• Release Date: November 12, 2019
  • Developer: Rival Games Ltd.
  • Publisher: Rival Games Ltd.
  • Platforms: Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC
  • Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch
  • Price: $19.99
  • Review Copy: Yes

Personally, I am a big fan of Robert Kirkman’s work and the adventures that have been brought to us by Skybound. Games like Telltale The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us set the bar for narrative-driven stories. So given the opportunity to jump into another work of similar production, I immediately was in for the ride. After playing Rival Games’ Thief of Thieves Season 1, I am left with a mixed bag of emotions and a slight heir of disappointment. The game successful lifted the narrative-driven aspect that Skybound titles are known for but forgot to nab a compelling gameplay experience. 

Story and characters are easily the best part about Thief of Thieves. It helps to have a well-written source material to go off of. Right to the end, the twists and revelations will keep coming as you would expect from a thief/spy thriller. The story is delivered in a similar way to Telltale works, although not as heavy-handed. You will get the opportunity to choose Celia’s dialogue in many situations, ranging from choices on the good cop bad cop spectrum. These choices will matter slightly over the course of the game but not to the same extent as past games like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones have displayed. The voice acting is top-notch and even accents of certain characters in the story are very well done.

Celia is an instantly likable protagonist for the game and she makes the story interesting with her carefree attitude. The supporting cast for the game also has a lot to offer. You find out more about their backstories and motivations through branching dialogue paths that you can explore at your leisure in the safehouse. It feels like you are part of a dysfunctional family who wants to steal from the very best.

The story mostly progresses through a series of comic strips and panels that look absolutely fantastic. Normally its seen as lazy to animate the story this way but when the game is based on a Robert Kirkman and crew comic, it really doesn’t get any better. The delivery of the story in this fashion is spot on and full of great art. 

Character models in-game however look pretty bad, especially when they are close up. They lack facial detail and other defining features found in higher resolution models. This is a problem with the Switch version of the game as they look much better on the Steam and Xbox One versions of the game. The environments tend to look much better but if you close in on them, again you will see a distinct lack of detail in some parts. At least the lighting and color of the environments are spot on.

The gameplay is a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, heists are well thought out and balance the risk-reward factor. You have your main objectives to complete in each heist but the fun comes from mixing up how you complete them. In most cases, there are multiple ways of completing your objectives and it’s worth exploring the environment to find them. For example, you may find an alternate escape route for a quick getaway or a disguise that will help you infiltrate. Optional objectives are very fun to try and clear because they will reward you later in the story. Completing these parts of the mission will often alter the dialogue of the story or give you a leg up on later heists. The risk-reward factor is certainly present, and do a good job making the missions replayable.

On the other hand, the gameplay is full of trial and error moments. Rather than maneuvering your way through the level with style, success sometimes came about by stumbling through the mission. The inconsistent A.I is either on to your plan completely or so oblivious that you might as well just strut your way into the places you want to go. Seeing as stealth is a big part of the game, the A.I. makes these sections no fun because the satisfaction of outsmarting these brainless obstacles is just not here. It’s a shame these flaws in the gameplay ruin some genuinely cool missions. But these do not compare to a problem that absolutely ruins the experience.

The fixed camera is always in the way of the action and is the worst part of the experience. You are restricted to only two camera angles at a time. One is usually a close-up angle of Celia and her vicinity and the other is another angle of surroundings, often a wide shot of the situation. The camera angle shifts often as you move Celia through the area but with no control over where it’s going, it’s a 50/50 chance whether the angle will help you or not. The camera is especially cumbersome when you are being chased by a guard, and you get hung up on a doorway that you didn’t see or misjudged the space between obstacles. The camera makes depth perception an absolute nightmare and obstructs the player further.

To make matters worse, Thief of Thieves suffers from slowdowns, visual glitches, and sound oddities. During heists, the game will have moments where the frame rate will plummet for a very brief moment. The outright frame slowdowns were more frequent and less forgivable. They make playing less enjoyable as this version of the game will hang up during the more exciting moments of the missions.

A lot of in-game dialogue sections will have the character models randomly twitch or contort unnaturally. The dialogue will go silent mid-conversation sometimes, especially when you move Celia during dialogue sections. In the future, the game could be patched to help stabilize some of these issues but as of playing the game for the review, these issues were prevalent.

Overall, if you are invested in the story and characters from the onset, then it is worth it to see Thief of Thieves’ to the end. The game weaves a great tale and the strong cast of characters keep the investment going. But the game’s dull gameplay, technical setbacks, and graphical infidelity definitely damper the experience. The Switch version of the game doesn’t help to make the game better and should be played on either Steam or Xbox One instead. “These unfortunate setbacks make the Switch Version of Thief of Thieves the inferior version of an otherwise pretty great narrative stealth game.

6/10″

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