I'm an unabashed long-time fan of the Thief series. I was excited to hear my favorite video games were getting a third installment. Then I played this...
The first time I played through this game, at every turn I sighed and thought bitterly about how such and such was different from this or that in the first two games. And almost every instance was different for the worse, not better. I finished the game with an unpleasant taste in my mouth. I've played it again before writing this review, this time deliberately putting the high expectation bar out of mind. The result has been a more enjoyable experience. It's a shame but I suppose what I'm saying is that I enjoyed this game more when I lowered my expectations for it, ahaha. NOT RECOMMENDED.
The gameplay is just... poorer. It's obviously geared towards facilitating console play, using a newly added third-person perspective, adding a "loot glint" sparkle on lootable items, etc. This has several drawbacks.
1) It decreases immersion, but I admit that is a subjective complaint. Maybe you don't think so.
2) It allows you to "cheat" by pivoting the camera around corners to scout rooms. That's just bad. On the other hand, if you try to play first-person, Garrett now has the silliest "peeking" style. He no longer leans left or right. He now STEPS out to "peek" around corners. And, yes, this is visible to enemies and changes your exposure on the light crystal. It's completely useless in first-person and completely superfluous in third-person. It really only does one thing: allows you to eavesdrop through doors.
The floating head physics we had in the originals is also out. He has a solid body now, but unless you use that third person camera, you'll find Garrett's body and legs bumping into chairs and tables, making all kinds of noise. What else... oh, he's forgotten how to swim. Water is now an insta-kill border in the game.
He has a turning radius like a van now. This is most frustrating when traversing ledges and pipes. If you turn your head and walk on a pipe you might fall off as he takes a wide semi-circular path to straighten out. Also, weird bug, occasionally when you jump in the air or try to mantle something he'll get "stuck" and hover around in a frozen falling/climbing animation. I'll admit this is useful sometimes because he makes no footstep noises while he flies around a few inches above the ground.
The graphics have been "improved" but at terrible cost. Whereas, Thief 1 and 2 had absolutely sprawling levels that you could run from end to end on a whim, Thief 3, as I'll be calling this, has mid-level loading zones! And they are every bit as obnoxious as you could imagine. And like the rest of that stuff I've mentioned, this has unfortunate consequences. When you zone, time freezes in the previous section. If you try ducking into another section with the City Watch in hot pursuit, when you return they'll be exactly where you left them, in mid-sentence even.
The story, that all-important story, is pretty good. Yes, it's not all bad here. I think it ties everything up fairly well; however, the execution was not excellent. The final scene, meant to invoke a "coming full circle" effect, came off as contrived. I also really miss the distinctive art style of the mission briefings and cutscenes. The briefings are just voiced-over text paragraphs now, and most of the cutscenes went for a realistic CGI direction and they.... do not look so good. The best ones invariably slid back towards the "moving comic" style of the originals.
The quality of the in-game dialogue and texts has taken a steep, steep dive. Of particular note, the speech of the Pagans almost seems like it was written by someone who listened to some of the original Pagans and just tried to mimic that, not someone who was originally involved in the process. It just sounds... silly. Garrett lampshades this by blatantly stating they speak in a funny dialect that focuses on the letter 's'. This doesn't excuse things.
Conclusion: I do recommend this game, but only just. Play it to see the story through to the end. Despite all my criticism, this game isn't terrible but it doesn't hold a candle to The Dark Project or The Metal Age.
P.S. Credit where credit is due: The best part of the game is without a doubt the Shalebridge Cradle mission. It's creepy, it's atmospheric, it calls back to Gervasius' library (Thief 2). That single level shines like a gem amid the rest of this game's muck.