We guide Garrett through some sticky situations in a beta version of the highly anticipated stealth sequel.
The master thief Garrett's triumphant return to the shadows of the City will be upon us in just a few short months with the impending release of Thief: Deadly Shadows, the third game in the classic medieval stealth series. We recently met with Ion Storm studio head Warren Spector and got a chance to go hands-on with a feature-complete version of the game, which is now undergoing rigorous beta testing. Though our time with Deadly Shadows was brief, it left us rather anxious to experience more of the moody, suspenseful environments and situations created by the game's impressive combination of engine technology and good ol' fashioned play mechanics.
During our demo, we got to sneak our way through several of Deadly Shadows' maps in an effort to loot treasure and to escape the premises unseen. The game is looking quite solid at this point--we were able to move around the world freely and could use all sorts of stealthy maneuvers to further our goals. Indeed, Spector told us that the game recently underwent its first successful start-to-finish play-through, so the development team is now squarely in tweaking and bug-fixing mode as it works toward the game's upcoming release.
The gameplay we experienced in Deadly Shadows ought to be familiar, on a fundamental level, to anyone who's played other stealth games in the last few years. You sneak around enemy-filled areas, preferably under cover of darkness, in an attempt to complete your goals without raising awareness of your presence. However, unlike stealth genre standard-bearers like Splinter Cell and Metal Gear Solid, which, for some reason, both have a near-future military setting, Deadly Shadows' quasi-medieval universe will force you to be much more creative--and much more careful--to ensure that you stay hidden. In other words, it's a very different and admittedly refreshing stealth experience to enter a pitch-black area and have no thermal-vision goggles to reach for.
The two previous Thief titles, The Dark Project and The Metal Age, weren't exactly what you'd call FPS games, but nevertheless, they were played exclusively from a first-person perspective. Deadly Shadows, on the other hand, provides an option for a third-person perspective, and you can switch between the two at any time. Spector told us that initially he fought against the inclusion of third-person, but now that it's in the game, he recognizes that it was a valid design choice. After playing the game, we'd have to agree that it's definitely easier to get a sense of your surroundings, in addition to how visible you are, with the increased field of view the third-person perspective yields. Playing in first-person provides a much more immersive experience, but it's also a lot harder to keep track of what's going on around you and how likely it is you'll be spotted. Thankfully, there's an indicator on your HUD, in the form of a color-cycling jewel, that will let you know not only how visible you are but also how much sound you're making.
At one point during the demo, Spector pointed out the irony of the art team's efforts to imbue Thief's gameworld with such detail and craft, because, as a thief, you'll ideally want to spend as much of the game in darkness as possible and thus won't be able to appreciate those fine details. Indeed, almost all of the light sources in the game can be put out in one way or another. Garrett has water arrows in his versatile quiver that will magically rain down a small shower of water from their points of impact, so you can use these to extinguish wall-mounted torches, candelabras, and pretty much any flame that you can aim an arrow directly above. If you can manage it while unseen, you can also simply walk up to some smaller light sources, like candles, and snuff them with your fingers. Even if the darkness is absolute, you won't be completely invisible to enemies--they'll still notice some hint of movement and investigate the disturbance if you walk in front of them--but it sure helps.
The water arrows are hardly the only trick Garrett has up his sleeve. For one, his trusty blackjack will let you knock out an enemy unnoticed, assuming you can manage to sneak up without being heard in the first place. Garrett also has a bevy of other arrows to use with his trusty bow. The noisemaker arrow will draw enemies' attention to its point of impact, thus allowing you to sneak by while they investigate in the opposite direction. Moss arrows will blanket the area around their impact points with moss (obviously), which will mask the sound of your footsteps. This comes in handy if you have to drop down from a considerable height and can't otherwise avoid making noise when you land. Spector told us one of the game's programmers snuck in an additional effect involving the moss arrows that will come in handy if you've roused a guard. Specifically, if you manage to fire at his head, his mouth will be filled with moss, and his muffled cries won't be loud enough to alert his allies.
- Release Date: May 25, 2004 (US)
- ESRB: MTitles rated M (Mature) have content that may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older.
- Release Date: June 2005 (US)
- ESRB: ETitles rated E (Everyone) have content that may be suitable for ages 6 and older.