The Last Thief 3 Preview You Will Ever Need to Read
From a hands-on experience with the game, by Dan, a.k.a. Digital Nightfall.

Getting Started

I think a gameís desktop icon is important. Thief 1ís icon was something that looked like the Eye glyph. Thief 2ís was a mechanist gear. Thief 3ís most will recognize from the flashing glyphs weíve seen since Thief 1. Itís the glyph for The Keepers; nice and simple.

The main menu is quite rudimentary, borrowing much from the first two gameís menus, but not nearly as graphically intensive. As before, thereís no music, just sound effects, but now youíre outside looking over The City, rather than staring at a mechanical contraption. I think the text of the ďDeadly ShadowsĒ subtitle could have stood being a bit higher resolution, but this is a pointless nitpick.

The introduction we are treated to is something weíve all seen already, as a version of it has been posted on the official site for some time. The final version is shorter however and more fast paced, and contains some delightful flashbacks to cinematics in T1 & 2. Overall, itís nice, a big step above the directionless T2 intro, but I donít think it will inspire the same ďwatch me over and over years laterĒ that the Thief 1 intro did for me.

1st person, 3rd person, Body Awareness, and Movement In General

Third person mode, and body awareness have been heavily debated for over a year. The following will probably not cool down the debate any, in fact I expect the debate to continue well after the game is released, but it will offer information as to how it all works.

From my perspective (pun intended!) third person is sort of like cheating. If you want to break immersion, get a birdís eye view of your situation, and possibly get a break from the tension, switch to third person. It will let you look around, see exactly how close an AI is to you while youíre sneaking past, or hiding while the AI walks by. It will let you see much farther around corners then leaning can come close to doing. Third person is much more tactical and much less personal. For me, third person felt more like playing a game, while first person felt more like being Garrett. The good news is that itís totally up to you how to play. I did not feel that first person was at all compromised by the addition of third person.

First person mode would be the same old deal, if not for the inclusion of body awareness, for this reason; the playerís view is linked to the head of the player model, and the cameraís movement is linked to the modelís animations. The first person player model and the third person player model, however, have different animations. This results in a much smoother ride in 1st person, as the animated body is much more steady & even than the third person animated body. However the ride is much bumpier than what weíre used two in the dark engine. Those who dislike motion bob in first person games may find first person very hard to bear, and could be forced to play in third person, where there is no bob.

Because the movement is based on an animated player body, itís often not instantaneous. For example, while sidestepping, thereís a slight delay as the body repositions itself in order to sidestep. Garrett turns his body in the direction of the side step while keeping his head in the direction youíre looking. The delay is the result of this animated sequence. I found this troublesome only for a short while. By the time I had moved on to the second mission, it was completely natural.

In fact, the way you move in 1st person was very much like how it was in Arx Fatalis, for the very reasons I just went over. (Arx had the view connected to a player model as well.) I found it easy to get used to, and not something that bothered me; but then, I am an Arx Fatalis junkie.

Occasionally while moving around, you could catch a glimpse of your shoulder, or your bow if you had an arrow selected, even though you werenít using it. This can be distracting. Again, no body awareness toggle, so you either get used to this, or you do not.

You can lean to the left and right, but not forward. If you want to peer over a ledge, your best bet is to go into 3rd person mode and just look down. The leaning is linked to the characterís animation, so you can only lean as much as the animation will let you. This means you cannot contort your body into an impossible position as you snake yourself around a corner, all while keeping yourself as hidden as your toes are. Ah yes, thatís a very important point. If you lean into the light, youíre in the light. Leaning can be dangerous. Of course, you can always go into 3rd person mode and just look around a corner that way, if you donít want to expose yourself by leaning into the light. Remember what I said about 3rd person being sort of like cheating? Yup.

You can fire arrows and swing your weapon while leaning.

The wall press was brought in as a result of the 3rd person mode, but is still a very viable and useful tactic in 1st person. Essentially, you gain the invisibility bonus that crouching gives you, however you also take up much less space. This is very useful when trying to allow a guard to pass you by in a corridor while pressed into the shadows. Simply face away from the wall, hit the R key (or the bind of your choice) and you flatten against the wall. You can still sidestep and lean while doing a wall press, but nothing else. To get off the wall, either hit R again, or hold down the forward key for a moment. I suggest the R key, as it results in a much faster release. I found myself using this feature very often.

Mantling is just like it was in T1/2, but actually seems easier this time around. The developers understood the frustration associated with failed mantling, especially as a failed mantle could produce a great deal of noise, so they took care to make it work right.

Garrett can fall from quite a distance without taking damage, and when he does take damage, itís not very much. Clearly the designer wanted to make jumping off steep ledges a viable escape route while in sticky situations. I used it from time to time, occasionally prompting a guard to try and follow me, though they fell to their death.

Tools: Whatís New? Whatís Old? Whatís Gone?

This is old news, but itís worth noting because everyoneís been asking why, and I have the answer. There are no rope arrows in the game. Why not? Quite simply, they could not get them to work. There comes a time after so many all-nighters and twenty four hour shifts when you must part with a feature that just isnít working, even if itís something as beloved as the rope arrow. Sad, I know, but thatís how it is.

I did not get a chance to test out the climbing gloves, as they donít enter until later in the game, so I canít comment on them.

Scouting orbs also did not make it into the game, for the very same reason. They couldnít get them to work right. They had even planned a wind-up action orb that would scoot down the floor; would have been neat. But thatís irrelevant. Theyíre not in the game, so just stop worrying about them.

Just for the sake of the trivia, they also planned a noise dampening device which would create a field of silence within a radius. But, thatís sort of what moss arrows are for, so out the window goes that idea. Okay, on to what actually matters!

Noisemaker arrows are the same, but this time they seem to contain fireworks. Youíd think that the guard would be familiar with the common appearance of the fiery, crackly noisemaker arrow and immediately know that they are being fooled, but I digress. I thought that the ball-bearing concept was much more interesting and subtle, but I promised to digress and I have failed. Digression concluded.

The new lock picking is one new feature in T3 that I simply adore. When you frob a locked object to which you do not have a key, the game moves you into position, you switch to 1st person mode (if you were not there already) and Garrettís hands go to work. In your lower right display, you get a series of concentric circles, and a pick. Somewhere on each circle is a "sweet spot" (their words, not mine) which you have to find by moving your pick over it. You know you found it when the ring wiggles and makes noise. At this point thereís still some margin for error as to where the so-called sweet spot is, so you can either keep wiggling your pick until it opens by itself, or start left-clicking until you find the spot yourself. Many locks use the same picking pattern, so itís very possible to memorize the patterns and pick locks in scant seconds, regardless of their original complexity. Locks grouped by picking patterns are also grouped by appearance, so itís possible to know how to pick a lock the instant you set your eyes on its shape, color, and so on.

Flash-bombs are a little cheesy this time around. Not only do guards who see the flash peripherally suffer the effects as well (In T1/2 they had to be looking right at it) but the flash no longer blinds Garrett. This makes it easier, naturally, but may result in the behavior weíve witnessed in some of the gameplay vids that have been posted; wanton reckless use of flash-bombs. What was once an art is now playing in the mud. Oh well. No word on if flash bombs hurt undead or not. I didnít try it, nor did I ask. I guess weíll find out!

There are no flash mines. There are gas bombs too, but not gas mines. I did not try out the gas bombs, but weíve seen them in action plenty of times in videos from other sites. Then there are the mines, and a mine is a mine is a mine. You set them, someone walks on one, and they blow up. I did not get a chance to test out a mine, but theyíre definitely in the game.

The four elemental arrows work mostly the same as they did in the previous games, with two exceptions. Firstly, all arrows arc in flight. The other change is to the moss arrow. Now the moss covers a much larger area, and if you shoot an AI in the face with it, it will prevent them from speaking. All of the crystals are much smaller in the game world, but they all glow too, so theyíre pretty easy to spot, wherever theyíre hiding.

I did not get a chance to test out the oil flasks, but weíve seen them at work in other gameplay vids. They create oil slicks which causes guards to fall down. If you shoot a fire arrow at it, it becomes a burning oil slick, which will roast the guard as they are slipping and falling. I'm told they produce funny results when used on stairways.

Iíll reserve discussion of the weapons for the section on the artificial intelligence.

The Tutorial

As tradition, the story begins the same way that T1; Garrett is gainfully employed by a fence. Unlike T2, however, the game does not begin with a set of random unrelated missions. Thereís a clean, smooth narrative starting with the tutorial, working forward seamlessly into the main plot of the game. Not even Thief 1 did this so well, I think.

The moment the tutorial opens up you are immediately confronted by a deep, thick atmosphere, and elegantly crafted city streets. Itís but a humble scrap of what is to come, however.

The gameís tutorial is nothing like the first two gamesí. You are playing out what could be an actual, real mission, but youíre on rails, being led from one carefully staged situation to the next. During these situations, you are instructed how to act, and if you do not solve the problem the intended way, you are sent back to try again. This is so that a player will be forced to learn how to mantle, forced to learn how to press up against a wall, and forced to use a flash-bomb. On the other hand, I was able to ďbeatĒ the tutorial at its own game in a few places, doing things my way instead of how I was told. Iíd love for an option to turn off the tutorial and play this mission free from pop-ups and glowing blue footprints, but thatís just the fancy of a person who played T3 on expert from the first moment in the game.

So, eventually the tutorial ends, and you go on to your first real mission. As mentioned before, the storyline is quite prominent in the game, and mission 1 is a direct result of what takes place in the tutorial.

Preparing for a Mission, and Useful info for while in the Missions

At this point weíre allowed to choose difficulty level. Difficulty level determines loot objectives, AI skill, and restrictions on killing bystanders. Loot goals include what percentage of loot the player must find to complete the mission: Easy (30%), Normal (40%), Hard (60%), and Expert (90%). From Normal to Expert, you also have to find unique loot items: Normal (1), Hard (2), and Expert (3). The unique loot items still count towards your total percentage, but even if you have 90% of the loot found, if you have not found the third unique loot item, you havenít won the mission. AI skill determines the AI sensitivity, how much they notice, how strong they are, how hard they hit, and how many of them there are. Finally, on expert, you are not allowed to kill non-combatants.

The mission briefings are given as text and a voiceover. Impatient players can quickly read the text, and move on to viewing your starting gear, the mission map, and so on and so forth, while ignoring the Garrett voiceover. Or, if youíre a fan of Garrettís voice, you can just sit back, relax, and listen to Garrett brief you on your mission. The mission briefings are typically longer than the ones from T1/2, but noticeably absent are the animated slideshows of artwork everyone knows and loves. A disappointment, yes, but this is made up for, I feel, by the sheer volume of information you are constantly given at moments such as these.

As mentioned before, you can view your starting gear. The usefulness of this became apparent to me when I was about to start a mission, and I realized I was almost out of water arrows. I was able to abort the mission, go back into The City, and buy more arrows. Remember, the number of arrows you spend on one mission effects how many arrows you have when you start the next. Stock up! But, in the case of the first mission, thereís no way to buy anything yet, so this does not yet come into play. The other use of this screen is to get information on just what the heck a certain item in your inventory is, in case youíre new to the game and have simply forgotten what the blazes that water arrow doohickey is good for. You can call this screen up at any time during play.

You can also check your map at this point, if you have one. Often, you will have to acquire your map through disreputable means. The maps Iíve seen are more T1 style; vague and occasionally untrustworthy. These are not auto-maps. They do not update as you play, nor do they show your location, or mark where youíve been, or allow you to post notes. Another sad loss, but the added challenge it gave forced an easy forgiveness. Also, having an ever-present compass was nice.

The objectives, aside from your loot and offensive restrictions, do not change based on difficulty levels. Another feature of your objectives screen are the notes, which will be added as you play the missions, or during the freeplay sections. These notes, usually given to you by reading books, or listening to conversations, will give you vital info for completion your mission, and may serve as lead-ins for full blown new objectives once you follow up on the information they give you.

Thus, the mission begins, and itís time to play some Thief. Again, you are confronted with a deep, thick atmosphere as you stand in the courtyard of a castle. This isnít your T2 Victorian mansion. Itís a good, old fashioned castle, through and through. Though you only have access to the courtyard, and not the full perimeter of the building, you still have your choice of three points of entry, not all of which are directly obvious. This is the point; three ways in means youíre immediately facing non-linear gameplay.

Loading Zones, Xbox Versus PC, Dumbing Down

Yes, itís true that the Xbox is what prompted the existence of loading zones. The good news is that itís not so bad after all. No mission is divided into more than two partitions, and most missions have dual connectivity between the partitions. The result is that you get what feels like two part missions. You can complete the first part, and then move into the second. In some cases, you will have to go back to the first part to complete the mission, but this makes sense, because you have to exit the mission the way you came in, anyway.

So, just how big are the missions anyway? Well, on average, it took me a little over an hour to finish each mission; thatís not including time lost by loading old saved games, so the time spent playing would actually be longer. So, the bottom line is, while the loading zones cut the missions in two, youíre still getting missions of roughly the same length as Thief 1. Just donít expect the massive, sprawling missions from Thief 2. If youíll remember, those missions tended to be very low detail and quite devoid of content in many areas. Thief 3 is nothing like that. Oh yes, very important note: mission loads take about 15 seconds.

The loading zone connections are churning blue foggy areas. When you walk into it, it gives you the option to go or stay. The setup of these connecting areas varied from mission to mission. Sometimes theyíre at the end of a long hallway. Other times they are flush up behind a closed door, such that the fog will sort of leak out around the door, letting you know thereís a loading zone behind it. While the idea of asking the player if they want to use the loading zone may seem like a silly one, as itís clear to the player when they are walking into the fog, think again. In The City freeplay area especially, there can be a half dozen loading zones leading to other maps, so itís possible that the player can try to use the wrong one. The confirmation screen shows the player where they are about to go, and gives you the option to cancel if this is not what you intended.

The Xbox users will enjoy force feedback while lock-picking. PC users will enjoy higher resolution textures. Xbox users will also get third person as default, while PC uses will be able to enjoy first person as default.

While weíre on the subject of controversial issues, itís a good time to broach the subject of the two ďdumbing downĒ elements present in the game, supposedly introduced to make it more accessible to the supposedly ignorant, unskilled, impatient, and uncouth Xbox players. (Take that sentence with a grain of salt, itís meant to be satirical.)

Loot glint is there whether you like it or not. It sort of clashed with the look/atmosphere to see this bright twinkling light across the room, but it aids in what has been one of the most frustrating elements in the earlier games: the loot hunt. Anyone remember hunting across a map for hours for the last 10 loot, only to find that what you thought had been worthless junk was actually the loot? Well, I do. Itís not a problem anymore; unless you liked that hunt. People will make up their minds one way or another about this, good or bad. Make up your own.

Though, I do admit there is a certain level of dissatisfaction associated with finding all the loot the first time you play a mission. You donít have as much new to accomplish the next time you play!

And then thereís the arrow streaks, again, present for better or for worse. While it does look rather tacky, and not at all realistic, it does serve a practical purpose; it teaches you how to aim. Without it, itís very hard to see where your arrow went, thus if you miss the shot, you wonít know which direction you need to re-aim in. A toggle to turn this off would be nice for the more dedicated players, but itís simply not an option.

The Artificial Intelligence and Combat

Be clear about this from the start; unless youíre playing in expert, youíre not seeing the full extent of the new AI. Guards notice and will investigate many things; opened doors, doused lights, missing loot, pushed around furniture, and missing comrades. The sensitivity and reactions of the guards seemed to vary from area to area. For instance, the guards didnít care when I threw around a half dozen crates in the cellar. However, when one of them found a chair in a formal dining hall pushed over, they began to search for trouble. There were many tense moments when I thought I was safe, only to have a guard grow angry when they noticed that a bit of loot I had just stolen was now gone, and they began to search for a thief. Also, a particularly delicious and satisfying moment occurred the first time a guard noticed that his comrade was absent from his post, due to my intervention.

Youíre never perfectly hidden from the AIs anymore, either. Even crouched in perfect darkness, they will still notice you an instant before they bump into you. Those days where guards could be walking in place, oblivious to the fact that thereís a thief blocking their path, are long gone. They become even more sensitive while searching, as well. If theyíre hunting for you, theyíll notice you even faster as you sit hidden, if you let them get too close to you.

Knocking guards out with your blackjack takes a bit more skill than it used to. For one thing, the range is much shorter. For another thing, if you swing and miss, a guard is very likely to notice. For a third thing, if youíre walking up on them too quickly, even on carpet, theyíre likely to notice as well. This makes blackjacking guards a rather tricky affair for once, and something that will take a bit of skill to develop before you can get it right every time. You have to walk, not run, up to a guard, and get them in the back of the head. The side of the head will not work, and especially not the face. Oh, and you can forget about blackjacking them on the heels to knock them out; thatís not going to work either.

Oh yes, and the guard has to be completely unaware for the knockout to work. You canít make noise to draw a guard to you and then knock him out anymore. That doesnít work. I donít know about anyone else, but my favorite tactic in Thief 2 was to sit in a shadow, make noise, and knock out every guard in the area as they poked their head into my shadow one at a time, looking for me.

It should be noted that Garrett will raise his blackjack in anticipation once you get within range of the correct area to blackjack. Click once to swing. No more holding down to ready your weapon, and releasing to swing. Is this dumbing the game down for the ignorant savages, or balancing out what has now become a much more challenging affair? Iíll argue the latter.

There is no bow upgrade. Oh, wait, let me lie... yes, there's a bow upgrade! There, I lied. Let the legend of the bow upgrade live on! Ahem, anyway... There is a "Bow Auto-Zoom" that makes the bow view automatically zoom after a while, just like before, and also just like before you can turn this off if you so desire. Additionally, you have buttons that zoom and unzoom your bow at your command. I did not try this myself.

Good news for those who love their broadhead arrows; you now get a damage bonus if you land a hit to a vital area (head & torso). If the guard is unaware, and you snipe them, you have to hit them in their vitals to kill them with the first shot. Of course, if youíre using a fire arrow, theyíre likely to go down with the first shot no matter where you hit them, and no matter how angry they are.

If youíre the sadistic type, you may opt for the knife as an alternative to the blackjack for taking down a guard (though one could argue that the blackjack is sadistic as well when coupled with the alternative of simply ghostingÖ). As with the blackjack, when you get in range for a backstab, Garrett raises his arm in anticipation. He does this nifty knife flip thing so that the blade is pointing downwards and heís holding the handle in his fist. I can think of at least two movies where the knowledgeable character explains to the ignorant character that this is simply not the way to hold a dagger. Oh well! Back on topic, you click to swing. Pretty simple. However, using the dagger in any situation will leave big, nasty, telling bloodstains, just like in T1/2. These can be cleaned up with water arrows, again, like we're used to. I am not sure how long they stick around if you don't clean them, though.

I got into fights with guards a few times. In the tutorial, where youíre forced to play on normal, I won the fight. On expert, I lost every single time. Fighting guards is simply not a very good idea if you plan on playing on expert.

If youíre the type who likes to run like a coward, though one could argue that this is significantly less cowardly than simply hitting the quickload key, I have good news. Guards, as ferocious and aggressive as they can get, will eventually have to stop to catch their breath. This is especially good considering that itís very hard to hide from a guard with bloodlust in his eyes. A useful tactic I found was to simply run circles around the angry guard while they swung at me, until they had to pause to catch their breath, at which point I could dash away. Once the line of sight is broken for a long enough period of time (two or so seconds), youíre able to find a shadow and hide. Some guards get tired quicker and more often than others, I found. For example, a fat, elderly guard was constantly running out of breath, while a Hammerite seemed to take forever to get tired.

Picking up a body is not instantaneous. In fact, in a tense moment, it can seem to take an eternity. This is a good thing; it adds tension, and a bit of panic.

Pickpocketing again is much harder. The range is greatly reduced, and the window of opportunity seems to be much smaller. That is to say, you need to be looking right at the item on the belt in order for it to highlight. I found that it was possible to snatch the wand off the belt of a Hammerite priest. Unfortunatly you cannot steal the swords off guard's belts. I guess Garrett isn't too keen on trying something so brash!

AIs cannot climb ladders, nor can they use elevators, nor can they travel through loading zones (but they will still be there when you go back through!). You can think of all of these things, along with jumping off ledges, as being ways to escape a mob of angry guards. Watch out, though. If thereís another way around to where you are, the guards know it, and if thereís an archer nearby, theyíll run and fetch him. At one point I prepared myself a hefty stack of crates, made a guard come running, climbed to the top, and sat with nostalgia as the guard shook his fist helplessly as I sat safely at the top of the stack. Then I died. I am not sure who killed me, or how, but I suspect that I wonít feel quite to safe perching on a stack of crates anymore.

Speaking of crates, while they are not AI per say, they do have quite a bit of personality. You encounter crates almost immediately, and they range greatly in shape and size! They are very stackable, and very climbable, though itís not quite as easy to do. Or, at least, weíll have to tweak our crate stacking techniques for the new physics. Big crates can now be pushed, and small crates still disintegrate into a pile of dust if you stress them out too much. Oh, and I should mention the beauty of hiding in a shadow you created by stacking crates. Pushed objects, such as crates and barrels, do not move immediately. As you apply force over time, the object will begin to move, and gain speed.

Again, while not strictly on the subject of artificial intelligence, Iíd like to point out that T3 is not as politically correct as T2. There are no female guards, watchmen, or Hammerites. There are female bandits and pagan warriors, and plenty of female servants and nobility. All residents of The City are strictly Caucasian, even the pagans. Notably absent from T2 however, and quite present in T3, and rightfully so, are fat people.

I did meet a zombie, but I was so very much interested in preventing the zombie from getting anywhere near me, I didnít exactly have a chance to examine its behavior. It was pretty creepy, though. The same goes for a really big and really mean looking thing in the sewers.

Story

Terri Brosius is one of the main writers for this game. I think this answers all questions about the style/quality of the readables/conversations. (She also did quite a bit of writing for T1/2.) In the missions Iíve played, the readables were as frequent as what weíre used to, and the conversations seemed more frequent than what weíre used to. The smart guard (Dan Thron) verses dumb guard (Steve Russell) conversations are back in full force, and are as funny as ever.

In the short duration of my gameplay experience, I was witness to three fantastic cinematic sequences, not including the intro. These each introduced one of the three core factions, Keepers, Hammerites, and Pagans. They are all done in the style we know and love from T1/2, but contain a level of coolness more akin to the T1 movies. Additionally, I came across a slightly embarrassing pre-rendered in-engine cinematic, which occurred during one of The City freeplay sections. The writing and the voice acting were top notch, of course, but I donít like the idea of having an in-engine cinematic when we could be watching a fantastic animated sequence produced by Rust Monkey. (That's the animation company founded by the folks who made the T1/2 movies!)

As noted before, the nature of the briefings have changed. Also noted before, we get much more information this way. Not only do you get mission briefings, but mission debriefings as well (a glaring absence from T1/2) and the briefing space also serves as a way for Garrett to do some narration whenever the game sees fit, like while moving around in The City freeplay sections.

So, whatís the story? Iím not going to spoil it.

The City Freeplay Section

Though this is freeplay, where you go where you want, and do what you want, youíre never directionless. You will always have objectives to accomplish, even if theyíre trivial and obvious ones like visiting your fence. It seems that you always start out in Garrettís apartment. Itís a simple collection of rooms where extra tools will occasionally show up for no apparent reason. Your loot must be sold, and cannot be horded. Garrett is a thief, not a collector.

So, your first task is often to go to your fence, or simply a fence, and sell your loot. Thereís more than one! Some fences will not buy some loot from you, so you may have to hunt around before you can get some of the unique loot items off your hands. The fence shops are also a great place for story progression; every time I went into one the fence had something to say, usually something very interesting.

Once your loot is sold, itís time to find a store. Again, thereís more than one. Some stores offer different items, and some offer better prices. I saw one instance of a practice lock, which can be purchased and put into Garrettís home. I suppose this is for the none-too-fast learners to practice their lock picking skills, or significant lack thereof.

Once thatís done, the skyís the limit. By then usually youíve been given a tip about your next mission, or at least a tip as to how to go about getting your tip for the next mission, but in either case, at any point during the freeplay section, even before you sell your loot to your fence, youíre free to break into homes and businesses, rob them blind, or mug people in the streets.

Occasionally, you may come across mini missions inside The City, which are optional, and can be completed or ignored at your leisure.

When youíre ready for your next missionÖ and by ready I mean done everything you want to do in the freeplay section, as you will not be permitted to go back until the mission is complete, and some opportunities that are open to you currently may be gone by the time you get backÖ As I was saying, when youíre ready for your next mission, you have to travel to the location of that mission, or at least an exit to The City in the direction of where the mission takes place, and find the glyph marking the exit point. Frob the glyph, and youíre on your way.

The next time you come back to The City, you start off in Garrettís apartment again. Now there may be new conversations in the streets, more buildings accessible, and guaranteed new plotline to discover. There are eight partitions to The City which will be slowly made accessible to you as you play the game, especially once you get the climbing gloves, so the farther you get into the game, the more time you can spend, but do not have to spend, in The City.

Is it Deus Ex 2?

No. This game is actually finished at the time of its release. Objects do not go flying when you bump into them. The character animations are fluid and organic. The level partitions are large, and the missions extensive. The AI is very well crafted.

Is it Thief?

Itís hard to answer this question without getting into the vague gray area of impressions perceptions and opinions. My answer to this question is as important as your answer to this question: How much is my opinion worth to you? Now that youíve answered this question, hereís my answer to the first question: Yes, it felt like Thief. Thatís a good thing.

For many people, that statement is not good enough, so let me be a little more enthusiastic this time. I am very impressed with this game. I think many of the hardcore fans will agree with me, once theyíve played it. I think this is the Thief 3 Looking Glass Studios would have wanted to make.

The atmosphere is incredibly thick, from the stately city streets, to the slummy back alleys, to the soaring towers of the cathedrals, to the posh sitting rooms, to the woodsie tangle vines, caves and sewers. Loot glint and arrow streaks mean exactly zip when you're actually in the game playing the game. Missing features are rendered irrelevant when youíre too busy enjoying all the game does have to offer. And did I mention the atmosphere? If the visuals were not enough, itís the music! Music is everywhere in this game, often the very same music from the previous games, and it overlaps, and builds, and segues, and is frankly brilliant.

And for once in the history of the series, the game actually looks GOOD. The main hall of the Hammerite cathedral was a joy to behold, and thatís just the beginning.


Log from my Chat Session in #ttlg on irc.sorcery.net

Just to elaborate, this chat session was written before the above article, and where below I had a few seconds to answer each question, a lot more thought went into the above text. So, thatís my disclaimer in case thereís any contradictory information. Also, there will be quite a bit of redundant info. Thank you, Cain, for cleaning the log up. Thank you also, Fett and Dave, for helping keep the sanity during the chat session.

<TheAlbaniac> first question: how are the cutscenes implemented? since they're not
<Digital`Nightfall> Cutscenes are just like in the other games, only there's a few pre-rendered with the game engine. Otherwise, they're made the same way and by the same people as the original cutscenes. And, there's more of them. But mission briefings, debriefings, and storyline segments are done as voiceover while you setup for the mission.

<operaghost> Are the cutscenes only after each level or during mission at all?
<Digital`Nightfall> Opera - there doesn't seem to be a pattern to it. So far, there has been a short cutscene before most of the missions I played, and one game engine rendered cinematic which played inside a freeplay area.

<Cain> did you finish the game ? how many missions? how long did it take? how long are mission (how long are the shortest/longest one?)
<Digital`Nightfall> Seems to me that the missions I played took over an hour to finish each. I don't know how many there will be. I suspect that future missions will be harder, and thus take more time, but I am told all missions are roughly the same size. No mission is cut up into more than 2 loading zones. The City freeplay area, I am told, is cut up into eight. WHich means the city freeplay area is roughly the size of four complete missions. I didn't finish the game. I got to the fourth mission.

<Cain> Question: Is the game polished? did you run in bugs or glitches ?
<Digital`Nightfall> The game is very polished. Release candidate #1 was accepted by eidos. That's virtually unheard of. If they do a patch, it will not be to fix bugs. I only saw one glitch, and that was a guard who's sword was haning from his armpit rather than his belt (usually they have to go to candidit 8 or 9).

how 'obviously' does DS handle the load zones? techniques like funnelling you through load-chokepoints?
<Digital`Nightfall> It's all been differant so far. Sometimes they're at the end of a long hallway, other times behind closed doors. You can see the fog leaking through the door, so it's clear there's a load zone behind it.

<Esanssi> I've heard that the TDS dumbs robots and security cameras and brings "back" zombies and haunts. How about creatures like frogmen, craymen, SPIDERS etc.
<Digital`Nightfall> T3 has no mechanical enemines, but I saw tons and tons of concept artwork for all sorts of totally nasty monsters... some familiar, some new. Oh, and cats are in the game.

<noah> What kinds of things were in the game options? Any glance at the .ini?
<Digital`Nightfall> No glance at the ini... game options are mostly preformance related. You can't turn off shadows like in the patched DX2 (edit: note from ION - "We decided not to let users turn off shadows because shadows are a big part of the Thief feel."), but there's a ton of detail sliders. Fully custom keyboard settings, natch naturally, that is

<bow_upgrade> Compared to the original levels, how large are the new ones? (both zones considered)
<Digital`Nightfall> I didn't count square feet. Like I've been saying, the missions so far have all taken over an hour to finish. That's my usual completion time for Thief 1 missions. You'll spend more time sitting and just looking at eye candy though... that usually didn't happen in the other games.

<TheAlbaniac> after more extensive testing, how does the AI hold up compared to the earlier titles?
<Digital`Nightfall> The new AI acts the way I always wanted the old AI to act. On expert, anyway. They get all deaf blind and stupid if you set it to EASY.

<Davodeth> are ther many of the shall i say nick naks from the first game such as food, various other objects and animals.
<Digital`Nightfall> Lots of food, you can't eat it though. Tons of worthless junk. More animals than the other games. Cats, rats, bugs. It's good to look over at a table, or a cabinet, and see it crammed full of stuff, and pause for a moment, wait for the loot glint, and go grab what's actually valuable. Sort of like Garrett's assessing what's valuable and what's not.

<Serratus> How do lockpicking look like? It's some sort of puzzle?
<Digital`Nightfall> Ah, lockpicking... You get a series of concentric circles, and a pick... somewhere on each circle is a "sweet spot" (their words, not mine) which you have to find by moving your pick over it... you know you've found it when the ring wiggles and makes noise. Either wait, or left click, until you found the exact right spot, it opens, and you move on to the next ring. Many locks use the same key to open them, so the locks that use the same key, are all picked using the exact same pattern.

<noah> I heard a rumor that the difficulty options were done and in the game at one point, but removed for testing/time reasons. Do you think ION would add this in later with a patch?
<Digital`Nightfall> ION would like to, but they don't know if they're going to be allowed to do a patch, because the game shipped so, well, rather bug free. Find lots of bugs and maybe they can also put the custom difficulty back in.

<Esanssi> Are the guards as tough as they are in TDP and TMA? Does the gameplay insist you to lurk in the shadows or just go and kill them?
<Digital`Nightfall> Depends on the difficutly. It's no longer a matter of objectives. Difficulty effects number of guards, their hearing, vision, how long they stay angry, how hard they search, everything. On expert, the guards were much smarter/tougher than what we're used to.But you're never barred from combat. Nor are you ever forced into combat.

<NeoPendragon> Can you name your saves?
<Digital`Nightfall> Good question! I never tried. I only quicksaved. (edit: the answer is no)

<Serratus> Do scared animals can draw attention of the guards?
<Digital`Nightfall> I wasn't able to scare any animals. They pretty much ignored me. (edit: You can scare animals, and they can alert guards)

<operaghost> Will the game have fog and weather effects?
<Digital`Nightfall> Fog, yes. Rain? Dunno. (edit: no, no rain) The fog I saw was distance hazing, but it was very atmospheric.

<TheAlbaniac> what do you consider the single best improvement that DS adds to the thief series?
<Digital`Nightfall> Get back to me on that one once I've finished the game. Seriously, though... I think the combination of shadows that can do anything, and guards that are much more reactive to everything, is the greatest addition. I mean... hiding in the shadow cast by an open door is pretty cool... as is staking crates up so that you can hide in their shadow. As is a guard getting pissed off when he notices you just stole an expensive vase. Or that his buddy who was on patrol over there is suddeny gone.

<Davodeth> what was the worse thing you could find in T:DS
<Digital`Nightfall> One time I couldn't frob the contents of a chest because it was too high off the ground, so I couldn't properly look into it. Going around to the other side of the chest fixed it, but still, rather irksome. Oh yeah, you don't just open a chest and get what's inside. You have to open it, and frob the contents individually.

<Nanol|AlsoAFK> hi fett, digi: what, if any, priorities do the devs have post gold status? patch, demo, another project, etc?
<Digital`Nightfall> Demo, I think, but again, it's only if eidos says MAKE IT SO.

<Alchemy> Despite enjoying the chance to play the adopted successor to our favorite series, how true does it feel to the LGS legacy? (Engine differences aside)
<Digital`Nightfall> Including engine differences, it feels like an LGS game. In fact, Randy said that the game they made is pretty much exactly what they were planning at LGS.

<Mr-Teatime> ok here's one: How was Randy when you met him? Any hints about why he left Ion Storm, and what the creative disagreement was? A lot of people are worried about Thief 3 not living up to his expectations....
<Digital`Nightfall> Randy's great. He hasn't seen the finished game yet. I'd rather let Randy speak for himself... he plans to post again soon.

<Shadette> Q: What type of missions have you encountered so far? Casing, undead, exploring, etc...?
<Digital`Nightfall> One castle mission, one hammerite mission, one underground caves/sewers mission. And lots of city streets.

<Glas|AFK> is there any further info on the sdk/editor release beyond "if it sells"?
<Digital`Nightfall> It's as much of a nasty bitch as dromed.

<mardi> did you "mug" anyone while in town? do you think it was necessary to put it in the game or just 'fluff'?
<Digital`Nightfall> I didn't mug anyone. picking pockets is much harder this time around... and I was more interested in getting to the next mission.

<ornate> does the lightmeter have an audio meter as well?
<Digital`Nightfall> No audio meter. Use your ears.

<TheAlbaniac> what statistics are there after a mission is completed, if any?
<Digital`Nightfall> Same as before, including Knockouts While Airborn

<NeoPendragon> How are the climbing gloves? Good, bad, ugly?
<Digital`Nightfall> I didn't get to them, they're later in the game.

<Cain> Question: Do the locations have a realistic, non linear feeling ? I mean when I played Thief 1 demo for the first time I felt like I was in a REAL house with a realistic architecture, multiple connection points beetween floors, varied rooms/halls... Is Thief 3 like this or is more linear a la Splinter Cell?
<Digital`Nightfall> Thief 3 is not like splinter cell. There's tons of circular gameplay

<Serratus> Do guards notice if you rearrange crates or things?
<Digital`Nightfall> depends on the guard and the area. If it's a fine dining room, they notice if a chair is knocked over. If it's a crate filled celler, they don't care.

<Davodeth> does benny have a large involvement in the game
<Digital`Nightfall> I noticed quite a few Steve Russell voiced "dumb" or "drunk" guards, but I don't know if any of them are Benny. There will be plenty of "dumb guard verses smart guard" conversations, though... the smart guard being Dan Thron, just like in the old games.

<bow_upgrade> What kind of floor types did you encounter most? Are we going to have to play through alot of "bank"-like levels with lots of marble?
<Digital`Nightfall> It's a mix, but remember: you are no longer safe to run around on stone and wood. It doesn't take marble or metal anymore to piss off the guards.

<mardi> do you find the 'loot glint' annoying or helpful?
<Digital`Nightfall> Helpful. Looks goofy, but helpful. In the dark, the six goblets on a table can look identical. It's nice to be able to see which are loot, so you don't have to drop the junk and make noise.

<ornate> does the sound propogation seem to be realistic?
<Digital`Nightfall> Yup. I wasn't played with EAX or surround though (sterio headsets) so I can't comment on any of that.

<Scarlett> Can misc objects in the world be picked up, thrown, etc. (like what we're used to). What about weapons guards drop?
<Digital`Nightfall> When you grab a junk object, you right click to drop it, left click to throw it. The longer you hold the left button, the farther you throw. If you just click and hold, it will eventually throw the object without you releasing the button. Takes about two seconds. You can't pick up dropped weapons. You MAY be able to grab swords off the guard's belts, though.

<ornate> don't be specific but did you encounter any traps?
<Digital`Nightfall> I didn't run into any traps

<mardi> Is there still an emphasis on getting loot so you can 'stock up' on supplies for the next mission?
<Digital`Nightfall> There is a very, very high emphasis on that.

<GlasWolf> did you find a use for the oil flasks? they seem a little gimmicky.
<Digital`Nightfall> I never used them. But they are for making guards slip and fall, or maybe roasting them alive... or dead

<Nanol> do you think that there is scope for fan 'texture patches' a la DX:IW, or are they unneeded?
<Digital`Nightfall> a texture patch? I can't predict if some people will want to do one or not. I don't think it's needed. The textures were mostly great... aside from a few T1 textures I spotted.

<noah> Did running/jumping/mantling feel comparable to T1&2 in any way?
<Digital`Nightfall> Running seemed slower.... jumping seemed higher... you could fall pretty far without taking damage, or much damage... mantling is very similar, but much, much easier.

<Serratus> Can Garret eat something to restore his health?
<Digital`Nightfall> health potions Other than that, unless there's jacksberries latter in the game, no

<bow_upgrade> "It's as much of a nasty bitch as dromed." So you've seen it then? What else can you tell us about it?
<Digital`Nightfall> It's unreal ed, but haxored and molested to work with their new renderer. That's all I can really say...

<Esanssi> What's the purpose of the dagger? Can't you just blackjack your enemies instead of backstabbing them?
<Digital`Nightfall> The advantage of the dagger is that you can't win a fight with the blackjack. If the guard is alert, and you choose to fight rather than run, the dagger is your weapon. As for backstab verses knockout... it's all a matter of personal self expression.

<Omega> Let's say you knock over a chair in a room where a guard is going to notice it. Is it possible to put the chair back to where it was to make the guard not notice?(without making too much noise of course)
<Digital`Nightfall> Ehh... maybe. I have no idea. It's hard to knock over a chair unless you pretty deliberatly do so.

<Cain> Question: How does the physics system works ? It's just eye candy or has some influence in gameplay ?
<Digital`Nightfall> It's a big influence on gameplay if you're a crate stacker Also, if you blow doodoo up (fire arrows anyone?), you may send loot flying across the room, making it hard to find.

<Mr-Teatime> And another question: Are there any cases of respawning guards in the game?
<Digital`Nightfall> Yes, in The City freeplay section, the guards respawn.

<ornate> do you have to exit levels as well or is this part of difficult level?
<Digital`Nightfall> Difficulty doesn't change if you have to exit the mission or not. You will always have to get out.

<Cain> Question: How does blackjacking works ? It's easy like in the other games, or more challenging? Are there non-blackjackable guards?
<Digital`Nightfall> blackjacking range is much shorter... nor can you lean forward to give you more distance. It's done as a single click, not a click-hold-release. Garrett raises his arm in anticipation when you get in range. BUT... it has to be the BACK of the HEAD. Not the side, not the shoulder, not the butt, not the toe.

<Teh-Builda> Is this skin the final one, at highest res? ftp://209.10.202.245/PR/EIDOS_E3_2K4/EIDO...Thief_PC_06.jpg
<Digital`Nightfall> There's a texture detail slider, so that may or may not be set to max. I am not sure.

<Nanol> if you block a doorway with objects, can an AI use the physics engine to push them down and get to you?
<Digital`Nightfall> Didn't try it.

<NeoPendragon> Is finding your next job/mission easy enough? Is it interesting?
<Digital`Nightfall> Yes, and yes. But, I've only had to find two missions. Also, remember when Garrett said, in reply to... can you still read glyphs? "I try to forget, but you keepers leave them everywhere for me.." ... now we see what he means by that.

<Mr-Teatime> Did you find the 3rd person camera useful at all ? Did you find places where you felt the game was forcing you to switch to 3rd person?
<Digital`Nightfall> 3rd person was useful when I wanted to cheat and look farther around corners than I could with leaning. But I was never forced to.

<QuasiGiani> Re: What are you playing at over and over: I guess you haven't seen that one, sorry.. Let me put it this way: did the AI ever seem very stupid? i.e. - repeating the same phrase over and over
<Digital`Nightfall> Only when asleep. The sleep talking AIs said the same thing over and over. Other than that, I didn't hear too much repetition

<mardi> Does it still have the huge loot messages?
<Digital`Nightfall> nope,they still line up down the screen, but I barely noticed.They're only there for a second, and it takes up hardly any space.

<noah> Can guards handle ladders?
<Digital`Nightfall> no

<bow_upgrade> How do you like the story-line so far?
<Digital`Nightfall> It's great so far

<Mr-Teatime> Is it true every guard has a unique combination of clothes/facial features? I remember reading somewhere that there would be no identical guards.
<Digital`Nightfall> there will be some identical guards, but there's alot of variations of body types, faces, accessories

<Nanol> did you get a reading from your time at ISA on the level of backing and support Eidos are giving to the game's release, or the closeness of the producer-developer relationship?
<Digital`Nightfall> The producer owns the developer, so it's say it's pretty close. Thief 3 is going to be made into a HUGE deal at E3.

<mardi> How many gaurds were you able to 'rambo' at one time, even on expert?
<Digital`Nightfall> One, and I died. Every time. On easy, I was able to win against one guard.

<QuasiGiani> Still on the AI... How about them running into walls see any of that? And did you experience any areas where the ambient sound provided cover?
<Digital`Nightfall> guards don't run into walls. And I suspect the noise in the *spoiler!* made some of the AI a little deaf, but I have no idea if that's true or not.

<Mr-Teatime> Can you spend your money on anything other than arrow supplies etc in the city? Like gambling or something?
<Digital`Nightfall> You can buy practice locks... I don't think you can go gamble, though

<Daxim> do AI models intersect with world architecture? (say place a corpse into a niche, swords and limbs poking into walls)
<Digital`Nightfall> It's pretty good, but not perfect. The ragdollness of the AIs pretty much assures they don't poke through walls but a few fingers, shouler pads, bits here and there...

<Mr-Teatime> Do you feel the difficulty levels are equivalent to T1 and T2? So someone who found Normal was the right setting for them in T2 should have a similar experience in this game?
<Digital`Nightfall> No, in T2 normal had the same AI as expert did. In T3 difficulty effects the AI, not the objectives. It does determine loot objectives, but it's also all about the AI's skills.

<ornate> did flashbomb effects go through walls?Whats the average no. of flashbombs and gas bombs you had per level?
<Digital`Nightfall> I never used a flashbomb... they're not my style. I'll get that question to Saam. He used them a bit, I think. I never had very many.

<Fett> eyeball plants? spiders?
<Digital`Nightfall> No idea about eyeball plants... spiders are not in the game.

<Mr-Teatime> Re: difficulty levels - so there are no extra objectives such as 'bust Mr. X out of jail' added if you increase difficulty levels?
<Digital`Nightfall> All difficulty level based objectives are loot related. You will be given a mandate to get either 1, 2, or 3 "special loot items" ... which are items unique to that mission. You can get any one of the three to satisfy the objective if you're on normal... but if you're on hard, even if you have completed the loot objective, if you don't have the third special loot item, you aren't winning yet. Sort of like Ramierz's fire poker

<bow_upgrade> Because there is no swimmable water, how does water feel in the game, like are you barred from the water in the sewer, etc?
<Digital`Nightfall> water is like... in Ultima Underworld You can go into it, and wade around, but no diving. And... there may be something... lurking... Oo;

<QuasiGiani> Also Re difficulty levels: come across any no-kills?
<Digital`Nightfall> No kills are on non combatants. They didn't want to bar the use of broadhead arrows or the dagger on any difficulty level.

<operaghost> Are the AI facial expressions more "expressive" and varied than they were in DEIW?
<Digital`Nightfall> They're all around better, The models are all around better, wayyy better

<GlasWolf> digi: you mentioned the player control a lot in your post at ttlg - is this the first thing players will notice and have to accustom themselves to?
<Digital`Nightfall> well, naturally the first thing you notice when starting a new game are the logos at the beginning. No, seriously, you don't move around like a FPS. You're not a floating camera. You're an animated body. It takes a bit of getting used to. But after a little while, it's just fine.

<Omega> To Digital`Nightfall: What's your opinion about the tutorial message pop-ups, arrow trails and the color of the gass mines/arrows? I find that the tutorial message seem a bit too intrusive.
<Digital`Nightfall> I don't like tutorial popups in any game, and this is no exception But... it's the tutorial. Arrow trails help you see where your arrow goes, which is important if you missed, so you can re-aim better,they look a little silly

<QuasiGiani> What's this about "decorating" the pad? Can you tell us a bit about Garrett's pad?
<Digital`Nightfall> Garrett's pad is a set of rooms... I don't know anything about decorating it. (edit: You can only decorate it with practice locks, not loot or purchased goods.)

<QuasiGiani> Is there persistence? As in can you leave, say, a valuable item behind on your mantle and sell it later?
<Digital`Nightfall> You don't have to sell something if you don't want to.

<mardi> What was your favorite 'moment/experience' while playing the game?
<Digital`Nightfall> Too many to count...


More information, From ION Storm, regarding system specs

- Yes, the pc version supports game controllers.
- We (at ION) have a mix of gfx card from radeon 8500 - 9800 and geforce3 - 5950s. no preferences.
- I (Dan, i.e. me) was playing the game on a p4 3.0GHz, 1024MB RAM, geforce4 ti 4200 128MB graphics card, and nvidia ForceWare 56.72 drivers on xp pro sp1.
- His system (i.e. the guy talking to me) is a p4 1.8GHz with a 5950 and it playable, though the framerate is a little choppy in places.
- I (again, me, Dan) have a P4 1.7 Ghz, with a Geforce FX 5600. Iím told that should be fine. The game's heavily loaded on the GPU side of things, and the 5600 will run circles around the 4200.



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