Rebooting an old video game franchise — and a classic one at that — can be a daunting affair for any developer; it’s never quite as simple as picking up where the last game left off. As times change, so do graphics and gameplay conventions. The present audience might be older and more selective in their interest, or younger and uninitiated to the game’s legacy. Storytelling angles seen as panache in the one decade might be disregarded as tired gimmicks in the next.
Eidos Montreal found themselves facing this challenge last year when they took on development for Deus Ex: Human Revolution. They didn’t just want the sci-fi/cyberpunk RPG reboot to be a time capsule for an era gone by. They wanted the futuristic theme of Adam Jensen’s next story to walk on its own two feet, speak with it’s own voice, wear its own clothes. Its ancestral lineage would be honored at the same time, sure, just not to the point where it intruded on the new format. (And it worked. Our Deus Ex: Human Revolution review awarded a 4.5 out of 5 to the game back in August.)
And so it’s appropriate that Eidos Montreal isn’t wavering from this auteurist approach with their next great reboot undertaking, Thief 4. According to studio general manager Stephane D’Astous, who spoke to OXM at GDC, the project will “bring more than just stealth” to the table for the cloak-and-dagger series that last made its debut in 2004 with Thief: Deadly Shadows.
“We have more international staff working on Thief, which brings a great flavour to the game. There are a lot of challenges to bringing back a great cult IP, but we consider it like a new IP and we are going to respect the spirit of the franchise like we did with Deus Ex.”
“Deus Ex was the kick-start of this new series of great games, and Thief will be part of that. We don’t want to deliver the same each time. Our mandate is to bring new stuff to the table; games that we’ll be talking about for years.”
What does this mean for Thief 4 and its stealthy heist-extraordinaire protagonist Garret? Possibly the same thing it meant for Adam Jensen and Deus Ex in 2011. It’s been a while, but Deadly Shadows was hailed for the way it expanded into an open-world exploration of the series’ medieval, steampunk universe; don’t be surprised if Eidos takes things a step further by weaving a few RPG and character progression elements into the main campaign. Also, considering we live an an age when multiplayer’s absence is a rarity, Thief 4 would hardly be sneaking up on anyone if it rolled out an online component similar to Assassin’s Creed or Splinter Cell.
That being said, we’re still speculating at this point. The developer comments here are just as vague as any other insights regarding Thief 4 over the years (a rumored GDC 2011 reveal turned out to be false hope). Hopefully, though, D’Astous’ willingness to discuss the project — and his ambitious optimism for its future — are signs of more to come.
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