Thief takes place in a fictional world inspired by medieval, gothic, and steam punk styles. You play as the hero of sorts, Garrett. Garrett is a thief (of course) who has spent his entire life stealing from the rich, and we join him as he returns home to a place called The City. Yup, The City. This one fact encapsulates everything that is wrong with Thief. The game is mind-numbingly generic in almost every way. We’ll begin with the story, which has you meeting your apparent long-time friend, Erin. Early on, Erin and yourself stumble upon what looks to be some ancient ritual, and a bright white light engulfs the room. Erin has now vanished and you are left, frankly, not knowing what the hell is going on. This would be fine of course, if the game then went on to explain why you care about Erin so much, or what on Earth you’re trying to accomplish by saving her. Really, it’s not even clear whether or not saving her is actually the goal. Along the way she will appear to you embodied in the white light that took her in the first place, all the while still not really explaining why it matters. I tried as hard as I could to find a reason to care about any of the characters in this game, and I failed miserably.
Well the story is crap, but surely they make up for it with wonderful gameplay mechanics, right?! Right…? Nope! Prepare to be frustrated over and over as you attempt to stealth through levels with equipment that is so inefficient at helping you, it might as well just not be there at all. Your arsenal consists of a bow, various types of arrows, a claw for climbing, and an inventory slot for one throwable item. You also have separate slots for food (health) and poppies (Focus). I found myself almost never using the bow, as its inconsistency was almost unbearable. You have water arrows that allow you to put out torches, but some torches might be covered, or looked covered, and so you’re forced to waste an arrow to see if you’re able to put out the flame. You have standard arrows, presumably for silently
taking out enemies; except that a single arrow, even with a headshot, will not kill an enemy. What it does do however piss that enemy off, causing him to shout and alert more guards. I could go on but I feel you probably get the gist. If you’re spotted these arrows, or the small club you use as a melee attack are mostly pointless as well. It’s best to run, though you can only run for a short amount of time before your character is winded and you slow to a walk. Unfortunately for you, the guards don’t seem to have this issue, and so almost always catch up to you and kill you in two or three blows. Of course, this is a stealth game, and so the goal is to remain unseen, but no player is perfect, and most stealth game give you some way out of a jam, should you find yourself in one.
I also found the character movement frustrating. I would get spotted while crouched, and end up fighting from my knees because I would double-click the left analog stick in my hurry to defend myself from inevitably death. My character also, at various points in the game, decided to slide forward very quickly for seemingly no reason at all. I was clearly not pressing any buttons (The A button preforms a very similar action) and I could never figured out why this was happening or how to fix it, and it caused many returns to my last checkpoint, as the uncontrollable movement would land me directly in a guard’s line of sight. I did try multiple controllers to ensure that this wasn’t an issue with my controller, and that didn’t seem to help.
Lastly, there is the level design of Thief, or lack there of. You’ll find yourself in corridor after corridor, city street after city street, seeing the same setting over and over again. Every house you enter seems to have the exact same cabinets you’re able to hide in, every table has the exact same drawers you can loot from, and so on and so forth. It’s depressing and a little sad to see how little effort was put into the look of the game. From the design of the world, to its generic characters (Garrett included), to its less than stellar textures and character models. Even the frame rate has issues at times, dropping into the single digits once or twice during my hours with the game.Overall, Thief is, as my review title suggests, ordinary in almost every single way imaginable. And because its ordinariness is so blatant, and so prevalent in the game, it become frustrating and sometime down right offensive. I paid my $59.99 for this game, and what I got is a product that feels like it was given up on halfway through. There are occasional moments of hope when you’re able to make all the poorly implemented systems work just right and get through a section of the game like a stealthy badass, but even then it feels more like you’ve lucked out than implemented any sort of mastery over the games mechanics. And all of this plays out in a story that lacks any sort a heart at all. It’s disappointing to say the least, and maddening to say the most.