If there's one thing we can say about our hands-on time with Thief, it's that Garrett moves unlike any other character I've controlled. That's not to say he performs unnatural feats, though. It's just that the Eidos Montreal has devised a control scheme that takes some getting used to.
At Gamescom, we had a conversation with narrative designer Steven Gallagher. Yesterday, we prowled through Garrett's world.
The demo placed us a few hours into the adventure in a slice of the game that features four jobs and a hidden side-mission. The jobs are typically brief, slightly cerebral, and encapsulated narrative beats. Garrett has just returned to his clock tower home after being gone for a number of years, and must reacquaint himself with a city that is oppressed by man and plague alike.
As we explore the city, we become acquainted with the non-traditional control scheme. There is no jump button. Cover is handled with an interaction button (X on the Xbox 360 controller), and Garrett can "swoop" forward, back, and side to side. This allows him to gracefully duck into the shadows or advance on an enemy for a takedown.
As we prowl the rooftops, it is easier to hold the left trigger to engage a free-run mode. This sends Garrett over obstacles, jumping to ropes, and up walls. The lack of a jump button is most noticeable when trying to mantle or grab onto a rope dangling above.
Garrett is handy in a fight against one foe, dodging and using melee attacks, but is easily overpwered by multiple enemies. He's better off staying in the shadows, using trick arrows to douse flames, lower bridges, drop ropes, and distract foes. Unlike some games with stealth overtones, Thief is meant to be played quietly. Open combat is discouraged and often ends in defeat.
Stolen treasure fuels the purchase of more arrows, upgrades, items like wire cutters and a ratchet (for removing valuable gold plates from walls), and health items. Focus restoring poppies replenish Garrett's ability to sense enemies and see valuable items.
It was fun to sneak around the city, listen in on conversations, and dart in and out of the shadows. We've now had a chance to learn the story and to play the game. The two have yet to fully intersect in our time with the game. It's not entirely clear how Garrett's thieving ways will benefit his oppressed city.
We're looking forward to learning more about Thief and understanding how Garrett's self-serving lifestyle forwards the narrative. Square Enix has pegged a February 25, 2014, release date on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, and PC.
For more on Thief, check out the coverage from our April issue. You can also watch a new gameplay trailer here.