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Thief Autopsy Part 4: A Friend in Need

By Shamus
on Thursday Apr 3, 2014
Filed under:
Video Games


So Garrett has miraculously stumbled into the catacombs below the House of Blossoms, even though he doesn’t know his goal is here and it required the use of a key he didn’t know he’d need.

This place is obviously a Keeper library, even though it’s never called that. Kind of like how Catwoman was never called such in the last Batman movie. It follows the keeper motif established by Thief: Deadly Shadows: You’ve got books everywhere and impractical staircases.

Ooooh! Spoooky missing art assets!
Ooooh! Spoooky missing art assets!

As Garrett enters the ruins and look down into the depths, Garrett says, “Whatever that is, it doesn’t look human.” I’ve played through this part three times now, and I’m sure there’s nothing down there. Garrett is seeing something that doesn’t exist in the game. Evidently in some earlier build they had monsters down here, and at some point they removed the monsters but forgot to take out Garrett’s comment. (The monsters do show up much later in the game, and in this version of the story it wouldn’t make any sense to have them appear here.) I’ve watched a couple of Let’s Plays of this section to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. It’s the same for everyone. Garrett makes his comments and the player stops and becomes befuddled. What? What did I miss? Am I supposed to be seeing something?

Garrett crawls around the library and finds the book in question. It looks exactly like the book from the beginning of the game. We even get a flashback to the cult doing the ceremony thing. Is this supposed to be the same book? If so, then how on earth did it get here? Did the baron decide to hide his extremely important book under a far away brothel? That doesn’t make any sense. So is this a copy? What IS this book, anyway? How did Orion know it was “in” the brothel, but not that it was in the catacombs under the brothel? While individual quests make some sense (go to X and retrieve Y) they don’t fit together to form a coherent whole.

The book doesn’t even have a name, as far as I can tell. It’s just “the book”.
The book doesn’t even have a name, as far as I can tell. It’s just “the book”.

On the way back up we discover that guards have followed us down. It doesn’t make a lot of sense for them to be searching here. It’s possible you ghosted the previous section, in which case nobody should be looking for you. It’s also possible you gassed the place and there’s nobody left to look for you. I don’t know. Maybe these guards sprang from one of the magical unreachable areas of the brothel. Whatever.

Once we escape the library we end up in a room where the Thief-Taker General is having some kinky time with a prostitute. And now let me say something about the kink in this game.

You’re mad at her for mentioning your mother during sex? Dude, you brought her up! Also: Ew. Also, you called a prostitute a whore. Did you mean to do that? Isn’t that like calling police officer a cop?
You’re mad at her for mentioning your mother during sex? Dude, you brought her up! Also: Ew. Also, you called a prostitute a whore. Did you mean to do that? Isn’t that like calling police officer a cop?

This is the only part of the game that deals with sex at all, and some parts of it are kind of graphic. That’s fine. I guess. I’m not saying there’s no place for sexual content in games. But it seems like a strange choice here. After making all these efforts to “modernize” Thief and bring it to a wider audience, they throw in this one section that basically guarantees a hard M rating?

When Garrett gets back home we find Jennivere, Basso’s carrier pigeon. Basso uses the bird to send messages to Garret. Now we find the bird is injured, and Garrett figures Basso must be in trouble.

It’s just as well. If they didn’t hang you for conspiracy, they probably would have executed you for the crime of not having died of the plague yet.
It’s just as well. If they didn’t hang you for conspiracy, they probably would have executed you for the crime of not having died of the plague yet.

Outside, a guy is being hung for being part of the “Graven Movement”, which is what Orion’s followers are being called. The game has been hitting the player over the head with the “The City Watch is brutal, corrupt, and evil” message on a regular basis.

Of course, about ten meters from where this guy was hung there’s another guy making a loud angry speech to a crowd of two people. He’s using some really provocative language and all but declares a revolution right there, and the nearby guards never give him a second look.

At Basso’s place, Garrett runs into Orion. Orion is tearing the place apart, looking for the book. He’s afraid the City Watch took it when they arrested Basso. He also reveals that the book might have the key to saving the city from the gloom. (The plague.)

Garrett reveals Basso’s hidden safe, which holds this book. This seems like a pretty stupid move when it looks like Orion’s “time to obvious betrayal” progress bar is about 90% full.

But hang on a second, fancy-pants. How did the book get into Basso’s safe? I thought I had it. Didn’t we just now get back from the library to find the injured Jennivere? But then how did the book get into Basso’s safe? Was there a time cut? If so, then why doesn’t Orion have the book?

Again, it’s not a plot hole. You can contrive all sorts of explanations for how these story elements got to these locations. You can say that Garrett turned in the book, went home, and waited a few days, and that Basso sat on the book for a few days after that. It’s just another example of this strange disjoint where we can never get a handle on how time is passing and what’s going on. Plot elements aren’t where we expect them to be and we have to keep patching gaps in the story with head cannon.

Help me, Garrett. The Watch took my magic book! Also, have you seen my t-shirt? It says, “I will turn evil and betray you in Act III.”
Help me, Garrett. The Watch took my magic book! Also, have you seen my t-shirt? It says, “I will turn evil and betray you in Act III.”

There’s another drawing of Garrett, identical to the one we found in Erin’s hideout. It’s just sitting here in Basso’s room. Orion and Garrett both look at it during the cutscene, which gives us a “this object is important” type closeup. But it’s not. It doesn’t figure into the plot. It’s also unclear who drew it. The other one was drawn by Erin, but this one couldn’t have been. It serves no purpose in the scene, doesn’t make sense as an item of Basso’s, and it’s not at all clear who would be making all these portraits of a man who works very hard to remain anonymous.

Garrett turns over the book in exchange for information on where Basso was taken. He’s being held in the keep. But nobody knows how to break into the keep. Nobody except Jacob, one of Orion’s followers. Jacob knows a way into the keep. However, he’s being held in Greystone.

Now, I assume Greystone is a different place than the keep. Not that the game has explained either of these two places before now. So apparently Garret’s plan is to break into one prisonGreystone is actually a district, not a prison. The game will explain this in the same breath where it makes this irrelevant. More on this next time. so he can ask a total stranger (who might be dead or fail to have the required information) how to get into another prison. Fine, I guess. Although, that’s not the sort of roundabout solution I’d expect from a master Thief like Garret. Dude, at least scout the place before you commit to this extensive detour.


[1] Greystone is actually a district, not a prison. The game will explain this in the same breath where it makes this irrelevant. More on this next time.

Comments (64)

  1. Laputan Machine says:

    “…we have to keep patching gaps in the story with head cannon.”
    Is this sort of like a steampunk Skull-Gun?

  2. Daemian Lucifer says:

    “Whatever that is, it doesn't look human.” part

    Ummm…Really,no one else saw it?Yes,there was one of those gollum clones in that pit,but it scampers off quickly.

    Maybe it has something to do with what side you are coming from,because I at first came from the right side of that pit and saw the creature run away.Then I went back,explored the rest of the cave,came back to the pit from the left side,and only then did I hear that “Whatever that is, it doesn't look human.” line.So its not that they edited the monster out and forgot to remove the line,its that they messed the triggers for the events.

  3. Daemian Lucifer says:

    “You can say that Garrett turned in the book, went home, and waited a few days, and that Basso sat on the book for a few days after that.”

    Actually,thats exactly what happens,because when you get back in the clock tower after the mission,there is this small text saying “several days later”,or something to that effect.Its a really stupid way to present a time cut,because you can miss that piece of text pretty easily.Especially since just before it,you have the “collection being updated” text in that place,that needs to be clicked away before you can continue playing.

    • Nimas says:

      I honestly didn’t notice those ‘Time Cards’ until about halfway through the game. It would have even been better to have a simple fade up from black with the “Several Days Later” to make sure that the time skip was noticed.

  4. Daemian Lucifer says:

    “Dude, at least scout the place before you commit to this extensive detour.”

    And this is one of the biggest problems with time in thiaf.After certain missions you will get the “some time,maybe even days,later”,but not before missions.So we are to assume that this master thief simply rushes in,uninformed about anything,and then just slouches around for days jerking off in the clock tower.

    The original(s) stressed out that he spent time and resources to scout the places and study the maps in order to find best ways in and where the loot should be.

  5. Knut says:

    Even Earthworm Jim gave it’s “The book” McGuffin a name (although I guess “Fuzzy Wuzzy’s Funny Animals Pop-Up Book” sort of sets the mood a little differently)

    • Dave B. says:

      Now I’ll just imagine that “Fuzzy Wuzzy's Funny Animals Pop-Up Book” is the title of the book in Thief too.

      • ET says:

        Wasn’t there a film or something, where the MacGuffin turned out to be something mundane like this?
        Like, the object was mundane, just to underscore how powerful magic is, and how unimportant the base object is, which is enchanted.
        Hmm…maybe it was a Discworld book.
        Big Trouble in Little China?
        Did that one have some vial filled with magic water?

        Man, my brain must be going to mush.
        It was The Golden Child.

        • Hitch says:

          Well, in Big Trouble in Little China the Chinese girlfriend with green eyes was super important to David Lo-Pan. But I think a bit of Jack Burton’s stupidity rubbed off on him, because later he was just as fascinated by Gracie Law’s green eyes. I’m sorry, David, a Caucasian girl with green eyes is not that impressive.

  6. Jokerman says:

    What is it with stealth games this gen? Splinter Cell, Hitman, Thief all changing for the worse.

    All 3 changing from beloved voice actors too. (Hitman was changes, but fan outcry convinced IO to bring back David Bateson)

  7. Mersadeon says:

    I know the popular theory is that the factions disappeared in a rewrite, but I actually think they were meant to be gone from the start. A lot of the “faction” places like the keeper library seem to hint that these factions existed in the past, long forgotten. Just like the old Garret, who is called the “Sneak Thief” in the new lore.

    (Can I just complain about the silliness here? Maybe it’s because English isn’t my mother tongue, but “Sneak Thief” and “Thief-Taker General” sound like stuff a kid makes up. Like “Strength Warrior, HERO OF THE WORLD”.)

    • MadHiro says:

      Hey now; Peerless Warrior Victorious In All Draped In Glory is a great name for a character.

    • newdarkcloud says:

      I think the official timeline is that all of these organizations faded away in time.

      Especially the Keepers. Remember, the original Garrett (the “sneak-thief” *chuckle*) was the last Keeper. When he died, there was no one left.

      • Jakob says:

        I will preface this by saying I have not played the game, but in Thief 3, Garrett does manage to catch a girl trying to pickpocket him in the end (mimicing the start of Thief 1 where he gets recruited). It seems that Garrett is rebuilding the keepers. Is there some lore in Thief 4 that says he was the last?

        • modus0 says:

          Not in-game. The library is primarily known as a Keeper library because A: It has books, and B: The devs essentially called it that. But the organization is never directly referenced in game, and has gone the way of the similarly not referenced Pagans, and only alluded to Hammerites.

    • mwchase says:

      “Sneak-thief” is legit, and Thief-Taker General is apparently a historic position that’s no longer really necessary.

      I mean, that doesn’t mean that “Thief-Taker General” sounds like a totally sensible thing, but they’re not making stuff up to be silly, they’re doing research… to be silly.

    • Dev Null says:

      “Sneak thief” may, perhaps, be a nod to the bygone era when thieves used to be, you know, sneaky…

      “In my day,” grates Old Garret, from his attic room at The Old Folks Home for Retired Game Concepts, “we used to actually scout a prison before breaking into it. And I didn’t have no magic grappling hook thingumgobber neither; I used real Rope Arrows I made myself from… uhm… rope. And arrows. Get off my lawn.”

    • Felblood says:

      A “sneak thief” or “cat burglar” is distinguished from other types of thieves by his tactics.

      Most burglars prefer to strike hard and fast, while their victim is not at home, being more focused on getting away before anyone has time to come back than going unnoticed or leaving no trace. (The popular strategy, in this country, is to leave as much mess as possible, to make finding any really incriminating evidence more difficult.)

      Likewise, a mugger or highwayman threatens you with a weapon to get you to hand over your goods, and probably beats you while he’s at it. –and a bandit is happier to trike from ambush, and take you wallet off your corpse. You could actually do these things in Thief 3, but Garret openly disparages such uncivilized methods.

      So calling a sneak thief a sneak thief isn’t noteworthy, but calling anyone “The Sneak Thief” (singular proper article, and capital letters) is.

      That would be the distinction between saying someone is “a hunter,” and someone is “The Hunter,” or calling a warrior “The warrior.” It indicates that this warrior is not only superior to all others, but fully embodies those archetypical traits, which make a warrior into a warrior.

      [/English lecture]

  8. King Josh says:

    I need a t-shirt that says, “I will turn evil and betray you in Act III.”

  9. Odoylerules360 says:

    You’re smug and wrong about absolutely everything.

    Calming down.

    About how the book got there: Maybe it’s a copy, maybe someone took it back. If just after the explosion in the prologue knocked Garrett out, it poofed the book back to the Keeper shrine because magic, that’s fine. I don’t care. You call it head canon; I call it not germane to the story.

    The Critter: I saw it and just about pissed myself, just like I did the other times those things popped out at me.

    Might add to this in the future.

    • MadHiro says:

      Calling it ‘not germane to the story’ doesn’t actually refute or even address its status as ‘head-canon’; it just means you don’t care about it. Which is great! The makers of the game clearly had you in mind as the target demo when they cranked it out, so, congratulations! But the fact that you don’t care doesn’t mean that other people can’t, or won’t, care.

      As to it not mattering how the book got there, well, I would disagree with that myself. I wondered,” Huh, how’d this get down here? Shouldn’t this be in a safe in the Big Bad’s Hideout? Where I could steal it from, and that’s sort of what this game’s lineage would suggest we should be doing anyways? Instead of wandering around in random catacombs which weren’t even where we were told to go?”

      By not thinking about how things happen and why, the makers damage the verisimilitude that keeps me in the game world. When they do that, it makes me perk up and ears and pay even more attention… which, of course, just draws me to the other holes and errors and stupid stupid stupid, which snowballs. This is a thing that happens, and its easy to avoid by making your story coherent. If you’re a writer and your response to anything is,” Well, how’d that happen?” is,” I don’t know, magic maybe? Magic that I don’t talk about or describe or even touch on as being magic? Yeah. That’s the ticket” then you’ve made an error.

    • Benjamin Hilton says:

      Also, starting a post on someone else’s personal website with “You're smug and wrong about absolutely everything.” is not at all copacetic.

      • silver Harloe says:

        Agreed – it was pretty unproductive. And I’m not even sure why he made the post other than to call Shamus smug and wrong, because everything else he had to add had already been covered by other posts above this :/

    • ET says:

      It’s cool that the moment with the creature triggered properly for you, but unfortunately, there’s many more people who didn’t see the creature, because of the timing and placement – or possibly even bugs/glitches with – the script triggers.
      When the majority of players don’t see the visual part, when the player’s character clearly voices the audio part, the devs screwed up.

      For comparison, there’s a moment early in System Shock 2, where you’re crawling through some kind of cramped access tunnel or air vent, and a zombie chases a woman past a window.
      This works for every player who plays the game, because they set the triggers exactly, and know which way you’ll be facing, to crawl through this dark, unlit tunnel.
      You’re literally following lights at the other end of the tunnel as it twists and turns, and one of those lighted ares, is the window they want you looking at.
      So, in the two meters before you pass the window and even think of turning the next corner, there’s a scream, which immediately grabs your attention, prompting you to look at the window, even though they know it’s impossible for you to crawl past the window before the scene happens.
      That’s how much they cared about the scene, that they would use an audio cue to encourage you to look at the window after they already know you’re looking at it.
      They know exactly what speed you’ll be moving, since you are crawling, and timed this down to the second.
      That is how you properly script a scene.

      • Jeff says:

        The first time I booted up SS2, it was in my unlit bedroom at night, while I was using earphones.

        That early scene was my cue to go to bed and check out the game in the morning.

    • empty_other says:

      I can see why you are irritated. Shamus have been complaining a lot over these four articles. He has been complaining worser than Yahtzee in Zero Punctuation, who is paid to complain about games.

      Then again, if we compare this game to Thief 1 and 2 (or Dishonored if anyone dont think its fair to compare it to one of Looking Glass Studios masterworks), the game deserves to be complained about.

      I always assumed the intro book got destroyed in the accident in the first chapter, and that this was a second copy. And the critter, it was everywhere, i saw it multiple times. Once again i assume, as the game isn’t good at explaining stuff, that as this place holds the book and a critter, that the primal ceremony was once attempted here, and didnt go as well as it went when the mayor attempted it.

      • Peter H. Coffin says:

        Or you could look at it as he’s complaining about basically only one thing. It’s just a really big and far-reaching thing. And that thing is “too much rewriting and change leads to difficult-to-follow narrative and story parts that would fit better if they were … elsewhere.”

      • Naota says:

        Does that really seem thematically or tonally resonant, though?


        “Oh, that big spooky book? Sorry… kinda lit it on fire last week.”


        For better or worse, magic books tend to have only one copy. If you allow for perfect duplicates you lessen its importance, imply that only its information is of value, and open the floodgates to a million plotholes. For all you know there’s yet another unannounced copy of the book out there that Garrett can hand over to the Baron.

        If it was a copy this is something the writer needed to tell us clearly and concisely, and make the distinction from the original as strong as possible. Instead they just showed the same book out of order. I think the evidence is strongly in favour of the game’s plot just being cobbled together from bits and pieces of earlier iterations that don’t necessarily fit together.

        As for the creature, I entered the area just like Shamus and didn’t see a single thing despite toggling focus and looking everywhere. Ten minutes later I heard a bit of scrabbling and a bombastic musical cue, but still had no idea what I was supposed to be seeing. I wasn’t even sure it was supposed to be one of the things from Moira Asylum until I read this article.

        • Kavonde says:

          Semi-unrelated, but on the topic of evil magic books only having one copy, that’s a trope that I’ve seen addressed really well in a couple of series, but primarily in The Dresden Files. (Which everyone should read.)

          There’s actually two different takes on this trope. One is that there’s a finite amount of magic in a particular spell or ritual, so if tons of people know about it, it won’t be effective. This is why Wiccan rituals don’t produce flashy, obvious results. The most powerful secrets of magic are those that are only known to one or two people at the most, meaning that powerful wizards will hoard their knowledge jealously.

          This is also why, when the White Council gets ahold of Fuzzy Wuzzy’s Fuzzy Animal Popup Book, they mass produce it and distribute it far and wide. Genre savviness, thy name is Butcher.

          Oh, and even though it’s not magic, the White Council did something very similar with Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The Black Court never recovered.

          • daveNYC says:

            There’s also the Lovecraft system, where the limited number of originals tend to have been hunted down and burned, and any copies are of dubious quality due to translation issues and the fact that reading the book makes you go crazy (also not helping with the translation issues).

    • Felblood says:

      Maybe this, maybe that.

      maybe maybe, maybe.

      This is exactly what Shamus is complaining bout.

      This story can be salvaged if we give it enough allowances, but we shouldn’t have to.

      This is somebody else’s job, the writer’s. Why should we be doing his job for him in our free time?

    • MichaelGC says:

      I’ve always found that it’s better to calm down first, and only then start typing.

  10. newdarkcloud says:

    One of the things I remember being bothered by is that, as you noted, Orion wants “the book.” I was expecting him to give a title, or at least a brief description of the book, to avoid Garrett being confused as to which book he needs to take.

    When Garrett miraculously made in to the library right before the place where the book was held, he would have been entirely justified in either saying “Fuck this” because of all the books or just taking a random one and handing it back to Orion, asking for another payment to go back and get the correct book (explaining that it was stupid to not give a description).

  11. Benjamin Hilton says:

    Interestingly retrieving the book from the library like this seems to give credence to Chris’ theory about the opening scene originally being a possible ending. It would make sense that Garret initially found the book here and then either gave it to, or had it stolen by the group from that intro cutscene.

  12. Nimas says:

    Jennivere no! I have to admit that was the thing that affected me most in the entire game. I think that says more about the rest of the game sadly :(

  13. Twisted_Ellipses says:

    I see I’m not the only one cross-referencing with Let’s Plays. I’ve mostly been doing to gauge reactions of other people to certain plot elements, which are mostly wrong assumptions followed by befuddlement. I think with the monster, the quickness, brightness & angle might affect if you can see it.

  14. Tetracyclic says:

    Also, you called a prostitute a whore. Did you mean to do that? Isn’t that like calling police officer a cop?

    More akin to calling a police officer a pig or a fascist, I’d wager.

  15. cyclotron says:

    I got the “Whatever that is, it doesn't look human” line when I looked through a hole in the wall in the room just before you get into this area. Glad I’m not the only one who thought “Unh?”

  16. Guy with words says:

    So this general guy’s actual name is the Thief-taker General? Really? Could they have picked a sillier sounding name? He sounds like a children’s book villain.

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