Last night, I finally started cracking away at Thief after much procrastination and a month-long sidetrack into Metal Gear territory. My respect for Looking Glass Studios/Irrational Games/2K Boston has increased tenfold since I first laid hands on System Shock 2 about a year ago now. Bioshock certainly impressed me, but the events with SHODAN blew me away. Now I’ve finally started one of my favorite game categories (Stealth) from roughly the same studio. I’ll spare the introduction and state that irony always seems to be doing a dance with Murphy's Law. This is not because I’m not enjoying myself with the game---no, that’s far from it. The irony is because it’s been an uphill battle to enjoy. To be fair though, I’ve only just finished the second actual mission, so there’s surely much more to come.
Luckily for you readers is that while this is a strict single player experience, the way the narrative unfolds and presents just simply doesn’t compel me to write one of my crappy story summaries. This means that these posts won’t be nearly as assy and long as my previous DFB entries...
Une ~Garrulous Garret
Something I immediately noticed is that the atmosphere of this game is highly evocative yet abrasive at the same time. It’s evocative in the sense that all the presentation around the game draws instances of silence and proficient thievery through covert means. The small stuff emphasizes this; such as the way all the art for Garret depicts him cloaked with a bow and arrow in tow. Put shortly, it nails the atmosphere required to put one in the shoes of a “taffer”. It was abrasive for me however in the manner of which Garret himself makes his way through the levels. That could be any number of things.
I’m playing Thief: Gold, so I don’t know if it’s a specific version, bugs, or just simply how the game is, but the arguable silence of the character tended to throw me off. This is because Garret actually does open his mouth at trigger points, speaking on specific contexts within the mission. I’m not too demanding, but some part of me just simply wanted to hear more reaction on his part. Even if it were simple sighs and quick profanities---I just know I was looking to connect with him more than I did and I realize it every time he talks or quips. Maybe it will happen more as the game crawls on? I certainly don’t know. Could it possibly compromise the atmosphere? Maybe…
Deux ~ Through the Eyes of a Thief
This has happened with me before and I pointed it out in the inverse situation last year during my first Guns of the Patriots craze. Specifically, I notice how poignantly I need the balance between first person and third person to be when operating in a stealth title. I highly prefer third person games, but I will need first person interaction at some point or another. The balance for the type of awareness I feed off of when playing these games is highly contingent on how much maneuverability I’m allowed from either perspective. Thief, like the other titles of its studio relation is a strict first person adventure. I have no problem with that, but it will nag me until I finish this title now. I just simply have to chalk it up to my own hang-up now. After all, it’s not the game’s fault I’m a prick in that area. My affinities are highly demanding and delicate when it comes to my favorite areas, and if I don't get my way---well have you ever tried taking a toy from a spoiled child?
The good news is that I started get in the loop of things after a while. Specifically once I calmed down on the weaponry. As tactically covert as I am in most games, I still managed to fall into the habit of wandering around with my sword drawn. Now I don’t do that at all. I either have the blackjack equipped or a strategically designed bow-shot at the ready. With how the light system works, it accompanies a fairly impressive game design that allows a visceral feel whenever I knock out one of those stupid hammerites. Any real complaints in this area aren’t real complaints at all, due to the time and resources I’m sure the developers had to fight against (see my long AI rant in the first Metal Gear DFB last month).
Trois ~ In The Loop
My first impression of the title was sandbox stealth play, but I’ve been told by numerous people now that such an impression will wane as the game carries on, so the jury is still out on that one. Speaking from the first two missions I’ve accomplished however (Lord Bafford’s Mansion & Cragsclaft Prison), I just really can’t avoid thoughts on the notion. The only things that could heavily affect this area are the placement of guards, because Thief is truly a game that does not want the player running around slashing their ass off. Most stealth titles aren’t that way really, but this game doesn’t even present the alternative of badassedry that Snake and Sam are so proficient in. This means that the player will not be allowed many instances where they’re truly “in power”, UNLESS they have the drop on their opposition from the shadows. I like that and I hope the game keeps growing on it as I make my way through it.
Once I tuned into the frequency of the game, I really came to enjoy the flow of it. The intimacy that is forced upon the player through FPV is aided by the traditional appeal for a stealth game in general. The joy that comes with knocking a guard out who didn’t know I was there is as joyous to me as it was in Guns of the Patriots a couple of weeks ago. The difference is that Garret has to carefully watch his step. Snake can pretty much kill God if he wanted to…
My closing thoughts for today are that this game is truly living up to its title. The fundamental imagery of “Thief” is actually accompanied extremely well by this title's play so far. I’m just hoping at this point that I won’t continually fall out of sync with the game due to my own personal quirks.