Throughout the history of video gaming, there have always been a handful of titles that sparks controversy with its themes and unruly content. Grand Theft Auto and even Call of Duty produced all manner of mass hysteria at the corruption of us gamers’ poor little minds. However, we all knew something that they didn’t, and that well-known secret is that we all knew it was all make-believe and that we weren’t about to go joy-riding, commit robberies or spark an all-out war; well, most of us anyway. However, there’s a new troublemaker on the block that’s sure to set the pulses of our parents racing and that title comes in the form of Playway S.A. and Forever Entertainment’s Thief Simulator, as it sneaks a release onto the Nintendo Switch.
The main premise of the game involves, well, committing robberies. It’s a game whose title spells out clearly what the game entails. However, this isn’t your Payday, all guns blazing, affair. Oh no, this is far more intricate, simulating the actions of a bona-fide thief through finding ideal locations or properties to rob, picking locks, scoping out areas and the routines of the people around them, as well as seeking information on the black web and selling on your stolen goods to the local pawn shop. As you can see, its moralistic viewpoint can be a little questionable, but that certainly doesn’t detract from the heart-thumping experience that this title can give you.
The game follows a loose story. By that I mean that the story isn’t the central plot here and doesn’t really push the game along. In short, you play the role of a thief who, through the guidance of digital communication, begin to learn the techniques of your art by committing robberies to make enough money so that you can expand your knowledge and tools needed to advance to bigger and better properties and their valuable hordes within. You begin as a lowly criminal, committing lower-end levels of robberies that involves smashing windows with a brick to gain entry and sneaking around people’s gardens. Your not that fussy either about what you take, filling your swag bag with items such as toasters, pots and pans and the odd bit of scrap change lying about.
It provides a good backdrop to the introductions of the mechanics in how the game works. Before long you acquire a hideout and from here, you begin to delve deeper into the criminal activities of a full-time thief. In terms of gently easing you into the game, Thief Simulator does a good job of taking everything at the right pace; a skill that is needed when you find yourself in the local neighbourhoods and being naughty. Your mentor, or the voice that guides you through your communicator, briefs you on what you need to do in order to advance yourself as a thief. These begin with picking certain targets for you, to introducing you to the dark web from where you can find your own work or intel on the hits you are about to make, to where you can sell your goods and what needs to be done to escape the attentions of the public or the local police force.
When you look deeper into the mechanics of the game, there’s a lot of little elements that combine to produce a bigger, overall picture. None of them ever feel over-complicated in their execution, largely thanks to the impressive way that the game helps guide you in a certain direction until it feels that your adept enough to let go of your hand. It’s from here that the game produces some of its finer moments. As you work through the smaller jobs, you gain XP which helps level up your character in learning new skills. These can range from general dexterity to picking locks, acquiring surveillance equipment and glass cutters with which to gain a silent entry into the properties. You can also gain vital info through the dark web, such as the activity of occupants to alarm systems, if present, and even if they leave a front door key in a specific place. Very handy!!
Once you have your intel, you then find yourself in a semi-opened world of a local neighbourhood. The earlier levels provide you with specific properties to rob, but as the game opens up further, you begin to scope out the neighbourhoods yourself, watching the movements of inhabitants, checking out security cameras and whatever measures may be in place to try and keep you out; especially in the larger and more prosperous areas and houses. Viewed from a first-person perspective, you can equip yourself with specific tools, watch the movements of the houses occupants (signified by a white silhouette, which allows you to sneak in and out when their back is turned) and search, first-hand, whatever property you may be in to find any items that are worth stealing.
Some jobs will simply involve stealing smaller items that you can carry in your bag. However, you soon find yourself acquiring larger items that need to be carried to the boot of your car in order to transport them to the nearest buyer. You may even come across certain elements that you’re unable to overcome, such as advanced locks or security systems, or even a high fence that is too tall to get over. However, by completing other robberies and thus, levelling yourself up, you can pick to learn the new abilities that will allow you to overcome these challenges and hopefully, lead to further riches with better quality goods. As well as whatever security systems are in place though, you also need to avoid any human detection. This can range from the house’s occupants spotting you in the garden, or even in their home to passers-by accidentally bumping into you as you walk down the street with a large-screen television in your hands. Now, try explaining that!
Should you find yourself rumbled, then it doesn’t take long for the local authorities to be alerted to your presence. You have two choices here, either try and get to your car and flee the neighbourhood, or simply try and find somewhere safe to hide, like under the bed or within the confines of a large trash dumpster. Unfortunately though, where the game excels in the stealth of committing a robbery, the art of escape, although tense affairs, aren’t so well implemented. The driving mechanics of steering your car are woeful at best, making escape a less attractive proposition and the AI of the NPC’s isn’t the most intelligent, making hiding out a better option. It doesn’t necessarily detract from the game, it’s more of a disappointment when compared to the excellence of all of the other games’ mechanics.
Despite the execution of the stealth mechanics and the art of performing the actual robberies being nicely implemented, there are a few other disappointing features of the game, as well as the poor AI or driving models. For the first few hours, the game provides a stellar production in its entertainment values. However, it isn’t long before you find yourself doing the same jobs over and over again until you have reached a level that allows you to progress further. Even more disappointing, is the fact that whatever property you may have robbed previously, its inhabitants have done nothing to try and prevent the same thing happening to them again. This can break the immersion of the game quite dramatically and is a missed opportunity really. Having a slight upgrade to the security of previously robbed houses would have provided an excellent source of variety to how you approach the game.
Ultimately, Thief Simulator ends up being another game that is divided by two halves; one good and the other bad. It’s elements of being a bona-fide thief are expertly done here, producing some real adrenaline-rushing and heart thumping fun. It’s lack of AI intelligence, loose driving and general grind though, soon grows a bit tiresome and, ultimately, forces you to think about another game from where to get your next thrill ride. However, I still have to admit that overall, this is a very good game that looks good on the Switch; despite containing some minor technical issues such as pop-ups or minor slow-downs, but these are quite few and far between. As a stealth model and a simulation of performing robberies in a real-world environment, the game excels. As a challenge though, it simply doesn’t do enough. However, it can also be a saving grace, as if you were to find the urge to replicate its model in real-life, then you probably wouldn’t get very far.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thief Simulator Review
Gameplay - 8/10
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 8/10
Replay Value - 8/10
User Review( votes)
Thief Simulator is game that will certainly rob you of your time, despite containing a few questionable elements in its swag bag.