THIEF OF THIEVES, whilst oozing style, does little to differentiate itself from a host of other crime stories

Developer: Rival Games

Publisher: Rival Games

Format: PC (reviewed) 

Released: 7/16/18

MSRP: $24.99 USD

Copy: Sent A Review Copy by Rival Games

THIEF OF THIEVES
A Sample Conversation. Image Courtesy of RIVAL GAMES

With a new comic book game coming out nearly every day, it’s hard to try and differentiate yourself from the pack. While most games focus on story and character interaction like Telltale Games’ multiple series, Rival Games‘ THIEF OF THIEVES aims to innovate.

Straight out of the gate, the games opening credits have your character walking through an airport to a pounding soundtrack. I won’t lie when I say that it immediately caught my attention. Shortly after, however, I was detained and some familiar conversational mechanics began.

THIEF OF THIEVES and…Style?

While THIEF OF THIEVES has the cell-shaded look of a Telltale game (and even has that sweet Robert Kirkman name drop), it couldn’t be more different. Whereas many of these comic book games have much in common, THIEF OF THIEVES animation doesn’t have that janky, issue that has plagued others. The cutscenes themselves are shown as narrated comic book pages. This little visual flair set’s it apart from its predecessors and gives the game its own voice.

THIEF OF THIEVES
The opening airport scene *Insert funky soundtrack here*. Image Courtesy of Rival Games

However, where THIEF OF THIEVES stumbles is its voice acting. While, for the most part, THE WALKING DEAD and other Telltale adventures had great voice acting, this game feels like almost a parody at times. The main character’s voices are done well, but many of the NPC characters are… incredibly grating. I understand this is a much smaller studio, but a heist mission in Italy had me gritting my teeth and half expecting one of them to bust out an “It’s-a-me! A-Mario!” Even times where I should’ve been grateful to hear my NPC teammates voices, I couldn’t help but cringe as the INCREDIBLY BRITISH tech-support character kept calling me “blud” and using outdated slang. I know that’s not the fault of the developers, but I feel like there could have been a way to tone him down some.

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Breaking In

Before I booted up THIEF OF THIEVES I made an effort to not research the comic book series at all. I wanted to come in fresh so as not to be bogged down in the minutia of lore. The game, whilst oozing style, does little to differentiate itself from a host of other crime stories. You play as Celia, a disciple of the master thief Redmond. When the first heist goes wrong, you’re sent packing to Italy. The first heist you pull off teaches you the basic ropes of the game, and while it does a good job illustrating the mechanics, it is also fairly one note. The first part has you sent to case a house to steal the owner’s prized motorcycle. The next mission has you sent back to steal the bike during a party.

THIEF OF THIEVES
The first heist. Image Courtesy of Rival Games. 

The game gives you some basic choices and ways to get around particular challenges, but nothing I tried felt at all dynamic. The heists, while fun, weren’t incredibly challenging.

Each of the two heists started the same, casing the place. The second one had me breaking into a train conductors house to bribe him, but even that level fell flat instead of feeling like a nice change of pace.

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Casing the Joint

The gameplay is from a top-down, third-person style that is almost DIABLO-esque. The player controls Celia with the WASD keys, and you can use the mouse to highlight objects. You have a form of thief vision, which functions similarly to other games eagle vision or TOMB RAIDER’s instinct vision, highlighting points of interest. Since you’re a thief, you have a typical assortment of skills, mostly played as mini-games such as lock-picking and safecracking. I’m always astounded that games keep coming up with ways to make picking locks unique, but here we are. Controls for all gameplay are tight and responsive. I had little to no moments 0f frustrating geometry trapping me in a corner.

THIEF OF THIEVES
Loading screen showing off some mechanics and your teammates. Image Courtesy of Rival Games

As the game progresses, and you meet your team in Italy, you get to pick from a crew of four characters as your backup, and all of them can help you in your heists. For instance, some characters can act as distractions in a crowded area or move heavy objects to create an entry, while another can hack into electronics. I will admit, I did enjoy the train station casing mission because it had me ducking into crowds and spotting cameras like a real thief.

There’s Always A Choice

THIEF OF THIEVES’ framing device has your character, Celia, being interrogated by a government agent. Throughout these scenes, you choose your dialogue, and while the majority of the responses are funny, I never felt particularly like my choices resonated throughout the rest of the game. While most of the dialogue includes plenty of choices, the missions themselves are where the most variation is.

Even in the tutorial mission, there is a large number of ways to tackle it. Do you sneak into the service entrance? Do you find a drunk man who’s date stood him up and smooth talk your way in? The second mission has even more variation. This mission introduces the ability to call upon your teammates to create distractions.

THIEF OF THIEVES
The Train Station Mission. Image Courtesy of Rival Games

Unlike the dialogue choices, the choices you make during heists definitely make an impact. For instance, during one of my casing missions, I was asked to optionally spot cameras. I managed to find every single camera, and when I came back during the next mission, I was able to see them during the heist. I appreciate the small details like this, however, I wish there were more chances for variation.

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One of my biggest struggles was the bribery missions during the train station arc. I decided to try and non-violently find some dirt on an employee in order to blackmail him. However, because I didn’t find the material in a certain order, the game forced my character into a violent confrontation. Moments like these tend to undercut the core of the game, trying to plan out heists your way. Unfortunately, in the short time I’ve spent with it, I’ve found these moments more present than not.

Slipping Out The Back

While this might sound like a review full of nitpicking, I did enjoy my time with THIEF OF THIEVES. As a fan of heist movies great and small, even a by-the-numbers heist plot can be exciting. The game more than delivers on that front, including plenty of heist tropes. In addition, the game’s stylistic choices are second to none. Hell, I’ve even found myself whistling the soundtrack here and there.

THIEF OF THIEVES
Looks cool, right? Image Courtesy of Rival Games

Sticking with the positives for a moment, the top-down style of the game works heavily in its favor. It helps differentiate THIEF OF THIEVES from others in its class. Despite some minor foibles with the voice acting, camera work and frustrating characters, the game’s *SPOILERS* sudden cliffhanger ending still had me waiting for more.

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