Gamer's Notebook

Reviving dead franchises, a boon for gamers and developers

By Chris O'Neal 04/11/2013

Everything moves so fast, doesn’t it? It seems like just yesterday that Kevin Ware’s bone went all Alien on us and popped out of his skin. It was big news for a week, but now — now, I sit in my recliner and ponder the brevity of it all. Same goes for gaming. I’ve only just finished Bioshock Infinite and now we’re speaking of the next Xbox and Playstation console. Truly, these are rapid times for rapid folks. What about those of us who like to take it easy?

Worry not, brave soul, Eidos Montreal has something for you; a game once thought to be long-perished in the fires of time, cleansed away and replaced by a watered down version. We’re speaking of Thief, the original impossibly hard thievery simulator, wherein stealth is the name of the game rather than battling against the odds.

You take control of well-seasoned thrill seeker Garrett, a master thief in a somewhat steampunky, gothic London. The only thing that gets him off is taking your things for himself, and you’ll assist him in this pursuit. Unlike your mama’s adventure-riddled, jewel-hunting counterparts (say, Tomb Raider or Indiana Jones), Garrett can’t just whip out a . . . and start in on the mayhem. Garrett is a skilled thief, and remaining undetected is his knack.

This is what makes the game simultaneously amazing and difficult. The desire is overwhelming to get into battle with guards, but do so and you might find yourself in a pickle. Or not, this is the next generation of gaming, after all, and unless you’re not associated with a major publisher (Thief is published by Square Enix), you’re going to leave room for ease of use.

In battle, Garrett can fall into “focus” mode, targeting enemies’ weak spots. We won’t be calling this bullet-time. No no, he’s simply focusing. Battles aren’t as hard as they were in the original Thief: The Dark Project, released in 1998. Thief will inevitably be compared to games it inspired, so it must sell its soul in a way, or risk being too much of a niche.

There’s been much talk about Thief’s similarities to the new, original title Dishonored, in which you play a thief bent on thieving in the dark. While Dishonored features an antihero in a similar vein as Garrett, and admittedly, is inspired by the original Thief, can there truly be a comparison between the two? And might the developers at Eidos have come a little too late to rekindle a franchise that has spawned a litany of inspired titles?

Perhaps, perhaps not. That really depends on how much you’re willing to forgive the granddaddy of such things.

Just last week, as I hopped between ramen shops in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo district, I ran across a man wearing a THQ shirt. I paused and offered my condolences, to which he hung his head and sighed a sad whisper of appreciation.

Watching old franchises resurrect in the midst of closures and failures is puzzling, yet that is the enigma of the gaming community.

Now, we take a moment to recognize the lost art of Lucas Arts, a branch of Disney since last year. Lucas Arts brought to us everything Star Wars gaming-related, including the much acclaimed Knights of the Old Republic and the ancient X-Wing and Tie-Fighter series. Their upcoming Star Wars titles canceled their long history (since 1982!) of gaming now but a whisper.

Lucas Arts met the chopping block at the hands of Disney just last week, and now they, too find themselves in the company of THQ and hundreds of others.

As we reflect on the “good old days” of gaming by bringing nostalgic titles back from the grave, let us not forget that we trample the dead, and perhaps we’re merely building a city of ghosts on top of what should have been a metropolis of originality and innovation. Thief will be released in 2014.

Chris O’Neal is listening to the video game channel on Pandora and loving it. Follow him on Twitter @agentoneal.



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