Thief 4 - 3

Left: Eidos Montreal. Right: Legacy of the Thief series.

Not to mince words here, but Eidos Montreal’s new entry in the Thief series is sounding like an unmitigated disaster. It looked pretty dreadful during E3, and now a hands-on preview over at PC Gamer has revealed even more baffling design decisions. Including the fact that Garrett can no longer jump when you want him to.

The damning section in question reads: “I look to a nearby edge, and a prompt appears telling me I can jump across. Jumping is now a context- sensitive action.”

But wait, there’s more! In defense of this awful, awful decision, Eidos’ lead level designer (in italics, because holy shit) William Schmidt explains that “Jumping, bouncing up and down, kind of broke the immersion … We didn’t want you to be the master thief and you just tend to fall off stuff all the time.”

So let’s get this straight. Giving the player 100% freedom to jump whenever they feel like is less immersive than having no control over jumping except when the game tells them they do? Are we in bizarro world?

Consequently, we can determine that this means level design will be far more restrictive than in the original games. Entryways into (say) mansions will now be hardcoded as “yes, you can jump here” points, rather than open to emergent exploration as before. We already knew from E3’s shameful display that rope arrows have been gimped to the point that they can only be fired at pre-defined surfaces (rather than anything wooden like previous Thief titles,) but this just adds to the horror.

Thief is coming out in 2014. Maybe we can hope for another total redesign of the game before then.

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