Despite recently acquiring Thief Gold on Steam, I’ve never yet played any of the Thief games. But I immensely enjoyed Dishonored (see my earlier piece on why it was such a revelation to this stealth-averse player), a game that pays significant homage to the innovative qualities of its predecessor that pushed Thief into cult-series status. The franchise is now set for a 2014 cross-gen reboot – bringing steampunk protagonist Garrett’s thieving to a new generation.
Given the maximized capabilities of ending-gen hardware, as well as the promised scope and power of the incoming next generation of consoles, this new Thief title will have real muscle behind its re-imagining, and forums are already buzzing with both anticipation and curiosity regarding what classic standards and fresh ideas Eidos Montreal will bring to the project.
As it was in Dishonored, and thus as it was in Thief before that, stealth will remain the central conceit of the gameplay. Combat is discouraged and more difficult by design; after all, Thief’s protagonist is interested in taking people’s valuables, not their lives. As such, the new game will feature the option to complete the entire story without the need to end one single life. Also expected to return are environmental elements like the use of sound – such as footsteps, the scrape of steel on stone or the twang of a bowstring – to create dynamic threats to players. Everything from the alertness of guards and their response to noise, to the shadows that aid in Garrett’s concealment when the player extinguishes a light source to reshape a sneaking route, will work in concert to open up gameplay options and provide players with multiple paths through, to and over obstacles and past guards intent on doing your creeping thief harm.
With today’s advanced AI programming helping to create responsive enemies responding with realistic reactions to disruptions in the environment, and more robust options for stealth tactics used by gamers to loot and ghost through levels, now seems a good time for a reboot, if my own post-Dishonored interest in a series that was never on my radar is any indication. Any gamer newly interested in a great stealth title with deep emergent gameplay allowing for a variety of play styles may find much to like in a great new entry in the Thief compendium.
Building on exciting mechanics polished by Dishonored’s own clever tributes to the original Thief could mark a triumphant transition into a new chapter in Garrett’s tale. With the stealth genre’s boundaries being pushed hard to increase immersion while enhancing player choice, gamers’ pulses could race upon enjoying the final results. But one thing is clear: the last thing fans want is too great a divergence from Thief’s roots – for the series to beguile new fans, the developers must be willing to take risks while remaining committed to the core of what makes the Thief series so beloved and respected: the imaginative thinking that stole fans’ hearts.