Ninety to 99% of my creative drive comes from gaming and games I have played. Fifty to
60% of this comes from the first two Thief
games. Since I first played them as a kid, I have loved everything about
them: their atmosphere, their stories, characters, environments, design, gameplay, and overall aura. The experience of playing the original Thief games has been a fundamental part
of my psyche. They are, to get a little melodramatic about it, my first and
So okay. I love these two games Thief: The Dark Project and Thief II: The Metal Age. I’m doing this
project on them. Great for me—but what about you? Why should you care,
especially if you may not be interested in games and may have never even heard
The answer: you should care if you
like great stories—great entertainment experiences. My thesis throughout this
project is that the Thief games are
the ideal story-telling platform and entertainment experience. I’ll try to
relay to you why I think this is so via mini-essays on topics and themes from Thief and via mission-summaries I write
for select levels from the first three Thief
games. These mission-summaries will also include material on Thief fan-missions created by members of
the fan community at Through the Looking
Glass (see 'ttlg.com').
I hope, through this, to share some
of the greatness that I have always enjoyed from the Thief games. So if you in any way appreciate great storytelling and
other entertainment experiences, then please read, watch, and enjoy my blog; or, more importantly, play the Thief games.
In 1998, game developer Looking Glass Studios
released Thief: The Dark Project, a PC game that was critically
acclaimed at the time and that has held and grown a loyal, dedicated fan base
since. The game drew inspiration from an earlier work of Looking Glass’, Ultima
Underworld, but unlike that role-playing game, Thief had
no role-playing statistics and mechanics at the forefront. Instead, Thief took
on the more immediate, accessible design of an action game and, like Looking
Glass’ other titles, added depth to this otherwise simple setup. Thief was
dubbed a “first-person sneaker” at the time, as it was first-person and part of
the game’s design was to sneak by the artificial intelligence (AI). But Thief was,
and is, much more than a stealth game. Its level design, narrative design, and
atmosphere make it a unique, unparalleled experience. This is the case not just
for gaming, but for entertainment in general.
to Thief’s design is that the stealth gameplay takes a
backseat. Thief is a great ‘stealth’ game precisely because
its main focus is not on stealth. The requirement of players
to remain undetected and avoid confrontation is used to complement and enhance
the greater goal of the game, which is to explore and discover. This is a basic
goal, as most games arguably involve exploration and discovery. But Thief does
not just involve it to some degree—it executes the sense of exploration
perfectly. The stealth aspect forces players into a ‘fly on the wall’ position,
from which, lurking in the shadows, they can explore.
design complements the narrative and story aspect of Thief. Thief’s
story is formed through ‘narrative caches’ throughout the game’s missions.
These are either journals or other ‘readables’—books, scrolls, letters, or
pamphlets lying around—, conversations between AI that players can overhear,
and paintings and other artwork on the walls. Much of Thief’s story
is conveyed through paintings and other artwork, such as statues, that players
will see decorating manor-houses and other buildings. The game’s subtle method
of delivering its backstory adds extra weight to the game’s fiction. Rather
than something directly fed to the players, the fiction looms in the
background, part of the thick atmosphere that overhangs the entire game.
have ‘briefing’ cut scenes before each mission, narrated by the
player-character Garrett, but these serve only to set up each mission. The
backstory of the gameworld is conveyed through the aforementioned narrative
level design is excellent. Most of Thief’s levels are large
and labyrinthine in structure, and allow players to explore as they please, in
non-linear fashion. A few of the missions I highlight in these blog entries are
like ‘mini open-worlds’.
game series’ fanbase has iterated on all these design principles excellently in
fan-created Thief missions, or ‘Thief fan
missions’, created using the game’s editing tools, and distributed through
Looking Glass’ fanbase (ttlg.com). (I consider many of these fan missions to be among the greatest entertainment and narrative experiences I've encountered, and will highlight
some of them in this blog as well.)
The Thief series
consists of four games. The focus of this blog will be on the first two: Thief:
The Dark Project (1998) and Thief II: The Metal Age (2000).
Both titles were developed by Looking Glass Studios, and are the series’ best.
The third game, Thief: Deadly Shadows (2004), is a mixed bag.
It was developed by Ion Storm and had technical limitations and design
fundamentals that gave it a lukewarm reception among the fans. One of its
missions, however, will be covered in this blog, as it is one of the finest
segments of the Thief series and is Deadly
Shadows’ saving grace. The fourth Thief game, a
reboot titled only “Thief” (2014), was released recently and developed
by Eidos-Montreal. This game is not very good, was ill received by fans of the
series (who had anticipated it with much cynicism in the first place), and will
not be covered at all in this blog. (Indeed, this blog’s author refuses to
recognize this latest Thief as a Thief game
at all.) The fan missions covered in the blog will all be for the original two,
Looking Glass-developed Thief games. For the blog
entries, Thief: The Dark Project will be called simply “Thief
I”, and Thief II: The Metal Age just “Thief II.” Thief:
Deadly Shadows will be called “Thief III”.
the formal introductions out of the way, let's move on to the story specifics. In
the Thief games, you play as Garrett. When players first meet
Garrett in Thief I, he is a stray child, who, in his own words, had
no parents and had to keep “running messages and picking pockets to keep [his]
ribs from meeting [his] spine.” But Garrett runs into an old man one day who is
a Keeper. The Keepers are one of the different sects in Thief’s
fiction, a group who remain hidden, read prophecies, use the “power of glyphs”,
and try to maintain balance in the City.
City” is Thief’s setting. It is always and only ever referred to as
“the City” in the game—there is no proper name. Thief’s world is a
blend of many different eras. There’s medieval, Victorian, and even some early
modern flair and style all mixed together in a fantasy world decidedly flavored
steampunk. Thief I is mostly medieval, with a ‘dark middle
ages’ vibe. Thief II is mostly Victorian, with art-deco style
throughout. Thief III returned the series more to medieval
fantasy, toning down the Victorian style of Thief II. But in
all, Thief’s setting is fantasy, and best described as a
medieval-Victorian hybrid with a little steampunk.
you’re Garrett, in the City, and you learn from Thief I’s intro
that Garrett got invited into the fold of the Keepers through the coincidence
of bumping into one of them. From the Keepers, Garrett learns the “art of not
being seen.” This learning process is the setup of Thief I’s
training mission. Garrett could use this “art” of the Keepers to…be a Keeper.
But he decides to ditch the shadowy organization and go out on his own, using
the ways of the Keepers to be a thief. Thus begins the story of the Thief series.
his adventures in burglary, Garrett will deal with all the wonderful people of
the City. One large organization in the City is the Hammerites. These are the
religious people of the Thief universe, their order, “The
Order of the Hammer”, being, essentially, the Thief world’s
Catholic Church. They’re like technophiles, worshipping the ‘Hammer’ and all
the tools for building and constructing, praising their “Master Builder” for
delivering them from humanity’s dark, wild past. They wield huge, heavy
hammers, which they will use to swiftly crush Garrett if they catch sight of
him in one of their temples.
the Hammerites are the Pagans. In Thief I, players never see
Pagans, though they read of them many times (and their mystique of ‘being
unknown’ overhangs the atmosphere). In Thief II and III,
players will see and interact with Pagans. They’re enemies to the Hammerites,
as Pagans loath the constructs of civilization and prefer, instead, to live
wild in the woods. As the Hammerites practice technology, the Pagans practice
magic. They worship “the Woodsie Lord”, an ancient god whom the Hammerites call
“the Trickster”. The Trickster is basically Thief’s devil.
important to note that these two groups, integral to Thief, and
especially Thief I’s backstory, are introduced gradually through
the afore-described narrative caches. And it’s never cheap, because players
never pick up a book titled “An Introduction to Hammerites”. Indeed, players
are first introduced to the Hammerite vs. Pagan dichotomy via a painting
in Thief I’s first mission. At the time, players don’t even know
it, as they don’t know anything about Hammerites or the Trickster in the first
mission. It’s an early, subtle introduction.
addition to the Hammerites and the Pagans, there’s the star of the show: the
City Watch and private guards. These guys are the guards players will see and
hide from in most areas of the game. The City Watch patrol the streets, and
private guards patrol manor-houses. Private guards and City Watch look and act
very similarly. There also appear different ‘characters’ amongst the guards who
serve as the game’s humor. There’s the slow, stupid guard; the straight-talking
guard; the drunken guard; and others. All the guards and their dialog serve as
comic relief. It’s amusing to hear guards mumble “must’ve been rats” or “just
the wind I guess” whenever the player makes a noise, alerting them, but the
guard gives up the search. Guards will also mumble to themselves things like “I
haven’t had a thing to eat in days, when will they bring me my dinner” or
“Someday I’ll show them all…someday they’ll get what they deserve.” One comic
guard, named “Benny” by the fans, has some particularly funny dialog. Some
guards’ conversations are done in classic straight-guy / funny-guy style, as
one is from the very first mission of Thief in which two
guards discuss going to “the bear pits.”
there are the already-introduced Keepers, who players don’t run into much, but
who do get in touch with Garrett every now and then. They play their biggest
role in Thief III. They have their prophecies, their glyphs, and
their dedication to maintaining ‘balance’ in the City. They also always keep
their eye on Garrett.
II has a unique group, the “Mechanists”, an outbranch of
the Hammerites and, as far as the Hammerites are concerned, outright heretics.
I guess you could see the Mechanists as Thief’s Protestants. It’s
thanks to them and their mechanical inventions that Garrett has to deal with
security cameras and robots in Thief II. In the style of the
series, these security machines are not just for gameplay—in all of the
Mechanists’ devices there is evidence of their crazed religion, with the
security bots spouting Mechanists’ “propaganda” and scripture, all recorded by
the Mechanists’ founder himself. In most other games, security bots don’t say
things like “blessed be the children of metal” as they patrol around—but this
is Thief. Story and gameplay always intertwine, the two supporting
each other; and hardly, if ever, in conflict.
the player-character and “master thief”; the shadowy Keepers; the zealous
Hammerites; the mysterious Pagans; the humorous guards; and, in Thief
II, the crazed Mechanists; and also the City itself are the major
characters of the Thief world. Throughout my blog entries, how
the games introduce these groups will be an area of focus.
I want to briefly describe how a typical Thief mission begins.
First, there is a mission “briefing.” No one is briefing Garrett—only Garrett
speaks, talking either to himself or the player. Following this is the screen
listing the mission objectives, and the option to change difficulty setting and
to see the differing objectives for each setting (Thief’s three
difficulty settings are ‘Normal’, ‘Hard’, and ‘Expert’). Following this, in
most cases, is a menu that acts as a store—as if Garrett is buying equipment.
You can either buy or ignore any of the equipment available, and how much money
you have to spend depends on how much loot you got in the prior mission. After this,
the mission starts. Throughout my project will be gameplay recordings and videos of the mission briefings.
This project will begin with overviews of the missions I want to highlight from the first Thief game: Thief: The Dark Project. To begin, here are a couple videos that, while not essential to the project, do help to set up the context of the story. They are of the training mission, which sets up the story of the game with Garrett being recruited by the Keepers and subsequently turning to the thief's life.
Thief: The Dark Project starts
off with a simple, straightforward and brilliantly designed mission that sets
the tone for the adventure the player is about to begin. Our cynical antihero,
Garrett, has gotten word from his fence that Lord Bafford is out of town. The
time is ripe to break into Bafford’s manor house and steal the lord’s jeweled
From the get go, the player is introduced to the design and atmosphere elements that make Thief special. The mission starts with the player dropped just outside
the front gate to Bafford’s manor. From this point, the player may travel left or
right, and from those directions other ways, including down into the sewers. The
plan is to enter a well house which leads into a water system that connects
with Bafford’s manor.
Stepping forward into the shadows of the
front gate to the manor, the player can overhear two of the guards engage in conversation.
Overhearing conversation between AI characters is a key element in this series—Thief lets the player be a fly-on-the-wall.
As the player walks around towards the back of the manor house, wind blows
through the city streets, broken only by the occasional chatter that comes from
the closed windows of lit, crowded taverns. Environmental sound effects and
audio is something the developers at Looking Glass got perfect in the first two
continues to set the mood as the player sneaks into the interior of the manor. As the player explores the manor house, more guards converse; notes hang pinned to the
walls; journals lie scattered about. The player can engage in all these
‘narrative pockets’, or just continue on to nab the jeweled scepter.
The manor’s design is brilliant and
well-balanced. The player first enters the cellar, then proceeds to the outer areas
and then, finally, into the inner areas. Audio cues and changes in the balance between
lighting and shadow set the mood for each section. *Note: In my gameplay recordings, I am playing Thief under the 'ghosting' style. This is a style created by the Thief fan community under which one uses little to no weapons or items while playing. So, in my videos, I'm mostly just sneaking around and soaking things in. There are other ways to play, though; I could be pulling out my blackjack to knock out guards, which I rarely do in these videos. I include this note just so you know that the way I play Thief in these videos is not the only way to play Thief.*
Once the player reaches Bafford’s throne
room—“How pretentious can he get?” Garrett asks—the scepter is in plain sight,
hanging on the wall. Players nab it. On Normal, the mission ends. On higher
difficulties, players must get back out, and they will need to have been
nabbing other loot from the manor. On Normal, players can be murderer as much
as thief; on higher difficulty settings, Garrett’s a professional, so no
killing. The Thief games’ gameplay
design and player experience changes substantially between each difficulty
Bafford’s Manor sets the stage for the rest of the game. The elements
introduced here are used to memorable, fantastic effect as the game proceeds.
Every time I replay Bafford’s manor, and it numbers in the thousands by this
point, I’m definitely ready for another adventure through Thief.
Garrett’s fence, has been locked up by the Hammerites. He’s incarcerated in the
religious group’s compound at Cragscleft. The place contains the prison in
which Cutty is being held as well as a factory and a mines. As Garrett notes, the
Hammerites don’t venture much into the mines as they’re supposedly haunted, but
that’s exactly the way Garrett’s going to take to get into the compound to get
Cutty out. *Note: The voice actor who voices Garrett, and many of the other characters and monsters in the Thief games, is Stephen Russell. He's a great voice actor and still acts in games today. His voice work is an integral part of the original Thief experience.*
Things don’t go as planned.
“Break From Cragscleft Prison” has a couple twists, which is a trend in the
official Thief games and many of its
fan-made missions. “Cragscleft” also contains a contrast between the two main
themes of Thief: The Dark Project’s
fiction: the well-lit, industrious, civilized world of the Hammerites, as
experienced in the Factory and prison sections (though, perhaps, a prison isn’t
truly civilized), and the dark, mysterious, decayed world of the undead, as
experienced in the haunted mines. Thief:
The Dark Project has throughout an underlying darkness, rising explicitly
in the game’s haunted segments. The story, in general, is one of
technology versus magic. And, again, in Cragscleft, with its industrious factory
and haunted mines, one can see this contrast in demonstration.
On to the mission.
“Cragscleft” begins with the player plopped outdoors in a crevice of the mountain that the mines, factory, and
prison complex are carved in to. The blue sky and chirping birds are an ironic
prelude to the dark mines the player must enter at the start of their journey
through Cragscleft. Garrett leaves the cheery outside by diving into the water
and swimming through a passage and up into the cold embrace of the mines.
Zombies are a big staple of the
original Thief game, and here the player meets their first one. It’s lying dead, for now, but will rise if alerted. The
undead’s groans and moans horrified me when I first played through Thief as a kid. And these zombies are
one of the elements that make Thief: The
Dark Project such a unique stealth game. You don’t just sneak past guards,
but also the undead. And giant spiders—one of which lurks in the depths of
these mines. (There are also dinosaur-like “Burricks”, whom we’ll meet in the
next mission.) Though sneaking past guards has its thrills, there’s something
about creeping past zombies that’s all the more spine-tingling.
The literal darkness of the mines
coupled with the zombies make walking through them a daunting trek. A great deal of the atmosphere comes from the audio. The distant moans, the scurrying and
squeaks of rats, and the creak of wooden beams fill the player with dread and give them a sense of the decay in these mines.
The player empathizes with Garrett. The players’ palms sweated as Garrett broke in to
Bafford’s manor, but now poor Garrett has to deal with the supernatural.
Relaying such dread through atmosphere is done really well in Thief, which allows the player to
identify all the more with Garrett.
Little narrative pieces heighten the
dread. A flickering light above a broken keypad for an elevator conveys the
ruined nature of these mines. This elevator once would have served as a quick
link to the light world of the factory above, but now it can’t be called, not
to this level. The player will have to find another way up. A glance down the elevator shaft reveals the dim outline of a very large spider—the player certainly doesn't want to
Using Thief’s sometime awkward mantling maneuver, the player can make their
way upwards to a higher level of the mines. The factory should be nearby—but
for now, Garrett is still stuck in the mines. One of my favorite moments from Thief: The Dark Project lies on this
level of the mines. The player may find a tucked-away Hammerite sanctuary, long in
ruin, with benches, an altar, and some religious décor. In here, there are also
a couple holy water fountains. Using these will give the player Holy Water
Arrows for a brief time, which for now is the only sure way to destroy the
undead. (Of course, this option is not always the best to take. For Garrett,
sneaking is always better.)
The soft hum of the Holy Water fountains
and the secluded nature of this sanctuary give the player a feeling of safety. This sanctuary is a
respite from the creepy mines all around. As a kid first playing this game, and
even today, I'll sometimes crouch in a corner of this sanctuary. I like feeling
safe from the haunted horrors of the mines. But eventually, the objectives—or,
specifically, the need to find my imprisoned fence—come calling, and it’s back
into the fray.
Finally, the player sights a signpost that
reads “Factory.” The way out of these creepy mines! But around a corner—a
genuine jump moment—lies one last fright: a floating skeleton, that shoots its
skull forward and falls apart as Garrett approaches.
Okay. Enough of these mines.
A few scattered zombie parts and faint
noises of humans—living ones—humming and whistling give the player indications that civilization is nearby. Take a peak around a corner, and you'll see a stairway up. There are also some nice torches, lit ones. And at the base of the stairs are a
couple of guys in some funny red, chainmail armor getup—and they’re carrying big sledge-hammers. Oh—these must be Hammerites! Their conversation gives the player a peek
into their story and place in Thief’s
Up into the Factory, the player discovers a
different world. Here the hum of machines, the clank of gears and levers, and
the mumbling of Hammerites replace the haunted noises of below.
Something else the player, myself included,
find out real fast is that it was much easier sneaking past zombies in the
darkness of the mines than sneaking past Hammerites in this brightly-lit
factory. These guys are alert, move fast, and have big hammers. Holy Water
doesn’t work too well on them, either.
But persistence, good use of quick saves
and quick loads, and a few Moss and Water arrows should have the player successfully transport Garrett through the factory and to the prison. In the
prison, the player gets a mix of the other two sections: the prisons are still
civilization, with lights and Hammerites, but throughout them echo the moans of
starving prisoners. Hmm…I could go back to the zombie moans now, maybe.
But, I can’t—not yet, because I need to
rescue Cutty. And, if I’m playing on Hard, I need to recover Freddie’s “hand of
glory.” If I’m playing on Expert, I need to do both those things and rescue Basso the Boxman. I always
play on Expert now, so, time to get to work!
The prison is divided into four cell
blocks: cell blocks 1 and 2 on one side, and 3 and 4 on the other. On each
side, a security hub with a Hammerite guard lies before the entrance to the
cell blocks. Cells 3 and 4 must be 'higher maintenance’ because the security
hub is more well lit. This drives me, and would likely drive any player,
towards cell blocks 1 and 2, putting off cell blocks 3 and 4 for later. However, a conversation between two Hammerites indicates that Cutty is in cell block 4. Thankfully, a central room, that can only be accessed
from within the cell blocks, gives the player an easier route to cell blocks 3 and 4. Given
how many hundreds of playthroughs I creeped through the well-lit hub before
finally discovering this easier route is one of many testaments to the fact that
Thief always has new secrets to discover, even for a veteran player such as myself.
After some sneaking, some reading of who’s
who in the cells, some knocking out of guards, and some flipping of levers,
Garrett can nab Freddie’s hand of glory, pick up the unconscious body of Basso
to carry back to the surface, and meet with Cutty. Unfortunately for Garrett,
who is owed by Cutty, Cutty is dying. In his last, choked-out words, Cutty
gives Garrett the only payment he can now—a tip. Turns out another prisoner
here, named Felix, broke out of his cell. He had a map of some place called “the
Bonehoard”, and in this Bonehoard lies a valuable treasure, the “Horn of
Okay—interesting. But the player now has another task. Cutty’s fallen down dead, so scratch him—it’s time to find Felix
and his map.
From cell block 1, the player can access the
Barracks. From here, the player can then access the higher offices. This is where,
according to Cutty, the Hammerites had locked up Felix’s map in an ‘evidence
vault’. But a perusal of the area and the reading of a journal lets players
know that Felix was able to steal the map back out of the evidence vault. Oh
well. The walk through the barracks and offices did give the players a chance
to see some pretty décor and nab some more loot, though.
Felix was able to nab the contents of the
Hammerites’ evidence locker, but he wasn’t able to make it out of the complex. The player finds his body, with the map of the Bonehoard beside it, in a secret
area off from one of the security hubs. Discovering secrets like this is one of
the great parts of Thief—in this
case, the sound of running water alerts the player to there being an underground
river. This sound is coming from the entrance to the secret area.
Once Garrett has the map, he must go back
through the mines to leave. There are several transition areas between the
Factory level and the haunted mines. This is another example of how Thief can scratch the exploring itch.
Even on recent playthroughs, I discover a way to approach this mission that I
hadn’t before. In this case, a running stream with a waterfall downwards, an
elevator shaft, the stairs noted above, or a secret passage through a cavern
will each connect the player back to the mines. These paths don’t all present
themselves, and the player may only ever be aware of one. It’s always satisfying
and fun to discover new passages.
“Cragscleft” is a great example of how to
put two different worlds together, in this case the haunted mines and the
Hammerite factory and prison complex. Both are blended together, and can be jumped to and from throughout the mission. Both have different atmospheres, and the
ascent from the haunted mines into the factory, and then back, gives the player a
sense of adventure.
great thing about the Thief games and
their fan content is that they are not always ‘standard stealth fare.’ This is
especially true of the first Thief,
in which, as has been explored, there is an underlying ‘dark’ or ‘mystic’
theme. While “Cragscleft” had some horror elements, the first full-on ‘haunted’
or ‘undead’ mission in Thief is this
one: “Down in the Bonehoard.” What makes this mission great is not just its
creepy atmosphere, but also its labyrinthine design. On Expert mode, especially,
the designers have the player exploring every bit of this mission’s location: a
large underground crypt, or catacomb—whichever term you prefer. It’s a pretty
abstract design, and is a kind of catacomb structure that could not possibly
exist in our real world. And as Garrett explores it, he's not so properly a
thief, as he is a...grave robber. This mission is much less on the sneakster
side and more on the ‘Indiana Jones’ side, though there’s certainly sneaking to
be had. So grab your hat and whip—or, in this case, your cloak and rope
arrows—and let’s explore the Bonehoard.
In Thief,difficulty setting
can radically change the playing experience. The changes are not just in terms
of the awareness level of the AI or in the amount of health the player has
versus the damage the player takes, though these are affected by difficulty
level. The changes are also in the amount of objectives and, more importantly,
in the very structure of the level. On the ‘Normal’ difficulty, “Bonehoard” is
simple: Get the Horn of Quintus. That’s it, and the design is as simple as the
single objective (though still brilliant). This is good for a player’s first
time through Thief. But on ‘Hard’ and
especially ‘Expert’, “Bonehoard” becomes a very different experience. More
areas are open to explore and there are many more objectives, including returning
to the surface once all the objective items have been acquired. It makes for a great
adventure, and this write-up is based on the ‘Expert’ version of “Bonehoard.”
The player starts out in front of a
small crypt entrance. It’s a small opening into a cornucopia of Thief-y fun.
Garrett begins his descent towards
the legendary Horn of Quintus by climbing down a rope into one of the tomb
areas. Here a solitary zombie walks around. Creepy art styles decorate the
wall—the air is thick with a sense of isolation. You’re down here all alone.
But other thieves have tried to rob the dead, as evidenced by the corpses
Garrett finds with journals lying beside them, detailing the final days of these
late explorers’ lives.
As Garrett moves through this early tomb
section, he crosses a few booby traps, such as a falling boulder, and treasure
chests that trigger shooting arrows when opened. There are quite a few more of
these throughout the tomb. Once Garrett reaches the caves that will lead him to
the main area of “Bonehoard,” the mission really opens up.
“Bonehoard’s” open-ended design makes
it highly re-playable. I’ve played it hundreds of times (literally, no hyperbole) and even still will
suddenly feel the itch to dive back into the Bonehoard for a fix. It’s great
design and lots of fun.
The tunneled caves, with Burricks
(large lizard-like creatures), and the large crypt areas, with the undead, make
up the main area of this mission. Both weave in and out and soon enough the player will find they are going in circles. But this a good feeling here—one with lots
of discovery and the joy that comes from it. Discovering new areas, or new
passages to old areas, is crux to the Thief
Acquiring the Horn of Quintus is one
of the most memorable moments from the Thief
series. When the player first step out of the Burrick-infested tunnels and then
enter the large, main catacomb area, they will hear, echoing from the distance, a
piped-tune playing. Garrett mutters, “Tombs with piped-in music. How classy.”
It is the Horn of Quintus, and it will keep playing until Garrett nabs it,
giving players a signal to follow to the treasure they seek.
The main section has several areas
to access, each one of them filled with tricks and traps. The tomb of
the Quintus family is located past a cavern filled with Burricks. These, however, are standing still and do not attack Garrett as he
walks by. The tune coming from the Horn of Quintus is what is keeping them
still. So, once Garrett steals the Horn, he won’t have as easy a time getting back
past these Burricks as he had getting into the Quintus’ tomb.
Climbing up the large corridor to
the Horn, its tune becoming louder as Garrett progresses to it, is magical.
Once in front of it, Garrett says, “The Horn of Quintus, I presume.” A sound of
distant rumbling plays. Thief’s use
of audio, both Garrett speaking out loud to himself and the atmospheric ambiance,
is brilliant at creating atmosphere, and it shines in this ‘Quintus’ experience.
Either before or after grabbing the
Horn, the player may explore all the other areas of the crypts and get all the
other artifacts. “Bonehoard” is a fun, well-designed grave-robbing adventure
that fuses the world of Thief with
the classic dungeon-crawling vibe. Like many of Thief’s levels, it’s a great non-linear, open-ended mission that
encourages exploration and rewards this with discovery.
What makes the Thief games great games is that they are not stealth games. They
have stealth in them, and they are partly stealth games; if someone described
them as such they would not be invalid. But stealth is not their primary drive
or goal. These games are about exploration and discovery, and having characters
and stories gradually, subtlety make their way to you. The Thief games use the stealth premise as a vehicle for a unique,
effective method of story-telling, key to it being that the player is a
Just as stealth is incidental to a
better story experience, so too is Garrett’s status as a thief. Garrett is a
thief not just so players can ‘play as a thief’; he’s also such so that players
can receive the game’s story in a certain, very effective way.
The first way Garrett's status as a thief is used in such a way is by
establishing an “atmosphere of intimidation.” This atmosphere only exists
because Garrett is a thief who must always hide from those around him.
Garrett’s surroundings, both the other people and all the buildings, are
hostile to him. This gives the character groups and the buildings in the game a
“heightened sense”—they tower above Garrett. This would not be the case were
players a knight-hero, or something. In this case, players would be on an even
plane with those around them. To a heroic knight walking through the City, who
does not have to worry about hiding, the appearance, beliefs, style, and
overall aura of the Hammerites or other groups in the City would not be as
intimidating. Garrett, to the contrary, is skeptical of them and indifferent to
them. Everyone is a threat to Garrett.
Garrett also sees the bad side of
people. To the average citizen, perhaps the Hammerites would only ever be
thought of as good. But Garrett sees them when they think no one is watching,
being a thief who can also double as voyeur or snoopster.
The second way story-telling is
affected by Garrett’s status as thief is by “Garrett’s disinterest.” Precisely
because Garrett is disinterested in the world and the characters around him,
their stories become more interesting. They are relayed to the player
incidentally. I’ll provide an illustration to
demonstrate. If you had a knight-hero in the world of the City who was sent on
a quest, by the king let’s say, to either deliver to or pick something up from
a Hammerite Temple, learning about the Hammerites would be less interesting.
The knight-hero would walk into the Hammerite Temple, freely and with no need
to hide, and would read books lying about in the open and carry out dialogue
with Hammerite guards. Because the Hammerites would be easily approachable and
would be on an even-plane with the player, as they’re a lawful hero, the
Hammerites story would appear less interesting. It would not tower above the
If you had Garrett, or any like
thief, sneaking into a Hammerite Temple to steal valuables, and optionally
coming upon journals and other notes lying around—“just-so-happening to”, that
is—and the same for overhearing conversations between Hammerites, rather than
dialogue with them directly, the story becomes more interesting. This is
because Garrett, or the thief, is not supposed to be there and the Hammerites
do not know that he is there. Being a fly-on-the-wall is key to Thief more effective method of relaying
Along with this, Garrett is only
ever interested in his own personal and selfish adventure at any given time.
When he goes in to a place, he just wants to steal. Story-consumption is more
secondary than it would be for a hero going in to a place on a legitimate quest.
The third way storytelling is made
more effective by Garrett’s status as a thief is through the idea of Garrett
being “one piece of the puzzle.” Garrett is ‘detached’ piece, if you will, of a
much larger puzzle. This would be less the case with a legitimate hero, as one
of these would be more attached to the places and people around him, being a
legitimate part of their world who does not have to worry about hiding.
Garrett moves by his own will, not by the will of an
overarching good force (like, say, a king giving him quests). As Garrett is in
his world, the player is by proxy more in their own world, and the game’s story
is more interesting because it intersects with or passes by our own world. As a
thief like Garrett, players are viewing the world from the perspective of a
detached rogue—uninvolved—as if we are viewing it from within a glass globe.
The game’s world is more intimidating and alien because of this, and more