Thief ReviewGuest_Jim_* - March 5, 2014
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The graphics of Thief are a little bit of a mixed bag. The lighting and meshes are quite good everywhere I can remember, but shadows and textures can be of lesser quality. The textures, upon closer examination, will look like they have been compressed more than they should be, or upscaled just enough for the sharpness of details to suffer. That is not to say the textures look bad, but they do often look of lesser quality than the world around it.
The object detail is exquisite more often than not. It would seem the developers leveraged the power of tessellation very well, giving the stones of the streets and walls, as well as much of the wood bridging the stones, great detail. This is part of the reason the textures look of lesser quality, because the objects they cover look so detailed. Of course there are some examples of lower quality meshes, but these are not very common.
Shadows are a curiously mixed bag (though there may be a reason for that). Some objects cast well detailed shadows, but some cast very blocky shadows that really can ruin the look of a scene. I never noticed any reason for which objects cast good or bad shadows. Fortunately you always cast a good shadow on the environment, and if you have Contact Hardening Shadows enabled, it will respond to your distance from the light source. A neat effect, though it is something of a small touch.
Though shadows are inconsistent, the lighting from torches, fires, or the moon is always good looking. The moon will cast light rays in fog and mist, while torches and fires give a lifelike glow to the area. Thankfully the glow does have an obvious border, making it easy to walk around and avoid being spotted. It is not a hard border, but it is an obvious one, and one you may learn to run from if it approaches with a torch held by a guard.
As impressive as the glow of a fire may be, the fire itself is not particularly lively. It looks to be a pre-animated effect that repeats itself. The flames themselves are lacking in definition and depth, making them appear as unalive as any graphical element really is. Water is a little mixed as it looks pretty good when left alone. When you walk through it though, water does betray its inanimate state as its surface is not disturbed, though particles are thrown up around your feet. Walking through water does come with a realistic sound effect though, and while it does sound good, the sound will alert enemies around you to your presence.
Time to talk about performance, so here are my computer specs:
- Processor: AMD A10-5800K @ 4.40 GHz (44.0x100)
- Cooling: Corsair H110
- Motherboard: ASUS F2A85-M PRO
- GPU: EVGA GTX 770 2 GB
- PhysX: EVGA GTX 570 1280 MB
- Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws 4x8 GB (32 GB total) at 1866 MHz 10-10-10-27
- PSU: OCZ Fata1ty 750 W
- OS: Windows 7- Professional 64-bit
Sadly, while I will do my best to describe the performance of the game, I am fairly confident nothing specific I say will be valid in (hopefully) the near future. The reason for this is that it appears either the game, or the NVIDIA drivers, version 334.89, have not been optimized for best performance on my hardware yet. That is not to say the game was not playable; it was, but suffered from stuttering relatively often. The experience did remind me of when I have played other games without the properly optimized drivers installed. At least that means the performance should only improve. Of course this only applies for those with NVIDIA GPUs. I have not an AMD GPU to properly test the game on, so I cannot speak to the performance for the red team.
Now then, I played the entire game at its maximum settings, and though the internal benchmark reported an average FPS of about 32, I would peg the gameplay experience at around 45 FPS, at minimum. I am sure it reached higher than that at times, but with the stuttering that is the number I am comfortable giving you. (If there is a new driver released soon that improves the performance, I will try to remember to post about its impact in the forum thread.)
By the way, this is the reason I parenthetically mentioned earlier for why the shadows may be as inconsistent as they are. Though I am not an expert in the matter, it would not surprise me if new drivers addressed the issue. I hope I am correct in that belief.
I have found and experienced some interesting issues in Thief, and as I normally do talk about them in this section, I shall do so now. One issue I encountered twice was bothered AI. In one case the AI was literally walking into a door frame; I suppose thinking it was in the nearby passage. The other (which was in the same level, coincidentally) had a guard sit down to sleep in a chair, but was not actually sitting in the chair. The guard was roughly perpendicular to the front of the chair, hovering in the air. I also found some candles floating in the air, because apparently they thought they were on top of a table that was not there.
One issue that I find somewhat humorous concerns the maps. There is the mini-map (which I will mention later as well) and the larger map available in your journal. I am not sure how it happened, but the two maps disagree on which way North is in certain regions. The overworld City is one of these regions. This is not a particularly serious issue, but I do hope it is addressed soon.
The most annoying issues I encountered concerned the audio. At times the audio mix went out of whack, causing the voice audio to drop in volume, relative to the music and sound effects. This made hearing conversation quite difficult (good thing I play with subtitles on). The other audio issue concerns the NPC chatter you can hear as you explore the world. Naturally this audio will repeat itself, to make sure you hear it, but in multiple cases it would start repeating itself before it had finished. This made it very difficult to understand what was being said, and it also disturbed the subtitles as apparently each instance of the conversation was trying to put up the subtitles corresponding to their placement in the script.
I do not relish having to say that things should improve in this or any game, but that is what I must do for Thief, at least in part. Visually the graphics are very good, though the textures could be better, and neither fire nor water are particularly impressive. (They do their job at least.) The performance is not where I want it to be, but where it is is satisfactory to play the game. Although, perhaps I should admit that the stuttering may detract from the experience, as it hampers immersion. Then there are the issues I mentioned, of which some are easily ignored or laughed at, but some, specifically the audio ones, must be dealt with. These are not major issues, but they do frustrate the experience.