I lead Product Marketing Lead at PostHog. Previously: Pollen, Scoro, Hambro Perks, Dennis Publishing. Recovering journalist.
In terms of immersion into the setting, level and moment, Thief and Dishonored are completely different worlds. Whereas Dishonored feels formal, Thief feels completely authentic. Its depths are not just an obvious concession to the obligation for a game with such a seting and gameplay to “have depths” and to “play around a little bit” with the “weird”, but are just a general feeling, that by just setting your foot into that game and feel yourself in the shoes of Garrett. It is evoked by a rigorous aesthetic, the slightest understated hints about the world and things which are just by their nature creepy and uncanny to come across.
I find that the Thief series hits a real nerve with me, because they remind me of nightmares. It’s the sense of the world being against you, of being stalked by something large and dangerous and trying to hide from it. Yes, you are safe in the dark, but you can’t stay there, there’s the constant longing to escape, to wake up – which in the game means accomplishing goals and reaching the end of the level.
In Dishonored the player is much more in control, there is less to fear. Which is why the game was quite disappointing to me. (Well.. also because the game felt heavily skewed towards violence, and then tells the player off for choosing that route.)
IMO Thief on ‘expert’ is how the developers intended the game to be played, and the only proper way to play the game (it is called Thief after all not Murderer). It’s a shame they had to put the other difficulty settings in there but most people just don’t have the patience for hours of creeping around in the dark.
On expert you can’t kill any humans, so your sword, broadhead arrows, fire arrows and regular mines become useless on most enemies in the game. Also gas mines and gas arrows are expensive and rare, and have to be saved for desperate situations. Same deal with water arrows and holy water, they’re never plentiful enough to let you take out all the zombies. So played on expert the vast majority of the game involves staying in the shadows, looking for surfaces you can move quietly on, learning patrol routes, and trying to get into positions where you can blackjack people and then hide the bodies – a true stealth game in other words. There’s also more exploration and thieving required on expert due to the extra objectives and the higher loot total required.
I’d also agree with Matts comment above about the way the aesthetics, and especially the incredible sound design, make for a totally immersive experience.
Seems like a good opportunity for you to now replay Thief 2 on expert, you’ll immediately see the difference expert makes.
Excellent piece! I didn’t think about this aspect of the contrast between Thief and Dishonored, and I *must* play Thief again! I agree with Alex, it reminds me of nightmare in the sense that you are alone against everyone and everything. I think no game has still done this well enough as Thief, or so strongly.
I wanted to ask: can I translate this post on an italian site? With direct link to this, of course, and full credit to you. I would like to, so italian gamers who cannot read english could read the piece too :).
Tell me what you think…