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Old 11-05-2009, 04:44 PM   #1
FalloutMazza
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Please rate this review: Thief The Dark Project

EDIT: Some douchebag systematically rated all of the reviews I uploaded 1*. I know this because I rated them 5 star (ever heard the story about the guy who's petition failed because he didn't sign it) and after another rating it came to three. So if you are going to rate it, actually appreciate the hard work that goes into this.



Thief The Dark Project

High enthralling plot

LOW No dual/quad core compatibility

WTF There is some craaazy stuff in this plot

The now defunct Looking Glass studios have developed some of the industries finest games; System Shock 2, Ultima Underworld, and the very first Command and Conquer to name a few. But, perhaps, the most noteworthy and indeed influential game amongst their resume is Thief the Dark Project.
The birth of the first person stealth/action genre can literally and unequivocally be attributed to the release of Thief, as it is the first none shooter game to take place in the first person medium, and it’s innovations have been emulated over and over throughout the years, with many subsequent games yearning to become the next Thief.

What made The Dark Project such a stand out title can be partly credited to the AI model.
Enemies investigate noises, recognise bodies and blood stains, retreat and alert their fellows when wounded, deduce your location by sound, spot you in light and pass you in shadows, communicate to each other at length and they play out investigative characteristics, meaning suspicious noises will alert them, and they’ll play out script whereby they start scouring the area.

When you’re not facing humans, you’ll find yourself against a huge roster of diverse creatures that have utterly separate behaviour patterns. Buricks, for example, emit emergency screeches if they see you, so you have to kill them from afar, or sneak past them, or the suitably corpse like zombies who constantly revive unless you kill them with holy water.

These accumulative qualities mean you’re not up against enemies who have more health, or do stupid amounts of damage, but are actually smart, and that’s a feeling that few games manage to convey, and the constant adaption to different enemy types keeps things from stagnating.

Thief’s story is set within a steam punk universe, and you play as a master thief called Garret who lives in a city, known only as, well...The City. Garret finds himself entangled into a web of epic events, and the plot throws twist after twist at you. The story is good, but it’s the devices used to convey the narrative, as opposed to the narrative itself that make it so engrossing. There are pre-rendered cut scenes, mission briefings, comments from the main character; npc’s whom you can eavesdrop on, visual clues in the environment, and primarily through documents which you can read during missions.

These documents are comparable to FEAR 2’s text logs, but unlike FEAR, these documents contain snippets of plot rich exposition. These peripheral methods of telling a story work very well, as it induces the player into the story and makes you actively pursuing the story, rather than being a recipient of it, and this accentuates the immersion of the game.

Though each mission is essentially linear, the games level design allows for numerous paths to reach your destination. Though the separate streets that lead to the same place in the first level may be essentially interchangeable, it puts the A-B structure in a believable format. When you’re infiltrating large buildings, the player is provided with a map with a set route drawn on it, inevitably, you’re going to have to follow this route to progress through the game, but in a mansion like mission with three, or maybe four floors, then taking the linear path would be to miss out on some very special level design. There are secret areas, rooms full of loot which you need for later levels and optional objectives; the environment is a pleasure to navigate, and never holds your hand to spoon feed you the path you need to take, but at the same time makes sure you never get lost and have enough motive to stray from the main path.

The game deviates between infiltration style missions where you make use of your stealth abilities, and dungeon crawling missions where you are subject to plat forming, puzzle and combat sequences. Missions can be categorised into two segments, but within these groups you’ll find that every mission is fundamentally different to the one that preceded it, and the one that will follow it.

One mission you might be rescuing someone from a castle, the next your posing as a cult member to sneak into a temple, the next you could be fighting through a hellish realm, the next your subject to horror set pieces, and the next you’ll ne stalking guys through streets, and the next you’ll be searching for an ancient civilisation.

This level of diversity means the focus of the game is constantly in a state of transition and ensures you’re constantly doing something drastically unlike what preceded it, and what will follow it. Add to this difficulty levels which offer completely different objectives, and you have a game that is very replayable.

Sound design is probably the best I’ve heard within a game, period. Creatures wail in a way that will send shivers up your spine, drunken guards burp and talk authentically, mages voices are mysterious and echo and sword clashes sound authentic. Sound is used rarely, but sets a perfect and suitably creepy atmosphere. Stephen Russels voicing of Garret is a truly outstanding performance, and adds to the likability of the character.

Of course, gameplay is what Thief is most renowned for, and rightly so. Enemies are aurally aware, meaning they detect and respond to noise, which can work to both your detriment and advantage. You can use a noisemaker arrow to send a guard to another location, while you travel past the area. You can also conceal dead bodies by carrying them around and dropping them somewhere out of the way, this is fine, but if you killed your target, as opposed to knocking them out, then you risk leaving telltale blood stains behind, and you can use your water arrows to clean them up. These water arrows can also be used to mould the environment to your means, a courtyard with brightly lit torches, can be made dark so you can pass through it by shooting the arrows at the light sources. Pitch black shadows can almost make you invisible, and Thief uses staggered light levels, meaning that your visibility ranges from slightly visible in weak shadows, to near undetectable in pitch blackness. Escape from Butcher Bay, a critically acclaimed stealth game that was released some six years after Thief, used this mechanic, but without the staggered layers, meaning you were either completely invisible, or directly visible.

The 2001 game Morrowind, was often credited for the ability to pick up any item and throw it about, but Thief’s implementation of this very same gameplay element has seemingly gone unacknowledged. You can pick up mundane items like crates, mugs and the like, and throw them about. These objects have bearing on the environment through the use of a rudimentary physics system, and allow you to create distractions, making the environment itself a tool you can use, and this encourages emergent gameplay.

The dungeon missions will have you engaging in extensive puzzle, plat forming and puzzle areas, and you’ll be fighting through hordes of skeletons and zombies, as well as climbing mountains, jumping across gaps, and tracking down levers and keys. These plat forming sections, specifically climbing up cliff faces, or jumping from across platforms feel slightly underdeveloped compared with the rest of the game, but as a pacing element, it serves the game well overall.

The swordplay is very fluid, you can parry, use light and charged attacks as well as knock people out from behind with your black jack. You are extremely vulnerable to enemy weapons however, and an unlucky swing on the harder difficulties can have you dead, so this keeps the emphasis firmly on the stealth.

The visuals have are obviously showing their age, but this is an observation rather than a criticism. The broad colour palette and sheer size of the levels makes up for any technical shortcomings.
The very fact Thief is in existence, is of great benefit to only the stealth/action genre which was singularly birthed by The Dark Project, but to every none shooting game set within the first person perspective. Pre-Thief the first person medium was reserved exclusively for shooters, and in a post Thief world the first person has been used to great effect in puzzle, platform, hack n slash, stealth and strategy games.

The most fundamental and elemental mechanics, like the pioneering of sound wave propagation, dynamic and flexible lighting, corpse hiding, brightness to visibility correlation, and investigative behaviour exhibited by AI have been imitated over, and over again, albeit with superficial changes, in all of our current generation games, and the same will be true perpetually.

Simply put, if you don’t already own this game, then you need to go to your local shop, buy the complete collection bundle and complete them with a one week none stop gaming frenzy, and tell all your friends to buy this game, not that you’ll need any once you discover the world of Thief.
10/10.

Last edited by FalloutMazza; 11-05-2009 at 05:35 PM.
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