Thief: Deadly Shadows
1 April 2005 | 0
Some games grab you and bring you firmly into their world. With its dynamic lighting, great physics, and reactive world, Ion Storm’s Deus Ex: Invisible War was one of those games, and we thought it was one of the best games last year. As awesome as it was,
though, it’s now clear that Invisible War was more than just a great game: It was a dress rehearsal for Thief: Deadly Shadows.
Considering that it’s a game about sneaking and stealing stuff, Thief takes its one narrow focus and shoves it as deep as it will go. Whereas Deus Ex gave you tons of options as to how to play the game, Thief gives you one: sneak. Sure, Garrett (the main character) has a dagger and he’s great with a bow, but most face-to-face fights will end in a fantastic display of rag-doll physics as Garrett slumps to the ground. To win this game, you’ll have to do some real sneaking. Thankfully, Garrett is a master thief who makes Sam Fisher look like one of those goofy toy monkeys with the clattering cymbals.
Once you realize the narrow focus of the game, you’ll also see how deep it gets. Thief places you at the scene of your crimes with objectives to solve and a few notes on how to solve them. Most buildings have multiple alternate entrances and there’s treasure lying everywhere for an enterprising thief to take. You can take out torches with water arrows, blind guards with flash bombs, use fallen enemies to set up ambushes for their friends, and pickpocket keys and maps from unaware citizens. And that’s just a few examples.
The real star of this show is the AI of the characters you run into as you play. Ion Storm spent as much energy tweaking the physics in Invisible War as it spent time on the AI in Thief. Civilians who spot you might run to fetch a guard and they’ll have a conversation
about you as they search. Better than that, civilians show the proper amount of fear for people encountering an invisible enemy that could shank them in an instant. Guards who
hear something will draw their swords and start searching, saying things like, ‘Maybe he’s behind that crate’ and ‘C’mon out so I can fight you, coward’. These things are completely unscripted, but it’s eerie how well they work out to give you a real feeling of
being stalked in a living, breathing medieval city.
Along with the AI, everything else falls into place as an evolution of the technology Ion Storm developed for Deus Ex. The true wonder of the game isn’t in normal mapping or Havok physics, but rather in the low-tech ways in which the game turns skulking in the dark into tons of fun. There’s still room in this business for loving craftsmanship and intelligent design, and Deadly Shadows has both.