Video Game / Thief: The Dark Project

"What the hell is a taffer, anyway?"

Thief: The Dark Project is a 1998 first-person stealth game, and the first of the Thief series. It was designed by Looking Glass Studios and published by Eidos Interactive.

It begins with Garrett as a young street urchin being found by an organization called the Keepers, who taught him in the ways of stealth and balance before he left the organization to pursue a career as thief. He soon finds himself entangled in a conflict between the forces of order and chaos.

The following year, Thief Gold was released, adding three new levels and a host of bugfixes.

Along with Metal Gear Solid (released the same year), it is regarded as one of the first video games to pioneer the modern stealth genre.

This game provides examples of:

  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: The Downwind Thieves' Guild is headquartered in the sewers beneath the Overlord's Fancy tavern and illegal casino.
  • Action-Based Mission: Later levels in the game emphasise combat over stealth and exploration.
  • Advancing Wall of Doom: A Keeper outpost has one as a booby trap.
  • Affably Evil: Constantine. At least until his reveal as the Big Bad.
  • All Webbed Up: One type of the big arachnid enemies in the first game has this as his special power. It's better not to even get too close into his firing range and snipe him with the bow from a safe distance.
  • Always Night: There are only two missions set during daytime, and even in those, you spend most of your time indoors or in an abandoned old mine.
  • Ancient Tomb: The missions "Down in the Bonehoard" and "The Lost City".
  • And I Must Scream: The Hammer Haunts are in eternal torment, judging by their patrol dialogue.
  • Big Bad: Constantine, a.k.a. The Trickster.
  • Bizarrchitecture: Constantine's mansion in the mission "The Sword". The first floor and forward area of the mansion appears normal but the further you go, the more weird it gets. Some examples:
    • In the Gold version, there's the Brobdignag section. (There is a Lilliputian section as well.)
    • Large sections of the upper floors are rotated so that, e.g. the ceiling looks like a floor and vice versa, including having upside-down or sideways furniture.
    • In the greenhouses, search the ceilings until you find the section that is actually water. You can climb up through it into a tub of water in the room above.
    • In the deepest part of the mansion, weird twisting tile hallways and perspective-warped corridors are interwoven with mossy green tunnels going straight through the structure. At this point, the thought may strike that the architect is just screwing with you. And he is - it's all a test.
    • When you visit the mansion, it's possible to encounter a doorway opening on what appears to be outer space, with distant and apparently unreachable fragments of mansion hovering in the starry void.
  • Bow and Sword, in Accord: Garrett carries both a bow and a sword, though the bow sees more use for delivery mechanism for Trick Arrows than killing people, and the sword is a last-resort weapon, not his primary. If the player is very good, they will never use the sword.
  • Devil, but No God: Partially averted. We never see The Builder, but we do see (and kill) The Trickster.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: By the end of the game, you kill The Trickster, the devil figure of the entire in-game universe, with a magic bomb.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: The Dark Project. After going through some of the scariest and most intense scenes in first person game history, you finally have a moment to breathe at the end. Until the Sequel Hook.
  • Eldritch Location: Besides the Old Quarter and the Lost City, Constantine's mansion. The first few halls are quite conventional, but once you infiltrate it deeper, the weirdness starts, and it's quite unsettling.
  • Eye Scream: Garrett suffered from one when the Trickster betrayed him. We later see a brief, detailed close-up of the shriveled, bloody gap in his face.
  • First-Person Ghost
  • Hand of Glory: One of the objectives of the Cragscleft Prison section is to retrieve Garrett's lucky Hand of Glory from the beggar, Issyt who somehow managed to smuggle the Hand with him into the prison.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: How the Trickster eventually meets his end.
  • Marathon Level: The "Thieves' Guild" level. First there's the restaurant, then the casino, then the sewer passage to Reuben's place, get the picture.
  • Mle Trois: The first game has the potential for this in any level where multiple types of AIs are around, e.g. "The Haunted Cathedral", "The Lost City". Zombies will attack anything alive, for example, not just the player; fire elementals will attack at least some types of living AIs; and so on.
  • Oh Crap!: Garrett, when he realizes not only that The Trickster is real, but that The Hammers' crazy prophecy about the end of the world is really happening AND Garrett's own greed made it happen!
  • The Order: The Hammerites, a group of anti-Pagan, anti-nature, intensely conservative Church Militants that Garrett runs into on occasion. However, they're not as much of a problem in this game as an offshoot of their's is in the sequel. Garrett even temporarily allies with the Hammerites to help them thwart the Big Bad and his plan.
  • Oxygen Meter: Appears in the lower right corner whenever you are swimming underwater in the first two games. Since the third game has no swimming mechanic, the meter doesn't make an appearance in that one.
  • The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: The Keepers. They have access to prophecy and have master spies in every shadow, but they don't seem to actually act on any of this information, even when catastrophe looms. Somewhat justified, as this is one of the implied reasons Garrett quit.
  • Plot Coupons: At one point, Garrett has to find the four keys to a locked cathedral.
  • Refusal of the Call: Garrett does not want to be a Keeper or to be involved in their plots. This doesn't stop The Keepers from seeking Garrett out.
    Artemus: You cannot run from life as you did from us, Garrett. Life has a way of finding you, no matter how artistic a sneak you are.
    Garrett: Tell my friends that I don't need their secret book, or their glyph warnings, or their messengers. Tell them I'm through. Tell them it's
    Artemus: (after Garrett departs) I will tell them this: Nothing has changed. All is as written. The Trickster is dead. Beware the dawn of the Metal Age.
  • Retirony: A variation - Garrett expresses his intention to retire after stealing the Eye from the cathedral in the first game, before the Trickster betrays him and leaves him for dead.
  • Sequel Hook: A rather clever one at the very end of the game's final cutscene. (Quoted in the Refusal of the Call entry.) Combined with some of the imagery present there, it also doubles as a Title Drop, since the final words are "The Metal Age" - part of the sequel's title. Thankfully, this is one sequel hook didn't go to waste. The sequel was published in early 2000.
  • Thieves' Guild: Garrett's not interested in sharing his profits. The local guild bosses are less than pleased. One baron gives him trouble and giving it right back is the object of a mission in the first game. There's also a mission in Thief Gold that requires you to directly infiltrate the Downwind Thieves' Guild, and steal something that the guild's bosses are arguing about.
  • Too Awesome to Use: Averted via a Bag of Spilling approach to buying new equipment for your inventory between missions. Not only can't you keep items you don't use, you can't even keep the extra cash if you don't buy them. So the game encourages you to spend your hard-earned cash on more equipment you might need for another mission.
  • Updated Re-release: As Thief Gold in 1999. Bugs were fixed, some levels were improved upon or added to, and three new misions were introduced: "Thieves' Guild", "The Mage Towers" and "Song of the Caverns".
  • Underground Level: "Escape from Cragscleft Prison", "Down in the Bonehoard", "Thieves' Guild", "The Lost City", part of "Song of the Caverns", "Strange Bedfellows", "The Maw of Chaos".
  • Unnecessarily Large Interior: The Halls of Echoing Repose, from the mission "Down in the Bonehoard", as well as the Brobdignagian area in Constantine's Mansion in the Gold version of the mission "The Sword".
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: Well, you can either simply bypass guards and/or knock them out with your blackjack. Or you could run around stabbing them from behind, knocking them out and throwing them off cliffs/into water to drown/into lava...
  • Video Game Cruelty Punishment: Only on harder difficulties does doing the above yield a mission failure (usually, some missions require no death whatsoever), but it's still there.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Viktoria, Constantine/The Trickster's emissary (and the one who removed Garrett's eye) doesn't appear for the rest of the game. She does re-appear in the sequel... and when Garrett sees her, he is ready to kill her at once.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Constantine to Garrett, in a memorably horrific fashion after revealing himself as The Trickster.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle: "Song of the Caverns" seems to go by blindingly fast, with the player reaching the Water Talisman shrine after passing through just a couple of caves... Then it turns out someone else got to the Talisman before you, and the rest of the level is dedicated to searching the large Opera House for it.