E3: Thief 4 Gameplay Impressions and Thoughts

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Thief is one game I’m really looking forward too. I thoroughly enjoyed the original Thief, and this is one of those games I was most excited about at the E3 convention.

Taking a trip to the Square Enix booth, I’m taken on a gameplay walkthrough by the Lead Level Designer of Thief (2014), Daniel Windfeld-Schmidt. Mind you, the upcoming Thief is called Thief¬†and not Thief 4. This is neither a sequel nor is it a prequel, rather, it is being hailed as a reboot to the series, and developers promise that it aims to recreate the same vibe that was created by the original Thief. The narrative is different from the original, so Thief (2014) is more like a reinvention to the classic.

You play Garret, who is, to say the least, a master thief. And that is exactly what he does, he steals. Thief (2014), just like the original, uses stealth mechanics at its core, although there are other, more direct ways of doing a mission, the choice is yours. Windfeld-Schmidt points out that the preview being shown is an early alpha build, so there might be some issues, but he reaffirms that this preview will give us a general idea as to how the game will play, look and feel. This gameplay demo is being run on the PlayStation 4.

The part being shown is several hours into the game. There is a revolution in the city, which gives Garret the perfect opportunity to steal the Heart of the Lion. First thing I notice is the freedom you have in the controlling the movement of Garret. From moving at a normal pace, and move in swift bursts by swiping the touchpad in the DualShock PlayStation 4 controller. Sweet! Daniel points out that the game is all about getting you into the mode of being a thief, and these swift movements are an integral part of it.

Garret has to make sure that he moves around in shadows and stays away from well lit areas. You can switch off lights by pushing switches. You can also put off fire flares from a distance by shooting water darts, although this method can alert guards around it. Rope arrows, which have always been a part of the Thief series, can be use to grapple. Blunt arrows can be used to break bottles and cause distraction. The Shadow Meter, located at the bottom left of the screen, shows whether Garret is visible or in darkness.

Being a thief, Garret has to make sure his movement is silent. Moving through patches of water and grass produces sound, and thus must be done with caution. Garret, being a thief and not a warrior, makes it unfeasible for him to land up in confrontation situations with guards, and so they must be prevented at all costs. If in case he does find himself up against guards, he can use hand-to-hand combat.

Apart from hand-to-hand combat, the only other arsenal Garret has at his disposal is the bow. There are a variety arrows which he can use, depending on the situation. We mentioned water arrows before, which can be used to put off distant flares. Then there are also fire arrows, which Garret can use to ignite patches of grass to distract enemies. Garret can silently take down enemies from behind their backs. Dead bodies can be dragged to dark spots, to prevent other guards from noticing them. Various objects can also be thrown around enemies to cause distraction. Pickpocketing is another major mechanic in Thief. Pickpocketing lands you in game currency, special items and experience points.

The health of Garret is judged by the Health meter. The health meter does not regenerate, and Garret must use salvaged food to restore his health. Then there is the Focus meter. The Focus meter plays a key part in the stealth and combat mechanics of the game. Garret can use Focus to shoot enemies with his bow and arrow. Focus can also be used to track enemy movement and highlight in-game objects and collectibles. The Focus meter regenerates by completing in-game actions and objectives.

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As Garret moves through this garrison, closer to the Heart of the Lion, we see that the guards release patrol dogs, so Garret must keep it stealth and stay undercover at all cost.

Lockpicking is another major mechanic in the game. There are two ways by which Garret can pick locks. One is where he inserts the lockpick into the lock, and using vibration feedback (like in Skyrim), he hits the spot and picks the lock. You can use Focus to pick locks with more efficiency and speed. The Focus lockpick mode gets you inside the lock mechanism, making it easier and faster to pick them.

Moving ahead, Garret manages to evade the guards at the garrison and reach an area which is burning. The fires are probably caused by the revolution taking place in the game. There is a bridge which is about to collapse because of the fire, and this is where the platforming elements enter the game. Platforming is flow-ous and reminiscent to Tomb Raider, in my personal opinion, as I sense the presence of a handful of Quick Time Events while platforming. Personally, I’m not a fan of QTEs, but I can’t really comment on how they’re implemented in Thief. We’ll have to wait to see how this element pans out as we move closer to the release of the game, which is in 2014.

Finally reaching the room where the Heart of the Lion is placed, this is where we see puzzle solving making their entry. The gem is placed inside a Lion statue figure, and Garret must disassemble it to take the gem out of its slot. There is broken patch in this statue, through Garret peeks and analyses the mechanism. A few levers and there, voila, the gem is now in Garret’s hand. He shoots up his rope arrow to the roof, and grapples his way out of the building.

So far, these are the impressions on the gameplay walkthough of Thief. I’m kind of have mixed feeling of the game as of now, as there is nothing major I’ve seen that hasn’t already been done by other games. I might be wrong, but we’ll have to sit on it for a while to see how everything turns out, as Eidos Montreal releases more gameplay footage and demos as time passes by.

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