In 1998, Looking Glass Studios shocked the gaming industry with the success of its first major release, a new sub-genre called the first-person sneaker. It came packaged in a dark, enveloping, and extremely addicting game entitled Thief: The Dark Project. The elements of this genre looked very much Quake-ish (a downside Looking Glass remedied with the development of an improved engine), but lacked the high-speed and frontal action of any FPS.

Smarter than your average gamer

The Thief series focuses more upon elegant, micro-management play. With articulately crafted levels, and more puzzle-solving/mental elements involved, Thief was not the game for your everyday point and click fighter. Anything from a locked door, to a simple torch, or tiled floors (the guards might hear you!) could halt you for more time than any boss monster in Half-Life.

Contrary to most other games released by Eidos (its at-the-time publisher), the game was not about how many enemies you could kill, or how many points you could rack up, but rather how quickly, efficiently, and neatly you could take care of any opposition. I.E.: if you knock the guard out with your Blackjack, he'll go quietly and you can hide the body; but if you stab him, the others might see the blood.

The complexity involved, partnered with the huge attention to detail, make gameplay seem very realistic, and, likewise, very difficult. It's a very hard game.

Story

The first of the Thief series, Thief: The Dark Project, stars Garrett, a wily rogue making his way in the world. The player takes on the part of Garrett, and faces his many adventures. You may have to do anything to survive: burglarize a house, sabotage a building, or rescue a damsel in distress. One of the missions requires you to rob a warehouse, a large area spiked with (patrolling) guards and chit-chatting civilians. Garrett's personality comes out in the mission's briefing, as he complains about it being a petty job. "But the rent must be paid," he says, and takes it on anyway.

In the original game, most of your actions were against the main antagonists of the world, the Hammerites, a group that, in the sequel, has all but disappeared. New evils have risen in their place: The Mechanists, a group sure to be even more sinister.

Improvements, Productive and Counter-Productive

The transition from Thief to Thief II is very fluid. The storyline carries on nicely, and the world is intricate. The dark aura of the medieval Thief thoroughly envelops the player.

One of the new additions is Garrett's mechanical eye (replacing an eye he'd lost in the original). It's a useful tool that allows you to zoom in or out without having to equip a bow. The Scouting Orb, another new gadget, can interface with your eye, allowing you to take on its perspective. You throw the orb down a passageway, and it acts like a rotating camera, letting you view areas without risking your person. There are also new weapons, such as the Vine Arrow, and potions: Invisibility and Slow Fall.

The Mechanists, as the new bad guys, are unfortunately not as intimidating as their Hammerite and Woodsie counterparts were. They have brought along some helpers, sentinel robots (so-called "children of the builders") much more efficient than their human counterparts. These often fall short of the mark, however, being ridiculously sensitive to certain actions and oblivious to others. AI is not much improved either: the guards are often just as stupid as they could be in the original, though on rare occasions the scripting can bring them alive.

Overall, the additions and changes from Thief I are tastefully implemented, and veteran Thief players will be able to appreciate it still. There aren't many drastic changes to gameplay, but the world itself has evolved, and the levels are so well written that no one who enjoyed the original should pass up the sequel.

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