Have you ever had that dream where you've got too much 'stuff'? No? Well, here's what happens: Desperate to get somewhere on time, your dream self is constantly thwarted in his/her goal of reaching the intended destination because you simply can't pack away all the things you have. No matter how well you do, more items keep appearing, piling up everywhere, nonsensical, surreal, outrageous. The sheer volume of things that need to be attended to weigh you down, exhaust you, become all you think about, ruining best laid plans. You never feel like you're getting anywhere, despite your best efforts.

It's the same with Thief. There's simply too much stuff – valuables, in particular – littering the place, and it impacts on what the game is trying to achieve. Much like Bioshock Infinite, Eidos Montreal's reboot of the classic PC stealth series has coins, gold wine glasses, and pretty much anything else that can be AU-plated laying around everywhere. After playing for about an hour, you won't be able to go through a level without fretting about nicking yet more trinkets.

As Garrett, your mind should be on stalking rooftops, finding back alleys that grant easier access to a target building, using water arrows and other tools to put out fires and get the drop on any guards. Instead, you're constantly picking stuff up. Which would be fine, if your light-fingered antics were constrained to half-inching valuables from places you'd expect them to be. This isn't the case, and the sheer amount of loot to be found on the streets of Thief's world runs contrary to pretty much every other element of established fiction in the game.

Like in Infinite, Thief's world – a Victorian city cowering in near-constant midnight – is at war with itself, as an imperial upper-class seeks to keep its boot on the neck of the poor in order to strengthen its own position. The toffs do this for all the usual reasons – power, money, strengthening their hold on the supply of cravats – but also because there's a mysterious disease - 'the gloom' - that is slowly but surely killing most of the city's residents, with no discrimination paid for bank balances.

As such, a lot of the city is quarantined, left to rot along with its denizens. In fairness, the developer has captured this despair well: the constant darkness is both a friend and an oppressor, and NPCs beg for money or moan that they are starving.

So it's sad to say that despite these efforts, for some reason there are whacking great amounts of gold everywhere, which has the unfortunate effect of pulling you out of the game. Adrian Chmielarz's excellent point about trinket collecting in the opening of Bioshock Infinite is just as relevant here as it was when used to examine Irrational's failings. Soon, instead of getting lost in the world, you'll be lost looking under tables and by bins. Too much stuff.

It's a shame, because there are moments when playing as Garrett does make you feel like the titular thief. Jimmying windows, feeling around the frames of paintings for hidden switches, picking locks: the game has a tactile quality that plants you in its world. Sneaking into people's houses and ransacking the joint quietly and methodically will, at first, make you feel more villainous and calculating than Dick Dastardly playing Blofeld in a production of Bond where the bad guys actually win. It controls well, too, and navigating Garrett is a joy: the 'swoop' button enables players to dart between cover quickly and easily, and the AI doesn't seem to possess the superhuman senses that their equivalents in other games do.

Again, however, this good work isn't being made to pay off as it should. Frankly, Thief is boring. For all of its plus points – and there are a fair few – it feels like something is missing. Just what that something is isn't difficult to discern, either. There's no getting away from the fact that Thief looks and plays like Dishonored, minus the interesting story, diverse world, and enjoyable powers that game boasted.

Not that Thief should have a similar magic system, of course. But it should have either an intriguing narrative for players to follow, or a huge, varied world for them to sneak around in. After playing four and half hours of the game, it had neither.

I never had the impression I was in the middle of a huge civil uprising, as the game kept reminding me I was as it dragged me from one cutscene to another. And when I broke from the main story to sneak about and take on some side missions, the thrill of sneaking into apartments and nicking wedding rings and the like soon grew old. There wasn't enough variety in either the environments or the task at hand: I never felt that I was taking on a huge, multi-part heist, nor did it ever seem that I'd get to creep around in aesthetically or architecturally interesting locales.

Nearly five hours in, this isn't a good sign. I liked what I played of Thief previously, hoping it would build into something bigger and better. It's a game that encourages proper stealth: Garrett is so weak in combat, and the mechanics themselves so shoddy, that 'going loud' is never really an option. When the game comes together, and you're using fire arrows to put out lights before swooping past a set of guards and then breaking into houses, leaving without disturbing a single person, Thief shines.

Sadly, it doesn't look to have sustained this level of play. It's not bad, at all, just rather bland. A potential shame.

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justerthought's Avatar

justerthought

I just cannot agree with this article at all. Too much stuff is good. Barren is lifeless. If you enjoy collecting, fill your boots. If you don't just leave it and follow the story. Non-one is going to come knocking on your door saying you missed something.

Far Cry 3 hit the jackpot when they copied Skyrim and littered the place with stuff to do and things to collect. Players found it extremely additive to be constantly sidetracked not wanting to miss something. I'm playing Bioshock Infinite right now and I'm collecting everything, but loving it.

I can see the point about starving people everywhere in a world with vast amounts of gold to steal. But games have always required you to buy into various anomalies. All I can say is just pretend the stuff is well guarded and only a bad ass like yourself has the skill to steal it. Whatever turns you on.

I'm quite excited by the game. My only concern so far is the bland brown colour palette. I had hoped all the next gen lighting systems would give us full colour natural lighting. I'm not keen on the always midnight gameplay. I always use to wait until daytime before doing a stealth assault in Far Cry 3 and Skyrim. It was just more fun and visually superior. Games that have a limited colour palette and night time visuals, usually have something to hide. Black shadows can hide a lot of graphical glitches like the old fog trick in older games than had a shallow draw distance.
Posted 21:18 on 14 February 2014
WilliamJames's Avatar

WilliamJames

Complaining that there's too much stuff to steal in a game called thief is a stupid and redundant. Also, Garret's weakness in combat is deliberate since the emphasis is on stealth. Why take your unfounded, irrational dislike of a game you played for a few hours and put it into a highly subjective article? Oh yeah, to get some traffic, great. I can't wait for this game.
Posted 03:16 on 01 February 2014
Grammartron's Avatar

Grammartron@ RichRomano1

Do you have names of sites? Interested to know where exactly you're reading these previews..... not found a one yet that doesn't mention specific problems with story, mechanics and/or gameplay. Obviously this is still at preview stage, so usual caveats do apply, but preview code for this game is a 4 hour section, so at this stage you can only assume it's pretty representative of a game that's out in a month.

Yes I did watch their TLoU videos. You've just reiterated exactly what I've said. Their first impressions were wrong, and based on a particular (fairly short) section of the game. They then apologised as soon as the bigger picture was clear. Not 'poisoning the well' to sound authentic as you so delightfully put it.. if anything Sony put out a slightly misleading section of the game to act as preview, an opinion I've heard voiced by other reviewers since too.

If that's your opinion of VG's previews as a whole (and it is of course your right to have that opinion), it does seem to beg the question..... why are you here?
Posted 11:50 on 28 January 2014
essex1212's Avatar

essex1212

Adding an achievement for finishing the game in 15hrs or more is annoying. Hope that one doesn't catch on, it's bad enough that some can dictate how people play the game, nevermind if the game is bad and you want to get it over with.
Posted 11:01 on 28 January 2014
RichRomano1's Avatar

RichRomano1@ Grammartron

Did you watch that video re: Last of Us? They sounded the alarm and had to explain that their first impressions were utterly wrong.

They're doing the same thing here. It's poisoning the well to sound authentic.

I've seen other previews that don't mention any specific "problems" -- they suggest that the game isn't released yet and as such the preview can never represent a fair review. VG's previews are often hysterical and over-the-top.
Posted 21:22 on 27 January 2014
Clockpunk's Avatar

Clockpunk

Just started playing through the Dishonored DLC, and I must say - Thief certainly has a lot to live up to.

The achievements leaked over the weekend, and it seems there are rewards for stealing full sets of collectibles - which I like the sound of.
Posted 13:54 on 27 January 2014
Grammartron's Avatar

Grammartron@ RichRomano1

RichRomano1: Don't know where you're looking mate, but I've read 6 or 7 previews of this game and they all call out similar problems, as well as other issues with mechanics and narrative. Bottom line, it's got issues.

Simon was also very quick to point out how wrong he'd been about The Last Of Us once he'd got to play more of the game. If you remember.
Posted 09:30 on 27 January 2014
tarantella's Avatar

tarantella

I loved Thief II. I don't really get the complaint about there being too much stuff around to grab - the older Thief games had loads of loots sitting around too, though some of it was hard to find. As for story, the first two games had some really goddamn good story. Did they just screw up this time?

I'm still buying this game. If it sucks, I'll be sad, but I have to go for a new Thief game after ten years of waiting.
Posted 02:39 on 27 January 2014
Victim's Avatar

Victim

What's a buck? Is that some sort of male deer? What the hell would I do with 75 male deers an hour? Where would I put them all? I mean I appreciate your advice and taking the time to share it with us but unless you can give me storage options for all these bucks, I'm afraid I will have to decline your offer.
Posted 01:45 on 25 January 2014
RichRomano1's Avatar

RichRomano1

Let's not forget that this is the same site that gave Last of Us a poor preview because of "planks" and "planks." How did that turn out?

Here's my advice: play the game, read other reviews, return to this preview and laugh. Rinse and repeat for all other games that VG previews.
Posted 21:49 on 24 January 2014
Clockpunk's Avatar

Clockpunk

Hmmm... I'd like it if the loot collecting were truly worked into the gameplay, i.e. you can only carry so much, so go for the most valuable, or take those things that you would like in a dynamically generated stash if your safe spots. The values attained could be worked into a competetive leaderboard, and even form the basis of challenges (forcing players to truly explore for the more valuable items).

That is what I would like to see.
Posted 15:02 on 24 January 2014
BombaLuigi's Avatar

BombaLuigi

I was never sure If I want this Game or not. Reading your impression dosn't make it easier to decide ^^
Posted 14:10 on 24 January 2014

Game Stats

Release Date: 28/02/2014
Developer: Eidos Montreal
Publisher: Square Enix
Genre: Stealth
Rating: PEGI 18+
Site Rank: 765 87
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