Welcome to Mechanically Beautiful, where we look into the widely debated topic, “Are Video Games Art?” I am here to say that yes, I do believe video games are a form of art and I’m going to give you readers amazing examples of why I believe this. If you are not a believer of this idea, then maybe these articles will change your mind. But even if they don’t, you will get a chance to hear about and maybe look into some beautiful games in the industry. Today we look at the grim drank stealth game developed by Eidos-Montreal known as “Thief.”
Just to clarify, I’m talking about the newest game in the series, which is what would be “Thief 4”, but was just called “Thief“. Ignoring that silly fact, let’s get down to the goods.
“Thief” has you playing as the master thief Garrett in a fictional Victorian Gothic city. You travel around the rooftops and screen through the dark streets trying to avoid guards well making some good money off of your thievery. The game opening has you doing a job with your former apprentice Erin to steal some sort of strange stone. The job ends up going south and Erin falls through the glass roof of a chapel where the stone is and ends up dying. Garrett also ends up falling into the chapel, but as you fall, he blacks out. When Garrett wakes up, you are told you were asleep for over a year. Garrett, confused and a little rattled, goes back to his thieving ways while also investigating what happened to him. The game is set in a dark, Victorian style city with rough looking civilians, guards, and buildings as you wander around looking for sweet loot. The game is very muted and depressing, but still has a great art direction. I know this is another dark game, but what can I say, I like the dark fantasy style.
When you start the game off, you immediately feel saddened and gritty. The world is full of huge stone buildings and structures made of old beat up wood. The game invokes memories of “Sweeney Todd” which is a well beloved movie. You can break into many buildings through the windows and enter small musty rooms lit by small candle light. Ragged old beds and china cabinets adorn these tiny little rooms that are just waiting to be ransacked. You pick up things like beautiful silverware, letter openers, and golden ash trays. The game very easily could have had you just pick up coins from everywhere or picking up money pouches but they went a step further; they have you picking up things that fit into the world and give a nice touch of immersion. Exploring the dark buildings and suspicious alleyways is one of my favorite parts about traveling around in the game. You find old homeless beggars and some people who wander around that clearly are a bit more comfortable in life and even some sketchy guy hanging around trying to make an illegal profit. It gives that awful feeling of just how dreadful this world is and how badly things are handled. There is even conversations you overhear complaining about how awful the guards are, adding to the gut dropping feeling. Meanwhile you leap around above people as a silent observer learning the where the money is. The characters you meet are also very interesting.
The main character Garrett is covered head to toe in thick leather carrying various pockets and belts to hold his many pieces of equipment. He has a hold and face mask so that you can only see his eyes. He has armor padding like leather shoulder pads and greaves. All in all, he looks like a really awesome various of an assassins, although he doesn’t enjoy killing people. Garrett’s friend Basso is a big happy fat fellow wearing a big top hat and burly fur coat giving you jobs to do. He has look black hair with a scruffy beard and a weird pet crow. He is the kind of guy you probably don’t want to make deals with, but at the same time you know he’s got his ear to the ground. He doesn’t even have to talk, you get the immediate sense of his knowledge that may not be legal. The Queen of Beggars you meet is also a very sketching looking character. She is an old frail women with the usual short pure white hair, but she has creepy hollow white eyes due to her blindness. She wears a giant frilled fur collar coat that hangs down and she wears jewelry that she doesn’t look like she should have. Her appearance makes you a bit weary to trust her, and the fact that she is the Queen of Beggars makes you wonder where she could acquire such things. The Thief-Taker General, your number one enemy, is one of the creepiest looking villains I have seen in terms of creeper factor. He has the creepy French villain mustache with a huge bald spot and evil looking eyes. He wears a big black trench coat with a cross bolt launcher on his wrist and walks around with a weird villain cane. He isn’t a fellow you would want to meet on the street and makes you feel uncomfortable just by looking at him. It is a great visual design for characters that exist in a world where nothing is happy and rainbows.
“Thief” is a game that no one would say is nice, colorful, or pretty looking, but is beautiful in terms of how well the world gives you the feeling it was going for. They wanted you feel sad or grimy running around in this city and you do. The color palette is very muted, so when you see little bits of color like gold forks or the red carpeting of the brothel makes the game all the more appealing. I love wandering into a little alleyway and seeing a strange man there or exploring there, and I especially loved jumping into a window and see the room and how this person lives. “Thief” is a very visually intriguing game that I think is an easy recommendation to any stealth game fans.