Thief: A Review
We're going to start with my biggest complaint, Garrett is once again saving the
world City. Of course, because this is a reboot the last three times didn't happen, so I guess it's even. Actually, that's not actually my biggest complaint story wise, that dubious honor would have to go to our good friend the Thief-Taker General. Not only does he have the single most retarded title I think I've ever heard given in a game, but his characterization is so far over the top that by the time the writers got done introducing him on the first level you see him I couldn't take him seriously. Anyway, level by level review.
Prologue: You're introduced to Erin, the cocky thief/assassin/sidekick/trainee/whatever who's presumably a callback to the end of Thief 3 (which didn't happen in this time line, but whatever) whose incessant whining made me want to kill, despite the fact that Garrett complains about how violent she is (I kept Garrett's non-sociopathic tendencies in mind for a whole three levels, before I just wanted to finish the game so I started killing anything that moved. Anyway, before too long all my wishes were granted and she dies. But it gets even better, the cause of her death would earn her a Darwin award if she was real: she falls through a glass ceiling while some old guys are chanting around a mysterious glowing rock (of doom) to retrieve a tool she made recently. Because really, when you just told Garrett not 5 minutes ago "You should make one of these, they're pretty cheap and I got it done in a couple of days" it makes PERFECT sense to go running out onto a skylight while a dark ritual to progress (yes, at one point during the ritual the fact that it was to Progress was mentioned) is ongoing in the room underneath you.
Level 1: I'm really not all that sure why they deigned to call this a level, all it is is you running through a couple of alleys and a jewelry store to get back to your hide out.
EXPLORING THE CITY: While most of my review is going to be sticking to the story, I felt like I needed to mention this, there's windows you can crowbar open while you're exploring the City, except some of them change zones while others just let you break into someone's apartment. There's no way for you to know which ones do what until you try them, so sometimes you're on you way to the next mission and you see one of them and go "I know what I'll do, I make enough money to buy a couple of water arrows" and then BAM, loading screen. And of course the mission was in the zone you just left, so you immediately get to do a 180 and sit through the screen again. YAH!
Level 2: You hit up your friendly neighborhood fence, Basso. He complains that you've been gone for a year, of course Garrett's response to this shocking news is "Huh." Also Basso has a job for you, an old dead guy has a ring on his finger, do to the ongoing 'gloom' the City's management has decided it's safer for all the bodies to be brought to a central facility to be burnt, so the plague doesn't spread and what not, also so they can loot the corpses, but you know. ANYWAY, the old guy never took the ring off his finger, so you need to break into this corpse plant and steal it. Now at the end we meet the Thief-Taker General. He's a cripple, so he hobbles on screen with his knee brace and cane (Evil Cripple... check) and asks the guards on duty if they've checked the body of the guy you came to grave rob. The guard who had been checking him says something along the lines of "I just pulled him off the rack boss, don't look like he's got anything on him though" so the TTG walks over and checks the fingers of the dead guy, looks in his mouth pokes him a couple of times and starts complaining about how the guards aren't doing their job. (I'm sorry, but really, this is an old nobleman, not a prisoner at in-processing, that SHOULD be all you need to check if you're looking for gold.) Mr TTG then grabs a meat cleaver (useful for when the fingers start to swell up a few hours after death) and cuts open dead guy's stomach (Grave Robbing... check, mutilating a corpse... check), pulls the ring out, and shoots the guard for being incompetent (Killing underlings... check). Now writers, I understand you want use to know that he's the bad guy, but any one of those actions would've been fine (except the crippled part, there are a couple of good cripples in fiction. Like Dr X and... um... Dr X.) there is absolutely no need to lay it on this thick, ever.
Mr. TTG then locks his ill-gotten gains in his safe and heads on out. Meanwhile you break into his office, which is located right next to the incinerators so that he can smell the beautiful smell of burning humans how ever many hours he spends here a day. BUT WAIT! The moment you crack his safe he bursts back into his office and finds you. OMFG RUNZORS!!!!
Level 3: Basso takes you to meet the Rasputinesque leader of the revolution against they tyrannical leadership of the City, who was also the one that hired him to have someone procure that ring. Fun fact, he has another job for you, getting a book from some ruins. In this midst of him talking you pass out and are presented with a vision of Erin telling you to get something from her old hideout. Sure... You leave Orion, break into her place, get some crappy foreshadowing that Erin is still alive (all my dreams are shattered) complete with surreal landscapes where you move half speed and can't see two feet in front of you and head out with a weird circular thingy. Onwards to the whorehouse!
Now there's a couple options here, you can make everyone pass out by ODing on opium or you can sneak by everyone like a nonsociopath... I took the opium option, because Garrett is immune to things like passing out and choking on his own puke. Anyway, at some point in the middle of this whole operation you can peer through a keyhole where you get to see the Madame and Our Dearest Friend talking. The high points of this conversation are, the Madame is actually a transvestite and Mr TTG is fond of mixing business and pleasure. During the conversation he mentions the black tax (Extortion... check), the fact that if the Madame doesn't comply with the increased rates then her next shipment of opium might be misplaced (Drug trafficking... check) and that he likes sleeping with little girls (pedophilia... check).
Garrett proceeds to go into a collection of underground ruins that the weird circle magically opens, with a bunch of stained glass windows with the Keepers keyhole on them to grab the book Orion wanted. Of course you opening up this place didn't go unnoticed, despite the fact that everyone should be dead from an opium OD, including the dozen guards that the Dame sent down to take a look around. This of course means that the way you came in is out of the question, but look, there's a convenient tunnel that has you come out in one of the bed chambers where Our Dead Friend is currently beating a hooker (Assault... check, Hitting a women... check, most likely assaulting a minor... check) he also knocked over an oil lamp and because the hooker is an idiot that can't keep her mouth shut found out you were hiding under the bed (Arson... check). Also: OMFG RUNZORS!!!!
Level 4: Basso's pet bird comes flopping into your bachelor pad, except it's bleeding out of its chest and immediately stops moving. Probably a bad sign, I think checking on Basso would be a good idea. When you get to his place Orion is busy tearing it apart looking for the book that Basso hadn't given to him before he got picked up by the Law and put in prison (please no zombies... please no zombies...) you two have a nice game of you scratch my back I'll scratch yours, and off you go to save Basso. Of course, first things first you need to go talk to the guy that Orion said might know a way into the place. Something happens, I'm not sure what, but that plan didn't work out so instead you go and break into the manor of the architect that designed the city hall/jail/factory/Combine Citadel in the center of the City to find some plans so that you can find a weak point. Of course the city Guard are there trying to talk to this guy too, so you sneak by them and break into his library, where he hung himself. Despite the fact that there's no less than more furniture than the average American possesses in front of the doors leading into his library, the moment you have the plans for the Citadel in hand the guards miraculously make the doors go from completely shut to gaping open and spot you. Oh and: OMFG RUNZORS!!!!
At the tower you find a bunch of people rioting and loudly proclaiming that the only way to make the city better is by hanging a bunch of rich folks, and possibly hiring a French guy to invent a more efficient way of dealing with large amounts of political prisoners. (I will be honest, they don't actually say that last part. It would have made it so much more bearable if they had though...) You sneak in though an air duct that conveniently broke right in front of you, rescue Basso and decide that, since you're here anyway and the architect had a post-it note with the safe's combination on it, you might as well have crack at the vault where they keep all the treasure in the City. Everything is going swimmingly until you go to enter the second half of the combination when the Thief-Taker General barges in, shoots you in the hand and proceeds to gloat over how you're totally boned now. (Evil gloating... check)
Of course you proceed to finish breaking into the vault to find a piece of glowing rock of doom and not much else right before the building explodes around you, luckily you're in a 20' cubed vault so that they 20 story drop doesn't kill you... Yeah... At least I didn't need to run for my life twice this level.
Level 5: Some more creepy dreams and 6 days later (Garrett still hasn't changed the field dressing he slapped on the arrow hole through his hand. He should probably get that taken care of, it wouldn't do to have his whole arm rot off because he didn't keep his cuts clean. Basso isn't looking much better, the bruises on his face are still fresh. There's a few possible explanations for this: Basso took up bare knuckle boxing and Garrett has decided that stabbing himself in the hand every day is a good idea, people in this alternate reality heal 6 times as slow as real people or none the animators have ever been punched in the face. I personally feel the second option is most likely. Oh, and you get to visit the asylum that weird vision Erin told you to visit for answers. Long story short she's still alive, is being kept drugged out of her mind and also somehow turned a bunch of prisoners into monsters that look strangely like the Silence off of Doctor Who, without the fancy suits. Also the Baron is probably the one that got her out of the Asylum. On a side note, no one magically found you at the end of this mission, so no running for your life. It's the little things that make life enjoyable.
Level 6: Time for a talk with the Baron about where Erin is, and what exactly went on that night 8 days to a year ago. The level design here is actually reminiscent of earlier Thief games, with multiple legitimate paths that don't reconvene every five feet. Anyway, if you dig around some you find out that the previous Baron Northcrest was an opium addict, which might explain where the Thief-Taker General came from. A holdover from the old regime that hasn't been fired because of union regulations or some such.
When you reach the Baron and have your chat he tells you that Orion isn't the stand up guy he presents himself as (NO! REALLY?!) and is in fact Aldous Northcrest. Also he has Erin and is planning on forcibly extracting the McGuffin out of her very soul, probably killing her as a result. Personally I have no problem with this plan of action, but I'm pretty sure that I'm supposed to save her or something. Big d**n heroes, yah... The Baron shoves you back in the elevator and off you go to the Manor proper, which has conveniently been invaded by slavering hordes of French revolutionaries/commies/Orion's people. Now I really don't understand it, but they don't like you, despite the fact that you've done multiple jobs for Orion and follow a very similar dress code as them. All Garrett would have to do to blend in with them is smear some ashes on his face and then draw a couple lines across it with the blood of any of the 10 fallen guards you see in that first room. There's also the fact that I killed or knocked out all but 5 or 6 of the guards, which should have earned me a lot of brownie points.
So you sneak down to the power station they installed under the ritual chamber that was blown up at the beginning of the game and proceed to steal another piece of glowing doom stone at which point SUPRISE!!!!!! It's our favorite person in the world. Now, in my mind, there's a glaring plot hole here. How exactly did the Thief-Taker General hobble by 20 heavily armed revolutionaries? The entire city is burning and they're killing everyone with ties to the old regime, and yet he somehow waltzed on through. Anyway, he steps on your hand and gloats at how he's going to pickle your hands and mount them above his fireplace (Not learning his lesson about gloating in the past... check) during this time Garrett escapes and makes his way through the sewers until he comes out on
London Market Street Bridge, which is on fire and falling down...
Wait for it...
Level 7: You're gifted with a cut scene of the Queen of Beggars telling you that Orion killing Erin would be Bad for the City. Yes, that's Bad with a capital b. Apparently the old coot thinks that if Erin is killed with the power of the glowing stones of doom still inside of her the entire city will die a horrible death. Also Garrett's glowing eye of time slowing and highlighting interactive features of the environment is the last piece of the glowing stone of doom. Onwards to the
Underdark Undercity Tomb Raiding conveniently buried ruins that apparently form the foundation of the City. I'm only going to bring up the biggest problem with having a set of ruins this large underneath a major city: they tend to collapse. This is not to say that people don't build cities on top of old ruins, in real life or fantasy settings, but when they do it's generally common knowledge that such things exist. Garrett seems utterly clueless about the extent of them when he's taking an elevator down 8 stories underground.
So at this point I murdered my way through roughly two score of Orion's followers, those that I just knocked out I tossed over the edge of bottomless pits. I'm pretty sure any one of them that's still part of Orion's personal army has either killed an innocent or raped someone during their pillaging/burning of the City, so I'm not going to loss any sleep over it. Also I receive concrete proof that Erin was here at some point, more of the Silence are walking around. Now I feel bad about wasting those explosive arrows on groups of guards that made the mistake of clustering together. Looking on GameFaqs I find that if I had put points into my combat skills I'd be able to kill them with regular Fire arrows instead of the exploding ones, but I truthfully saw no point in this, an arrow to the face kills you pretty dead, and increasing my combat skills wouldn't make it any more deadly. Le sigh.
After killing another eight guards I make my way into a ritual chamber, where Orion is anointing his followers with the blood of
the lamb Erin. After some weird Erin vision where I apparently stole a religious symbol out of Orion's hands the Thief-Taker General shows up. I'm starting to think he installed a tracking beacon in Garrett, because there's literally no other logical explanation for this. We're at least 80 feet under ground in a room filled with people that want him dead. I doubt he's working for Orion, because the coup would've gone a lot smoother if he had been, namely the Baron would've been killed in his sleep and his long lost brother Aldous would have stepped in and become the new Baron. No need for bloodshed, and Orion could have begun his reformations in peace.
Level 8: Orion apparently was building a boat. Why? I don't know. How was he keeping this from the Baron? I don't know. The longer this game goes on the more plot points I just don't understand. Anyway, I murdered my way through the ship and played a game of tag with Erin, she turns a bunch of people into those Silence things and then my glowing stone of doom breaks into 3 pieces again. Le sigh. After playing another game of tag with Erin, where now I'm hiding and she's cheating by making it so that her tags are actually light that hurts a lot I finally collect the pieces together again at which point she gives up. Huh, I really wasn't expecting it to be that easy. I get a nice cut scene and then all of a sudden Erin falls again, and Garrett seems to think it's more important to slap the book we grabbed for Orion than help his partner. Yeah... I'm not sure I understand anything about this ending. At all.
Final Thoughts: Mechanically wise the game is decent, and the level design doesn't totally suck. Granted the levels largely are on rails with any choices you're given on paths being purely cosmetic, but unless if you're regularly restarting because you're trying to go through a level without being spotted you likely wouldn't notice that. My biggest complaint is with the plot, which makes about as much sense as a fever dream.