Games I Own: The Thief Series

Written by Joe Martin

March 27, 2009 | 15:07

Tags: #games-i-own #looking-glass #my-dad #stealth #thief #warren-spector

Companies: #eidos #ion-storm

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.
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