The experience of discovering narrative bits in virtual environments is games’ unique contribution to the storytelling tradition. The design of the Thief games—from environment, to audio, to objects, to scripting, to player-character and AI—is the best foundation for games’ style of narrative. Looking Glass Studios’ Thief: The Dark Project and Thief II: The Metal Age, and, to a lesser degree, Ion Storms’ Thief: Deadly Shadows relayed narrative superbly via first-person immersion, stealth gameplay, and environmental storytelling.

Throughout Dark Narrative, Trevor Whalen will make the case for these games as he looks at their missions and the stories they tell. The thesis is that the design behind the Thief series lays the most effective foundation for interactive storytelling.

This series will jump back and forth between missions from Thief: The Dark Project and its Gold re-release, Thief II: The Metal Age, and Thief: Deadly Shadows. In addition to the games’ official missions, fan-made missions by users at “Through the Looking Glass” will also be considered.

The following lists each article in chronological order with the newest article in the series first.

The Sorrow of the Widow Moira

dark narrative widow moira

In Thief: Deadly Shadows’ “Seaside Mansion” mission, the tone contrasts sharply with the other manor missions. Moira’s sorrow trickles down the whole place’s atmosphere, and her character, and the threats she is facing, illustrate her as a sympathetic character. Read more here…

Phantoms of the Opera

dark narrative phantoms of the opera

Games are unique in their power to suggest stories because of the virtual structures that players explore. Thief is a brilliant example of story-suggestion. Any given game can do this, but Thief’s advantage is the role it gives the player. Since you are placed in the background and are tasked with remaining hidden and avoiding confrontation, you are at greater ease to observe the many visuals, objects, and sounds in the world, and then to recreate a story from them. Read more here…

A Seminary and a Crypt

dark narrative eavesdropping seminary and crypt

In the Thief II mission Eavesdropping, Garrett journeys to a Mechanist seminary to overhear a meeting between Karras, the Mechanists’ leader, and Gorman Truart, the corrupt sheriff of the City. This Eastport seminary is built onto an older Hammerite church. The level’s structure displays Thief II’s central theme: the new Mechanist era replacing the older Hammerite era. The outdated Hammerite imagery, relics, and catacombs hearken to the mood and atmosphere of The Dark Project, while the art deco and radiant Mechanist décor hail a new era, The Metal Age. Read more here…

Tomb Raidin’

dark narrative tomb raidin

Far from the comfy abodes of the wealthy and the familiar hum of civilization, haunted crypts and dead cities lie. Garrett ventures away from the confines of the City a few times to breach some of these cursed graveyards or ancient civilizations, making him more than a simple thief. In this entry of Dark Narrative, I cover a couple of these missions. These adventuresome romps with otherworldly beings are just as enthralling as travels through manor-houses and other buildings of the City. Read more here…

These Dark Walls Speak: An Interview With Thief Fan Mission Author “skacky”

skacky interview dark narrative thief

“skacky,” or Romain Barrilliot, is one of the best Thief fan missions authors there is. Most of his missions are done in a surreal style based on the original title, ThiefThe Dark Project. For this special entry of Dark Narrative, I had the privilege to chat with skacky.  Read more here…


dark narrative assassins thief banner

Garrett loots his fair share of corrupt lords’ manors, including the crooked Bafford’s, but his mission is more personal when he goes after Lord Ramirez. Ramirez had sent his tough-boys to kill Garrett. As explained in the mission’s briefing, Garrett’s made a number of enemies by working independent. Fortunately for players, the assassins kill the wrong man, so Garrett is able to follow them back to Ramirez’s place and enact a little payback. Read more here…

Shipping…and Receiving

dark narrative shipping and receiving thief

In Thief II’s “Shipping…and Receiving” mission, player-character and master thief Garrett learns about the Mechanists, a new religious group in town that broke off from the game’s other main religion,the Hammerites, in a looting run at the dockyards. The Mechanists are a mysterious group, ostensibly just concerned about technological progress in the City but are harboring a darker design. You, Garrett, learn of them via narrative caches in the environment, delivered through Thief’s singular, strong story design. Read more here…

Lord Bafford’s Manor

lord baffords manor thief dark narrativeLord Bafford’s Manor is the first area you get to explore in Thief and it lays the groundwork for the narrative design of the game. The mission is a simple one, but has many narrative caches to discover, if you so choose to look. From the start you see the foundation for incredible interactive storytelling. Read more here…