Thief is a Classic which Made Legends
Before we go over Thief, let us stop a second. Let us look back. Look back, to a simpler time when the number one movie in America was Armageddon. Celine Dion was at the top of her game, and Pokemon was poised to take over the free world. It’s 1998; Looking Glass Studios had moderate success early on with Ultima Underworld and System Shock. Despite critical acclaim they could never truly reach commercial success.
It’s final, desperate saving throw would be on a new intellectual property called Thief. Thief: The Dark Project, the first in a series, was the company’s most popular game. It would help keep Looking Glass afloat for two more years. This allowed those who remained at the company to help make System Shock 2, as well as Thief 2: The Metal Age. In 2000 Looking Glass employees dispersed, most joining former co-workers Ken Levine at Irrational, or Warren Spector at Ion Storm Austin.
SO YOU’RE HERE BECAUSE YOU LIKE STEALTH GAMES RIGHT?
Yeah, yeah we know that Metal Gear Solid was also released in 1998, and that it also had a large impact on stealth games in general. Well shut your face. We are here to talk Thief and why it deserves to be on your proverbial shelf just as much as Metal Gear Solid does. I’ll tell you one thing, Thief has absolutely NOTHING to do with nanomachines. (Please send your hate mail to email@example.com.)
The series is set in a fictional medieval age, where electricity and magic are par for the course. Garrett, the protagonist, has left the secret society of thieves that trained him and is now a thief for hire. He mostly spends his days infiltrating well guarded facilities and relieving them of their valuables across a city known as- wait for it!- the City. Garrett is the quintessential anti-hero. He regards his employers and victims with thinly veiled contempt. He always has a condescending or narcissistic one liner at the ready.
He finds himself unceremoniously thrust into conspiracies and magical plots when all he really wants to do is make some quick cash. Outwitting guards and monsters alike, he’ll use the many tools at his disposal to either dispatch his enemies, or simply slip by with no one the wiser. Looking Glass cleverly uses verbal cues from guards to alert you of their mental state. When they are at rest, suspicious, or have wised up to your shenanigans.
Not your Normal Game
Thief uses a first person view to introduce a claustrophobic atmosphere and it challenges you to be deliberate in your movements, much like a practiced thief. Garrett must also always be aware of his surroundings. The echo of footsteps down the hall, or where the light casts a shadow. A light sensor is always measuring how visible you are to the NPCs, and using it effectively is essential to being successful.
Garrett himself has very limited health and it is generally in your best interest to go unnoticed. He has, apparently, a small armory strapped to his back, including his bow and multiple types of arrows. A thief must always have the right arrow to fit the occasion:
The water arrow – Bane of all open flames! It’s always fun to use a water arrow on a nearby light source and watch the befuddled guards wander around looking for the disturbance with you safety tucked in shadow. They will wander right up to you, peer into your dark corner and breathe down your neck before shrugging the whole oddity off as something that just happened from time to time. It was just the wind, right?
The moss arrow- is the solution to a noisy floor. Not all floors are conducive to sneaking. Carpet is, unfortunately, not always used in fortresses. Stone and steel make being stealthy more difficult. But not for the enterprising Garrett. He has moss arrows, which strangely enough spread moss wherever they are used. Use it to make clubbing a bored guard that much easier.
The blackjack- is one of your most precious weapons. It will dispatch your enemies with a limited amount of blood. This is beneficial as other guards will notice a big red stain on the floor where their friend was only moments ago. Maybe it was just the wind again.
Here are his “tools of the trade” presented here in all of it’s 90s glory:
The story of Garrett is surprisingly compelling. Garrett is never friendly, but his aloofness allows for projection. This is especially true early in the games. The writing is funny and nuanced. The guards reactions to their environment made me laugh out loud more than once and I would often stop under a window to listen to the gossip of the passerby. In the third installment, Thief: Deadly Shadows, the City opens up to you, and you can explore and experience more of the environment.
JUST PLAY IT, YOU TAFFER!
You can find each of the Thief games on Gog for 10 dollars a piece or on Steam separately or as a slightly cheaper collection. While the series may not have aged as well as we would have liked, it is still well worth your time and money. You will likely have plenty of time to catch up before Thief 4 releases, the inexplicably titled, Thi4f. That is, as long as it escapes development hell.