Thief Preview - E3 2013
Garrett returns in this modern interpretation of the stealth franchise
Can a stealth-focused franchise return to glory in an age of action shooters? That’s the challenge facing the team at Eidos Montreal, who have unveiled their plans to bring back Thief, with a self-titled entry into the long running franchise. We had a chance to check out a PS4 demo of the game during this year’s E3, hosted by two level designers.
Players will once again control series protagonist Garrett, a master thief, as he intends to steal from the rich – in our case, from the Baron who oppresses the city. The demo took place about halfway into the story mode, as Garrett aims to steal a family heirloom from the tyrant. This man’s actions have been so distasteful that the citizens themselves have ignited revolts – preoccupying some of the attention of the guards.
Much as before, Thief aims to stay true to the mechanics that made it a popular classic in the first place. Stealth, multiple progression paths, choices of weapons both of lethal and non-lethal variety are all present. As we entered the mansion grounds, we heard guards in the distance and ducked into shadows; the game presents a visual screen effect when concealed, providing a clear indicator of when it’s safe to move. Sound is also important, so running is best left for emergencies and traversing grass is preferable to water. Garrett moves swiftly through the environments, using a hook-like device to help him climb onto objects and a special weave/swooping motion to quickly pass through tricky areas.
Upon encountering some guards, our thief used his Focus ability to aim his bow more accurately and make the shot. Garrett has a few arrow types at his disposal, from fire to blunt and finally rope arrows. Later, Focus was used to reveal intractable objects in the environment, highlight guard footsteps through walls, and make lock picking faster. This ability can be replenished by consumables (collecting flowers), while health is restored by collecting fruits. After sneaking through the gardens, we had to turn off the fountain water in order to reveal a hidden entrance – just one of many paths through the level. This altered the guards who began searching the area, but staying on high ground we managed to avoid them.
We continued inside the mansion now, again using Focus to avoid guards and pick locks, until reaching a secret room entrance. A guard did spot us and engaged in a first fight, where Focus ability came into play again and helped us end the fight quickly by landing a critical punch. Feeling around the outside of a painting as a minigame of sorts, we hit the hidden button and opened the passage way. Here lay a tomb with the artifact inside. To open it, however, required a special combination on the rotatable columns. To get a hint, we had to peek inside the crack on the side of the tomb to reveal the combination. With the heirloom in hand, we used a rope arrow to escape through the ceiling.
Things were getting out of hand outside, however. With riots in full force, it was a good idea to flee, but in order to do so we had to cross a fiery, collapsing bridge structure. Using a variety of platforming – which goes into third person mode when faced with an extended climb – and narrowly avoiding the debris and fire, we managed to escape. It was an action-heavy sequence, likely to be enjoyed by players who prefer some variety after stealthing for a while.
From what we’ve seen at the demo, Thief has implemented a number of gameplay elements that fans of stealth action will enjoy; perhaps similar to Dishonored but without the magic and with more stealth-focused mechanics. The elements seem in place to create a fun modern interpretation of the franchise, and early in development the game looked good and seemingly fun to play. Look for Thief to steal your gaming time on PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 in 2014.