During Game Rant’s recent sojourn to Eurogamer Expo in London, we dropped in on a presentation about Eidos-MontrÃ©al’s reboot of classic stealth steal-’em-up game Thief, in which Garrett returns cloaked in shiny next-gen graphics to a city being torn apart by poverty, sickness, oppression and revolution. His apprentice Erin has been killed off by that ever-fatal enemy, gravity, leaving Garrett to return to his thieving ways alone.
Game Rant asked Eidos-MontrÃ©al‘s Joe Khoury to clarify exactly what part Garrett will play in the burgeoning revolution – whether he will be simply watching it from the sidelines or going full-on Robin Hood and becoming a champion of the people. He explained that Garrett will be at the forefront of the revolution, but working in the shadows as a silent partner of the fiery leader Orion, inspired to do so by what he sees as the corruption of the city he calls home.
This might not sit well with fans who think of Garrett as being apathetic to politics and interested only in the hunt for treasure, but it all depends on how it plays out in the game. We’ve got money riding on Orion turning out to be a bad guy, though.
Khoury also confirmed that neither the Hammerites, the Keepers nor the Pagans will be making an appearance in the Thief reboot. Instead the factions of Baron Northcrest’s men and Orion’s Graven rebels are divided along lines of wealth and class, and there have been strong overtones of social commentary woven into the trailers.
With each new glimpse of Thief throughout its development, there has been a certain amount of fan backlash and concern over whether the reboot will be true to the series, or whether the decade-long hiatus and the changing of hands will leave us with a Thief that is very different from the game that became a landmark in stealth gameplay.
This was something that we definitely felt in the crowd during the Q&A portion of the presentation, where some of the questions asked by fans were quite aggressive. One fan demanded to know if he could turn off what he referred to as Garrett’s “Captain Obvious” comments on things in his surroundings, to which Khoury responded, “Why would you want to?“, before pointing out that Garrett’s occasional observations had been a part of the previous games as well. Many of the other questions asked pertained to whether or not Thief would be the same as the earlier games in one way or another.
The negative reaction to things like the change of Garrett’s voice actor has been so strong that Khoury was drawn to comment on it during an interview with OXM. Khoury maintained an air of real confidence in the game that his studio has produced, and believed that the criticisms so far are simply arising from fans not having had a chance to see the game in its entirety yet:
“I think hopefully, our greatest sense of satisfaction will be when the game’s released and that’s where we’ll overcome fan resistance. I think there are a lot of optimistically curious people just as there are some fans who don’t know the full extent of what we’re doing, so for sure they’re basing their impressions on the little information that they have, and that’s concerning for them.
“We haven’t shown everything we have in our pockets yet. And I think when the game hits the street is when there concerns will be met. We’re looking forward to that day.
“When I read a lot of the comments I can see where they’re coming from, and I can guarantee that part of that is just ‘wait and see, judge for yourself’. Hopefully it’ll be good. We’re fairly confident, but then art is very delicate to judge – it’s an opinion.”
Speaking as someone who would probably be counted among the cautiously optimistic crowd, having been impressed by Eidos-MontrÃ©al’s previous work on Deus Ex: Human Revolution and some of the gameplay that’s been shown from Thief so far, there is a temptation to take Khoury’s promise that he best stuff is still being kept behind the curtain on faith. Even if the studio has changed things up a little, that’s not necessarily a bad thing given how long it’s been since the last game was released, and also taking into account the fact that change can often be refreshing.
That’s not to say that the concerns of some fans are unfair or unfounded. As Khoury suggests, opinions of the finished product are likely to vary best on individual preference, and some things that gamers love in the Thief reboot might be completely loathed by others. There’s also a chance that the finished product could end up being an unmitigated misfire, though hopefully that won’t be the case.
Are there reasons to be concerned about the direction Thief might have taken? Almost certainly. However, those concerns may well come to nothing if it turns out that Eidos-Montreal has handled the making of the game with sufficient skill; as every thief knows, the beauty is in the execution.
Thief is expected to release in 2014 for the Xbox One, PS4 and PC.