My Thief: Deadly Shadows Review
Thief 3: Deadly Shadows
Available on: PC/XBOX
System Reviewed On: PC
Stability: Some slight bugs
Length: 20-30 hours
Release Date: Now Available
I love Thief. I thought it’d be best if I just got that out of my system before I go any farther. Thief: The Dark Project was a revolution in games, and Thief 2 refined it to the point of being my favourite PC game ever. Now that you understand that, I can get on to reviewing Ion Storm’s latest.
Thief: Deadly Shadows (or Thief 3, as still sometimes referred to by) is a stealth adventure title. Developed by Ion Storm (Deus Ex, Daikantana) and published by Eidos, it’s the third and final game in a continuing trilogy mapped out by original Thief developers, Looking Glass Studios, almost 10 years ago. The game uses the notion of shadows, and how their blanket of darkness can conceal you within plain viewing of the average person. Rather then focus of brute strength, the player must rely on their wit, raw skills, and gadgets to get them through the game in one piece.
Taking place in a sort of medieval town called ‘The City’, you take on the roll of Garrett. A master thief, he’s been actively involved in the fate of The City twice before. The first was a skirmish was the Pagans (magic wood folk who wished for nature to rule) and their leader, The Trickster. The second time was with a group called the Mechanists. Led by a religious maniac named Karras, they planed to move the city forward industrially. However, Karras’s own plans were to destroy all organic life, ‘the impurities’ and make way for his god, The Master Builder.
Taking place after these events, Garrett must work with a third group, called The Keepers. A secret society who watch over The City and maintain ‘balance’, it was they who trained Garrett years ago. Their prophecies now speak of an impending Dark Age, and Garrett’s name is mentioned prominently throughout them. Reluctantly, he agrees to help them prepare for what’s coming. But soon he realizes not all is well within The Keeper society, and something is rotting it from its very core…
That’s as much as I’ll say, as I don’t want to spoil anything. The storylines of the Thief games have always been superb, and Deadly Shadows is no exception. While direct knowledge of the previous games isn’t required, it does help with the numerous references to past events and does make the story somewhat clearer. The story of the game is told through voice over mission briefings by Garrett, cinematics using the game’s engine, and Thief’s classic ‘art cinemas’ which really add to the atmosphere.
Gameplay wise, it’s basically simple. You sneak through the shadows, not being seen, and steal things. That’s the most basic version of it. As Garrett, you advance through the game’s missions with specific objectives (find a certain amount of loot, certain items, find information) and completing them opens more areas and advances the storyline. The time period of the game allows for unique level design and architecture. Everything from a castle, to an old mansion over-run by plants and people, to a citadel and a ghost ship. One level that deserves special credit is an abandoned insane asylum: Shalebridge Cradle. Remember that name.
Of course, what good are these well-designed levels if they don’t look any good? Fortunately, they do. Although my poor RADEON 9200 card didn’t allow me to crank up the visuals to full, even with the settings rolled back, Deadly Shadows was a sight to behold. Running on a heavily tweaked Unreal 2 engine, the game looks fantastic, with little technical marvels like dust sparkling in the moonlight, and water dripping off the leaky pipes. Character models look decent, although occasionally their animations can get a little jerky, and there’s the occasional clipping issue. This can easily be over-looked however, by the real beauty of the game: the real time lighting engine. Everything casts a dynamic shadow over its surroundings. Often times you’ll see your own shadow lining a wall, and it’s a neat effect that really adds to the game. Unfortunately, there’s always the odd graphical glitch, which can occasionally cause shadows to distort or look different then they should. The game also features the Havoc physics engine, allowing for realistic object movement. You can push objects around the environment, aiding you or causing a little too much noise for comfort. The rag doll physics are, for the most part, good. Unfortunately, at times when you knock enemy AI out, they’ll curve backwards forming a kind of body bridge (the same problem was present in Rainbow Six 3). Still, with the exception of these occasional issues, things are good for the most part.
Using your various tools, you can manipulate your environment to suit your needs. Water arrows can put out torches (creating shadows to hide in) or wash away bloodstains. Moss arrows can pad an area so your footsteps can’t be heard, and if you fire them at an enemy’s head, can temporarily choke them. Fire arrows can blow things up, light torches, and oil slicks. Broadhead arrows poke things, and gas arrows knock people out, and noisemaker arrows to distract enemies. Sadly, the infamous rope arrows from previous games have been removed, replaced by a pair of climbing gloves you can buy. These make you feel a bit like Spiderman, as you scale walls to reach hidden areas or get out of trouble. Throughout the game, you’ll also be able to purchase flash bombs, gas bombs, mines, oil lamps (these can cause soldiers to slip, wielding hilarious results on stairs), health potions and several other items or interest to aid your quest. You also have your mechanical eye (Garrett lost his real one in the first game), which switches things to a black and white perspective as you can zoom in to take a better look at what’s ahead.
The enemies you face in the game are varied and different. Everything from bored city watchman, to assassins, amateur thieves, religious zealots, townsfolk, some creepy undead and a few other surprises await you during your travels. The difficulty level you choose for the mission will determine how intelligent they are. On easy, they’re chumps you could be outwitted by a drunken squirrel. Normal they simply patrol. On hard and extreme however, they’ll notice when items have been stolen, when torches have been put out, doors are open, patrolmen are missing, and have better hearing and sight. Unlike MGS’s radar system, in Thief you have to play it out by ear and sight alone, using your visibility gem to determine how noticeable you are. If it’s brightened up, you might as well be wearing a bull’s-eye. If it’s completely dark, you could do the jig right in front of them and they’d never know (assuming you do a quiet jig). You can eliminate AI by using your blackjack to knock them out from behind, use your dagger to back stab them, or attack them arrows. If they’re unaware, a single one will take them down.
If guards become aware of your presence, then the hard part begins. Once alerted, enemy AI can’t be knocked out until they’re sure the area is clear. You can engage them with your dagger, but it’s unadvisable, as you’re a thief and will most likely be quickly dealt with. Your best bet for survival is to find some good shadows and hide it out.
All this can be viewed from two perspectives: As like the previous games, you can play through in first person. In this mode, due to ‘body awareness’, you can look down and see you feet or hands, adding to the effect. However, new to Deadly Shadows is the ability to switch to 3rd person. Fully usable, third person is just like 1st; only you’re viewing from behind Garrett and can move the camera around to view your surroundings. Despite some camera issues, the PC version of 3rd person is relatively stable and useable for those who don’t wish to ply their trade directly through Garrett’s eyes. However, you’ll still switch automatically to 1st person while aiming arrows and using the new lock-picking mode to open doors.
Between the game’s missions, you can roam through ‘The City’ in a kind of free play mode. You can rob random people, break into houses, sell your loot to the local fences, and buy equipment. As the game goes on, more and more sections of The City are opened up for exploration. There are also tons of mini-quests to go on, as you can learn about new jobs and opportunities by over-hearing conversations and reading notes. In these areas, the average citizen won’t harm you, but you have to watch out for the City Watch, Pagans, and Hammerites, who’ll attack you on sight. If the Watch kills you, then you’re taken to a prison level, where it’s your job to break out.
The other two factions handle differently. Early in the game, you’re given the chance to ally yourself with one of – or both – of the factions by performing certain tasks for them. This is helpful, as if they’re allied with you, they’ll help you in fights and allow you access to their parts or the city. Overall, the game is pretty long too. A mission will take the average player an hour to complete, and that’s only if they don’t try and find all the loot. Add to that all the time you’ll spend in The City sections and the various sub missions, and you’re looking at 20-30 hours of gameplay, which is perfect in my book.
The one thing that sets Thief apart from other stealth games is it’s non-linearity. Unlike Metal Gear and Splinter Cell, which generally only have one route, Thief gives you a bunch of options and lets you decide the best course of action. Feel like going in through the front door? Side door? Second floor window? Sewers? Catacombs? Take a left, take a right, go down the stairs, up the stairs? These really DO feel like castles or houses, and the way you get through them is up to you.
Some slight technical issues exist besides the ones mentioned. Due to being developed on the XBOX and PC simultaneously, there are ‘load zones’ present in the game. Throughout my experience, they were never longer than 8 seconds, but it is a problem that could have been fixed. There are generally two load zones in a mission, and there are load zones between the city sections. It can also get a bit tedious in city free roaming, when you want to get a certain item, but it’s all the way across town. Still, not a huge problem.
In the end, there are two different camps of looking at Thief: Deadly Shadows. The first is the Thief virgins. They’ve never played the previous games, and want to know if this is a worthy stealth game. The second group is the Thief fans, who want to know if this game lives up to the legacy passed down by Thief 2: The Metal Age almost 4 years ago. The answer to both: It is. Garrett’s returned to the gaming world, and while his latest adventure isn’t going to break boundaries, and it doesn’t massively improve over the gameplay of its predecessors, it’s vintage Thief. Which means pure stealth adventure – something I couldn’t be happier with.
- Teal Smith
9.6 / 10
WINDOWS 2000/XP (ADMIN RIGHTS REQUIRED)(95/98/ME/NT NOT SUPPORTED!)
INTEL PENTIUM® IV 1.5GHZ (AMD ATHLON XP™ EQUIVALENT)
256MB SYSTEM MEMORY
100% DIRECTX 9 COMPATIBLE SOUND CARD
3GB FREE HARD DISC SPACE
MOUSE AND KEYBOARD
CD-ROM DRIVE REQUIRED
EAX Advanced HD Supported - requires SoundBlaster Audigy range of soundcards.
LAPTOPS ARE NOT SUPPORTED!
SUPPORTED GRAPHICS CHIPSETS:
ATI RADEON 8500
ATI RADEON 9 SERIES (9000,9200,9500,9600,9700,9800)
NVIDIA GEFORCE 3TI SERIES
NVIDIA GEFORCE 4TI SERIES
NVIDIA GEFORCE FX SERIES
NVIDIA GEFORCE 6 SERIES
GRAPHICS CARD MUST SUPPORT PIXEL SHADER 1.1!
UNSUPPORTED GRAPHICS CHIPSETS:
NVIDIA GEFORCE 4MX (460, 440 & 420)
NVIDIA GEFORCE 4 GO
NVIDIA QUADRO FX GO
NVIDIA GEFORCE NFORCE2 & NFORCE3
Yep, the DX-IW engine is a modified version of the Unreal engine as well. They refined it (and added some things obviously) a little more for Thief DS. It could have been polished more, but since it's what we got it'll do.
The engine is a UT engine heavily heavily modified, with other programs thrown in it, around it. Made specifically for Thief.
I have been told the specific name, for the engine, though it is not yet confirmed. Sources tell me.