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Thief: The Dark Project
Minimum specs:  Unavailable
Developer: Looking Glass
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Genre: First-person Shooters
Release Date: Out Now No Players:  Unavailable
UK price: £40.00 PC Gamer Score: 90%

Article first published: Issue 66
Writer:  Kieron Gillen

A life of crime, without risking prison. Sounds good to me...

Roguish
So, what the hell is it? It looks like a Quake-clone but plays not quite like anything we’ve seen before. Even if most of it’s based around stealth rather than BFGs, it’s different to console games like Metal Gear Solid. What does that leave us? A 3D shooter for people who enjoy dinner parties? An RPG for people without beards? A real-time single-person strategy game? A fine marinade for fish and poultry meals? What?

You play Garret: master thief, cynic and professional Dennis Leery impersonator. The fellow lives in a dark-tech-fantasy world where thatched buildings are juxtaposed with streetlights. When out on the street you’re as likely to see electricity arcing between electrodes as a mage-fuelled explosion of a fireball. Trained by a secretive order of pseudo-Westernised ninja monks called The Keepers, Garret ran away to put his talents to better use (i.e. personal monetary gain). His victims include local crimelords, the disturbing fanatical cult of the Hammers and just about anyone who has money which Garret doesn’t.

The 16 missions are almost completely non-linear: at the start of each you’re given an overall aim, usually finding something and ‘borrowing’ it, then left to your own devices. Rather than channelling you down a designer-determined path, Thief allows you unrestricted access in a vast world which exists beyond the confines of the mission goals. Simply because worlds do. The darkened mansions and shadow-draped catacombs which Garret calls home are lovingly realised, sprawl in all directions and are populated with suitably vigilant guards. You’ll finish most levels without seeing more than a fraction of what’s on offer. Take the second level, where you break into a prison complex through the mines beneath it. You enter the mines two levels below the multi-layered prison, and there’s several floors below you that you will never see if you just go and complete the mission. The freedom Thief offers you is at first terrifying, then absolutely intoxicating.

Your main weapon is the ability to skulk invisibly in the shadows. Crouching in darkened corners allows you to slip past guards unnoticed, before clubbing them unconscious. Ideally your victims will never realise what killed them. Conversely, if you’re discovered, you’re immediately plunged into mortal danger: sword-fighting with a single guard is risky. Face multiples and you’re kebab-meat. The sheer hunter versus hunted tension made me spontaneously go bald after one extended session. You also have a Batman-esque armoury of weapons, including a range of specialist arrows (like the grappling rope-arrow and the explosive fire-arrow), mines and flash bombs. Even the simplest situations force you to constantly re-evaluate your strategies.

Example: a guard’s up ahead. What do you do? Stick to the shadows, sneak up and club him? Use your sword and risk incriminating blood-stains, but giving you something to defend yourself with if you mess up? How about an arrow in the head? But if you do that, he’ll almost certainly scream, alerting anyone nearby. Maybe you can just sneak past him if you extinguish that lantern with a water-arrow and cover the floor with foot-step muffling fungal spores... or perhaps you should just back off and find another way... And that’s a simple example. What on earth do you do when there’s a room full of dinosaurs crouched around a ladder you need to climb, or when half the city-guard is after you, the streets alive with alarm bells?

 

 

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