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Games I Own: The Thief Series

Posted on 27th Mar 2009 at 15:07 by Joe Martin with 12 comments

Joe Martin
First, a confession; I wasn’t going to write about Thief originally. I was actually trying to write a blog post about the gaming achievement I was most proud of, which for me was completing Bookworm in classic mode. In the course of writing that post I started talking about Thief though and before long the game was dominating the post. I love Thief.

I got introduced to Thief back when the first demo came out on a PC Gamer cover disc, though I actually only tried the demo as a matter of curiosity. Even back then the graphics were too ugly to attract my attention straight away.

When I got in to the demo though, which was the entire first level of the game, I was hooked. Not just hooked in the way that I played it three or four times either; I was physically addicted. I’m confident that, if someone put a gun to my head, I could play that level with my eyes shut. Lord Bafford’s Manor was permanently etched onto my brain with the kind of furious heat that only comes from eyes that burn from staring at a screen so long.

Games I Own: The Thief Series

Nor was I the only person in my family that was hooked either; on a whim I introduced my Dad to the demo and sure enough he liked it to. That was something that was almost without precedent as, although we had played game on the Amiga together years before, we hadn’t really shared an interest to that degree in a while.

My Dad's birthday was conveniently coming up, so I bought the game for him and he seemed to like it. I say ‘seem to’ because he only ever played the game after I was in bed and it took me a few days to learn that he’d played it at all. In that period I had fallen out with the game, as the zombies in the second level were just too scary to overcome, so it seemed to come from out of the blue when my Dad mentioned that he was still playing it.

What followed next was an unusual, but important event in my life. I was unable to play the game, but I wanted to know all about it – so I asked my Dad, every day. Each morning, each meal time, each car journey became a ritual as I asked what had happened in Thief last night. My Dad wouldn’t always finish a level in a night, so he’d spin the story out in greater detail; the Burricks in the tunnels, the scraps of parchment in the Lost City, the sarcastic comments Garrett made as he stole. The first time I played Thief I did it by proxy, and I loved it so much we repeated the process with the second game.

Games I Own: The Thief Series

Eventually I mustered the courage to go back and play Thief and Thief II myself, forearmed with these detailed descriptions. I wasn’t disappointed. Thief is a game that lets players set their own pace and tactics, planning different strategies and routes, so I was able to get just enough from the game that was new to still be fascinated. My Dad had played the game on the hardest difficulty and wouldn’t leave a level until he had completed everything, slowly, delicately. I adopted a more ruthless system of incapacitating (but never killing) all the enemies I could. Playing it that way felt like falling in love with an old friend and learning to see them in a new way.

Thief met with a mixed reaction and, though it spawned two sequels and sold pretty well, it’s now often overlooked by the critics. For shame. If you can look past the dated graphics and are at all interested in new, interesting game types then you definitely need to take a look at the Thief series - even if you only look at the lesser third game, Deadly Shadows. It may require a tiny bit of Googling to get it working on a modern system, but the incredible story, atmosphere and style will pay you back in spades.

And if you decide that you aren’t going to play it then you can at least tell me what your greatest gaming achievement is, just so I don’t feel like I’ve gone utterly off-topic.

Random Fact: According to RPS the third game, Thief: Deadly Shadows featured the vocal talents of none other than Lily Allen, the singer. Before breaking into the music biz she was cast by Eidos as ‘Townspeople #1’ – the phrasing of which is awful in how politically correct it is.

Number of Times Completed: Twice for the first one, once for the second two.

12 Comments

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Bauul 30th March 2009, 12:53 Quote
I like the fact you've tagged the story with "my dad". I just love the idea of someone actually putting in the search term "my dad" and seeing what comes up. :)

Random fact 2: Isn't the Thief level Return to the Cathedral supposed to be one of the scariest ever or something?
proxymoron 30th March 2009, 13:30 Quote
Thief (the first one) suffered the same fate for me - unable to get past the zombies because it was so, so different to the first level and so, so terrifying at the time. Really should go back and do it again. Also: System Shock 2 and, I was going to say the monkeys but really, System Shock 2 as a whole is too frightening for words.
CardJoe 30th March 2009, 13:57 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bauul
I like the fact you've tagged the story with "my dad". I just love the idea of someone actually putting in the search term "my dad" and seeing what comes up. :)

Random fact 2: Isn't the Thief level Return to the Cathedral supposed to be one of the scariest ever or something?

There are two levels which often get awarded that honor; Return to The Cathedral from Thief 1 and The Cradle from the third game.

Return is a level which sees Garrett venturing into a sealed off part of the city to get into a haunted cathedral and steal a cursed gem called The Eye, which is constantly teasing and taunting him as he scrambles over rubble and past the undead, invulnerable keepers.

The Cradle is a similar set-up. It's an old, haunted orphanage and you go in looking for info. As you go through you uncover more and more of the history of the building - which was also an insane asylum at one point. Then you put together the idea that it was both an asylum and an orphanage at the same time.

I've literally seen dissertations written on how well designed both levels are and how they use sound and visual clues in such a clever, chilling way.
Xtrafresh 30th March 2009, 14:56 Quote
I played thief a long while ago... i can't remember for the life of me why i stopped :o

On your special request, my greatest gaming achievement was in Destruction Derby 1 on the PS1. For those of you that know the game, in Race mode, i was able to push The Skum to 5th division and L-driver to 1st division while still winning 1st division, using the medium car.

... then i got a life.
phuzz 30th March 2009, 15:18 Quote
I wouldn't say Thief was overlooked by critics, pretty much every games writer I've read quotes it as one of their favorite games...

I remember playing it a long while ago, but not getting far, I guess I was too impatient back then, I probably tried to play it like a shooter. Perhaps I should go back and give them another go.
Journeyer 30th March 2009, 19:59 Quote
I think my greatest gaming achievement was finishing the text-driven King's Quest 1 without cheating. :D
Malketh 31st March 2009, 22:20 Quote
I love the depth in the games the most, the way guards talk to each, or one of my favorite games within the game was to see how big a pile of knocked out bodies I could make in a level without killing anybody, only to find out that somehow I managed to get somebody killed. Turns out when I went back right before finishing the level, some poor knocked out guard managed to fall down the well and drowned.
Xir 1st April 2009, 13:48 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Journeyer
I think my greatest gaming achievement was finishing the text-driven King's Quest 1 without cheating. :D

steveo_mcg 1st April 2009, 14:00 Quote
So Joe when you going to cop to the crap games you own? :)
CardJoe 1st April 2009, 15:34 Quote
I will be getting to that, trust me. ;)
Yardstick 3rd April 2009, 00:47 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by proxymoron
Thief (the first one) suffered the same fate for me - unable to get past the zombies because it was so, so different to the first level and so, so terrifying at the time.

Weird - I could play through the Ravenholm level in HL2, the spooky bits of STALKER and the Dunwich Building in Fallout 3 but the 2nd level of the original Thief really freaked me out at the time. I think it was because I couldn't kill the Zombies and I just found it very unsettling.
barrkel 10th November 2011, 21:36 Quote
The trick with the zombies is to run; realize that they're not very fast, and as long as you can keep moving and you're only facing zombies, you've got little to worry about.
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