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Game Info:

Thief Gold
Released: November 3, 1998
ESRB Rating: Mature for blood and violence
Available On: PC
Genre: stealth
Number of Players: single-player
Price: $6.99
(Amazon affiliate link)

Freeze. Don’t move. Don’t even breathe. Don’t let him bait you with his threats.  If he sees you, you’re dead! You should have brought more flash bombs, you taffer! Okay, he’s moving away now. AVOID the tile this time. Stay on the carpet, annnnnnnd BAM! Now that you put Benny to sleep, all the gold in the room is yours. 

Welcome to the city, where the guards are as corrupt as they are lazy, but they do pack a punch. You play as Garret, a seasoned thief who lives by thieving from the corrupt denizens and religious extremists of the city. Garret is no role model, but he’s a likeable scallywag. He doesn't kill and is shown deep, deep, DEEP down to have a heart of gold and some sense of morality. But trust me. Don’t look to anyone in this game to be a shining beacon of hope. No one is completely clean in the city, something you’ll have to come to grips with fast if you want to survive.

Garret is a thief, not fighter, and as such you will be doing a lot of sneaking in the shadows and very little in the way of swordplay. You have a light meter that shows how visible you are to enemies around you, and there are excellent audio cues to tell you how much noise you or others are making. Why Garret decided to put on his good church shoes before thieving is a mystery to us all, but it does make walking on tile the single most dangerous thing you can do in the game.

Highlights:

Strong Points: A legend in the industry, this game can still run with the best of them over a decade later; it’s funny, and it’s moving.
Weak Points: It is nearly impossible to get running without help on newer operating systems.
Moral Warnings: There are no heroes in the City; even Garret; while having some morals is still a thief. This is not a game to look for your moral messages in.

This is the game that truly started the stealth genre. (Technically it’s an enhanced remake with three extra levels that were excluded from the original because of time constraints.) It was dubbed a first person sneaker for lack of any other type of game being like it before. As Garret you travel each of the levels looking for loot to plunder while completing your main objectives for that mission. These objectives vary wildly from level to level and even change based on what difficulty you play. Before each mission you may use the loot you gained from the previous level to buy gear and equipment that will aid you. So if you don’t get a good amount of loot now, you might pay for it later. Some gear, like water arrows and flash bombs, are invaluable, while things like noise arrows may not be so worth your time. It’s up to you to try and plan how to spend your hard thieved cash.

I don’t know if it’s me or the game, but I find myself auto saving a lot. That’s because on hard mode, two hits from even the most basic enemies can kill you.  The enemies can get in a two hit strike in under a second, making getting spotted an almost certain death sentence, and there are no auto saves. This game does not hold your hand, but it does point you in the right direction. It expects you to be clever, giving you a compass and a hand drawn map with nothing more than a blue aura telling you the room you’re in. In one level the map literally just says, “Where am I?” and you have to answer that question. Garret only has snide remarks to help.

Speaking of snide remarks the voice acting and story of this game is amazing. It somehow manages to encapsulate both wild overacting and subtly conveyed emotions when needed. Throughout the story you will come to know and love Garret through his witty one-liners, his brief introductions to each level, and even the wording of his notes and objectives. His character becomes a constant companion in the scary, dark world you now traverse, which is why hearing an unsure Garret is one of the scariest things you will find in game.

Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 72%
Gameplay - 17/20
Graphics - 5/10
Sound - 7/10
Stability - 3/5
Controls - 4/5

Morality Score - 67%
Violence - 4/10
Language - 7.5/10
Sexual Content - 8.5/10
Occult/Supernatural - 4.5/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 6/10
+3 bonus

Now while this game does succeed in producing some truly intimidating scares, these are usually in the form of ambiance. At one point you must go to a haunted cathedral to steal an evil artifact from a horde of zombies. It’s built up as a terrifying place and is intended to be the scariest level in the game. I was very uneasy to enter, but once I did, and I saw the large amounts of undead, I ended up laughing to myself at how jagged their animations were and how goofy they looked when standing up. (They lack a proper rising animation, so they just sort of quickly turn upright on their feet.) This game is full of moments that shine and moments that can’t help but make you laugh as well.

Audio cues are very important in this game, from discerning how loud you are to how close your enemies are and many other things. As such there is very little in the way of a soundtrack, often leading me to play the game with very quiet music playing in the background. While it can be a little barren, this quietness is what leads to the tensest moments in the game.

The game itself is very technically sound. Though it shows its age in places, it’s still VERY playable if you can get it started, that is. It took me three months to get my copy working because it’s natively incompatible with a dual core processor, causing the game to crash upon loading a level. I’ll link below to a solution for those interested. Because of similar issues, the cut scenes are also unplayable on my system without installing a patch or watching them on YouTube. 

I must point out that this game is not for children. It’s not bad; in fact it’s very very good, but it is not for children, at least not alone. As I said before, there are few heroes. Garret is no role model, and you will spend a lot of the time fighting zombies and other magical creatures. Most of the evil in this game is hinted at, not directly shown, so those with active imaginations like myself may be more affected than those who take things at face value. I think if played with an adult, someone twelve and up could enjoy this, but without parental supervision I’d say closer to sixteen. It’s not a horror game, but parts of it are scarier than a lot of “horror” games now a days.

Thief Gold defined what a stealth game meant, and nearly fifteen years later it’s still as good as they get. It can be a bit of a pain to get working sometimes, but trust me is it ever worth the effort. Very few games have this kind of immersive world, fantastic gameplay, believable characters, and mythology. It’s no wonder after all this time the still series has a group of dedicated fans out there. It’s not an adventure for the faint of heart or those lacking in patience, but it is one of the most rewarding games I've ever played.

……………………

Note: This is a way to fix the errors caused by running Thief Gold on a modern computer, if needed I will provide step by step instructions of how I got my version running in the comments.

http://forums.eidosgames.com/showthread.php?t=76532

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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