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"What the hell is a taffer, anyway?"

"Ye shall not rob from the house I have built, or commit any theft or unrighteousness, lest ye be struck down and driven into the earth forthwith, and the land of the heathen consume you."
The Book of The Stone

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. It was also among the earliest codifiers of the Immersive Sim genre. See Dishonored for the Spiritual Successor lead by Harvey Smith.

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 has this as its special power. It's better not to even get too close into its firing range and snipe him with the bow from a safe distance.
    • Also revealed to be the fate of Giry, the informant Garret planned to meet in "Song of the Caverns."
  • Always Check Behind the Chair: Aside from the obvious aspect of searching everywhere for loot and items, the mission "Undercover" requires doing this in order to find five switches hidden in the environment.
  • 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.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: Thief Gold adds a new enemy type called Fire Shadow to two levels. These are unkillable, but dealing enough damage to them will cause them to drop a fire crystal and flee for a time. These two levels are also the only places in the game where you need fire crystals to solve a puzzle. This is not a coincidence.
  • Arrows on Fire: A staple in Garrett's arsenal. Unusual in that rather than setting enemies on fire, they instead explode on impact.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • Your objective for mission 4: use your shiny new lockpicks to sneak into the Hammerite Temple and steal some loot. Simple enough. As soon as the mission actually starts, the shopkeeper who sold you the lockpicks is shot, two men outside say they killed Garrett, and this objective is crossed out, replaced by following your would-be assassins and finding their employer.
    • "Song of the Caverns" is presented as a spelunking mission similar to the previous one, "The Lost City". However, once you reach the shrine where the Talisman is hidden, you find it missing, and then learn it's already been looted and is now in the possession of the opera house's owner. The mission then replaced with a normal theft in the opera house. Players might get an idea that the mission isn't what it seems when they see the shop offer gas and moss arrows that would be better suited for sneaking past guards than fighting monsters in the caverns.
  • Ballistic Bone: The hammerite apparitions attack by launching ghostly skulls. There's also a strange skeleton in the mines below Cragscleft Prison that launches its head at Garrett and disappears with no explanation or acknowledgment of any kind.
  • 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.
  • Blending-In Stealth Gameplay: In one mid-game mission, Garrett has acquired the garb of a novice in the Order of the Hammer and uses it to infiltrate one of their secured temples. As novices take an oath of silence, no one there will ask him to speak and provided he isn't caught anywhere he isn't supposed to be, no one will challenge his presence. The challenge lies in stealing right out from under the Hammerites' noses. Fulfilling your primary objective will unavoidably sound an alarm throughout the temple, which blows Garrett's cover.
  • Bookcase Passage: One can be found in the mansion in "Assassins." Also present in the Thief Gold missions "Thieves' Guild" and "The Mage Towers."
  • 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.
  • Break the Badass: The cutscene of The Trickster revealing himself and Garrett getting his eye torn off stands out as being the only time you ever see the normally unshakable Garrett being visibly terrified.
  • Concealing Canvas:
    • In Lord Bafford's Manor, chop a banner for easier access to the throne room. This bypasses a locked door.
    • In Assassins, chopping one of the banners on the second floor gives an alternate route to a secret passage.
  • The Computer Shall Taunt You: Human enemies will mock Garrett if you try to hit them with your blackjack while they can see you.
  • Convection, Schmonvection: Played completely straight, touching lava directly means instant death but otherwise it might as well be glowy water.
  • Developer's Foresight: Keys aren't just for show. One useful tactic is to steal a guard's key, let him see you and chase you into a closet or room with only one exit, then lock the door. The guard no longer has his key, and will be stuck in the room.
  • 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: 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.
  • Edible Collectible: None of the food items you can pick up and eat have any effect, with the exception of the mysterious healing fruits you can find towards the end of the game.
  • 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.
    • The Maw Of Chaos for sure. It's not clear whether it's Another Dimension or just deep underground, but either way it includes such mindfuckery as a waterfall that "falls" up, and upside-down body of water, an ice slick right next to a lava pool, and, at a few points some floating "pods" with newly created monsters that get sent through portals (presumably to the surface world).
  • Enemy Chatter: You can eavesdrop to quite a few conversations, most commonly between two guards. A certain discussion about the "Bear pits" and the state of modern bears you can overhear at the beginning of the game is one of the most famous examples of this trope.
    Guard: They just don't make bears like they used to...
  • Equipment Upgrade: Partway through the story your basic sword gets replaced by Constantine's Sword. While it deals the same amount of damage as the previous version, holding it doesn't make Garrett more visible to enemies the way the normal blade does.
  • Exploding Barrels: Red ones, of course. Unlike in most games however, they don't tend to be very practical for taking out enemies due to their locations and loudness.
  • 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.
  • Final Boss, New Dimension: The final level of the game, "Into The Maw of Chaos" where Garrett enters The Trickster's realm where the normal laws of physics don't hold sway.
    Garrett: I've never robbed a god before. It'll be a challenge.
  • First-Person Ghost: Garrett's arms and weapons are visible during gameplay, but no part of his body beyond that.
  • Floating Platforms: Present in the titular Earth and Air towers in the mission "The Mage Towers."
  • Foreshadowing: In a simultaneous amusing and tragic coincidence, as much as Garrett scoffs at Ian Cribs' play "Reginald and Conandra Forest Princess", a story of doomed romance between a Hammerite Novice and a Pagan Dryad, something quite similar ends up happening by the end of the Metal Age between him and Viktoria. Garrett in this game even dresses up as a Hammerite Novice in one of the missions to sneak into the local Hammerite Temple.
  • Guide Dang It!: "The Mage Towers", specifically, each of the elemental towers is locked and is said to have the key of another one of the towers inside it. So how do you get into a tower in the first place? The lock on the door for the water tower is broken. The only way you would know that (other than looking it up) is if you searched everywhere else in the level in vain for a key before finally deciding to look at the towers themselves in case there was some other way in. To be fair, there is a note claiming the water tower has been closed down due to flooding, but inferring that to mean the lock is broken seems like a pretty big logical leap, especially since they use the word "closed", which seems to be saying just the opposite (it's more securely locked down than the others and there's no way in)
  • 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.
  • Hell Is That Noise: The undead make such a dreadful din that you can't be sure if they are several rooms away... or right behind you.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: How the Trickster eventually meets his end.
  • Hyperspace Arsenal: While Garrett's various tools wouldn't take an impossible amount of space, the same can't be said of the mountains of loot you pick up during missions which includes large vases and even giant rugs.
  • Instant Sedation: Gas arrows will knock people and other living things out instantly from any range, making them one of the rarest and most valuable items in the game.
  • Iron Maiden: There are several iron maidens in the Torture Cellar under the Mage Towers.
  • Justified Tutorial: The tutorial takes place when Garrett was still being trained in the arts of stealth by the Keepers.
  • Key Confusion: When confronted with a locked door, Garret does not automatically pick the right key, even if he has it on him; the player has to manually select the key he wants Garret to use. This can become quite a problem if Garret has multiple keys on him and the player doesn't know which one fits what door. Since the trial-and-error of testing each key takes place in real time, it can build quite a bit of tension, when you are desperately seeking for the right key while the guards are closing in on your position.
  • Knee Capping: Ramirez has a note to his tough-boys saying that this is actually inefficient. He recommends to instead learn from the gardener and his hedge clippers, which has the clients pay off their debts with fingers to spare.
  • Locked Door: Plenty of them, but most of them yield easily before Garrett and his dual lockpicks.
  • Marathon Level: The "Thieves' Guild" level. First there's the restaurant, then the casino, then the sewer passage to Reuben's place, then... you get the picture.
    • Oh man, the Mage Towers. Even if you've done it before and know where everything is, it will likely take over an hour to beat even on normal. (For reference, the entire first game takes about 6-7 hours to beat, meaning this level alone will take about 1/6 of your total playtime.)
  • Mle Trois: The game has the potential for this in any level where multiple types of Artificial Intelligences 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 Artificial Intelligences; and so on.
  • Motive Rant: On hard mode one of the objectives for the "Escape" mission requires you to find a paper detailing the Trickster's plans and motive (which are basically "civilization and technology have made the world boring, so I'm gonna destroy them and send everyone back to the Stone Age.")
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Despite numerous warning signs, Garrett still hands over The Eye to Constantine and his greed for the reward money nearly ends up dooming mankind.
  • No "Arc" in "Archery": Curiously enough, all arrows arc like you'd expect them to except for Fire and Gas Arrows that fly in a completely straight line, no matter how slowly they're launched.
  • Noodle Incident: What exactly destroyed the Old Quarter of the city (where the Haunted Cathedral resides) is unknown, with Garret's narration in the cutscene implying even the people in-universe aren't entirely sure, but the most common stories about its destruction involve massive fires and hordes of zombies.
  • No-Sell: Using fire arrows on Fire Mages really isn't a good idea. Similarly, gas based weapons have no effect on Air Mages.
  • Notice This: Most valuables that can be looted are golden in color to make them stand out from the environment and to differentiate them from objects with no value. Especially noticeable when you come across golden wine bottles.
  • 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 theirs 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.
  • Portrait Painting Peephole: In Assassins, the mansion is designed with a a secret door in Ramirez' bedroom fireplace, and that leads to a corridor that overlooks a peephole to one of the bedrooms. This peephole is covered by a painting.
  • Real Fake Door: Constantine's Mansion has one or two doors leading into a brick wall, as part of its design to confound visitors.
  • Rewatch Bonus: After playing the game all the way through and knowing that Constantine is The Trickster the items you see in his house during the cutscene where you meet him take on new significance. Among them are music pipes (which the Greek god Pan, who he is clearly based on had) and a statue/stuffed raven (several real world Native American tribes have myths about trickster deities who look like ravens or crows). There's also a stained glass window with a picture of an apple tree and a person hanged from it. While the significance of the latter is uncertain, the apple likely is meant to refer to the Garden of Eden (both because he's similar to the Christian Satan and because the serpent tricks Adam and Eve into eating the fruit).
    • The person hanged from the tree can be interpreted as a metaphor given that Constantine deceives Garrett into delivering The Eye to him all while he sits back and watches. He's letting Garrett 'hang' himself.
  • 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 over. Tell them Garrett is done. (stalks off)
    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.
  • Remixed Level: "Strange Bedfellows" sees Garrett revisit the Hammerite temple he infiltrated in "Undercover".
  • Retirony: A variation - Garrett expresses his intention to retire after stealing the Eye from the cathedral, before the Trickster betrays him and leaves him for dead.
  • Reviving Enemy: Zombies, if you try to kill them via conventional means. Holy water arrows, explosives and curiously enough, Flash Bombs, can all take them down permanently however.
  • "Save the World" Climax: The first parts of the game are about Garrett stealing and other such criminal activities, with only a few supernatural elements here and there. It ends with Garrett disrupting the Trickster's Evil Luddite plans.
  • 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.
  • Sequence Breaking: Possible in a few levels, most notably "Return to the Cathedral" could be skipped almost in its entirety in the non-Gold version of the game by blocking the cathedral's exit before it gets locked.
  • Sidetrack Bonus: So much is hidden off the beaten path that most of the game consists of searching optional areas for loot and useful goodies.
  • Soft Water
  • Sprint Shoes: Speed Potions give a temporary boost to movement speed, but in a game that encourages you to be stealthy and methodical, their usefulness tends to be limited.
  • Stalking Mission: The first part of "Assassins" has you track the titular assassins through the city streets and back to their employer.
  • 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 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.
  • Trick Bomb: The flash bomb blinds guards that see it, leaving them stunned for a few seconds. They may also be blackjacked in that state.
  • 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".
  • Unwinnable by Design: The way you finally escape from the Haunted Cathedral is by taking the explosive charge from the attic and using a fire arrow to blow it up near the (locked) back door to blast it open. This can be made impossible, but it requires you to intentionally try. The game provides several fire arrows in the attic along with the charge in case you're out, but you can pick these up and waste them if you really want to be stuck. The game very explicitly tells you to set off the charge in front of the door, but you can blow it up anywhere in the level, and there's only one charge that doesn't respawn, meaning if you blow it up elsewhere you're screwed.
  • 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.
  • Villain Ball: Constantine's plan would have gone much better if instead of leaving Garrett to perish he had either a) paid Garrett as agreed and let him leave without revealing himself, or b) taken one extra step to directly kill Garrett.
  • 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.
  • Who Forgot The Lights?: While darkness is usually your ally in the game, some unlit areas are so dark that you can barely see ahead of you without adjusting the gamma setting.
  • 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.