Thief: Deadly Shadows Review
By Monica Bair |
In the years since Looking Glass created the stealth genre, it's gravitated more towards action, with Splinter Cell, Hitman, and Tenchu always leaving the option, however small, for a "guns blazing" scenario. Deadly Shadows, however, is not stealth action. The pace is gradual--so gradual, in fact, that if I hadn't been reviewing this game, I probably would have given up after a few sessions. I'm glad I stuck with it, though. The goodness creeps up on you. It takes a while for Deadly Shadows to get going, but once it does, it will grip you.
This Thief continues with the usual cast of characters--the Hammerites, Pagans, and Keepers. Garret is a former Keeper-in-training, and his former colleagues call upon him to "acquire" a few items for them. The Keepers are concerned about an apocalyptic prophecy, but are keeping their cards close to their chest, as always. Garret is asked to do a few more favors, and next thing you know, he's drawn into the midst of intrigue and plot twists and impending doom of a most mysterious but spooky nature.
After you finish the training mission, you'll start in your apartment in South Quarter, which is one half of the "hub" area you'll be navigating for most of the game. It's an open-ended but claustrophobic city, thanks mostly to the high walls and narrow streets. Neutral citizens and hostile City Watch guards wander around and patrol, respectively, and you'll be sneaking around stealing things for missions, or based on overheard conversation. You'll also need to visit a fence to unload your loot and a shop to buy more gear. The fences and stores are a little thin on the ground, however, and spread a bit too far apart, making wending your way around the City Watch a hassle. It got to the point where I just run and hit 'em with a moss arrow when they got close enough. Plus, certain fences will only take jewelry, others will take artwork, and yet others will take precious metal. It gets to be a little tedious, doing the rounds after a mission in order to unload and get more gear.
The variety of gear makes for some pleasing tactical versatility, however. Besides your broadhead arrows, there's the fire, water, moss, gas, and noisemaker arrows. I found the gas arrows to be especially helpfully, as they allow you to silently knock someone out from a distance. Of course, they were hard to find, and I got most of them by spotting them in a nook and climbing up to the hidey hole. The city has plenty of little hidey holes where you'll find a few arrows, or a health potion, but it never feels artificial, like breaking open boxes left and right with a crowbar. You'll also have a few throwable items to choose from, such as flashbombs, gas grenades, and even proximity mines.
If there was anything I spent the most money on, though, it was water arrows, even though Deadly Shadows has roughly 50% electrical lighting. You can pinch out candles, but a torch will only go out with a water arrow. They were never absolutely necessary, but they sure did help. Fire arrows are also good for lighting up a dim area so you can orient yourself. It really does get that dark, and I had to brighten up the screenshots here so you could see what the heck is going on. In game, it's brighter, thanks to a faint glowing outline on Garret's body, like he's under moonlight--but that outline almost never shows up in the screenshots. In fact, you almost have to sit in complete darkness to play this game the way it's meant to be seen.
But oh, is that ever a double-edged sword. You see, for the most part, Deadly Shadows is not a "scary" game. It doesn't take the supernatural detours of previous installments, but you will traverse some extremely creepy hallways and cellars before you're done. Shalebridge Cradle in particular just has to be experienced to be believed.