So. Yesterday night I pretty much finished the story of Thief. I will now take time to talk about the game having seen it full and proper. WARNING: there will probably be spoilers ahead, but I will try to keep them to a minimum and won't mention really important bits anyhow.
First thing to get out of the way - in me post on 'currently playing' thread I mentioned that this is not a restart of the franchise. However, interestingly enough, it is. And, even more interestingly, it is a restart that doesn't feel like a restart. I will explain.
Main character - Garrett. Master thief, cynical grumpy secretive guy who fully indulges his inner kleptomaniac. You know, I haven't played Thief games for 10 years now, obviously, but I feel that yes, this is the Garrett as we knew and loved him. And main character feeling the same is pretty much the effect that makes you feel that no, it doesn't feel exactly like a restart. For some examples, remember DmC and Tomb Raider - two recent restarts with distinctly new characters. DmC characters sucked ass, new Lara Croft was awesome, but in both examples the characters were the main sign of 'this is new'. Garrett is old. In a good way.
What next? We have The City, which is as dark and lootable as ever. Interestingly enough, it feels a bit like Dunwall city from Dishonored - mainly because of the bridge area. There's a grand river and there's a grand bridge with a ton of houses on it.
Oh, and we have the usual Thief theme - things start out with simple enough heists, but quickly turn to story-driven events of epic proportions where Garrett, quite unwillingly, have to make things right. This is exactly what we will be doing here.
So, we have all the elements of the Thief game setting in place. But is the game any good?
After some deliberation, I would say that the game is good, though at times it can piss you off mightily. Mostly you will be getting trouble with controls... actually, you will struggle with exactly two things - pressing button to loot some desk drawer and peeking from the corner instead is one, and the second one is character at time now wanting to jump where you need him to jump. Imagine you being on a roof and wanting to jump on a rope and from there - to the next roof. Well, even having the rope right in front of you, pressing jump button would probably just make you jump off the ledge, breaking your legs and having to restart from the last save. Frustrating to no end.
However, if you would dismiss those troubles, the game does play similar to Thief games with all the familiar elements. You hide in shadows, you use your blackjack to knock out the guards, you have a wide range of arrows - like fire and water to interact with your surroundings, broad arrows to kill stuff and even blunt arrows which cost 1 coin each and allow you to press buttons from afar. You also carry food which restores your health and local brand of poppy flowers which restores your focus. In addition to your arsenal you can pick up bottles or glasses on levels and carry then with you to use as throwable distraction for guards. Strangely enough, you do not have a sword or a dagger, which is weird because you clearly have arrows to kill people but have nothing to kill them from close distance. Actually, even in cutscenes, when Garrett feels danger, he takes out one of his arrows and holds it as a knife. Weird.
In addition to selectable things, you have items that are used automatically, like claw, which allows you to get to higher ledges (received after introduction mission), wrench to unscrew bolts on grates, small knife to cut out paintings and a wirecutter to disable traps - those last three items you have to buy from a black market vendor, who also sells a lot of very useful upgrades to your gear.
Levels are structured in a way you would expect them to - you have a place where you need to break into, and you have usually like 3 ways of getting in. Usually your options are going from bellow - like severs or basements, above - by getting to upper windows, or through the front door, like a boss. Obviously, you are met with traps, guards and safe combinations - pretty much like you would imagine in a stealth game where you have to rob everyone blind.
I have to admit though, that as levels become more story-driven and less heist-driven, the layout becomes more linear. Prime examples would be second part of House of Whispers mission and last two missions. In first example you are, after a while, find yourself just moving in a straight line to your prize and in last missions you are pretty much just moving to the final confrontation.
One of the things I hear about from people who don't like the game, is that it became too simple compared to previous thief. I think, there are three major point there.
Waypoints. Yes, your objective is now pretty much shown to you, and you just have to follow the waypoints.
Map. Instead of crude drawn maps that made me go crazy back in the first thief, you now have very clear map of the area. It doesn't show any secret locations - those are added as you discover them - but yes, it does make the process of moving around that much simpler.
Magic powers. Now, in the end of introduction mission, Garrett is caught in a magic blast, and part of the magic lodges itself in his right eye. Actually, this is pretty much the only major point telling us it's a reboot - Garrett has magic eye instead of mechanical one. It's still the right eye though, and it's still green. But anyways, by using focus energy - local mana - you can move faster and, more importantly, you see all the hidden switches and loots highlighter. This makes game much easier, especially since you can further upgrade your focus powers. I have to tell you, I use it to find hidden things I might miss, and I can tell you tight now, using focus power made one boss battle piss-easy.
Those are actually valid points. The gameplay is changed to be easier, and that's the tendency in major games. Thief couldn't escape that. However, the game has extensive difficulty settings, and it is said that you can make it as freaking hard as you yourself would want. Haven't tried that, but I hear even compass can be turned off, so there you go.
I also want to mention that the gameplay, while being mostly stealing and sneaking around, has some elements that serve as a small change of pace. First of all, you get cutscenes, and those are pretty nice and well done. Second, they added a sort of gameplay feature of scaling the walls - sorta like you would see in modern 3D platformers. Lastly, there are action sequences where you have to run as fast as you can escaping from danger. Actually, there are only two parts like that, so they don't feel overbearing and turning this game into an action. And it's actually rather classy. The scene where you run, fall through a window and land on that table where... no, you better should just see that.
Now, saying all that, I want to finish it with how the game felt for me. Here I mean more like story and setting aspects.
The main problem about the story you will all notice - the totally unlikable female character we get here. On your first mission you get to work with Erin - who is both crappy thief and an impulsive assassin. She disregards your experience, charges in and, well, dies. However, after making your few next robberies, you find out that you can't get her out of your head. Quite annoyingly, and not in a way you may think. And even while she is dead, she is a complete bitch! I mean, there are a few scenes that are aimed and you making feel sorry for her, but those don't have any lasting effect on you as a player. Ironically enough, this actually provides a viable reason for Garrett to get involved in all the struggle that is going on - he just wants to remove the voices from his head before he goes completely crazy. And that kind of selfish goes does kinda work.
The setting itself is pretty grim and bloody. You are caught in a struggle between the baron - current ruler of the city - and the revolutionary force that is even more brutal than the guards. And in the shadows horrible creatures start lurking... Locations you visit are mostly dark - local crematorium, catacombs and, which is the most creepy level of all, the abandoned asylum full of ghosts. Then again, you visit some nice places too - houses of rich people, brothel, those kinds of places.
What I have to give credit for - this game, while being very story-oriented, never forgets that you have to steal things. And you can be as cynical as you want about that. I mean, it's Garrett we are talking about, he will steal anything that isn't bolted down. And, since you have a wrench, things that are bolted down he will unbolt and then steal. I mean... a bunch of guards gets caught in the explosion? You walk among the dead and pick up their wallets. A half-dressed hooker walks to her client room? You follow her and steal her earrings. Guy killed himself? Let's see if he got anything in his pockets. Hell, you even steal from the damn ghosts! And even when the world is literally burning. No, seriously, you are escaping fire, running through some house... you can stop and loot the place. How would you like to pick the lock on a box while watching with the corner of your eye how the fire creeps up closer and closer?
I will say, while the story felt quite short and Erin is a total bitch, I rather enjoyed the game. The game became much more action-y than I remember, but it's not a bad mix and it is still a game mainly about stealing stuff and not getting caught. Right now I still have all the side-misions in the city area to deal with - I saved them for after the main story - so I am not done having fun with this game yet.