Pages: 1 2 3
Review by: Emil Pagliarulo
Published: December 19, 1998
Remember the good old days of gaming, when you could sit down at the computer and get totally immersed for hours and hours on end with the single-player experience, never having to worry about network configurations, connection speed, or deathmatch ranking? For multiplayer fanatics, these might as well have been the Dark Ages, but for many more gamers it was a time of creativity and industry innovation, when there weren’t enough games to warrant any clones and every new release seemed to mark something new and different. It was during that time a small development company known as Looking Glass made its indelible mark on the industry, by creating some of the most immersive computer games ever seen. But now, in 1998, we as gamers have been left to wonder: where have all the Ultima Underworlds and System Shocks gone?
As it turns out, they’ve been hiding in the shadows, as evidenced by Looking Glass and Eidos Interactive’s latest release, Thief: The Dark Project. Thief is a game in the classic Looking Glass sense, and really does embody the best elements of System Shock and Ultima Underworld by offering an incredibly immersive first-person experience; an intelligent, fully-developed storyline; an engaging, believable main character; and computer artificial intelligence that does more than just run and shoot. But it’s probably best if I start at the beginning….
Thief: The Dark Project is the story of Garrett, a master thief who makes his money robbing from the rich and giving to himself. As a child, Garrett was just another street urchin, begging for scraps and wondering if each day would be his last. All that changed when he noticed a mysterious figure wandering the street one night, virtually unnoticed by everyone he passed by. After a failed pickpocketing attempt, Garrett learned that the man was a “Keeper,” a member of a mysterious order charged with maintaining the balance of life. He was adopted into their order as an initiate, and learned their mysterious ways, including the art of vanishing into the shadows. Garrett soon grew wary of the Keepers, however; life on the streets had made him more than a little cynical, and their cloistered way just wasn’t his style. So he took off, returning to the only life he truly knew — that as a scoundrel and thief. But Garrett’s time with the Keepers had been well spent, and his unique “education” proves invaluable in his chosen profession.
While Thief: The Dark Project seems like a classic fantasy adventure, featuring the standard medieval trappings, that’s not entirely the case. The game is set in a dark, gothic place known as the City, an urban center where magic and science meet and the streets are lit by strangely constructed “electric” lights. It’s more like Victorian era London than anywhere else, and you never really know where it is or what lies beyond its walls. In addition to the Keepers, the City is also home to the Hammerites, a strict religious order and political faction that acts as the local police force. On the surface, the Hammerites control every aspect of the City, and for the game’s purposes there is no higher order in the entire universe. This focus on one geographic location proves to be eerily effective, and not knowing who or what is in control beyond the confines of the City just makes the Hammers seem that much more powerful, and intimidating.
At first, the Hammerites seem little more than raving religious lunatics intent on exerting their will on others and enforcing the ancient teachings of a vague creator known as the “Builder.” It soon becomes apparent, though, that Thief: The Dark Project is about more than Garrett’s selfish need to stuff his pockets with noblemen’s trinkets or the Hammers’ crusade to purify the world around them; like it or not, our anti-hero has a destiny, and the Keepers are intent on making sure he keeps to it. As the player discovers through the course of the game, there is an ancient evil afoot in the City, one in direct opposition to the Hammerites’ very beliefs. The Hammers represent progress and industrialization as much as they do religion and order, and ancient texts tell of a Puckish lord of nature known as the Trickster, who was essentially driven into obsolescence and legend as mankind came in and began razing the forests to build their great City. Well, the Trickster is back, and he’s been holding one hell of a grudge.
Pages: 1 2 3