I write this on the basis of not having played previous Thief games in the series. However, Thief: Deadly Shadows proved itself a firm favourite and true classic on my list (I owned the game on disc when it was first released but had to re-purchase on Steam so it was compatible with my current PC). It's true that the graphics are now very obsolete compared to more modern titles - but it has been around for over ten years! - and I still have fond memories of exploring, stealing, sneaking, and eavesdropping.
Garrett is perhaps one of the most memorable game characters and superbly voice-acted by Stephen Russell. Garrett's real strength lies, not in combat, but stealth, utilizing the shadows, and on occasion render troublesome guards unconscious with the blackjack. He's also in possession of dagger, although players favouring more a killing nature doesn't really have much bearing on the gamelay as it did in, say, Dishonored.
The levels themeselves are extensive and credible; compulsive explorer players may desire to linger and search these sandbox-style maps to the full in order to collect 100% treasure. Such ill-gotten valuables are then sold to a fence and money can purchase useful tools and items to help Garrett in his adventures: flashbombs can be deployed in sticky situations, water arrows extinguish torches, oil flasks can cause guards to slip, noise arrows distract and misdirect guards....and many others handy for certain tight situations. The City itself is divided into several districts and offers a few (but not many) distractions from the main story; regarding side-quests, Deadly Shadows isn't on par with Deus Ex: Invisible War (even though they shared the same engine) and Garrett can only break and enter into about a dozen buildings, only a couple of which contain prized treasures. One particular level stands out as a ground-breaking piece of atmospheric story-telling: the chilling Shalebridge Cradle was regarded as a tidemark by Thief fans and became famous within gaming circles. The hairs on my neck stood on end thoughout the entire level!
But there are a couple of ♥♥♥♥les: one of which that Garrett can't swim despite it being possible for him to fall into water proved a frustrating possibility. With later games catering to more aquatic-capable characters, such as Deus Ex, Assassin's Creed II onwards, GTA San Andreas, Dishonored, even the recent Thief title,(sometimes swimming was actually an option or requisite to a particular mission in these games), here Deadly Shadows stumbles on the credible side. Alternatively, I would have preferred an 'invisible forcefield' keeping Garrett safe on the pier. Admittedly, not entirely plausible for world immersion, but less frustrating. Another annoying gameplay issue would be broadhead arrows: these things should be lethal - yet, once alerted, sometimes it took about four of them to kill a guard. I can understand one wound enraging an enemy, but surely a second would cause them to have second thoughts and retreat hastily from the scene? It would have been more fun and plausible having a bloodied guard stumbling about alerting colleagues, forcing Garrett into hiding once more.
The main story itself concerns an imminent period of darkness about to engulf the City. It's up to Garrett to explore locations in a bid to uncover clues and fulfil counter-measures in order to prevent this from happening. Cutscenes are excellent affairs explaining the plot as it thickens and motives behind each mission. Garrett himself (Stephen Russell) regales the player with a determination, as if talking to himself but steadying the nerves.
Although an old game, it's one that has aged well for veteran gamers with fond memories, and guaranteed to return now and again to sample such a fine brew.