Opportunity makes a thief.
Last I saw Thief, in October of last year, it was in a playable state that focused on the open-world city hub and glossed over the story with a vague, non-spoilery brush. Now that this stealth-action title is silently inching closer to release, Square Enix thought it best to fill in some of the gaps, along with access to several opening missions to better understand the laconic, furtive Garrett.
Ever the consummate professional, Garrett takes his thievery seriously, staying close to the shadows and holding a code of ethics that avoids the taking of life if at all possible. Besides, his roguish skills don't lend themselves to a handicapped match against the stalwart city watch. Being spotted and promptly surrounded by trained swordsmen does not a breathing burglar make.
That said, Garrett knows his way around the mace-like blackjack and he's not beyond bludgeoning a poor sap in the back of his head, so long as he drags the unconscious foe to a dark spot for him to remain undetected. Dropping from a wooden beam for a stealthy takedown, throwing a glass bottle as a distraction, or merely fleeing to the rooftops is a far better solution than a predictable frontal assault.
But Garrett's non-lethal approach to combat puts him at odds with his former pupil and fellow thief, Erin, who has no qualms murdering any meat-sacks in her way. From his perspective, her eagerness for bloodshed and proud reliance on her claw for scaling walls come off as arrogance and foolhardiness. So during what seems to be a standard job, where the two are reunited for the first time in many years, he decides to swipe her claw. But near the end of the mission, both of them get caught by the guard and eventually fall through a glass ceiling in a scuffle, leading to Garrett needing to recover, unconscious, for who-knows-how-long. All he has left is Erin's claw and an unhealthy, unspoken amount of guilt.
By the time he returns to the town, it's been transformed for the worse: a famine has filled the streets with beggars, an oppressive Baron has been installed, and the Gloom has spread across the land. Eventually, despite his misgivings choosing a side, he will likely have to align himself with either the Baron or the resistance.
If you're familiar with Dishonored, then this reboot for Thief will feel familiar. In between missions, Garrett can roam around the city hub stealing goblets, lockpicking safes, and completing side missions, before going off to another area for core missions. I won't go into the story details for these missions to keep this preview spoiler-free, but the gameplay will allow you to approach situations in one of three ways: Ghost (stealth), Opportunist (stealing), and Predator (killing). None of these options will alter the ending, no matter how many soldiers you choose to kill with an arrow to the face despite Garrett's nature, but completing the objectives of any type will net you bonus gold at the end of the mission.
How challenging you wish each mission to be will depend in part on how far you upgrade Garrett in the city hub. Speaking with the shady merchant will grant him access to plenty of physical upgrades for armor and the like. Almost immediately after he arrives in the city, he'll meet with the Queen of Beggars who, for a modest fee, will enhance his supernatural abilities in either Intuition, Dexterity, Sense, Combat, Speed, Efficiency, Marksman, or Stealth. This will make Garrett more silent, detect enemies more attentively, develop his overall speed, and increase his knockdown power with the blackjack. There's nothing preventing you from skipping the upgrades and heading right to each mission, but the incentive is there for you to explore if you wish.
Thief, developed by Eidos Montreal and published by Square Enix, will release for PS4, XOne, PS3, X360, and PC on February 25, 2014 in North America.