CES 2014: Square Enix’s ‘Thief’ preview

Thief_box_artDuring CES 2014, Nerd Reactor was invited to the AMD Tent outside of the convention center to meet with some of the Eidos Montréal team and test out their newest game ThiefChris del Castillo and I had the pleasure of speaking with technical art director Jean-Normand Bucci, who helped us navigate the ideas and direction of this iteration within the Thief franchise.

Thief_01The location of Thief is the same. It takes place within The City, which remains to be a polarized place between the wealthy and the poor. On first impression when I took the controls to test the game, there is a heavy emphasis on light and darkness. In an environment that uses varying shades of a dark palette, even the scantest bit of light could determine how viable a location is for hiding. But this is not the Thief of old, where the darkest spots are pure blackness to your monitors. With any dark region you choose to hide in, you can still make out the varying details and shapes thanks to the usage of the modified Unreal Engine 3.

Thief_02The light gem indicator returns as a staple of the series. Dictating how much light is present over the protagonist of the series, Master Thief – Garrett. The gem is always present in the game interface, glowing when exposed to light and dimming in the shadows. And speaking of the interface, the user display is intentionally contrasted and simplified in design, much in the way Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls: Skyrim had an interface which was more for gameplay functionality than a design alignment with the game world. And similarly, there are indicators that loom over a character’s head when they become aware of Garrett’s presence, allowing you to determine quickly what options you have of eluding volatile situations.

Thief_03If you’re a long time fan of the Thief series, like myself, you’ll remember that Garrett has a mechanical eye. Although it has helped frequently with many situations, whether for scouting or sniping with a bow, we are now given a new mode. The new Focus mode allows you to scan the area for potential areas to scale or individuals to interact with (avoid or kill), similar to Batman’s detective mode in the Arkham series. And Jean informed us that there is a specific reason for this new mechanic, which they will elaborate through the game. Returning to the game are Garrett’s various arrow types. The way Green Arrow and Hawkeye utilize various arrows, Garrett has his own set which are returning. We were given a show of the traditional water arrow, which doused nearby lamplights to create new darkened regions for Garrett to sneak through.

Thief_04Also returning to the game is Garrett’s Blackjack, which was often used to knock people out as a non-lethal takedown. What isn’t returning is Garrett’s use of a sword, which was fine for me, as Garrett was never a skilled swordsman. This is more a stealth game than Assassin’s Creed. Stumbling through the one area we were presented wuith, I was aware that there were various ways to approach situations, much like Eidos Montréal’s recent hit, Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Instead of taking the various other side options, I went through the front door. Now, what I thought was cool was the fact that you can look through the lock and use it as a peephole to determine if there are any patrols on the other side, which helped me determine my timing with picklocking the door. Coming through, I forgot to close the door behind me, which triggered the attention of the patroling guard. Of course, closing the door in front of the guard triggered more attention. Long story short, I learned that I was only armed with a blackjack and arrows, which triggered the discussion at the beginning of this paragraph.

Thief_05There are parts of Thief that borrow from action-stealth game, Assassin’s Creed, which shouldn’t be a surprise as some of the team were derived from the original game. I assure you that this is not some kind of clone of Assassin’s Creed, as this is a first-person perspective experience that still takes much inspiration from the Thief franchise itself. This is more in line with being a true stealth game. Whether you want to knock out your target, distract them by throwing a jar to a distance, or quickly snatch an item from a dark corner, there is a constant array of options you can engage the situation. And if there’s anything to be said, the various individuals from Eidos-Montréal stay true to the spirit of the franchises they work on.

Thief_06I’d like to go back and touch on the environmental design. The lighting, the darkness, the debris, and the decorations. Everything is so detailed and intricate that it becomes a dirty kind of beautiful!

I speak on behalf of Chris and myself that we are both excited to play this game when it releases on Feburary 25, 2014.

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Jaynesis Ong
Jaynesis Ong 162 posts

He is currently a graphics designer by trade, illustrator for indie games, fashionisto, film production assistant, socialite, sampler of fine music, and taster of various new MMO games. JB likes destructive walks on the beach, visceral plot points, maniacal villains, and collapsing galactic empires.

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