Now may be a good time for publisher Square Enix to reboot the Thief series, since PS5 & Xbox Series X remove key technical limitations.
The last new Thief game dates back to 2014, and was a disappointing coda to an otherwise cult stealth action series – indeed, alongside Metal Gear Solid, the first Thief arguably gave birth to the modern stealth genre. With the advent of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X alongside state-of-the-art PCs, now may be a good time for publisher Square Enix to either revive the series or remake the 1998 original, since the new hardware removes key technical limitations. In an age of games like Ghost of Tsushima, there’s still clearly an interest in stealth mechanics.
The Thief universe is a unique hybrid of medieval and steampunk aesthetics with a dash of the occult. Players assume the role of Garrett, a professional burglar who ends up embroiled in conspiracies between factions like the Hammerites, Mechanists, Keepers, and pagans. Unlike, say, Metal Gear Solid, Garrett isn’t well-equipped to fight his way out of a jam – he needs to stay quiet and in the shadows. He does have a blackjack for ambushes and a bow with an assortment of special arrows, like a rope shot for climbing walls, or water for dousing torches.
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Thief could be resurrected as a PC-only game, but Square would certainly want to bring it to consoles for financial reasons, and it’s in this respect that prior Sony and Microsoft systems were holding the publisher back. The best games in the series are known for their sprawling, open-ended maps, but the transition to consoles forced developers to shrink the maps or break them into small chunks, hampering gameplay. The new console generation uses rapid-loading SSDs with hundreds of gigabytes of storage, making it possible to maintain both photorealistic graphics and free-roaming gameplay.
New Graphics For Thief Means Better Stealth
Critically, PS5, Xbox Series X, and PC graphics all support ray tracing – see the effects in Control as a reference point. Simplistically, the term translates into true real-time lighting, which previous Thief games could only imitate. Shadows could become much more dynamic and realistic, and conceivably, a modern developer might expand gameplay with things like mirror traps – exposing Garrett if he slips by a shiny surface at the wrong time. Positively, Garrett might use his own illusions to distract guards. If nothing else the game’s quasi-gothic setting could come alive as never before.
There is so far no sign that Square is planning to bring Thief back – its original creators have scattered to the winds, and it’s certainly busy with other franchises like Final Fantasy 7 Remake. Publishers are always on the look out for opportunities with an established brand name however, and resurrecting Thief could boost its efforts to compete with the open-world juggernauts produced by Ubisoft and Rockstar. The hardware is there, it’s just a matter of the will to use it.
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