Back when I was a sophomore in high school, I was fervently following the Half-Life 2 mania like everyone else. I used to frequent the forums a lot, it’s kind of sad. Well, IGN had a sweepstakes going on that they’d draw a random member and they got to pick their top 5 games and IGN would send them for free.
On one cold night I was that winner. Out of the 5 games I got, 3 were some of the best games I’ve ever played to-date. One was Beyond Good & Evil, one was Half-Life 2, and…
One was Thief III.
I can hear the collective cries of reviewers and critics the world ‘round. What the hell? Yes, I think that Thief III was one of the best gaming experiences I’ve had, ever. I’ll tell you why.
I own Thief: The Dark Project and I was always caught by its narrative. I still mean to play it through. In Thief III the narrative was one of the focuses of the game and as such it played an important role.
I think, for me, the reason I enjoyed the story so much was the drama and the whole creepy aspect to it. I felt like I was Garret, that I felt Garret’s feelings, and it just really pulled me into the game. I think that without the story I would never have finished it.
I think my feelings about this are similar to my feelings about Dreamfall. You either like it or don’t and that decides whether you’ll finish the game or not. From my first experience with the demo, I knew that I wanted this game and I was not let down.
The plot twist at the end had me surprised, I have to admit. I enjoyed it quite a bit.
I exclusively played Thief III on my headphones. I think that this was around the time I bought my X-Fi sound card so I wanted to take full advantage of it. The sound in this game is phenomenal. It adds so much it’s not even funny. I couldn’t imagine playing with the sound turned way down or muted, it just wouldn’t be the same.
There is one level, the Shalebridge Cradle, that stands out the most. In fact, if there was one reason you should play this game, it’s because of that level. I don’t think there has ever been one level, one experience, that can fully match the experience of the Cradle.
The Cradle is the scariest, creepiest, spine-tingling, piss your pants worthy level ever developed. It’s creepier than any movie I’ve ever seen. I had never experienced anything like it and I never have since. You know why? Not only is it an abandoned orphanage but children disappeared out of nowhere and they kept mental patients in there.
Maybe it was the slow melodic dripping of leaky pipes, maybe it was the soft creaking of floorboards when no one was around, maybe it was the whispering wind curling through cracks in the walls, maybe it was the distant screams of abandoned orphans or the wailing of mental ward patients, but if a developer could win an E3 award for "Best Level That Scared You Shitless"? than Eidos would win it for the Cradle.
Here’s what makes the Cradle such a masterful level. It makes you keep going. There is something about the level that just keeps you going through it, unable to quit and sob in your mother’s open arms. Oh, you want to. Oh, how you want to. But you can’t. I couldn’t. It scared the hell out of me but unlike most horror games where I can’t go further, it beckoned me like a silent, unconscious command.
I am a big fan of stealth gameplay. Eidos are the masters of the stealth game. The only other stealth games I played to the end were Splinter Cell’s Pandora Tomorrow and Chaos Theory.
There is just something about sneaking around, trying not to get caught, and narrowly avoiding guards that I love. That’s not for everyone. One of my friends hates stealth games. I love them.
Thief was always about the stealth. You had your trusty blackjack and your bow to take out enemies silently.
It may be that you could probably run really fast to get past people but I always like to go slow, to scan my environment, and go at my own pace. Maybe that’s why I love stealth gameplay, because I don’t have to rush… I can beat the game at my own pace. There are moments where you have to run for dear life and I really enjoy those. The moments where you’re almost dead or almost caught but then you get some stroke of luck.
And now we come to the meat and potatoes of all games: the gameplay. I think this is where most reviewers and gamers called Thief out. Since I haven’t played much of the original Thief games I cannot attest to its similarity or differences compared to previous installments.
There were a number of problems that kept Thief III from being a perfect game but I felt that the pros outweighed the cons.
So, I plan to eventually replay the game on a higher difficulty because I played on Easy and it was way easy. Classic moments always include making lots of noise and then having a guard come over and claim, "It must have been a rat,"? and walk away/you stab him.
This game had flawed physics. Well, maybe not flawed, but easily forgettable and it didn’t provide any sort of gameplay mechanic. It’s like it was just there.
I think the game lacked good mocap considering character animations looked pretty silly.
It didn’t seem like any of this was a real dealbreaker for me. I still heavily enjoyed the game.
I mean "detail"? in a game design sort of way, not necessarily the game world. One could argue that Thief III is not a dense game world, in fact, it’s fairly sparse considering you can’t enter most of the buildings. However, there are a lot of places to go for the story and while some people disliked the whole centralized city idea I really liked it.
The one part of the game that really surprised me in a good way was the "death"? mechanic. When I would be killed I was used to the regular routine of loading up a saved checkpoint. But one time I was killed and I just left it… and I woke up in jail.
Yes, that’s right, when you died in Thief III they locked you in jail. And it wasn’t just a "grab a key and walk out,"? no, it was an entire level! I was really surprised and that’s when I realized how great a game Thief III really is. Instead of just having a player die… they give him something to do.
I wouldn’t call Thief III a short game which I am glad for. I put a lot of time into that game and I bet half of it was me just taking my time sneaking around. The added jail level made the game even longer.
So that’s why I consider Thief III an amazing game. Maybe it had a lot of flaws but it delivered, to me, a very rich interactive narrative. It enticed me to keep playing, it was creepy as hell, and its stealth gameplay was a lot of fun.
Stay tuned for a look back on Beyond Good & Evil, one of the most underrated and overlooked games ever.