24 May, 2017

Killers and Thieves Review

Since I've only just gotten it, I'll play further at a later point and edit this review as needed. For now, I will say that I enjoyed my time with Killers and Thieves, and while it has issues(Mainly the lack of tutorial, questionable controls, and civilian/guards being incredibly simple), it is still decent, though very much overpriced for what it does at this point.

Edit: Further playing reveals a much greater problem still- A complete lack of replayability. Once you've seen one or two randomly generated maps, you've seen it all. There doesn't seem to be much more than that, not even story wise.
After a few more hours of trying, it feels very much like a flash game with a great concept and no substance. it's neat and has potential, but it will never realize that potential and become great. Quite sad, but that's how many great concepts go.

My time with it is best summed up by analogy;
You get yourself a new bathtub installed, paid for it and finally want to use it to relax. You step in and the bathtub is too small for you to fit in it, so you awkwardly stand in it trying to take a shower. Then you get a phonecall. The shower was nice, but it only just started and now you're interupted. The phone call was someone trying to order a pizza with the wrong number. You go back to your shower and try to enjoy it when you get called again. someone else trying to order a pizza. This repeats for a few hours and you never get the water to heat up so you have to just take a cold shower and then you turn it off and go do something else. All the while you're left thinking about the wonderful warm bath you've been promised.

Original review follows;
Killers and Thieves puts the player in control of a medieval thieves' guild, an interesting idea that might have needed a bit more explaining and working out. As it stands, it is still worth looking at, but it does feel like it could have used a bit more thought at a lot of points.

The story seems pretty good, but the day to day business of robbing places, training your thieves and selling loot feels like it is lacking a bit and often feels clumsy and obtuse. The controls for your thieves are not very intuitive, and the stealth system not regenerating any points once you've lost them makes it impossible to enter stealth again after being spotted.

But that is just one of the systems that feels too simple to me. Perhaps I just expected too much, but so far I've not yet found any unique looking maps. Everything appears to be randomised, even the story missions I've found thus far. While it seems like a lot of effort was put in the presentation, into looks and mood, into the story itself and the concept, it doesn't seem like this effort was placed on connecting the story to the game. An early example is a story mission telling me to rob a place to put pressure on someone, the map was randomly generated, so I just went in and stole a bunch of stuff. With multiple houses there, I had no idea where I was supposed to go. But it turned out the answer was "Anywhere", as stealing from any of the houses counted. Then in a the story afterward the man's house was robbed, yet I couldn't picture the house as everything seemed to just be randomly generated.

While the graphics are good with a consistent, pleasant to look at style that isn't difficult to tell guards and loot apart from the background, the sound is maybe a bit too simple, with music and soundbites seemingly repeated over and over. This got a bit annoying after a while, which I found to detract from the general experience. They can certainly use more variety for the audio.

Guard AI, for a stealth based game, is fairly important. It is then sad that it is so simplistic. Guards seem to move at random, and stand still at random. This means that if you're unlucky, you're going to be stuck in a room for a long time waiting for the guards to move away. They often patrol in buildings randomly, wandering through bedrooms of slums and standing at random staircases in the middle of a house. There doesn't seem to be any sense, which leads me to believe the guard patrols are probably also randomly generated.

The RPG elements are slow, and you will need to level up a lot in order to get the training points needed to make your thieves capable of doing their job properly, and even then there are often not many ways you can use the skills in the maps as they are, even if you actively look for them. I like the idea of growing my band of thieves from poorly skilled randoms from the street to a group of elite heisters, but the leveling up, learning of skills and trying to make thieves better just doesn't seem to matter most of the time. Not to mention that it takes forever to get even the slightest upgrade.

It feels like they've had a great idea, but didn't really know how to turn it into a great game. So they got a story that seems good so far, and they've made some gameplay for it. But they don't seem to have really made it fit well together with the story, and the gameplay elements often appear to conflict in their goals. The numerous flaws in the game seem to break immersion quite often, and the sheer randomness of everything makes planning impossible. Controlling four thieves at the same time with the clumsy controls means you're likely to just leave three outside and use one at a time.

I like the idea, I like the art, and it seems like a lot of work went into the story. But the gameplay feels lacking in many ways. It is essentially the looting and exploration part of This War of Mine with slight changes to it, randomly generated every time and with an overworld system that doesn't seem to really do much anyway. Many things regarding the gameplay feel like they've not been thought about, leading to what feels like a patchwork of mechanics and systems that interact at times, but never truly work together to provide a great immersive and challenging experience.
It is worth getting and playing at some point, and you may very well end up enjoying it like I do. But I can see that it has big issues that would make it a frustrating and poor experience for many, so definitely do not get it at full price.

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