I don’t likes this.
So after waiting for almost ten years after the actually quite good Thief Deadly Shadows for another game in the series – honestly though, I’d given up hope after the original minds behind the series disbanded – it’s actually here.
I cannot write up a real review, since my PC isn’t up-to-date enough to play the game in any playable framerate. That will have to wait until I either upgrade or the PC port gets some performance patches. I expected it to be difficult for my rig to bear, after seeing the screenshots. Graphically speaking, Thief has taken the leap into the next generation hardware for me. I had hoped though that I’d be okay, since Deus Ex Human Revolution and Tomb Raider (both made by Eidos Montreal) had performed without hitch, as well as BioShock Infinite and Dishonored.
So I reluctantly started up the game, with stuttering and low details and all, and decided to at least check out the early stages of the game. There was a lot of discussion and fear mongering going on before the game, a lot of doubts over the direction the team is taking with the franchise (ugh, how I hate this word), but of course final judgement would be made when the game was actually out. After all, hadn’t Eidos Montreal proved with Deus Ex Human Revolution already that they’re able to reanimate a beloved franchise in the Immersive Sim genre?
But alas, Eidos Montreal is not our modern Ion Storm, and much less a modern Looking Glass Studios, and from what I could tell in the opening two hours or so is that “I don’t likes this”. A few thoughts:
Garret’s new look is ridiculous
I can only think that this is the product of design-by-current-trends. After shit like Twilight, of course Garret would be readjusted to fit the sensibilities of the young generation. Fat, dark eye shadow contrasting against a disturbingly pale complexion would define Garret’s new looks. He isn’t actually an “emo” personality wise thankfully, as he still has got a demeanor that communicates a certain cynicism and experience and pride in his craft, but still the bad impression remains. Garret should be a character to slip into, who would comment on things occasionally. In this new Thief though, he seems styled to be some kind of hero-against-his-will, entangled into a tired story with ancient evils and the like. He gets too much screen time.
If you want to make a movie, then don’t make games
Sigh. This game comes off as Thief by way of Call of Duty, with linear progression and canned bits of environment to traverse. There is exposition heaped on you, poking you all the time “LOOK HERE!”, even prompting you to press a button to automatically adjust the camera to the scripted event the game wants you to pay attention to because damnit, they’ve worked many hours on making these cinematic scripted events. I can understand the desire to include bits like this, but when you’re going to do stuff like this, take an example of Half-Life 2. At least Valve knew how to direct player attention with subtle visual cues, and not by the very literal approach of “PRESS THIS BUTTON TO WATCH SEQUENCE” that Thief goes for. I think this is simply lazy and uninspired design.
I couldn’t shake the feeling that Eidos Montreal has created this very detailed city environment simply for a stunning backdrop so that they can tell their lame story and create the illusion that you’re a badass rogue. The place looks very atmospheric, and there’s SO much detail. But Thief isn’t about visual splendor. It’s about sneaking in large environments and accomplishing tasks in creative ways, with the tools at your disposal. There is a certain clarity of vision there, where it’s clear that it’s all about spaces and loot to collect. In the new Thief, the philosophy of level design seems to be to offer a few very deliberately designed ways to your goals, with little room for creativity all set against a very pretty background. The fact that rope arrows used to work for any wooden surface (of which there are naturally many) and now only work on arbitrarily dedicated hotspots shows a regression in game design to allow for a more canned and designer-dictated experience.
Since these are just some first impressions, I will give the game some benefit of the doubt. After all, Tomb Raider opened up at some point after a very linear beginning and the game came into its own then. If Thief can do the same and actually deliver some sprawling, open levels to experiment in, that’d be great. Many things point though that this is a Thief game with a much different direction as the originals. The final destination might be a worthwhile one, so let’s hope that’s the case.