There are players who have played thief and there are those who haven't - period
Thief: the dark project was made by Looking Glass studios and was released in 1998. Although it did not reach the mass popularity of Half-life which was released just 11 days before, it became an instant classic amongst the people that played it and it settled into their hearts forever as one of the, or maybe even "the" best game of all time.
The intro movie at the beginning is pretty good, but in most games that doesn't indicate the game itself is matched to it. Thief not only matches it but surpasses your wildest expectations.
The next movie is really short, but the cool narrative voice of the protagonist, Garrett, and the dark and misterious athmosphere lets you know your in for a ride of your life.
At the beginning of each mission is a movie briefing. Most of them contain a paragraph from religious books, which lets you understand the story better but also gives that reallistic feel to it. The paragraphs are not straight forward.
They are written in old language and all very, very impressive. Like some ancient sayings from Aristotel's books. At first I was sure these paragraphs were taken from an actual book but I later realized they were made up by looking glass. These paragraphs alone are works of art themselves.
The paragraph is followed by a narrative movie of Garrett speaking where he is going, what he is going to do there and how he is going to get there. A couple of movies are also thrown in where you get to see the development of the story. They are done in a special technique, which I have never seen before. It's like pictures that move, done with ink which still drips over the paper. Again a work of art by itself.
Before each mission you get to buy some extra equipment. The amount you can buy depends on the amount of money, gems and goods you were able to steal in the previous mission. This is not a priority. The priority in each mission is to fulfill certain goals, while looting is just a side thing, but it makes it easier for you in the next mission if you loot more.
After that you start the mission. You are armed with a sword which you use when the enemy detects and attacks you, a blackjack which you use to sneak up on enemies and hit them over the head so that they drop unconcious and a bow. A bow contains broadhead arrows for killing, water arrows for dousing out torches, moss arrows to cover the ground with moss and make you walk over loud surfaces unheard and fire and gas arrows with which you can kill multiple opponents at once. Arrows are quite scarce in this game so you have to use them wisely. In addition you get certain gadgets like flash bombs, mines, lockpicks, health potions.
The idea of this game is sneaking in the shadows and getting to your goal with facing as little opponents as possible. At the bottom of a screen you have a gem which shows how well concealed you are. If you are in total darkness, the enemies can't see you, but they can hear you. They can sometimes also see you if you move but it depends on the level of darkness. If they hear you they become aware of you and they try to find you so you have to move back quickly or kill/incapacitate them quickly. You can douse torches to make a light place dark but in some areas there are protected lanterns or moonlight. Each ground surface produces a different sound and even walls produce different sounds when you drag by them. Carpets produce no sound, while your footsteps bang heavily on iron floors.
The enemies are various from just human guards at first to zombies, mages, rat creatures, human bug scissor hybrids and even exploding frogs.
The storyline is pretty good at first. It's a single plot, but it's a deep and interesting one. The amazing thing here is not the actual story, but the world created around the story. Pagans which believe in a nature god, Hammers which oppose the nature god and believe a human is crafted by others and his own experience like a block of iron which is crafted into a hammer and Keepers (who trained Garrett) which are neutral and keep the order of things as it should be and keep themselves hidden from sight. All of this happens in a medieval world, full of steam machines and electrical gadgets. Again a work of art. When you finish playing Thief go through the movies again and suddenly the paragraphs make sense and you realize how astoundingly well sketched this game really is.
Graphics of this game are nice for a 1998 game. They are nothing special but they are pretty good for that time. They are certainly not so bad as to ruin the game as I heard some rewievers say.
Now come the biggest gems in this game - the athmosphere and the freedom.
The sounds in this game are amazing and extremelly realistic. You will hear your own footsteps, your breathing, you will flinch everytime you pull the bow string and it makes a small noise and draw out the sword when it makes a metal swooshing noise. You will hear every footstep made around you. You will hear zombies pulling their chains on the floor, waters running somewhere, people murmuring and whispering. You will hear all this things in complete dark. And you WILL be scared. You will often stop walking to listen if those were your footsteps you heard or someone elses. Even the freedom given to you in the game is scary. You will have cool looking maps which roughly show you were you are, but sometimes the areas are so big you get lost in them. Most of the time you have to explore the area. The game is designed in a multylinear way, meaning you can aproach your goal through different paths. You can use the back door, the secret (hard to find) door or you can go in through the heavily guarded front entrance. If you are good at swordplay you can often kill enemies without them even touching you, although if you make a mistake they can kill you with 1-2 shots.
You will often travel for an hour and then realize you forgot something at the beginning. You will have to listen to guard conversations or read library books to know where you must go or what to find. The freedom combined with the athmosphere make this game a must play for all pc gamers.
There are only 12 missions but they are very long and you can explore a map for ages. The game is also quite hard at times (not too hard) and psychologically exhausting. It requires you to think, fight, stealth, listen and be afraid. I'm not gonna lie. The first 2 days I finished 5 missions and had actual nightmares afterwards. Thief just gives you that deep anxiety feeling.
It's painfull yet enjoyable at the same time. Just like life.
I promised myself when rewieving a game I wouldn't give out a score of 10 easily and I have never given one to a game. Thief has convinced me in all ways. Amazing gameplay with a surreal athmosphere, great storyline and kickass movies has convinced me this is a perfect game.
Thief: the dark project makes games like half-life seem mediocre, that's why it deserves to be rated a 10 and it deserved to be played by every pc gamer. For me it is the best game I have ever played and if you haven't played it yet, don't call yourself a pc gamer.