I have (what I think is) a great idea for a spiritual successor to Thief: The Dark Project since Thief 2014 is turning out not to be it. As things go, I overthink things sometimes, and doing so can lead me to dark places. This is one of those times. So for now, my effort will be just to describe its premise.
Spiritual successors are not entirely a pipe dream. There’s a rising trend, one I hope that continues, for indie companies to decide hey, this game was really great. Why didn’t anyone make a sequel with current graphics / physics / production values? It seems this is what happened with Starpoint Gemini 2, clearly a spiritual successor to Freelancer and Act of Aggression is a spiritual successor to Act of War: Direct Action especially since EA’s effort to turn the Command and Conquer: Generals franchise free to play.. It got cancelled. But I hear Act of Aggression is good. (I haven’t played it yet.)
Thief is a game people want to play. It’s had its share of user-modded updates. Dishonored borrows a lot of ideas from Thief TDP (and is the game which Thief 2014 was knocking off when promising to be a reboot of Thief TDP). Still Dishonored used Thief elements in becoming its own thing, and isn’t Thief at all. Sir, You Are Being Hunted also uses a stealth system similar to Thief, but it is even further removed from Thief than Dishonored.
Thief 2014 is not the great comeback of the Thief franchise that players were hoping for, but that’s not to say it was completely devoid of content and improvement. The Victorian metropolis setting offered in Thief 2014 is pretty neato, and the shiny things are really shiny, and it’s possible to make a game that scratches that first-person-stealth / steampunk / london-by-gaslight / stealing-shiny-things-in-the-city / thief-not-killer / hero-despite-himself itch that I still want but am not getting from Thief 2014. This is my idea:
Urchin is a game set somewhere in 19th century London. That London. There’s a consulting detective who solves mysteries from his own parlour at 221B Baker Street while at 186 Fleet Street an eccentric if unremarkable barber plies his trade on the second floor above a baker. Scotland Yard is hunting down the Whitechapel killer. Marley and Scrooge lend money at Newman Court and a spooky Transilvanian prince has recently relocated into town. St. Stephen’s Tower is new and is the largest four-facing chiming clock in the world.
The player plays a literal street urchin, a young boy (or girl) who lives on the streets of London. An accomplished pickpocket and tosher, he survives, sometimes by the skin of his knuckles, among the rats and squalor of the city. Armed with a slingshot, a small stature, a bit of cleverness and the gift of being able to squeeze through small spaces that confound pursuing adults, he has escaped Scotland yard, the gallows, the workhouses and countless other ruffians who’d see him in a pot of stew… or probably somewhere even more dire.
Most of the poor tyke’s earnings come from a stingy patron who pays a pittance for snatched kerchiefs and wallets, which has proven barely enough to stay fed, clothed and warm for the winter. Still the old man promises better pay at greater risk from burglarizing homes.
And so the story of Urchin begins.
Image is one of the Spitalfields Nippers the some of the poorest children of 1901-2 as photographed by Horace Warner in East London.