Critic’s Corner: Thief
The Eidos Montreal-developed reboot to the cherished Thief series is out this week. How did critics worldwide find this sneak effort?By Jonathan Toyad 26 Feb, 2014
In this new e27 games-related feature, we take a gander at various reviews from other publications about their thoughts on a particularly hot title, and whether there are similar themes to them. Think of this piece as a cheat sheet to see if the game is up your alley or not.
The announcement of a Thief reboot by the team behind Deus Ex: Human Revolution was enough to spark divided reactions among stealth action gamers. Ardent fans were iffy at the fact that no one from the original Thief series would be involved, while others were open-minded and hoping that it would wow them like the series did back in 1998. Needless to say, there were huge and impossible expectations set upon developer Eidos Montreal.
So how does it finally fare under their watch and Square Enix’s? It’s really divided, to be honest. For one or two positive critiques about the overall stealth mechanic that makes a player feel like a true prowler of the night, there are four others that thought that the reinvention was mediocre and unnecessarily trite.
Ironically, one of them mentioned that the 2011 action stealth game Dishonored did a better job at being a successor to the Thief series than Eidos’ efforts. The two major points reviewers can agree on are that the story really needed a lot of work and revisions, and that sticking to being truly stealthy is the only way to go at getting the most out of the title.
Take a look at these six reviews from international sites and notice the ups and downs graph from the fancy graphic. Scores are adjusted to fit the 1 to 100 point scale. A 5.5 is a 55, a 7 out of 10 is a 70; you can do the math.
Do keep in mind, however, that ALL of the reviews are focused on the PS4, PC and Xbox One versions of the game. There hasn’t been any word on how jarringly different they are from the PS3 and Xbox 360 iterations, though the words “lower frame rate” and “downscaled visuals” come to mind.
“Thief is best when it sticks to the involving, slow-paced stealth that made its ancestor such a tense affair. In its subtle moments, Eidos Montreal gives your creeping a sense of closeness and texture, in a game where you almost always have your nose pressed against things. Much like Garrett, Thief succeeds when it’s quiet, fingers reaching out and almost – almost – touching an irresistible spread of glittering prizes.”
“Thief has some strong stealth mechanics going for it, and getting away unseen with a big haul of loot can be an enormous challenge, but doesn’t always put that to good use. Between the hit-or-miss missions is an extremely annoying city hub map and a weak story full of bland characters, and Garrett himself isn’t as sure-footed as a master thief ought to be. Ignoring the story and cherry-picking the best side missions is the best way to approach it.”
“Indeed, Thief is a frustrating game as much as it is a disappointing one. There are glimmers of what could have been: the exquisite concept art used in the loading screens shows the care and attention that’s gone into conceptualising this dim-lit world.
At times the game suffers from a lack of ambition, placing far too much importance on the tiresome looting of endless cupboards and dressers in the vain hope that this will be enough to propel you forwards. In other places, Thief suffers from too much ambition, unable to draw its systems into a cohesive whole. Whether the game simply needed more time or entirely different foundations is never quite clear. Either way, it’s a game that adds up to less than the sum of its parts. Undeniably, Thief suffers greatly by comparison to Dishonored – its more coherent, more thoughtfully and successfully designed cousin, in whose shadow Garrett and his game now cringe.”
“As Thief seesawed up and down, my enjoyment of it followed suit. Each time I thought I might fall in love, the game doused my passions with a new annoyance. There was the bug that had me swimming in place on top of some boards I’d leapt to. (Thank goodness for reloadable checkpoints!) There were the times I scratched my head wondering why I couldn’t take cover behind one crate but could behind an identical one. (The rules of locomotion are never absolutely clear.)
But then the love affair was rekindled the moment I pinched out a candle’s flame and yanked a dowager’s earrings from her lobes unnoticed. Whether you are new to the series or cut your teeth on Thief’s particular brand of stealth when it was still novel, I’d wager your feelings will waver as often as mine did. The Thief-franchise-inspired Dishonored waves the stealth flag far more confidently than this reboot does. Garrett is not yet on his way out, but he’s been shown the door.”
“Thief is certainly a fun game to play, but not always a fresh one – the stealth feels very Dishonored-like, exploration apes the Bioshock series, and Garrett’s ‘focus’ abilities are ripped straight out of Batman: Arkham Asylum and a dozen games since.
Recycling is prominent everywhere these days, but the trouble here is that none of these elements improve upon the original mechanics. My overwhelming urge after tiptoeing through a foundry to recover an expensive ring wasn’t to try the next level, but switch off and replay Dishonored.
Truly a mixed bag, Thief binds elements of many other great games into a coherent whole yet never surpasses any of those it borrows from. It’s like a band recording an album of covers that, while decent, are neither better than the original, or even a particularly interesting twist. It’s certainly solid enough for a sneak peek — especially if you’re lingering in the next-gen release schedule lull — but this is nowhere near as groundbreaking as the series’ debut.”
“Ten years in the making, then, have not been kind to Thief. It’s a Frankengame, stitched together from the bits of other games that made attempts at sneaking-em-up in its decade of development hell. Dishonored is victim to the most obvious lifts: the city-wide plague, snarling militaristic aristos, brothel level and ‘swoop’ mechanic that lets you traverse short distances in a hurry have all been clearly Thieved from its superior implementations. But there are also strange third-person pipe-climbing segments, to remind you how far you are from playing Uncharted, and a whole roster of other FPS clichés to test the patience, including a segment where you have to spin wheels to turn off flame-spewing pipes that block the way down a corridor.
Infuriating and half-hearted as Thief is, it’ll still sell better than it should during the current drought of next-gen console games, as well as to the obsessive brigade for whom any games with a percentage of hidden collectibles act as compulsive tidying-up simulators. But it filled me, as few things in this hobby do, with a peculiar longing for the freedom of real life, where even basic sneaking, jumping and climbing can be carried out untrammelled by invisible obstacles and tedious signposting. I had more fun making my way up to bed in the dark after playing Thief than I did at any point during its benighted trudge across The City. If you come across someone else with a copy, it might be a kindness to steal it.”