Bad, vile and meaningless: Theft from Alan's clob

Thief 3, the shadows that make you bleed

One more game in the long series of games where you sneak about doing your things and avoid detection. This is a broad characterising. The game is perhaps best likened to Splinter Cell series, except that there's no action sequences in between. It's about sneaking around from beginning to end.

The cutscenes that interrupt said sneaking are all bad. The only way I can imagine you will be moved is if you have some religious fear for strange symbols, or something. The story is basically that you are a master thief doing your stealing business and gradually get drawn into a larger story that involves some "gray hag" that is reported to steal children (for some random purposes, an in-game loading screen suggests she eats them). While saving the world half-heartedly with your left hand you are expected to steal everything in your sights with the right.

World in the blender

The world is an irritating, insane mishmash of half of everything you have ever seen in a 3D game. First off, the setting is medieval. Here magic and shamans are real things. There are portals that move you around places, originally it appears that the portals were just to connect pieces of the map together that were too large to be held in memory at one time. But later on they just teleport you to disconnected places as well. Speaking of tele things: there's telepathy, too. The hero wears a synthetic eye that can zoom into things. The miracles of science don't end there: there's electrical lighting, lifts, generators and water pumping stations, although most of the places are still lit up by torches. There are wells, but almost none appear to do with water. Rather you go down a well to enter Pagan lands. You can buy gloves that can be used to climb against anything. (You can't go around like an alien, though, you are usually limited by minor ledges, almost no matter how insignificant.) And of course, zombies. Now there isn't a game without zombies these days any more, is there?

There's plenty of gods involved in this world. For instance, there's the Christian god that kills zombies, then there's the Hammer faction god that gives its priests the power to shoot red balls of fire and the Pagan faction god that gives its priests the power to shoot green balls of fire. Then there's Glyphs, that yield some kind of magic power of their own, and are studied by the Keepers, who you end up working for. (There are also several underground races that appear forlorn by their respective gods.) Finally, there's also the "secular" god, the City Watch that tends to be in the crosshairs of all of the previous. And finally, plenty of citizens who are there to be clubbed, mugged, stabbed, manhandled, and looted. Nobody seems to mind all that much, so they are free cattle.

A 3D game with no action?

Major part of the game involves running the same streets in the city up and down looking for whatever you are supposed to find. Even larger part of the game is running the same corridors in a mission up and down looking for whatever you are supposed to find. The monotony may be astounding. The missions themselves are trivial as soon as you manage to figure out where you are supposed to go.

In a mission, you usually sneak around or just plain kill anybody you see. It doesn't make any difference as long as you know how to do either one covertly. You can emulate action in this game, but never really have it. Killings (also knocking out enemies in every game is mistaken for killing by the in-game AIs) happen one by one, in quiet places. You need to sneak around behind your victims and club them to the head with your blackjack or stab them with your dagger. Both work, the other method produces more noise and some blood if you need it.

Suppose that you take out your bow and a few of them broadhead arrows to do some longer range killing. Now here comes a strange riddle: when is an arrow in the chest not an arrow in the chest? I mean, sometimes it's deadly, sometimes you need 3 or 4 such hits before your foe falls down. It actually depends on whether you have raised that person's alert state! So apparently if you are expecing an arrow you won't die out of shock or something. (On the other hand, if you are in a guarding round and suddenly, out of the blue, an arrow thuds at your chest, would you choose to intone "Am I under attack?")

Here bes noisings about anatomises of the missionssss

A typical mission in the game has the following objectives:

The objective list "updates" as the game goes on, not just with tickmarks marking successful objectives, but sometimes the objectives get crossed out and new ones written instead. This objective list fetish is perhaps the silliest thing of them all. And I absolutely loathe the "special item" nonsense, it sometimes takes a long time to find them, even if they are just any piece of loot in the end, something to be sold for cash. How does the hero even fucking know that there is a special item in the first place? Nobody sure told him.

For instance, in the underground level with the frog beings and the rat beings you have to go where the eggs are and look around to discover the cave that holds the special loot. I had killed everybody on the whole level long before I found that place. Definite way to piss one off, to run around aimlessly and comb the system for some place you have missed. My general advice is that you shouldn't advance until you have examined every damn square inch. Feel free to kill everyone, on the pessimistic assumption that you end up doing that anyway in the end if you aren't finding what you are looking for. There's no fast way to run through, unless you already know the levels well enough.

AI woes

The AI has basically only one purpose: to make the game interesting to play. By providing reactions to user actions that differ and thus providing immersion and variation to the gameplay itself, the AI is supposed to help us suspend disbelief and provide some releasing escapism. In this game, enemies have a pretty bad hearing though; they frequently start walking completely wrong direction after hearing a sound. There's also some scripted behaviour: for instance, if a body is discovered, a citizen runs off to find a guard and takes the guard back to the same position. (When she doesn't get stuck running against a wall or something, that is.) Nothing especially buggy, but nothing especially impressive let alone immersive, either.

The speaks are awful. Everyone in the game chatters all the time. It's not just that they cough or whistle a bit, like is known from some more respectable games. These NPCs chatter, like, totally demented shit all the time. The kind depends on who is speaking. For instance, the Hammerites are philosophically inclined, in their cruel and crude fashion of steel and rock. The Pagans use the word "bes" at every sentence, whether it makes any sense or not ("We bes findings you."). The stone foes have a particularly interesting monotony: "find and kill and crush and maim and find and search and..."

Finally, sometimes multiple people chatter on top of each other. Then it's like a chorus of lunatics. Add to this the often otherwordly ways they respond to events, and the result is pretty ridiculous indeed. Goodbye any suspension of disbelief. And why the heck does everyone shout in this game? Even normal, friendly conversation comes out like they were yelling at rats instead. Arrrrrgh.

Strategy tips

The tips at the beginning of game help to make you learn to play the game. If you keep on getting killed, just reading the tips at each load could well give you few valuable hints that help you figure it out. It's a bit like Nethack, knowing these tips can make all the difference of the world to your survival. Like the rest of the game, these tips don't actually make much sense. It's just the way the world works. Here goes:

Verdict?

Don't buy this game. It's a shitty one. Spend your money on something better like Far Cry, if you must. Reasons: better graphics, better AI, and more variety to boot.