Thief is another of those games with a history that’s lost on me. It wasn’t until I’d played through a few levels that I bothered to dig up the franchise’s past, discovering the first game was released for PC in 1998, with the third wrapping up the series in 2004. But as we all know, video game IPs never die, they just get reimagined, so Thief was reborn for PC in 2014, and made its Mac debut in late 2015 courtesy of Feral Interactive.
I’m going to write this review from the viewpoint that, as with me, your experience with the Thief is limited to what you’ve seen at feralinteractive.com. So, the basics. Thief is a stealth game, as the title would imply. From a first-person perspective, your task, for the most part, is to sneak around The City (think Victorian era England under heavy construction) and steal stuff. You’re very good at it. In fact, you’ve got special powers that make you very good at it; things like that happen to orphans, I’ve learned. But of course, you can’t have special powers without there also being some kind of special evil out there, and guess who ends up in the middle of it all.
Yes, you, along with a cadre of other crazy characters that help you along…when you can trust them. Each has a story that’s lightly told, and I couldn’t help but feel I was missing something with most of them. Were they in previous games and I was just supposed to know them already? Are they (we) being set up for a sequel? Maybe we’re just not supposed to care. Regardless, although they certainly looked and behaved interestingly (it’s apparently very hard to retain both or even just one of your eyes in The City), most of them were around to just move things along.
And maybe that’s okay, because the game is better served when pushing you from one scenario to the next. Because Thief is all about stealth, it’s not a very fast-paced game. You hide, you sneak, you generally avoid, which keeps the action at a minimum. I’m good with this, because it’s how I tend to play games when given the choice. I’m better at sneaking about than at running and gunning, so Thief was right up my alley…once I managed to master the controls. The game explains to you early on that it’s not going to hold your hand through the first few levels like many games do these days. If you want to play it right, you’re going to need to read the manual. And trust me; with everything you have to worry about in this game, you don’t want control confusion and inappropriate keystrokes to send you crashing down into some inappropriate business.
The City is large, you see. Large and confusing. Although the game isn’t as open-world as you’d expect, getting from here there can be difficult. You’re usually given multiple options, but choosing the best can be difficult, and sometimes even finding a good route can be a chore. It’s easy to get discombobulated, especially when running to escape detection. I often found myself trapped in a corner or lost somewhere amongst unfamiliar surroundings. Thankfully, the game does feature a map that at least points you in the right direction, and the things you can steal light up to let you know they’re there.
The bulk of the fun, then, does center around the actual stealing. Whether the major grab at the completion of a level or just any pockets you may pick along the way, Thief provides satisfaction to those who were happiest perching on rooftops to swoop down and attack in any of Feral’s Batman games (without the subsequent fight, of course), or those who’d rather eliminate obstacles well before you reach them.
However, the whole affair seems a bit disjointed. You’re having fun with it one moment, then it’s suddenly terribly frustrating. It’s zipping along just fine, then it becomes mired in loading screens, button mashing and mini-puzzles. Perhaps even worse, the overall story isn’t nearly as compelling as in, say, Deus Ex, which offers more than enough intrigue to propel you forward. Garrett is kind of cool and his relationship with a few of the other characters is fun, but only just enough to carry you through the 20-or-so hours of gameplay Thief offers (more, if you’re going with the Master Thief Edition).
It’s the gameplay, then, that help lifts Thief into a the category of games worth playing. Despite its frustrations, the satisfaction of finally planning, timing and executing a grab can be quite exhilarating. And if you get lost along the way…well, there are worst places to get stuck than in The City.
Genre: First-person stealth
Developer: Eidos Montreal
Publisher: Square Enix
Mac Publisher: Feral Interactive
Minimum Requirements: OS X v10.9, Dual-core 2.2 GHz processor, 2 GB RAM, OpenGL SM3.0 capable video card with 1024 MB VRAM, 4 GB available hard drive space
Price: $29.99 to $34.99
Availability: Now at Steam, the Mac App Store, and directly from Feral Interactive