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What Playing Thief Taught Me About Stealing

A thief's hands need to be nimble and delicate in order to pull off a robbery, but a gamer's just need to have a firm grip on the controller. That's just the first of several educational points I took away from my hands-on time with Thief. Not every lesson was useful, but they all shape the stealth-focused adventure.

Silence is encouraged, but not necessary
You don't get to be a master thief by getting caught. You should avoid detection by sticking to the shadows and not making too much noise. However, if you happen to alert a guard or walk by a guard dog, the mission isn't completely blown. You can flee and ditch your pursuers, or you can stand and fight. Unlike games like Dishonored, doesn't present stealth and action as two equally viable approaches. Action is fine if you really screw up, but Thief gives extra bonuses to those who can stay under the radar.

To the daring go the spoils
In the mission I played (where Garrett is hoping to steal a jewel called The Heart of the Lion), almost every guard carried a conspicuous sack of coins on their belts. Relieving them of their wealth is easy when they are off patrolling alone, but you won't always be so lucky. Sometimes the guards are groups together and walking through each others sightlines. Other times, there may be traps laid all over the area. At one point, Garrett came across a lockbox that I didn't enough have time to open because a roaring fire was consuming the room. In these cases, players who want the extra rewards need to carefully consider the risks involved.

Be invisible, if possible
Thief is not a game about supernatural power or otherworldly benefactors. With that being said, one of Garrett's abilities is on the border: the swoop. Swooping, accomplished by a simple double button-tap, lets players quickly move undetected for short distances. For instance, is a guard staring right at the well-lit doorway you were hoping to pass by? Just swoop past. As long as you begin and end in concealment, you should be fine. The darting movement might make the guard come investigate, but at least it doesn't automatically raise an alarm.

Pack a giant quiver
Arrows aren't just offensive weapons; their long range and multiple varieties make them versatile tools. While crouching safely out of sight, you can fire off water arrows to extinguish light sources. Blunt arrows can break glass objects (like bottles) to create a loud noise and entice surrounding guards to abandon their posts to investigate. Fire arrows don't deal much damage on their own, but become far more lethal if shot in the direction of a pool of flammable liquid -- especially if a couple patrolling guards are standing in said pool. Rope arrows provided an instant vertical climbing aid, perfect for escaping ugly situations or getting a better view of the situation.

Good thieves love minigames
Just when you think you've found a container holding a valuable heirloom, you try opening it only to find it locked. That's when the lockpicking tools come out...along with the accompanying by-the-numbers lockpicking minigame. This was the most disappointing part of my Thief experience; I can't think of any title in which a lockpicking minigame  has been anything more than a frustrating hassle separating gamers from their well-deserved loot. I played two versions of the minigame (one with visible tumblers and one without), but neither of them added any enjoyment.

That concludes my basic instruction. These tips are all good to know for beginner-level thieves, but the in-depth lessons will have to wait until Thief releases in 2014.

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