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Eidos Montreal knows a thing or two about nudging a hibernating giant while it’s sleeping. The developer woke a giant last year to great critic and consumer acclaim. This sleeper was one of PC gaming’s greatest franchises, Deus Ex. To bring a franchise back after such a long period of rest is no simple feat and Eidos brought it to multiple platforms to boot. Awakening a slumbering franchise is also a touchy area of expertise since the developers need to maintain the integrity of the original intellectual property while simultaneously introducing a long absent game to modern technologies and game mechanics, but Eidos was able to achieve this with Deus Ex: Human Revolution. The developer has shown what a massive ordeal they can undertake and execute it fantastically, but can Eidos Montreal do it again?
No, no, no, Eidos is not making the next Deus Ex game as we speak. The developer has been tasked with awakening a different franchise that has been sleeping for over 8 years. Many developers tend to enjoy having games styled in two somewhat distinct genres – one being science fiction of the future and the other being medieval fantasy of the past. Like BioWare with Mass Effect and Dragon Age and Bethesda with Fallout and The Elder Scrolls, Eidos too has now taken their sights away from the stylizations of the cyberpunk future of Deus Ex and turned to the past with Thief 4. Yes, Thief fits this motif quite fondly because this IP has you scurrying the cobblestone streets of the pre-industrial world to (you guessed it) steal things.
But will Eidos Montreal be able to maintain the integrity of the original Thief games while simultaneously introduce this long-absent game to modern technologies with success in the same manner they did with Dues Ex? Only the future will tell, but we can look to the recent execution of Deus Ex: Human Revolution and see the foreshadowing of game mechanics that are present there to make a great Thief game.
First, Eidos would need to keep a look and feel through the same perspective of the original Thief games, literally. Although Deus Ex: HR did have both third and first-person perspectives, the original Thief games were more like Skyrim when it came down to the camera. Meaning, Deus Ex: HR was mostly a first-person game but it utilized the ability to switch in and out of first-person to show sneaking, taking cover, and stylish takedowns or fatalities in a third-person fashion. Whereas, Thief allowed the player to simply switch from first to third-person camera perspectives with a click of a button, like The Elder Scrolls. Either way, Eidos has shown they can create an experience that can seamlessly switch between first and third-person perspectives while not making the transition jarring for the audience.
Eidos would also be careful to not jar the audience with a sporadic change in gameplay, but I think the developers have this covered. In the past Thief games you’re, well you’re a thief and any future installments need to exude that mentality. There are many characteristics in Deus Ex that do so , such as the sneaking mechanics that were integrated well with the espionage-focused stages. Previous Thief titles had your thieves picking locks, moving through shadows to avoid light, and interacting with the environment to your advantage to progress with even greater subterfuge.
You interacted with the environment to diminish your visibility in both franchises. Instead of disabling a camera that would pan across a hallway like in Deus Ex, your thief character can shoot an arrow at a torch to extinguish its light so you can go on undetected. You could also make the choice to use lethal force or subdue an enemy. The thief could use a blackjack for a knockout or a dagger for a kill, similar to Jenson’s ability to either mutilate an enemy with his arms or simply knock them out. Also, after an enemy is incapacitated in one form or the other you need to do something with the body. Intelligent and patrolling guards have been present in both games and they react to a fallen companion. Luckily, a system to maneuver a body to low-traffic areas out of sight would keep other guards unaware to you presence.
All of these different elements could be incorporated into making a new great Thief game. The best part is that many of the elements that are needed to make a Thief game a compelling title are already present in Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Now Eidos simply has to make those ideals come to fruition. Simply said, not as simply executed, but I have the utmost faith in Eidos Montreal after their work with Deus Ex. I can’t wait to see what it has in store for Thief 4. The future is looking bright for the shadow-stalking thief.