Thief is a stealth game. Sneaking around stealing stuff while avoiding traps, guards, dogs, birds and more.
These elements are very well implemented in a world that is both immersive and beautiful. The game mechanics are well thought out it is close to frustration free with one exception, jumping on to ropes. It is not difficult but sometimes you curse the person who thought that context sensitive controls would be a good thing.
This is a single player game, so one of the most important things is the story being told.In Thief you play Garret, a master thief. Who has just returned to the city after a years absence (a year from which he remembers nothing) and meets up with his old partner and resumes thieving, shortly however the story takes a turn. The story itself is not so impressive, but the locations the story unfolds makes you invested as they reveal more and more about themselves. This also serves as a motivation to explore more nooks and crannies. On of my favorite locations in the game is the abandoned mental institution.. finding doctors- and nurses notes, diaries reading them makes the place come alive.
So helped by the locations, environment, ambiance and the vast number of NPC dialogue you can overhear it props up the story by making you focus more on the world you are immersed in rather than solely on the story line.
However, side missions in this game feels thoroughly disconnected, there are no real interactions or responses from NPCs’ after completed jobs. And where locations in the story line are both impressive and encourages explorations, the side missions are quite the opposite. They feel unrewarding to complete (other than gold to purchase more resources, there is none) The exception to this is the pre-order/DLC bonus mission, which is massive, fun and rewarding to play through.
A note however on navigating the city, the map is close to useless (close, but not quite.) You navigate the city through a hub system traversing between these hubs via windows, alleyways and rooftops. But you only get map info on the current hub you occupy, and the info is sparse (mission location, location of main NPCs’ and two main merchants). Sparse is fine in a stealth game, but once I have discovered a merchant it would be nice if at least that would be marked on the map. What would have solved this would be to have the option to make notes on the city map yourself. But I suspect since this is a console port this would require some work on the PC side. It is also quite annoying not to have transition points between hubs/districts marked once discovered. There are also no signs other than street names. So navigating is a bit of a chore at times, but after a while you sort of figure it out.
When it comes to difficulty there is a custom difficulty setting where you can turn on / off different helpers, functions and even powers (focus) more difficult = more points in a ranking system. This is a nod to those hard core Thief fans who worried that this game would dilute the Thief franchise. This of course in addition to the standard easy – medium . hard settings.
PC port, good… very good all the options (and then some) you could wish for. Graphic options are plentiful. Only remark here is lack of Mantle Support and TrueAudio on launch. As this was one of the games demoed by AMD to have this it slightly disappointing, but this should not have a bearing on the game itself. This is only an issue if you just want a game to test Mantle and TrueAudio.
So far this is all good, mostly. I have mentioned the story being weak but supported by the locations you visit makes you not notice it, well there is two locations that falls short and makes the weak storyline shine through.
The Barons Mansion (upper):
This is an impressive looking location, and the approach (though short) and entry points are quite fun. But once you are in the mansion it becomes more of a chore to play through. It does not help that this a massive location to search (and loot) with few rewards for exploration other than collectible loot and gold. Nor does it help that after exploring most of it you must go through it again with a fresh set (even if you knocked out/killed the original ones) Even though you know the shortcuts by now it just seems like a chore.
The Old Cathedral / Pit / Hidden City:
(all viewed as one, because once you enter/approach the old cathedral you are committed unable to return to the city)
Again, the approach is short and fun, but getting in and going down the pits is quite boring, relying on the player getting entertainment from just sneaking (or killing/knocking out) past unsuspecting guard without adding anything to the story in any way (NPC conversations, environment or interactions)
And then there is the ending, I can’t say much about it without spoiling it, but it would be appropriate to compare it to Mass Effect 3’s ending (pre-DLC) it leaves much to be desired, also the last segment gameplay is boring and frustrating (not bugged or broken)
Note: My play through was on the Thief difficulty setting (medium) and took just under 20 hours to complete (some side missions completed but almost no client jobs completed)
Conclusion: Gameplay is awesome, locations vary in quality, and a weak-ish storyline… that leaves us with a stealth game where the developer seems to have thought that sneaking around in itself should be reward enough in gameplay to keep the player going.
I would not recommend buying this at full retail, wait until it is on sale on steam (or other outlet) The exception being if you are a Thief fan and just want to sneak.