Published on May 6th, 2013 | by Michaela Buckley0
Back in the day, well 1998, Eidos wasn’t owned by Square Enix and they released a game called Thief: The Dark Project, it was developed by Looking Glass Studio a year before they made System Shock 2.
Thief is a stealth game and was released the same year as Metal Gear Solid, except it is a first-person style melée and is exclusive to PC. It was the first ever game to use light as part of the stealth mechanic.
You play as Garrett a hardened thief that was trained by a master. He uses his talent to earn money by stealing from the local crime syndicate, the neutral Keeper faction and 2 religious orders called the Pagans and the Hammerites.
The game is level based, when the level is completed the stats for that level are shown and you are able to buy items before going to the next level, being a PC game you can save whenever, which is handy for when you wish to attempt something risky.
Using sound, lights and your enemies positions the aim of every level is to complete all of your mission objectives, which usually comprise of retrieving an artifact.
Combat is difficult, making it easier to avoid enemies than take them on. You have a sword and a bow at your disposal, but you can also knock enemies out with the blackjack, a large club, when the enemy is not alerted to your presence. You can also steal items that appear on enemies’ belts if you are sneaky enough or you could just nick ’em when they’re unconscious.
There is also a large variety of items, including different kinds of arrows, such as the rope arrow which allows you to shoot at a ceiling and attach a rope in order to climb, there are also water and fire arrows for extinguishing and setting alight light sources and the moss arrow which plants a soft bedding on the floor to dampen noise, there are also normal bombs and gas bombs which can knock out enemies in a radius and there are also health and speed potions.
The level design is usually based around a building, or some sort of navigation (usually caverns) to an area, where you will need to pilfer the mission objective, the platforming and puzzles reminded me a little of early Tomb Raider games and the missions themselves of Goldeneye.
As you make your way around levels you will find doors that are locked, which can be unlocked by finding the key or sometimes they are able to be picked using the lockpicks. This is done by approaching the door and equipping one of the two lockpicks and using it on the door, if the door is being picked then it shakes and the handle moves and if not, you have to try the other lockpick. Some doors need to be half picked by one then switch over to the other to finish the job.
You can also find items some of which are useful for the inventory and others which are worth money. In every level there is a finite amount of stuff to steal which adds to your purse for buying items for the next level, however the gold you obtain doesn’t seem to carry over beyond the next mission, so it’s always worth spending all of the gold you can for missions.
The game is set in a medieval looking world which also uses steam technology, magic and electricity, you are able to read a little bit about the world from various notes that are found around levels, a bit like in Elder Scrolls.
The enemies are what really make this game, it is lauded for its advanced AI for the time and you can see why, the enemies have fairly advanced patrol patterns and somewhat interact with one another and can become alerted if they spot one of their colleagues dead or lying knocked out, meaning you have to hide the bodies. Sometimes when you approach a set of enemies you can listen into their conversation which is sometimes helpful for your mission and other times can just be great background information for the world or even just be rather amusing banter between two terrible voice actors.
When enemies are patrolling you have to be very careful about the environment to make sure that you don’t arouse their suspicion. When a guard is looking for the source of a sound or if they spot you, they can call other guards and it can take a while for them to go back to patrol mode, when they do, they don’t go back to where they were, instead just operating in a new area, acting different to before. This can make the game quite unpredictable and is a great example of early emergent gameplay.
Changing the difficulty makes the AI harder and also adds more mission objectives such as finding extra artefacts, requiring you to not harm the innocents, get spotted or just collect more loot.
The game is extremely advanced for its time, but not everything is peachy, the game was extremely glitchy on the Steam version of Thief:Gold, crouching would make Garrett unable to run and sometimes the game would be forever locked walking forwards, which in a game where you have to be quiet and still. is rather distracting.
In the end I had to play a GOG.com version which has slightly enhanced graphics and better control mapping, however, this still isn’t entirely perfect as drawbridges don’t seem to work and also it’s impossible to take pictures of me playing the game as there isn’t a client and the print screen function doesn’t work in-game, hence these shoddy pictures.
The level design is really complex and almost constitutes as an adventure by the size of the maps alone, once I got the controls working properly they were really tight and the story and world is intriguing and well executed, overall most of the game is nicely rounded with only the pacing of the extra Thief: Gold levels letting it down.
This is one of the best stealth games ever made and a good bit of fun if you’re a fan of old PC games.
It can be rather frustrating but it’s worth it in the end, even if you end up doing your first ever level skip in a game due to a bloody bug.