Thief (2014) Preview

Opportunity makes a thief.


If you happen upon gameplay footage for Thief and start to wonder why it appears similar to Dishonored, know that Dishonored is actually what appears similar to Thief. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, after all, and old-school gamers will understand that this latest attempt at a reboot for the Thief franchise would actually be "Thief 4" (and it actually would have stayed that way if Eidos Montreal and Square Enix didn't drop the number for a cleaner name).


In keeping with the spirit of the series, the core gameplay of the reboot is about stealth, pitting yourself in the role of the master thief Garrett. As a dexterous wielder of the blackjack, Garrett isn't completely defenseless against the night watch patrolling the ragged streets of Blackstone, but if he's surrounded by more than two guards, it's better for him to flee into the shadows and fight another day. After all, he's not a heavily muscled bull of a man, but a swift gray fox with a stoic demeanor.


While cloaked in darkness and silence, Garrett is far more effective traveling about the city in second-floor rafters and upon rooftops, peeking around corners, and misdirecting guards with noisy distractions. And he will remain undetected so long as he moves cautiously and takes out sources of light—candles, electric lamps controlled with the flick of a switch, and fire torches that can be snuffed out with a water arrow. The environment makes it quite clear whether or not Garrett is visible, as the way light strikes the world is sharp, but for absolute clarity a luminous orb is placed on the HUD to indicate light intensity.


In this way, he can pilfer any trinkets—cups, pocket watches, brushes, combs, artwork—to add to his collection at his clock tower home base and to spend on upgrades, new gadgets, and more arrows at the black market. The variety of available arrow types help transform Garrett into a dangerous long-range rogue, with choke arrows, fire arrows, blast arrows, and sawtooth arrows that would make Hawkeye proud.


That said, Garrett is a master thief in more than just name, with streets littered with posters labeling him as Public No. 1 with a 500,000 gold-coin reward. If he ever finds himself in a tight spot, he can spend a part of his Focus for a host of advantages. He can slow down time to target an enemy's weakpoints, highlight important objects around the city like posts suitable for climbing or for attaching rope arrows, and quicken the time it takes to lockpick a safe in case a guard is coming around the corner. Recovering Focus, however, was limited in the demo through the use of special flowers, so conserving it for only the most dire of moments seems to be key.


Though Garrett isn't exactly Robin Hood, he does exploit the stark income inequality and general unrest of his hometown vaguely known as "The City," a Victorian, steampunk-inspired capital ruled by the tyrannous "The Baron" and separated into multiple, open-world districts. As a plague begins to infect the slums, the nobles remain unaffected and uncaring, though Garrett himself isn't the type to hand over his hard-earned treasure to a beggar. Instead, he accepts contracts and learns rumors from the underground network about objects of incredible value that can be pilfered throughout the city.


Meanwhile, Garrett holds unresolved guilt for events that transpired one year ago, where he was forced into a mission with his once apprentice, Erin, who unlike him, has no qualms taking a life. Despite his misgivings, he decides to accept the contract, pilfering Erin's grappling hook in the process. Along the way, she murders one too many guards, forcing them to escape into a rickety mansion that collapses. Without her grappling hook, Erin dies and Garrett goes into a coma, only to awaken a year later to a corrupt, colorless city. Luckily, he has all the tools to survive and hopefully change the city for the better.

Thief will arrive for both current-gen and next-gen consoles, Xbox 360, PS3, PC, PS4, and Xbox One, on February 25, 2014 in North America and February 28, 2014 in Japan and PAL territories.