I spent a good hour with the Thief demo exploring a fort with a treasure called the Heart of the Lion. Garrett has is to steal the valuable and even in the demo there are multiple ways to do it.
Thief is a stealth game. Garrett remains cloaked as long as he’s in the shroud, an aura of dark clouds that surround him. While you can takedown guards by sneaking behind them or dropping in from above, Garrett isn’t a great fighter. He can only endure a couple of sword strikes before he collapses and you have to restart the demo. A better strategy is to dash through a level and stay out of range.
The Thief demo starts in a courtyard. In my first run through, I climbed up a column and got on higher ground to avoid a patrolling guard and take aim at a torch with a water arrow. These limited items extinguish flames and distract guards as they walk over to relight the torch. That gave me an opportunity to run up another wall and hide in a corner. Garrett can take cover and peek out of walls to see if any guards are a head. When Garrett peeks you can see his both of hands gripping on to a wall. Guards in Thief move in a predictable patterns. One you figure out their route you can sneak past them and into a wide open courtyard.
Garrett can climb up columns to get the high ground again, but I found crouch dashing into a room was another way to avoid being spotted. The door, like most of the doors in Thief, was locked. Garrett can pick it by playing a mini-game where you rotate the left analog stick into a certain position. Force feedback lets you know if you’re warm or cold.
The lock picking mini-game changes if you use focus, Garrett’s main ability. Activate focus and you can see inside the lock where you can press the trigger buttons to move the pins up and down. Picking locks is easier with focus, in fact, the whole game is. Focus highlights guards, so you can plan a path to sneak around guards. You can also use focus to slow down time when you fire arrows and to highlight areas Garrett can hang from. Focus is kind of like the “smart vision” Adam Jensen has in Deus Ex: Human Revolution from his Retinal Prosthesis augmentation, but Garrett’s ability does not recover over time. Poppies can recharge Garrett’s focus, but finding these flowers is rare. Knowing when to use focus and when to preserve it seems to be one of the main gameplay mechanics in Thief.
One of the others is collecting treasure. Garrett can swipe coin purses from patrolling guards and grab golden gears off the ground. A note in the HUD lets players know they picked up a valuable item, but it isn’t clear what bonus treasures do. I asked a representative from Eidos Montreal who assured me there is a reason to search for extra goodies and said they would explain why later on.
The first time I played through the Thief demo I snuck into the vault with the Heart of the Lion straight on. This took a couple of tries since Garrett can’t defend himself well if his cover is blown. Garrett can block and attack with a melee weapon, but he’s no Solid Snake and if three guards close in you’re toast. The other craftier way to break into the vault is to turn a valve off and shut down a waterfall from the beginning of the level. This opens a route to sneak through the sewers to the vault. The path isn’t clear of danger, there are spike traps that you probably won’t notice unless you use focus and hand holds to climb (again revealed by using focus). Once you’re inside, the path converges to the vault.
I played Thief on a PC using an Xbox 360 controller. The game will also be released for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. There were a couple of cool things I noticed Garrett could do in the Thief demo like:
– If you use focus and fire an arrow at the ropes holding up chandeliers you can drop them on guards.
– Blunt arrows can be used to distract guards, but you have to shoot the arrow pretty close to a target otherwise they won’t hear the sound.
– Garrett has a rope arrow, but in the demo there are only a few places where the grappling arrow works.
– Using focus shows the footsteps of where guards walked.
– Levels are designed you can complete them without being detected. Thief keeps track of that achievement.