Squenix Thieves Can’t Jump

Picked up the new Thief game a week or so back and started playing it when it unlocked on Tuesday. So far, it’s a ton of fun – I wanted a first-person sneaker without much emphasis on combat, and it delivers. It’s a wonderfully atmospheric game as well, which combined with the soundtrack is a win in my book. I’m a big fan of the original series, so was nicely surprised to see this reboot play well.

That is, until I needed to jump.
Beware – mild spoilers ahead.

As usual, the spacebar handles climbing and jumping by default. It also does triple duty as the “swoop” action, allowing for quick movement. The catch is that what the key does is contextual. If you’re next to a box/ledge/etc, it causes Garrett to climb. While moving it causes you to swoop. If you’re on a rope you jump from it. Standing still? Nothing.

What this means is Garrett doesn’t jump. Not the way you normally would in a first-person game. And unless you were to tie the swoop ability to another key, there’s no way to add running jumps to the game. The exception is jumping from one ledge to another, which the game figures out for you. Again – context.

So how is this a problem? Playing the Bank Heist side mission (part of the pre-order, but I’m sure it’ll be DLC eventually), the inner vault requires flipping two wall switches within 10-12 seconds of each other to open. The catch is there are pressure plates on the floor between the switches, which cause the first switch flipped to reset if triggered. It’s physically impossible to run around the back of the vault in time, and the plates from a solid line on the floor.

The two solutions are 1) some fancy acrobatics up to the vault’s second level and back down, or 2) find the hidden compartment where you can cut a wire and disable the plates. This bugs me because it’s a set of solutions completely based on the game mechanics. The obvious solution – hop over the plates – is dropped because that would circumvent the reflex and exploration challenges.

If pulling one switch lowered some grates, closed a door, or otherwise made something as direct as “just jump over there” impossible, it wouldn’t be such an immersion-breaking situation. I like the game so far. Here’s hoping this sort of setup doesn’t crop up much in further chapters.

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