• December 21, 2014

How not to write a character, courtesy of Thief 2014

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Posted: Thursday, March 20, 2014 7:30 am

So you all already know my opinion of the new Thief game. I didn’t get to say everything I wanted to say about the writing. Here’s the biggest problem: When you want to make a good story and draw the players into a world, you need good characters to whom they can relate.

None of the characters in Thief 2014 even approach likability. Romano Orzari plays Garrett as half-asleep even at his most agitated. Garrett, do you want to help the poor or don’t you? Do you want to stop the plague or don’t you? Do you have a heart in that klepto body or don’t you?

Most of the story problems could have been balanced had New Garrett been allowed to have any sense of self-awareness. A good long look at the fourth wall is all it would have taken for us to sympathize with him for living in such a trite, boring world. For example, as he’s escaping a brothel, he accidentally winds up in the room occupied by the primary villain and his favorite prostitute. I was waiting for Garrett to give an eyeroll and a “Why me?” face, but all he does is sit there through the cutscene like a bump on a pickle until somebody spots him.

This isn’t even mentioning Erin, Garrett’s protégé who is killed in the prologue and whose death is supposed to haunt Garrett. She’s the epitome of bad character writing. Without giving away any great spoilers (not that the story isn’t as predictable as the sunset), I’d say her big role early in the story cripples any hope the player has of bonding with the world or Garrett.

All of our impressions of her are poor by design: She’s noisy, unsubtle, relies too much on a tool, and she kills when she doesn’t have to. When Garrett justly and reasonably criticizes everything she does, she actually has the gall to accuse Garrett of jealousy and say that she’s better than him. Needless to say, she’s killed a few minutes later because she’s determined to try and steal something Garrett says isn’t worth the effort.

Even Garrett seems determined to forget her, like the one-off, tutorial-assist character she should have been, but the game keeps shoving her back in his face. “You’re upset that this person died,” it says. Are you absolutely sure about that, game? How was I supposed to care about the world and characters when this awful, one-note sidekick was all I saw of it for the whole first mission?

Even if this game hadn’t been part of the venerated Thief franchise, it still would have been considered bad. If I had to point to some of the worst parts of this game, I’d be pointing straight at the poorly-written characters.

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