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Tycho / on Mon, Feb 24 2014 at 11:57 am

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A comic which embroiders universal themes.

I see a bunch of Thief reviews out there now, so it must be okay to talk about it.

Dishonored was a game designed explicitly to flatter the Thief fetishist, so it’s not surprising that it keeps coming up in other reviews as an example of how to do whatever ever they think Thief is doing wrong.  Except I could never make sense of Dishonored, exactly: I could never figure out exactly how to hide, or if I was hiding.  I know everybody loves it, and what’s more, I’ve been around long enough to know that you’re supposed to love it.  But it didn’t love me first, and all I did was return the favor.  I’m installing it again now, because whenever I say true things I always feel guilty immediately.  Maybe I can find it this time.

Historically, the game has been mostly about factions warring over the human purpose.  You’ll note that I did not say it is about stealing goblets.  They are there, and you can steal them, but I don’t think the game is about cups anymore than Bioshock is about water.  Thief, on the other hand, is about stealing goblets because it doesn’t really have anything else.  As a result, it must be excellent at this and it is: you know what you need to do, there’s typically a couple ways to do it, and the world sells you on its physicality outside of the occasional video-gamey necessity to not let a grown-ass man jump a couple feet in the air.  I think the main character is well-drawn, and not much else, but a reboot that blanks the setting is an “interesting” tactic.

Terrorist druids and watch-worshippers are probably a little precious for most people, which it pains me greatly to admit, but there you have it.  As you might have seen in Gabriel’s post, I think their tactic paid off - and it stands to reel in far more people than it repulses.  Something that is interesting without the scare quotes is how utterly the developers will let you turn off many of their concessions to modernity.  These kinds of options - like the novel sliders in Bravely Default - allow customized experiences for individual players which are not on the order of a v-sync.  They go deep here, and venture into designer intention.

The city hub is a haphazard labyrinth, and not the good kind.  Frequent loads, some obvious and some poorly hidden, “rob” the game: they make us traverse discrete zones that never gel into places.  This is a game developed between generations, and things like that reveal it.  But, oh, once you get there.  Places!  Real places, clever places, solid places that I believe in and inhabit.  Places so true in their construction that I can consciously, deliberately manipulate them to my ends.  It’s not The Dark Project, with all that entails; then again, they said it wouldn’t be.

But somehow, somehow, it’s still Thief.

(CW)TB out.

spoil the visual grammar

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