Thief is a game where you sneak around. Thief is a game of atmosphere and to that extent it makes sense to have an accompanying hardback of art.
The problem The Art of Thief faces is what to include? If it goes the “mythos” route that art books sometimes take and explores characters and story lines then it risks giving away too much of the plot. Alternatively, if the book takes the “manual” route as an alternative then it has to concentrate on showing designs, locations and equipment. The challenge Thief has in the latter is that there’s one main character – the Thief.
The Art of Thief goes for a compromise. There’s a little bit of both mythos and manual. This hardback does look at the characters and this creates some wonderfully atmospheric portrait pages. It also means we get to see our thief in all sorts of poses. We see the storyboards. It also means we get a look at the locations and once again this makes for some wonderfully atmospheric images. It also means we get some illustrations of fairly mundane items at times.
I found The Art of Thief a joy to browse though. I’m a visual person; I generally react well to carefully crafted books like this. Most art books are items I treasure and would imagine coming back to again and again. That gravitational pull was not so strong with Thief. The hardback was pretty but it didn’t seem to explore the world or the game as deeply as I would have hoped.
Storyboards are interesting. There are pages in this book where we can see some of the story threads in the game. I disliked this as a waste of space at first and then changed my mind. I went from discounting them as “not art” and filler to appreciating them the most. Sure, they’re not as atmospheric as some of the double-page spreads but these are the sections when The Art of Thief digs deep and offers up the extra behind the curtains insight that can make art books so valuable.
I think The Art of Thief, like Thief itself, suffers from the challenge of expectations. I knew this was going to be a breath-taking – and it is, in parts. I should give the stunning illustrations that frequent the book more credit. I know I should. It’s just that I take them for granted having expected they would be in there. The Art of Thief doesn’t rise above my expectations and wow me. That’s why I like the book but don’t seem to value it as much as I should.
Should you buy it? If you’re a hardcore Thief fan or a collector or art game books then you should. Thief fans may not know the superb quality that Titan Books brings to their art galleries but game book art collectors will. If you’re disappointed in the game then I don’t think this collection of art will turn it around for you.
This video tour has a visual effect filter and is powered by Google Auto Awesome.
My copy was provided for review. The Art of Thief, Paul Davies, Titan Books, Hardcover pp 192, £29.99.