Enix was allowing some hands-on time with their upcoming reboot of the Thief franchise, due out for PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Xbox 360 on February 25, 2014 in North America and February 28 in Europe and PAL territories. Garrett’s back and hoping to lure new fans into his world with the series’ trademark stealth and hunting gameplay. Find out what I thought of my time in his world after the jump!
My first impression was that the graphics were very monochromatic. There are spots of light and color here and there in the world, but you pretty much want to stay away from those. Garrett lives in the shadows. He’s likely to die in the light! But while the game world is very monochrome, it is still incredibly detailed and very well-rendered. Although for the purposes of this demo, they laid out tons of extra random loot just sitting around that obviously wouldn’t be hanging around in the final game. It’s kind of unlikely that those gold coins would still be sitting there on top of that crate next to those two street urchins!
As you sneak around and steal things, your focus power is very helpful. It will highlight stealable/interactive items in the environment, as well as enemies. And you can even track guards from around a corner by activating your focus power, as you can “see” their footfalls to pinpoint their location. And you’re going to want to avoid the guards, because while you might be able to easily take care of one, and maybe two if you’re lucky, three or more guards is pretty much a death sentence, and you’re going to want to hightail it out of wherever you happen to be when you get caught. You use the left trigger to activate a “free run” mode where you will automatically climb and jump to the next platform. There are also things like grates that are highlighted blue so you know you can use them for a climbing boost. Keep an eye out for those!
During my playtime, I found myself rather distracted with exploring, and I ended up stealing all kinds of random loot as I wandered the rooftops and back alleys. I also encountered a couple windows that I jimmied open and a door where I was able to pick the lock. Eventually I realized I should probably go meet this guy to complete my actual mission, but I had trouble locating him because the indicator on my map was pointing to a place that wasn’t actually on my map. Turns out during one of my looting binges, I’d stumbled across a sidequest which I’d accidentally activated. Once I went into my map and returned to my main quest, the location of my goal was back on the map. I just needed to make sure that I stuck to working my way past the guards to my goal and not get distracted by breaking into more random houses!
Also at one point, I found myself on a rafter above a couple of guards making their rounds. I waited until the first passed under me, then jumped down to do an impressive takedown on the second. Luckily, the AI was so dim that the first guy had no idea I’d taken out his compatriot, and I was able to even sneak up on him. I was hoping to do some kind of stealth attack, but he turned around and it turned into a regular brawl. Luckily, as I said, one-on-one, it’s easy enough to take ‘em out.
I did one more mission where I retrieved a painting, and this is where I found the environments a little awkward. See, instead of there being one path to a goal, the environment is open enough that you can work your way towards it how you see fit. But I was annoyed that in order to climb, you have to use a rope arrow, and those are limited. I guess I was spoiled by the Batman games where you can use your grappling hook to easily pull yourself up to great heights. Unfortunately, while I guess it’s more realistic, it’s a lot less fun to have to shoot a rope arrow up at a girder and then climb up to safety… especially when you’re trying to get away from guards! (Although you do get a nice variety of arrows, some that stun, some the kill, others that light or put out fires…) It can also be awkward judging distances, leading to a jump that you think will take you to the next rooftop or platform but instead lands you on the ground in the path of guards, or even worse, dead.
I could have done the other missions and stolen those treasures, but it was just a demo, and I’d already wasted enough time stealing random stuff anyway. But as you progress through the game, your clock tower hideout fills up with displays of all the treasure you’ve accumulated. So that’ll be nice to see later in the game. I was quite impressed with what I did see of Thief, and am looking forward to playing the full game. Even if I know I’m going to get sidetracked stealing from random houses instead of doing the actual missions!