Malik (6/18/04)

Thief: Deadly Shadows (XBox)

Ion Storm/Eidos

I first got caught up in the Thief series shortly after the release of the first title all so many years ago. A friend of mine thought I should try out the demo that was circulating the Internet. I gave it a shot, and despite the fact that I was not one for FPS style games back at the time, I was hooked. 

Two games and many years later, the third Thief has arrived. I decided, since I'm a huge Halo freak, and since Deus Ex:IW gave me so much fun on the XBox, I might as well go for the XBox version of Thief: Deadly Shadows. 

After having my time devoured on this gem for the last week, I feel it is about time that I do my job, and get a review out...actually, I feel I now have enough experience to bring out a review, since a rushed review is far worse than no review at all. 

As a warning, for those new to the Thief series, this game is not meant as much as a stand alone title (you could play it like one).  It is meant to be a continuation of a great story and an evolution of a detailed and vibrant world.


I'm keeping this part hella brief since I don't want to blow any of the story for you potential Thief-ophiles. I'll also not give much background since so much of that is covered in the past two games, and to give you much of that would ruin two great games. 

That said, I must say that you don't play Thief titles for the stealth game play...quite frankly, that style of game play is played out about as far as it goes. While Thief gives some nifty bonuses (see the next section) to the stealth action, it is the story that you should be playing for...just like with Mr. Spector's other classic series, Deus Ex. 

Between the first two Thief games and now, we have seen our protagonist (a thief who is out for his own gain cannot be called a "hero") Garret go from being a commoner with a keen eye, to an initiate in the secret order of The Seekers, to abandoning them to become his own man...or thief. 

So, Garret is the best type of protagonist (in my opinion); a man who is out for himself and doesn't have some teh gay alternative goody-goody purpose in mind. He is out to rob from the rich, the poor, the dead, the whatever, and give to himself. Plus, he'll take on a mission for someone else, assuming the pay is good enough. He is a cynical, sarcastic man of keen mind, keen eye, and keen reflexes. In other words, a perfect thief. Along the way (in the previous titles), Garret lost his eye (play the whole series to know why) and now has a replacement mechanical eye. Lastly, Garret is a bit of a myth that is almost never seen by anyone (well, anyone who lives to tell the tale). 

Also, in the world, or city (call "The City"), which is set primarily on medieval European city life, there are three rival factions. Firstly, and most familiar with Garret, are the Seekers. This is a group who lives to learn the truth of the world and the progress of mankind. They have the uncanny ability to remain out of the eyes of the world, and when Garret saw one of their members, they knew he was suited to be part of their organization. The Seekers are dark and secretive, and always full of ulterior motives. They also have a classic love/hate thing going with Garret. 

Next up are the Hammerites, who are your more typical of religious orders. They represent many of the ideals and actions of the Crusader era Christians. They have big cathedrals, saints, and a fondness for order. They also have a strong fondness for hammers, which represent both tools to create with, and weapons to destroy with. 'nuff said.  Well, I'll say one more thing; they are the ones who made Garret's mechanical eye. 

Lastly, we have the Pagans. The best tie in to the real Earth for the Pagans would be Druids. These guys are secretive, barbarian-like, and love nature while finding fault with structured order as seen in typical civilization. In other words, a perfect rival for the Hammerites. 

We also have the police (City Watch), citizens, fencers (they buy your loot), merchants (they sell you, that's groundbreaking...), undead, trents (giant walking trees that like to smash shit...including Garret), blah, blah. 

Game Play 

If you've played a previous Thief or Deus Ex title, you know the basics already. You have a standard FPS engine (it can go 3rd person in a method similar to that seen in Hitman...but better controls on the XBox than Hitman 2 ever had), set up for action and exploration. 

The most important thing to keep in mind in Thief is being hidden. Thus, you have a light gem (same thing as your light gauge in Splinter tells you how visible you are) and a lot of shadows to play in. When you're visible, the shit hits the fan, and when you cloaked in shadow, you are free to explore. The issue is how to keep the shadows in your journey. Thus you will have to consider taking air ducts, crawling under walkways, and staying away from sources of light (such as torches). On top of that, just like with S.C., you have to worry about how audible (noisy) you are. Thus you will have to learn to creep along hunched over (you're quitter when hunched over), barely tapping your analogue stick, and walking on the softest surfaces possible (metal is loud to walk, go and find a sheet of metal and walk; doesn't it sound try something soft like, we are learning about sound!). All of this is pretty standard for a stealth action title. 

However, you can alter your world, to some degree, to help out in keeping out of sight and mind. The best way is to look at your arsenal of arrows. Garret is a master of the short bow, and he also lives in a world with magical/elemental gems. Put these gem on an arrow, and you get some nifty effects. Put the arrow in your bow, and the cycle is complete. 

You are given the option to buy or find, most importantly, water arrows. These are your primary tool in Thief. A water arrow can douse torches (and do little else). If you hit a torch with a water arrow, the light goes out and you are free to proceed with a lot less effort required. On a side note, small flames, like candles, can be put out by hand (no arrow required). 

On top of the water arrow to handle light issues, you have a moss arrow to handle the problems of audibility. The moss arrow, when fired at the ground, it will dampen all noise caused by footsteps (this can bite you in the ass if you're listening for an approaching guard and they are walking on your moss...). This, in the end, usually means far less to you than the water arrow's effect since you can usually crouch and move slow enough that no one will hear you. However, the moss arrow at least has a fun secondary purpose...shoot a person in the face and they will be temporarily silenced and blinded as moss invades their eyes and mouth...not the best offensive tactic, but it is fun, none-the-less. 

On top of that, you're also given fire arrows to light fires (like setting explosives on fire...but since they burn, they cause you to light up as you take your aim), gas arrows (sleepy gas, that is), normal broad head arrows (for sniping), and noisemaker arrows (the name seams to say it all...but for those who are on the duller side, they make noises). Plus you will get flash bombs (to blind people with), health potions (I still can't figure these out...I think they explode...), oil flasks (to make oil slicks and to light on fire), gas bombs, explosive mines (hella fun...throw and lure a guard to it...hehehe), and holy water (to halt the undead). 

Sadly, for those who remember the first two Thief games, the rope arrow has been replaced. You now have climbing gloves that let you climb rock and brick walls. It's fun, but not as fun as the rope arrows. On the fun side, if you are being chased and climb a wall that has no shadows around it, the guards are smart enough to wait you out. 

As for the game itself; the enemy AI is not the best in the world. You can run from a guard into a dead-end ally and hide in the shadows, and the guard will actually give up after a few minutes. Not the most realistic guards. Also, the citizens, after being robbed (you can pick pockets for fun) will not suspect you 90% of the time, even if you did it in bright torch light. 

Speaking of lights, there is dynamic lighting in Thief:DS. So, if something is moved into a torches light and you then hid it it's shadow, you are all good. Of course it also means that guards will sometimes carry torches to add to the challenge. There are also wisps, which are little living (sort of) balls of light that can move towards you at random and light you up. All of this will keep you on your toes enough so that you are not just playing a waiting need to remain active. 

Technically, Thief has some bugs. Some major bugs. The most obvious, and the most discussed, is that if you play a mission on hard or expert and save your game, the save will be on normal difficulty. This means nothing if you will beat a mission in one attempt without reloading at all. However, for those of us who have some sort of life or will explore to the point of walking into one too many traps, it means you will be stuck on normal difficulty after your first re-load. 

The second bug I've encountered, and the one that matters the most to me (I like normal difficulty, since I'm playing more for the story than the challenge) is that Thief can and will crash. Usually this happens at a loading screen, and without any warning. Also, there are people who've had their saves corrupted. These facts together equal one thing (which should be done for any game); save often and save on many files. At least the Xbox is nice for supporting this with it's hard drive. 

The third issue, which is not a bug as much as an annoyance, is that the load screens are long. Nothing too bad, but they do rival KOTOR for load times. I wish you could install part of the game to your hard drvie to skip this crap, but that would be too logical. 

All of that aside, Thief is a typical game in terms of stealth, but from a FPS viewpoint (I can't stand the 3rd person view, myself). It plays a lot like Deus Ex; as in you can interact with almost anything, and you you have a nice full City full of somewhat interactive people and a lot of things to explore. Lastly, a lot of the game is presented by reading books and scrolls, so be prepared to read...hell, reading is fundamental! So, if you're a person who plays stealth games for the action or you prefer to not do that much reading in a FPS style game, then your out of luck here. Personally, I find it more realistic, since books would be a good source of info on the background of the world in a medieval city since people are not just going to tell you the history of everything. Also, you're dealing a lot with three religious cults, so they will have a lot of stuff in libraries and a good deal of it will be the history that makes Thief so intriguing. 


Well, here we are dealing with a mixed bag. A majority of the visuals are rather polygonal, especially the faces of people. This makes everyone have, in essence, the same face. Not the most realistic of visual setups. 

However, the details of the surroundings and items found in The City are a lot better. When you steal some loot, you'll easily know what it is just by the visuals. 

At the same time, the shadowy environment is highly detailed and easy to navigate through. The shadows are dark enough to give you the impression that you can actually hide in them, but lit up enough that you, as a player, are able to navigate through most dark areas (completely darkened areas are still pitch black). 

The best features of the visuals is found when you go to third person view (which I only do for this affect to be seen). When Garret is hiding in the shadows and you go to third person, there is no image in video games as bad ass looking as Garret in the shadows. He has a cartoonish (this word often times has bad connotations...but I mean this in a very good way) look like one would see in The Dark Night Returns, Sandman, or any other truly darkly drawn comic/graphic novel. There is no way to properly describe the feeling of seeing Garret flat against a wall in a dark alley, with his mechanical eye shimmering a faint greenish hue, as a guard walks by looking for Garret in vain. 

Besides these details, the graphics are run of the mill. Nothing bad in that, but nothing else is really breath-taking either. Long story short, the visuals are definitely beyond adequate. 


Music doesn't play a role in Thief, so there is no sound track to speak of in the actual game. So, nothing to talk about musically...which is a good thing, since this game is trying to present a realistic atmosphere, and I don't know of many people who have sound tracks playing as they go about their business (so why would Garret?). 

The speech/voice acting is, on a majority of occasions, really well done. Sadly the rat people (there are rat people) sound a little cheesy, like Golum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The other voice acting is exceptional in quality. Best of all, for those who've played the original two Thief games, the voice actor for Garret is the same guy still. It helps to keep a voice actor the same if you want to keep the mood of the game the same. 

The most important part of Thief is the sound effects. Plain and simple, the effects are great. When someone is walking, the sound of their steps cannot only tell you where they are, but how fast they are moving, what surface they are walking on, and what way the person is traveling. This also applies to everything else that's audible in Thief. The sounds always (and I mean always) sound like the action that triggered them. Water flowing? Sounds like flowing water. A bow being fired? You hear the bow string snap, the arrow whiz through the air, and the thud of an arrow striking it's target (which will sound different according to the target's composition). 

Long story short, the audio portion of Thief:DS presents everything that can make it more suspenseful to play, and adds nothing that can take away (except the rat people's voices). Superb. 


This game doesn't pander to newbs in many ways. The game is presented for the veterans of the Thief series. This is both a warning to new comers, and a great thing for us Thief vets. While it is not impossible to get into the game if your new to the series, it will take a bit of effort on your behalf to catch up on the finer points of Garret's life. 

The story and the audio in Thief give an experience that must been seen (or heard) to believe. While the visuals don't add anything groundbreaking, they serve their job nicely. Sadly, the loss of the rope arrows, the many bugs (nothing like climbing into the wall...and I mean into the wall...being frozen in place and watching a rat person hack away at you while you can do nothing but stand there and take it...), and the occasional loss of proper hit detection do take away from the game experience, along with the horrible load times, but these flaws are easily overcome by the quality of the rest of the game. So, even with these flaws, I have to give Thief: Deadly Shadows a 8.75/10 (without the flaws, easily a 9.5).