The Thief series has a storied history, with its origins starting out on PC with the original two games, Thief: The Dark Project and Thief II: The Metal Age. However, I was too young to experience those games in their height, back in the late 90’s and at the turn of the millennium, and even a little too young for much of Thief: Deadly Shadows on Xbox. I was very much around for the series’ reboot back in 2014 though and I’ve got to admit, I kinda loved it, despite the lukewarm reaction.
Sure it was janky here and sort-of-broken there. Sure, the game’s map was split up into what felt like a million ‘hubs’ because it was rooted in the Xbox 360 era, and sure, the frame rate jumped all over the place on Xbox One. But for me, something about it just worked. I loved slinking around the dark streets of its atmospheric city (aptly named ‘The City’), stealing from rich folk in their rooftop penthouses. I loved the tactile feel of pick locking my way through empty apartment buildings and happily scooping up any loot I could find. I even enjoyed just creeping around and observing how both the rich and the poor went about their lives. Thief 2014 isn’t perfect and towards the end of its campaign it really went off the rails, but I have a soft spot for it regardless.
And all this got me thinking, the series deserves another shot, right? The IP will fall under Embracer Group’s wing once their recently announced acquisition goes through, so at least that prospect looks more likely than it did a week ago. So, what should Thief ‘5’ contain and what direction should the new publisher take?
For me, a focus on immersion should be a clear goal. Sure, Thief had a world map you could pull up at any time, but it was sort of useless due to the aforementioned ‘hub’ approach, and I almost think that benefitted the game in the end. I hardly ever used Thief’s map, and that combined with its minimalist UI really drew me into ‘The City’. In fact, a sequel could probably do away with much of any UI at all, and stick to in-world guidance for platforming, exploration and the likes.
Another direction I’d love to see the game move towards is more of an organic approach to its campaign design. Arguably, the weakest aspect of Thief 2014 was the story missions themselves, and I actually preferred tackling the various side missions (or ‘Jobs’) handed out by shady-looking blokes throughout the city. Give me a hideout where I can stash my stealings and a list of rich folk to go after and I’m a happy thief, all things told.
Next-gen only is also a must, which thanks to this acquisition’s planned timing, would be pretty likely. After the segmented style of Thief’s open world, I want a huge-ass city to wander around in without any hurdles and certainly no load screens. Xbox Series X|S can definitely provide that and then some, judging by what we’ve seen from this generation so far. Thief’s city was probably its shining light even with its 360-era cutbacks, and I’d love to see what could be cooked up on next-gen consoles in a potential sequel.
Speaking of the city, Thief was set completely at night time, which makes sense given the game’s focus on nabbing things from rich folk in the dark. However, I’d welcome a full day-night cycle where essentially, the game becomes much harder in broad daylight. Think Dying Light’s night time mechanic but flipped on its head, where daylight robbery becomes the game’s hardcore mode and provides an extra thrill-seeking challenge. The developer would have to work to keep the game’s signature atmosphere intact, but I think such a setup could definitely work.
Aside from that, I don’t really have any other requests, I just hope a sequel actually gets made. The first three games have plenty of plaudits, and fans of those will likely have their own request lists, but I don’t want the developer to throw away everything about the 2014 reboot. Hopefully this time Eidos Montreal, or whoever ends up developing another Thief game, gets the time and technology it needs to make the game shine on Xbox Series X|S.
What do you think to the Thief series? Does is deserve another crack on next-gen? Let us know your thoughts below!