Thief Is Redefining Steampunk And Giving Purists Options
Thief is a game that’s got me very excited because a) I really like stealth games and b) I quite like the whole concept of steampunk. Now relating to both those points, while Thief will be a little different to previous entries in the series it will cater for Thief fans and the purists who will insist on playing the game in a certain way. Hitman: Absolution did the same thing rather perfectly. You could play it the same way you play CoD (this made me cringe when I saw it) or you can play it just the way you played Blood Money with no assistance or aids, all you have is your knowledge of the level and your ingenuity.
Relating to the second point, the designers of Thief wanted to redefine the image of steampunk. This is to create a grittier, less glamorous steampunk world more in-line with what we saw in Dishonored albeit possibly a bit darker.
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In an interview on the Eidos Montreal blog, Thief director Nicolas Cantin was asked whether players would be able to switch off item highlighting and Garrett’s Focus ability, which looks similar to that found in Tomb Raider and Hitman: Absolution.
“All I can say now is that Thief purists will have options – those types of players will definitely be pleased,” he replied, enigmatically.
Even apart from hardcore menu options, players can always make their own rules, such as eschewing Focus.
“Presently, it’s the completely the players choice to use Focus or not. If players want to challenge themselves to stick to Garrett’s basic abilities, they can,” Cantin added.
Elsewhere in the interview, Cantin said the Focus ability is a limited resource; players earn it through gameplay it and must decide when to use it – and what for.
“As a player you will have to manage it wisely when you accumulate it, and really think hard about when the best time is to use it,” he said.
“It depends on how you decided to use it, but for example some things like combat, marksmanship, lock picking and pickpocketing have the ability to be enhanced by Garrett’s Focus – if you choose.”
One thing it definitely does not do is guide you through the game; Cantin denied Focus is tied to navigation, saying players will need to explore.
“It is a tool that can help the player, but it’s certainly not something that will hold your hand or guide you through the world,” he promised.
That, personally is great news and sounds very much like the approach taken with both Dishonored and Absolution. Cater for the mainstream gamers but design the game such that stealth purists will love it too.
On the subject of steampunk and it’s general image of gold and wood, Eidos Montreal has something else in mind.
Cantin told GameInformer the shift in Thief’s colour tones from warmer to cooler ones was quite deliberate.
“The art style of steampunk is golden and wood – see Wild Wild West with Will Smith. It’s something we really want to get rid of. We’re really more about rusty stuff where you see the welding,” he said.
The architecture of the City is a blend of medieval and Victorian.
“The first goal was to avoid feeling [like you’re] in a village, a small town. My goal was to do a metropolis,” Cantina dded.
“Something really modern even though it fits in an old time.”
The City, which is quite likely to bring about that old cliche about being as much a character as the protagonist, is a dark place, but instead of piling on shadows as in earlier games, Eidos Montreal both obscures and illuminates its streets with an ever-present fog.
“Fog helps us to light the whole game. If you have a dark scene in a back alley, you just put fog in it and then you see the silhouette. You’re never in the pitch dark,” Cantin said.
“The fog is there for the mood but also for helping the player to see.”
I quite like the wood and bronze/copper aesthetic of steampunk but would certainly welcome a bit of grunge and industrialism to that look.
Thief is set to release on PC and next-gen consoles in 2014.