27 Sep

Thief: Deadly Shadows

Filed under: PC Games 2 Responses

Garrett perched on a pipe high above the ground just to look cool. Actually, there aren’t many opportunities to do this sort of thing in this game.

The original Thief: The Dark Project is considered one of the classics of videogaming, being the first stealth game to take advantage of 3D rendering technology and the first to incorporate darkness and light into gameplay. The game’s technical requirements were pretty high for its time though so I gave it a miss when it first came out. Eventually, I got into the stealth genre through the more modern Splinter Cell series and never got around to playing Thief or any of its sequels.

This is why I only bought Thief: Deadly Shadows from Steam recently with some hesitation. On the minus side, it’s the third game in the series and isn’t as highly regarded as its predecessors. It was also originally released back in 2004, so I’d have to put up with poorer graphics and production values. On the plus side, it was only USD5.00 and it is a game in the Thief series, so I said what the heck and gave it a whirl.

Stealable loot gleam in the game, so you know what to steal. Some worn items can only be stolen through mugging and not pickpocketing however.

Considering how old this game is, I’ll just summarize my impressions:

  • Not having played any of the previous games, it was hard to get a handle on what’s going on and who’s who, given the different factions running around the City. It doesn’t help either that the cutscenes try to mostly play up the tension and mystery rather than explain things.
  • As expected, the graphics are dated but aren’t impossible to live with. I guess it helps that everything is mostly in darkness so you can get away with lower polygon counts and cruder textures. Animations are very wooden however. You have the option of switching to third person view, which is useful for peeking around corners without exposing yourself and to orient yourself when climbing a wall, but you won’t want to stay in this view for long due to how clumsily Garrett looks when he moves. Sometimes the animation is so bad that you can get stuck in the geometry and you need jiggle a bit to get out.
  • The worst technical fault is how the whole game is segmented into tiny areas linked to each other across loading screens. This deprives the game of any sense of scale whatsoever and makes the inter-mission City areas a joke. It also leads to immersion-breaking stuff. Guards chasing you can’t zone into new areas, so you can automatically escape them this way, but they’ll be on your case again when you zone back in, regardless of how much time has passed. This was probably mandated by the need to have a console version with the consequent memory restrictions.
  • Nevertheless, the game is still quite fun. In addition to the normal objectives in each mission, you also need to steal a certain percentage of all the loot, such as 40% on normal difficulty, in each level and steal a number of special loot items. You then fence the loot for money which you spend to buy supplies and equipment. You never get any free gear at the start of each mission and your health doesn’t get replenished unless you drink potions either, so part of the challenge are these logistic limits. This makes you a very literal thief indeed.
  • The array of equipment is varied enough though I never needed to use most of the stuff to complete the game at normal difficulty. You have water arrows to extinguish torches, moss arrows to create a soft surface that you can walk across silently, noise-making arrows to create a distant distraction etc. Some of the enemies are undead, which can only be destroyed using special equipment like Holy Water and Flash Bombs, though in most cases, you are better served by simply sneaking around them.
  • The old-fashioned and sparsely detailed map is a pain to use. You need to manually orient yourself with the compass and it doesn’t even show where your character is on the map. It makes navigation very troublesome and I’d say constitutes the single biggest obstacle to completing the game.
  • Most of the levels are quite okay, once you get over the disappointment over how small each of them needs to be. The level set in an abandoned and haunted orphanage is hands down the best but all the levels are competently done. Be warned that everything is very linear though. You won’t often find multiple ways of going past obstacles or into rooms.
  • Overall though I can’t recommend this as more recent stealth games are simply better. The Splinter Cell games for example offer a much more interesting set of tools, including ways of peeking under doors and around corners and allows you to move in more dimensions. I appreciated the chance to say I’ve finally played one of the Thief games, but unless the next installment does something radically different, I won’t be on board.

Overhearing conversations is one of the most used ways in the game to get you clues.
Written on September 27 2010 and is filed under PC Games. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses to “Thief: Deadly Shadows”


This game in particular is all about this one level called ‘The Cradle’. The rest of the game is passable. Your article kinda reminds me how compelling a new Thief game would be if set in a real open world game.


In order to make a new Thief game competitive with stuff like Splinter Cell and Batman: Arkham Asylum, I think they need some rather big changes:
1) Garrett needs more movement options, like hanging from a ledge, hanging from a pipe, being able to silently roll from cover to cover, etc. In an open-world environment, he would need better mobility, like firing a rope arrow to use as a zip line.
2) Garrett needs more takedown options instead of just knocking people from behind with a blackjack, such as hiding in the shadows and grabbing someone walking past. This is just to make him feel more badass. Also, in a open-world environment, totally steal a page from Assassin’s Creed and allow an option to hide in a crowd instead of in the shadows.
3) There needs to be more of a penalty for killing guards rather than knocking them out or even better sneaking past them. For example, if you kill someone and his body is discovered, the game could spawn new roving guards who always travel in a group, carry torches and never let down their guard.

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