Is ‘Thief’ An Elegant Heist Or A Smash-And-Grab?

Thief, formerly Thi4f, has been in the works for years now. And if there’s a studio that could get it right, in theory, it’s Eidos Montreal. It revived Deus Ex with the superb Deus Ex: Human Revolution, after all, so this is old hat for them. Unfortunately, while Thief is good, it’s not quite as successful as one would hope.

First, to anticipate the complaints, turn off Focus mode and crank the difficulty, and essentially, you’ve got a solid Thief game, the way you remember it from a decade ago. Maybe a lesser entry in the franchise, but it’s essentially the game you remember; solve the puzzle to heist the loot and escape.

And there are, to be honest, more than a few parallels between this game and Dishonored, especially on lower difficulty. Garrett has a new, useful ability to quickly dart between hiding places that feels a bit like a watered-down version of the Blink ability. Combat, should you get involved in it, is essentially tapping shoulder buttons, but is a bad idea to get involved in in the first place. It all feels very much like a snack to tide you over until Dishonored 2 finally comes along, especially on the lower difficulties where killing a guard or knocking out a civilian doesn’t mean you get an instant game over.

There are also, alas, more than a few signs the game was rushed, especially around enemy AI. Unless you’re on the highest difficulty, the guards are practically deaf, and if they’re not idiots, they’re glitching out. Need to get away from a chase? Just jimmy open a window; starting the animation immediately stops them in their tracks. That this was a race to the finish is hinted at all over the place; for some reason, the game has the same lines read differently by different actors instead of unique dialogue.

The game is also oversimplified in some ways. There’s a generic “action” button instead of a jump button, rope arrows only work on specifically marked points, and the game has a hub-world-and-dungeon design that makes the main quests overly linear. To be fair, the lack of a jump button means there are no annoying first-person platforming sections, so that’s welcome, but a bit more freedom would have been nice. Oddly, little of the main story is actually focused on stealing things, which you’d think would be Garrett’s sole motivation. There’s some piffle about a dead apprentice and magic and robots and a corrupt baron that’s barely worth paying attention to, as bizarrely goofy as it is.

The best is really when you’re in the hub, screwing around, listening to conversations, and going on thieving sidequests to snag collectibles and loot, of which there are a lot. It frankly wouldn’t be surprising to discover the game was originally intended to be just the hub world, an open-ended game where the idea is to rob the city blind.

That would be an amazing game; hopefully, Square Enix gives Eidos the chance to make it. As it is, this has a lot of meat to it, albeit it’s not the choicest of cuts; if you’re looking for a stealth game or something to tide you over until March’s packed schedule, this should fit the bill, although you may want to wait for a few bug fixes.

Thief is available for PS3, Xbox 360, PS4, Xbox One, and PC; this content is based on the PS3 version.