The first-person stealth game sees the return of series hero Garrett, designed by director Nicolas Cantin. The team is being vague about how faithful to the Thief lore the new game will remain, and is toning down many of the series’ magical elements.
Game Informer was shown a lengthy gameplay demo of Thief.
The sequence opens with series hero Garrett returning to his hometown after a long absence, only to find a “city of melting prosperity,” according to the mag. The iron-fisted Baron now controls the city, and crushes its citizens through militarized watch. Only the elite are awarded with good fortune.
Garrett, motivated by the thrill of stealing something that others can’t, does not care for heroism. He sees the oppressive ruling as an opportunity to make money. He finds his way into the Stonemarket district in the back of a covered wagon, and watches the bodies of plague victims pile up in the street corners. Guards, meanwhile, are settling small civil disputes with force. And wealthy men stroll by with their own guards.
Two guards are speaking about a wealthy man named Theodore Eastwick, a principle architect, who was commissioned by Baron to build many of the city’s Gothic structures. According to the guards, Eastwick is at the House of Blossoms, an underground pleasure house on the other side of the city built to serve the elite.
At midnight, the gates to the house close, and Garrett makes his way in. He crouches behind crates, and a dark tint on the screen highlights his safety. He throws a bottle to distract the guards, and then climbs up a pipe on the side of the building. He moves across the roofs, bounds over merchant tables and under wagons, and dives through a nearby building window. Meanwhile, Eastwick is seen passing through the secret entrance to the House of Blossoms.
Garrett moves forward and enters the pleasure house undetected. The area is rich with patrons and scantily clad women who saunter by and flirt with men. Xiao Xiao, a transvestite, is seen greeting guests. Eastwick moves forward and Garrett loses him in the crowd. Xiao Xiao, meanwhile, notes that there is more security than usual, and says that anyone with anything of value can store it in his office strongbox. Garrett, being a thief, wants to get his hands on whatever’s inside.
Using Xiao Xiao’s logbook, Garrett can determine where Eastwick has gone. In this case: which bedroom Eastwick’s entered. But first, the strongbox, which Garrett can open via a lock-picking mini-game. But before he’s able to unlock it, Xiao Xiao enters the office. Garrett quickly rolls into a darkened corner and away from sight, leaving Xiao Xiao clueless to the attempted theft.
Xiao Xiao leaves, and Garrett opens the strongbox to find a jewel-encrusted heirloom. Garrett can’t quite leave yet, as Xiao Xiao is just outside the room, talking to one of his girls. But a hidden passageway grants Garrett his leave.
Using the pleasure house’s network of back doors, Garrett is eventually able to find Eastwick’s room. He enters and steals a medallion, and then uses his Focus ability, showing him a mysterious blue energy-glowing symbol written on the wall, which corresponds to one of the runes written on the medallion. Garrett turns a band of the medallion to line up with the rune with an arrow, causing the medallion to glow with a similar blue energy. Four adjacent rooms show four more symbols that line up. After the last symbol is locked, the medallion spins. Eastwick soon notices he’s been robbed and calls for help. And Xiao Xiao orders his guards to search everywhere.
The guards are searching as Garrett heads to one of the pleasure house’s back rooms. Earlier, he heard two service girls talking about the tragedy that followed after the ventilation system was accidentally overflowed with opium. With that in mind, he dumps the house’s stock of opium into the vents, sending everyone throughout the House of Blossoms into a deep sleep. Garrett, meanwhile, needs to keep his breath held and move quick.
But guards soon circle Garrett, who retreats into the opium fog and uses his bow to fire an arrow at a statue hanging above a door frame. The statue falls and crushes two guards, but another pins Garrett to the wall. Garrett then enters Focus mode, grabs the guard’s arm, jerks it behind his shoulder, and sends the guard crashing to the floor. When he’s finally free, Garrett grapples onto a nearby vent and heads down into the city sewers.
Garrett isn’t a fighter, so fighting against four or more guards in hand-to-hand combat won’t fair well for him. Guards and non-player characters are aware of a level’s design, and know where one might try to hide. Guards also understand the topography of the level and which areas could prove useful for hiding. Different NPCs will look for Garrett in different ways.
A navigation beacon will tell players where to go, but the development team wants players to explore environments as they see fit. There are multiple entrances and exits for each room, and multiple options available for a stealth approach.
The Focus mechanic mentioned earlier has many uses, such as highlighting interactive objects like climbable pipes or candles. Garrett can also pickpocket enemies, and use Focus mode to slow down time and swipe up to three times as many items. Or, he can use Focus mode to show a number of attack areas on enemies, and select a point (such as the chest), to do a quick push and buy him more time to dash into the shadows. These points can be strung together to perform a more debilitating attack, too.
A Fingerprints system will give players hints on which drawers are best to look in. Every drawer can be accessed.
At the end of each mission, Garrett can spend money to upgrade his equipment. Throughout the game’s levels, various artifacts, which can be used to decorate Garrett’s hideout, are spread out for players to find.
Thief has various tools Garrett can access:
- Blackjack: Can be used when sneaking up behind guards to knock them out.
- Bow: A powerful weapon that can also be used outside of combat. For example, fire an arrow at a bottle in another room to lure away a guard.
- Claw: Can be used to grapple certain points.
- Specialty Arrows: Each has a different use. A dry-ice arrow can be used to snuff flames from far away. A smoke-starter arrow can create a distraction.