Book Review: The Art of Thief

I>The Art of Thief
Publisher: Titan Books
Cost: $34.95 ($18.96 on Amazon.vcom)
Page Count: 192
Release Date: 02/25/2014
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I’ve always been a big fan of the Thief series and so when Eidos and Square-Enix announced they would be releasing the first new game for the series in a decade, I had mixed emotions. I was happy such a nice cult series was being revived but was disappointed neither Looking Glass Studios nor Ion Storm would be making the game. Of course, what choice was there? LGS went out of business in 2000 and Eidos purchased Ian Storm back in 2005, so this was as good as it was going to get. My only hope is that Eidos listened closely to the remaining team members from those original three games. I have the new Thief on my PC and am enjoying it for what it is, even though I generally don’t care for quasi reboots like what they have done to Castlevania and Devil May Cry. Still, the visuals of this new Thief are tremendous and as such, it is so surprise that Titan Books has released another of their art books covering sketches, concept art and behind the scenes commentary on the game.

The book is divided into four chapters and they all focus on the new Thief. If you were looking for an artbook that chronicles all four games in the Thief series, you’ll have to look elsewhere. This covers Thief IV and that’s it. This isn’t a bad thing as it means you have close to 200 pages on a single game. Now you might be wondering how they fill 200 pages of art from just one game but honestly, The Art of Thief is not only packed, but they could have fit in several dozen more pages. There’s just so much they only got to touch on with the allotted space. I should also point out that most of what is in here are sketches, early designs, storyboards, models and schematics. There is little to no in-game footage screenshots or pieces from the final product. So while you get a sometimes breathtaking look at the art of Thief, what is in the book and what is in the game can be quite different from each other. As this is not a review of the video game (I’m leaving that to fellow DHGF staffer Michael O’Reilly), the art book will make you want to go out and purchase Thief if you haven’t already – even if you are brand new to the series.

There are four chapters to The Art of Thief, a foreword by Nicolas Cantin, who was the Art Director on Thief, and three “Interludes.” The Interludes are two page collections of storyboards highlighting key scenes from Thief along with notes on the flow. Needless to say these pieces, along with many others are spoiler heavy, so you may want to play the game before you pick up The Art of Thief.

Chapter One is entitled “Garrett” and it is all about the main protagonist of Thief. I do really wish this section would have shown protagonist character models from the three earlier games to highlight how far things have come, but it is what it is. You do get a lot of fantastic art in this chapter – both computer and traditional based. The chapter starts off with a set of two page spreads showcasing Garrett’s new look and from there it breaks down into character models and looks at very specific parts of his body, such as his special eye and his hands. The chapter also looks at all of Garrett’s fabulous weapons and cinekills that he will get in the game. The first chapter is enough to sell you on the book alone, but it’s surprisingly not the best chapter in The Art of Thief. That’s how good this book is.

Chapter Two is entitled “Characters,” and it showcases everyone else in the world of Thief. As Thief takes place primarily in The City, you’ll see a lot of the same characters (and thus character models) repeatedly in the game. There are a few unique ones like Erin and the Baron, but for the most part the NPCs are merely variants of the same model. A great example is with the “Civilians” section where you see most of the faces are exactly the same save for one or three slight changes. It might be a facial hair, hair style or eyewear that sets them apart. It’s nice to see this full exposure on how similar the NPCs are, but you probably won’t notice the similarities in-game.

Although faces can be quite similar in Thief, the Art of Thief really shows off the wide range of outfits and costumes residents of The City will possess. The outfits and their accompanying weapons are really detailed. The book even talks about the types of leather and fur pieces of clothing are based off of. It’s pretty neat to both see and read, and of course, once again the art in this chapter is phenomenal.

Chapter Three is called “Loot, Puzzles and Traps,” which is exactly what you can expect in this section. This is my favorite chapter in the book and while I was perusing it for review purposes, my wife kept looking over my shoulder asking me what game had such pretty jewelry and furniture. It really is impressive how many kinds of steal-able objects there are in Thief. From chess pieces and busts to coins and rings, every piece is beautiful. Of course, the game can’t give you as in-depth or as high detail a look at the pieces of loot since it can’t devote say, half a screen to a single ring, but The Art of Thief can give you half a PAGE for such an object, showcasing how gorgeous the art design behind the end product is. The chapter also showcases some puzzles and their solutions so again, be prepared for spoilers. It is neat how the book will show you that there are multiple ways to solve a lot of puzzles in the game though. I like that there isn’t just one set pat answer. It makes the game feel more realistic. Finally, this chapter also highlights pieces of art, a lot of signage you’ll come across in the game, and even paintings made especially to place in the game. Chapter Three really is my favorite chapter in The Art of Thief as there are so many great things to look at, and it also helps you realize that even the most mundane object in a video game world has a story behind it.

The final chapter in The Art of Thief is “The City.” Here you get nearly sixty pages of background art showcasing The City, its various Burroughs and places you can travel within the game. There is even art for places you CAN’T access in the game, which is really neat to see as it shows the dev team really thought out the entire location. Who knows, perhaps we’ll end up seeing those areas in DLC down the road? Again, the art in “The City” is primarily art that was used to make the game. I didn’t see any final in game screenshots in the book, which is fine. However, as a lot of the art is pen and paper, watercolour and the like, what’s in The Art of Thief and what is in the actual city will vary a lot, so don’t be surprised by this.

My favorite part of “The City” was The Clock Tower segment and not just because I love the first two video games in a series by the same name. The art, the storyboards, and the overall feel of the location is just creepy as all get out and it made me just want to rush to that part of the game to see if it was as good in the end product as it is in the art book.

Overall, The Art of Thief is a fantastic buy and an absolute steal if you pick it up for the price is currently selling it for. I can’t recommend this highly enough and for some of you, the art book might even be better than playing the actual game. The Art of Thief is Titan Book’s best video game art book yet and words can’t express how much I loved pouring over this thing.



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