Thief: Deadly Shadows
|a game by||Eidos Interactive|
|Editor Rating:||8/10, based on 1 review, 4 reviews are shown|
|User Rating:||9.0/10 - 2 votes|
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|See also:||Thief Games, Games Like Divinity Original Sin 2|
Before we get started, a word to the Thief faithful - if everyone else can just hang on this shouldn't take two ticks: third-person mode good, zombie usage sparse. Everyone still with me? Right. Let's get down to business.
Garrett's big new adventure is a success. Not only is it brilliant fun, it's a worthy follow-up to the esteemed Thief canon and one that's sure to please fans of the Looking Glass originals. It hasn't been spoiled by console priorities in the way Deus Ex 2 was, and manages to refine the stealth formula in a number of clever ways. It does, however, have baggage. It's baggage that makes you roll your eyes rather than slam your head into the keyboard, but be warned that this review will have its fair share of open sighing. Let's keep it sweet for now though, because overall this third trip around the block with the Master Thief is a very enjoyable one, and if you're comfy and settled I'll tell you why.
The story picks up with Garrett thoroughly estranged from his previous mentors the Keepers (a Knights Templar/Masonic affair that guides the course of the city) and continuing his burgeoning career in larceny, often plucking treasure from under the noses of the opposing factions of the religiously fervent Hammerites and the organically crazed Pagans. As the game progresses your thievery leads you back into the cautious arms of the Keepers, who need a few things nicked to help them with a prophecy in which (surprise, surprise) you figure prominently. From the Bible to Star Wars to The Matrix to Thief 3, the old chosen one' chestnut doesn't look like cracking just yet.
For those not in the know, the Thief template gives you a crumbling old manor/castle/sewer system, a hastily scrawled map and the knowledge that within the said establishment there are some alpha-steals that you need for plot, some precious steals that you need for finances and some lesser steals that you need because you're a greedy git. There's some sublime level design within these walls, which is in part what makes Deadly Shadows such an enjoyable ride, and there's also a fair contingent of suspicious (and rather chatty) guards - that either need avoiding, or (more likely) incapacitating and dumping in a shadowy corner.
And with the help of some above-average Al and Garrett's credib le ineptness in a fight, the whole thing works. You don't know true tension until you're pushed up against a crate in the bowels of Pavelock prison with two guards convinced that they've just heard something odd; and you know even truer tension when one of them mutters I'm going to check behind yonder crate." The search Al that's on offer after you've been spotted (and the NPCs' habit of telling you exactly what they're thinking) is the meat and gravy of Deadly Shadows. If you're making too much noise, are standing in too much light or if you've just stuck an arrow in their best fnend's neck without their approval, then chances are you're in trouble. If a serving girl spots you then she'll run for a guard. If the guard then chases you down a corridor and you clamber up a wall then your pursuer will patiently wait and inform you that you can't stay up there forever - before (perhaps) rushing off to get reinforcements. If you carelessly leave a door open, meanwhile, they may switch to investigation mode, or perhaps just mutter about the residents of the castle always leaving that bloody door open.
Old Guard, New Tricks
It's events like these that make the game so much fun - every guard has the potential for a variety of different reactions, and you never quite know how events are going to pan out. It's certainly not perfect, and in many cases the fragility of mind that curses so many in-game characters still applies, but as far as the routine of spotting, investigating and giving chase goes, Garrett's enemies are extremely proficient. Excellent, even.
To aid you in your skulking you have a full complement of medieval gadgets. As well as your standard head-piercing arrows you can arm yourself with water arrows that extinguish torches, moss arrows that cover the floor in sound-proofed green stuff and cause bizarre allergic choking reactions in guards, and fire arrows that, unsurprisingly, ignite the poor souls they strike. Gas bombs, mines and holy water do the jobs you'd expect them to, while the noble Blackjack retains its position as your most subtle and useful drubbing device. In fact, watching your right arm slowly rise as you sneak up behind an unsuspecting member of the constabulary is almost worth the price of entry alone.
Which leads me to my first concern - as a devoted Thief fan how could I even contemplate playing the game in the third person? Well, at first I resisted bravely. I tried reader. I really tried. But then I spectacularly caved - because it actually turns out that the third person works, and works well. For a start the game is built expecting you to use it, and if you're grumpily insisting on doing it the traditional way you'll miss out on features like pushing yourself up against walls and hackle-raising views of angry Pagans scouring the room for your scrawny hide. The third-person view, however, is a touch clunky. It's great when you're creeping, but as soon as more nimble actions are needed - say balancing on a pipe or taking a difficult jump - you invariably have to flick back to first person. What's more, Garrett is no Sam Fisher when it comes to acrobatics, and you often feel constrained when the supposed super-thief has so many problems climbing through an easy-access window.
With a raft of familiar sound effects carrying over from the previous games, aural effects are a Deadly Shadows speciality. From footsteps tapping over metal grates to the thud of Blackjack on skull, the quality in sound never dips. On one occasion I found myself creeping up a jeweller's staircase when a scripted sequence saw the shopkeeper come in through the front door, and the simple sound of a door opening and closing behind me had me tapping the quickload key just to hear its eerily authentic slam. Dialogue meanwhile (despite the way it often sounds, see Missed Opportunity', right), is impressive simply because of the sheer quantity of lines that have been recorded - you rarely hear a guard say a line you're certain you've heard before. And when you're standing on the stairs of a crumbling manor and a guard shouts out I see thee on the stairs! it really gets you by the throat. It's no hard task, I suppose, but no NPC has ever told me exactly where I'm standing before.
When we move on to visuals, however, things aren't so peachy. Sure, it looks nice, with excellent lighting effects and all, but I know my PC can do better. I also know that it's pretty hard to program an Xbox game that does better, and herein lies the problem. In my view, when you have a cathedral or a castle - anything gothic - you do it grand, majestic and awe-inspiring. Here, they're just done boxy. Everything is crammed up and done at 90 degrees, and quite frankly it isn't good enough. Level design is the area in which Deadly Shadows shows its true credentials, but you can't help but feel that it's hampered by the need to pack everything into relatively small, separately loaded zones to cater for console memory. As mentioned, it's nowhere near as bad as the compromises made in Deus Ex 2, but you can't help but feel aggrieved nonetheless.
While I'm waving my angry-stick, I'll start up on another gripe. The physics (and the ragdolls, see 'Cryin', Walkin' Talkin'...', left) are integrated into the game with an alarming lack of panache. Where a game like Far Cry can seamlessly merge its physics engine with the game environment. Deadly Shadows' physics are simply wrong. Should you want to move something you'll have to run into it for a second or so before it wants to shift, and even when it does it'll move as if you're on a medieval moonbase. And how can a sardboard box be weighty enough to stop a heavy cathedral door from opening? (And while we're on the subject, why can't you actually see Garrett holding an object rather than have it appear as an icon on the screen? Bah!)
Despite early claims, physics rarely enter the gameplay, and when they do it's in situations with teetering heavy objects above conveniently placed Pagans - the likes of which you've seen many times before. Another feature that doesn't hit the mark is the ability to wander the streets of Garrett's hometown between missions. At first this is great fun: you can raid your local inn, break into your landlord's house and nick all his stuff, offload your stolen goods and stock up on equipment and murder screaming women - all entertaining stuff, but you'll tire of it quickly. There's not enough variety or reward, and later in the game (when all you want to do is walk to your next mission) there's always a cavalcade of guards, angry Hammentes and pissed-off Pagans who want to chase you through the streets. It all turns a bit Benny Hill (minus the jolly music and breasts) with a so-called man of the shadows brazenly legging it to the next load zone - through which he knows damn sure he won't be followed. The entire presence of this cityscape just smacks of a creative concept that was smothered halfway through development, and the game suffers for it.
Enough moaning though, as when it comes down to it, I truly enjoyed this game. Its Xbox loyalties may be somewhat misplaced, and it has too many niggles to be considered a true great, but the experience remains compelling. The story is great, the tension is real and if you like copious adrenal activity then you won't go too far wrong.
Occasionally (though admittedly quite infrequently), you're even faced with a moral decision - do you steal the inheritance of a recently widowed woman who's crying her eyes out while her extended family descend on her belongings like hawks? I didn't, I really couldn't. What would buy me five gas bombs could have brought her a smidge of happiness, so I left her with her loot and a mansion full of unconscious servants instead. Call me a sap, but I think I did the right thing.
Download Thief: Deadly Shadows
If You've never actually been a thief, just stop right here. Get up off the bog or wherever you're browsing this fine publication, get some suitably inconspicuous duds on and go and nick something. Anything will do - a car, some diamonds, even just a packet of peanuts. If your conscience is bothering you, pick a big high street chain store -they're all run by evil profiteering tossers anyway. When you're done, come back and we'll carry on.
Done...? Terrifying, wasn't it? The paranoia of being watched, the fear of being caught, the tension as you made off with the goods, your shoulders tingling with the dreadful anticipation of a policeman's glove falling on them like the hand of god. But assuming you didn't get caught, and aren't currently sharing a cell with a hairy, drunken sodomite, how great was it when you got away with it?
If the adrenalin is still pumping through your veins from that experience, you'll understand more than ever why Thief is such a great concept. The appeal of being a thief is not the stuff you nick, it's the fact that you get away with it at all. Every time you steal, you outwit your opponents - you take the goods right out from under their noses and better yet, no one even sees you doing it. You're clever, you're invisible, you're better than all the idiots who work for a living and you'll stab anyone who says otherwise.
Hello Darkness, My Old Friend
This month, we were lucky enough to have another furtive peek at the newly renamed stealth 'em up, Thief: Deadly Shadows. With the full team once again beavering away on the title (after they were pulled off to get Deus Ex: Invisible War out the door), development is proceeding at an alarming rate. We've already got a complete 'draft' of the game," says Randy Smith, project director of TDS and our guide through the latest build. You can play through the whole thing from front to back. It's a bit of a shaky first draft, but the potential for an amazing game is very clear and we've got plenty of time to polish and tune."
He's not kidding either. These new screenshots aren't too shabby, but they really don't do justice to the game and just how far things have progressed since Thief II. Indeed, despite being the third in the series, this could well be the game that finally nails the idea of actually being a thief, of becoming the character Garrett, with no lumbering zombies or ridiculous robots to get in the way - just the freedom and tools to be a master criminal in a believable, dynamic universe.
Thief: Deadly Shadows takes things a step further," agrees Randy. The player has a lot more options, and you also get to be involved more directly in Garrett's life. You'll enter Garrett's house, meet your fence, sell your loot and go to the black market to buy thieves' tools. You'll be able to make decisions about who Garrett allies with and who he chooses as his enemies. Overall, Garrett has a much larger presence in the game and you take a much more direct part in his life.
The Third Man
But before we get carried away, we should have a look at what's changed since we last saw the game. Clearly, the biggest change is the new third-person perspective. As much as we like it, we have to ask Randy: was it a pure gameplay decision, or a concession to the broader console audience?
Ultimately, supporting both first- and third-person as fully as we're doing will make the Thief series more profitable, admits Randy. But as a result there's a good chance fans will see more and better Thief games in the future. However, the impetus to support both view modes was to improve gameplay, and the game is much better as a result.
Navigating Garrett through a dim castle interior, we get our first look at the new perspective in action. Having played countless other stealth games in third-person, the transition is a natural one, though we soon find ourselves switching back and forth between view modes depending on the situation.
Third-person provides better perspective on the overall environment and how Garrett fits into it, says Randy. It lets you see the big picture and it affords some very compelling visuals of Garrett pulling off his cool moves: creeping along the walls, crouching in the shadows, climbing up to a second storey window, jumping out to ambush a guard and so on. First-person is generally better for the finer details, precision, a strong sense of immersion and, of course, seeing things from Garrett's perspective - which can be crucial when you want to make sure the guard really can't see you when you're hiding behind that column."
While the new perspective definitively opens up your options, some may find the disembodied view a bit of a cheat', as it allows you to view things outside of Garrett's direct line of sight. You can still play the game entirely in first-person of course, and as Randy insists, There's nothing Garrett can do in third-person that he can't also do equally well in first."
But while the view may have changed, Garrett himself is much as we left him. All his old tricks are back - sneaking around, backstabbing enemies, firing rope arrows, picking locks, and so on. The lock-picking is handled a bit differently, but the only genuinely new ability is climbing stone walls. Hardly a revolution, you must say, but Ion Storm is still being tight-lipped about new tools, weapons and gadgets, and it's here that we're likely to see the most new game-actions emerging.
"There are some other cool new ways to interact with the environment," teases Randy. "But yes, they pertain to the player tools we're still not talking about. Clearly though, the coolest things about Thief 3 aren't going to come from a new type of arrow or a new way of climbing walls. It's less immediately apparent things, like the subtlety of the Al and the environment physics that are going to have the most impact.
For a start, the Havok physics - it's not just ragdoll deaths and bottles falling off shelves we're talking here. Some real thought has gone into applying the realistic physics to the gameplay, and the results are nothing if not compelling. By way of example, Randy shows us a few scenarios in which physics might create interesting gameplay. Some are familiar enough, having been seen in games like Far Cry and Half-Life 2. So, Garrett can drop a heavy item onto a guard's head, knocking him out. He can cause a distraction by rolling a barrel down a staircase. Or he might jump onto a table, scattering plates and dishes, some of which might be valuable and wind up in hard-to-find locations. Better yet, Garrett can outdo Sam Fisher, creating his own shadows in lighted spaces by pushing furniture up against windows.
However, our favourite piece of physics in action comes straight from a Looney Tunes cartoon, when Randy pushes a cart down a steep hill to bowl over some pursuing guards - truly comical stuff. This is really just the tip of the iceberg," boasts Randy. And these are not scripted events either, the player can cause them to happen dynamically during the normal course of gameplay.
Hand in hand with this sort of high-level interaction of course, is a level of enemy intelligence that can react to it, and we soon move on to the game's Al. We've heard plenty of talk about how aware' of their surroundings the enemies are, but seeing them in action is a very different matter. Taking the controls, Randy fires up a typically gloomy level and starts sneaking around in the darkness.
Thief's Al is some of the best in the industry, he enthuses, especially in terms of sensory and alertness modelling. The guards see and hear evidence, which includes your footsteps as you walk around and glimpses of you out of the corner of their eye. Also, they'll notice torches that go out, guards missing from their posts, doors left ajar, missing valuables, broken furniture and blood pools, bodies, and other signs of recent combat. The more they see and hear, the more suspicious they become, and eventually they'll leave their patrol route to search. If a guard is not too suspicious, he'll search carelessly, but a very alerted guard will draw his sword and search carefully, poking into every comer of the room, opening doors, looking behind the furniture, and so on. And if they do find you, they'll attack you and call for help.
So saying, Randy passes through a cluttered armoury, emerging from shadow briefly to snatch a piece of brightly glinting loot. At almost the same instant, the room begins to glow faintly, as reflected light flickers into the room from the hallway. Being no fool, Randy leaps behind some crates and crouches silently in the darkness, waiting for the unwanted presence to pass. Sure enough, a guard carrying a torch patrols by a few seconds later, but Randy is out of luck. In any other stealth game, this dullard would continue on his way, oblivious to any change in the environment, but instead, he stops in his tracks, visibly frowning, and says, Hey! Who took that?"
His suspicions aroused, the guard then begins a vigorous search, saying things like, I'd better check over by those crates, someone could be hiding there." As Randy turns to make his getaway, he blunders into a rack of swords, which clatter to the ground noisily. That's it, cries the guard, drawing his sword, "make a little more noise, it'll help me find ya!
Cloak And Dagger
Needless to say, this episode leaves us rather impressed. This guard has just displayed more intelligent behaviour than any opponent in any stealth game before - more intelligence than we've seen in just about any other game in fact. The Al guards exhibit interesting and unpredictable behaviours pretty much any time we play the game, says Randy proudly. No bullshit, this stuff really happens in our game all the time.
Clearly, the Deadly Shadows gameplay is going to equal or even surpass its Deus Ex stablemates for sheer freedom of action. And if anything, this style of freeform interaction is even more appropriate to the subject matter of Deadly Shadows. After all, thieves are by their very nature prone to challenging their environments and finding alternative ways of doing things.
It's easy to imagine that this was the ideal the series was building towards all along. Rather than just providing a string of sneaky, linear missions, it's this idea of simulating the life of a thief, giving a bit of insight into his motivations and above all the freedom to be a crafty, devious bastard. As great as the first two Thief games were, this could be the game we've really wanted all along.
Don't Be Half-Hearted, Put Third-Person To Good Use
As you'll have read, Thief: Deadly Shadows now offers both first- and third-person perspectives, and the option of flicking between them at will. However, we reckon the third-person view could be used to add more substantial gameplay elements, rather than just being thrown in to appease the console crowd. Think of Metal Gear or Splinter Cell - they're third-person for a reason. Without the disembodied view, how could Solid Snake do the wall peek or crouch roll? How could Sam Fisher do his split-jump or forced interrogation? Though Thief has never been about this sort of acrobatics, there's no reason why it couldn't be beefed up for Deadly Shadows. Try this for a start: instead of firing a rope arrow, Garrett uses his rope to lay a noose-like trap on a shadowy patch of ground, before scampering up into the rafters to wait for a passing guard. As soon as a foot enters the trap - whoosh - he's off his feet and helpless as Garrett drops on him silently with a blade to the throat. Now that would make the new perspective worthwhile.
When Looking Glass Studios shattered and fell apart in early 2000 it was Ion Storm who ghosted in to smuggle master thief, Garrett, away from the gallows. But there was to be no instant return to roofs and alleyways for the PC's most popular house-breaker. Despite LGS's designs and scripts for Thief 3 being in a fairly advanced stage, the priority for Ion Storm was Deus Ex.
So, Garrett's been skulking in the shadows ever since. It can't be easy standing still for that amount of time; taut muscles burning, breathing slowed to a minimum, resting heart rate virtually cryogenic - but like any good opportunist he's remained patiently poised until the moment to strike presents itself.
And that moment is here. Thief 3 has finally reached a playable form and guess who's had a cunning pre-E3 look? That's right, yours truly managed to sneak into areas where no other magazine dared go for a firsthand glimpse of the first-person action/stealth sequel Ion Storm thinks is going to be just as good as Deus Ex 2.
One of the major reasons for this belief lies in the use of latest Unreal technology. Now, while a lot of FPS fans have serious reservations over the actual gameplay of Unreal II, absolutely no one has argued against the engine itself, which, in all probability is about the most gorgeous-looking piece of programming around -and, crucially, makes for some lovely shadows. So, if you're Ion Storm and you've got cash to spend, and moreover your aim is to improve upon the fantastic atmosphere created by the original Dark Engine technology, then quite simply what else can you do but license the very best technology there is?
Still, that alone is no guarantee of success. Thankfully, the Thief series has always been more than just a set of nice looking levels. The first game, Thief: The Dark Project, was a tense, edgy thriller and the first real stealth-based FPS to appear on the PC. It's successor, Thief 2: The Metal Age, managed to innovate with some great mechanised inventions (like Garrett's mechanical eye) and improved enemy Al that not only sees you, but hears you too. Ultimately, the lure of both games is that if you play them properly, you can complete them without killing a single living thing. In this day and age that really is a rare and pleasant change.
T3's project director and lead designer. Randy Smith knows the third installment will have to possess the qualities that made the first two games so enjoyable.
The Thief 3 team is striving to strike the perfect balance between the two. Thief 3 will have the dark mood and grim atmosphere of Thief: The Dark Project while maintaining and evolving the action stealth gameplay that was emphasised in Thief II: The Metal Age."
Of course, Randy is underselling things a little here, as the opportunities for evolving' that gameplay are immense, especially given recent developments in real-world physics technology. Indeed, one of the most amazing things about 13 is the way you can manipulate the objects around you. Imagine - you're sniffing around a room you shouldn't be in and you hear footsteps coming up the corridor. Rather than panicking and jumping out the window into the moat, why not carefully push a table, barrel or anything you can get your thieving little mitts on across the door to block it? With any luck the over-curious guard will think the door is locked or jammed and leave you to your job.
This kind of interactivity is a double-edged sword of course - especially when mixed with the newly-honed Al. If you're lucky the not so determined guard will be duped by your trickery. If you're unlucky and that particular guard is doing his job properly, you might suddenly find the door crashing inwards with five Hammer guards standing in the doorway.
Let's Get Physical
The environments in Thief 3 are extremely detailed and highly responsive," affirms Smith. We're using the Havok physics engine, which means that objects bounce and collide very believably, and they make very realistic sounds when they do so, sounds which can be used to distract guards - or make them suspicious."
So, as previously mentioned, although it's now a lot easier to interact with more objects than either of the previous two Thief games, it's just as easy to be caught out by the game's agile realism. And it's not just sound and movement that's V benefited from this total overhaul.
A proud Randy Smith enthuses: We've got an advanced system to handle breakable objects, and you can watch objects fracture into their component parts, such as a barrel which breaks into boards and O-rings."
Don't think this is all just fancy aesthetics either. Once a barrel like this breaks up you can then pick up a bit of wood and knock out an enemy in the same way you might use a blackjack. Just like in the real world, what you do with objects you discover or create is limited only by your imagination.
Life's A Bitch
So, what about the story then? What new evil does our hero face this time? Well, to cut a long story.short, Garrett finds out from the Keepers (his old mentors) that a new Dark Prophecy is almost upon the City. Unsurprisingly Garrett's name seems to appear prominently in that prophecy. Being the wily fellow that he is, he decides that maybe this time he might actually take it seriously. After all, the last time he scoffed at the fanciful notions of the Keepers he ended up losing an eye. Thus the world-weary, cynical and downright selfish thief embarks on a quest to end these problems that plague his dreams of a quiet, uncomplicated life of plain old nicking stuff.
Yet. despite the main quest, T3 again retains the open-ended nature of its predecessors and presents a seductive list of potential targets to test your clandestine skills. Churches, castles, shops, dungeons, ancient ruins, banks, prisons, museums and mansions are all there for you to explore, break into and callously rob blind.
But let's not forget the basics either. Like Thief and Thief 2 there are plenty of doors, levers, buttons, lights, elevators and other objects that keep this busy world ticking over and feeling authentic. And. of course, Garrett as a master thief is constantly making use of his environment - whether it's squatting behind the furniture, climbing into the rafters, picking locks, or putting out torches, there's no shortage of ways to get into character'.
For us. getting into character invariably means spraying a variety of weird and wonderful arrows around the place. In fact, one of the things that always rather amused us was the moss arrow - used to create a soft, noiseless path across an otherwise percussive floor. Has Garrett finally sussed the idea of taking his tap dancing shoes off instead of firing this arrow into the floor? It's a question we put to Mr Smith who, after assuming we were taking the piss, simply reminded us that Garrett can tip-toe slowly across a room if he doesn't want to use his secret weapon.
Talking of secrets, we're sad to say the rest of the gadgets and weaponry in the game are also strictly under wraps at this stage. Our probing in this direction was met with a cheeky smile from Mr Smith and a rather unhelpful response of: We've put a lot of thought into broadening Garrett's toolkit and refining his trusty weapons and gadgets from the previous games. Make of that what you will, though close inspection of our screenshots may reveal a couple of available weapons...
Of course, Garrett has spent most of his life in the shadows and T3 presents no change in this department. In fact, due to the Unreal engine's capacity to squeeze out some fairly tasty volumetric real-time shadows, he spends more time than ever lurking with intent.
For example, we saw a guard holding a torch walk down a hallway with columns on either side. As the guard passed each column, long, stretching shadows were cast onto the floor and walls. Needless to say the effect is absolutely mind-blowing. In terms of gameplay it's pretty impressive too. Hiding behind one of the columns, you actually have to edge around the base of it to stay in the darkness.
In another area, a huge pendulum at the top of a clock tower casts a moving shadow on the floor as it swings back and forth. The only way Garrett can move from one side of the room to the other undetected is if he hugs the shape of the shadow as he shuffles along. It's incredible to behold, and yet staggeringly this is just the start of what you can achieve with T3's shadows.
One of the coolest ideas of the stealth system in Splinter Cell was the way you could (supposedly) change where shadows appeared and even create them yourself, though in effect this just meant shooting out light bulbs everywhere you went. Believe us when we say this idea is taken to a whole new level in Thief 3, with more direct control over light and shadow than we have ever seen before. If there's light streaming in through a window, you can actually stack furniture up against the window and watch the shadow slide across the room.
Hope In The Shadows
Garrett clearly has a lot to come to terms with, and fans of the series will be delighted at the amount of new stealth options rammed into the game. It's no wonder Ion Storm is just as excited about this as they are about Deus Ex 2. After seeing it for ourselves we fully understand why. The game looks sure to exceed the quality of the first two games combined - not bad when you consider that it wasn't so long ago the Thief series looked as doomed as the developer that gave birth to it - not to mention vastly extend the reach of stealth-based gameplay.
Rats The Size Of Horses
How Many Times Would A Guard Hear Your Elephant-Like Attempts At Stealth And Declare That It Must Have Been A Rat? Well, Those Days Are Gone...
The guards in Thief 3 will amaze you with their variety of clever responses and shrewd behaviour. For example, the Al's have increased ability to reason about their environment. They pay attention to and may decide to respond to open doors, extinguished torches, suspicious shadows and other evidence. They even notice when loot has been stolen or when their mates are missing.
They are also far more paranoid and suspicious than before. They search extremely thoroughly when they go into a room and will check everything from behind furniture to the inside of chimneys. Simply crouching in a corner and waiting for them to pass does not work. If a guard is coming your way in their sweep of the room, you have to double back to someplace they've already searched.
Truly these guys are MENSA candidates, and to outwit them you will have to be fleeter of foot than you can possibly imagine.
Thief: Deadly Shadows lives up to its name, but it doesn't bring a whole lot new to a genre quickly become saturated with also-rans. In this latest thief you once more play as Garrett, a medieval thief who despite his apparently tremendous successes as a cutpurse, lives in a dive on the bad part of town.
The game sends you through a chain of missions where you have to steal specific items from well-guarded locations. The missions are all built around a loose and some what typical plot, but still remain interesting enough to be enjoyable. I have to say that in general I'm not a huge fan of stealth games. I prefer the more direct and much less intellectual route. But Thief: Deadly Shadows has done a really good job of making the stealth elements of the game enough fun to even captivate the typically run-and-gun fans.
The biggest way Thief: Deadly Shadows does this is the way the original did, by providing you with a relatively large assortment of tricks and gadgets so you can get the job done without being killed or killing. As another incentive to not take one on head-on, this latest Thief has replaced Garrett's sword with a dinky little knife and nearly completely stripped any skill from the head-to-head fighting elements of the game. I guess you could argue that this clunkier version of fighting was an unintentional side effect of the game's redesign, but I'd prefer to think of it as a clever and purposeful move.
Instead of fighting, you will spend most of your time trying to figure out the best way down hallways, through locked doors and around snoozing guards and castle gentry. Luckily for Garret and you, there are tons of tools to help you in your non-lethal larceny. You can use water and noise maker arrows to douse candles or attract attention elsewhere. Unfortunately, there are no rope arrows, instead you use climbing gloves. This isn't a huge deal, but it will likely rub some gamers the wrong way, especially if they were fans of the original. The other factor important to your stealth in the game is making sure you stay in the dark. This is accomplished by keeping a close eye on a gemstone that marks how much light you are in. By using the gemstone and your gadgets you can typically avoid most detection in a way that is a bit challenging and mostly fun.
The graphics are of course a vast improvement over the original, but that's not hard to do given the amount of time that passed between the release of the first and second game. The sound isn't quite as compelling as the upgraded look of the game. While it makes good use of ambient noise and a mood-setting music, the voice-overs are your typically over-acted fare.
While Thief: Deadly Shadows is one of the best stealth games I've ever played, I really can't get into the genre and I thought that the game could have done more with the fighting system. Overall, it's worth the time, but in my book it's no keeper.