Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Book review – The Art of Thief

The Art of Thief

By Paul Davies

Published by Titan Books

From the book and the Titan Books website:

The Art of Thief is the ultimate gallery of the world of Garrett, the master thief. Sketches, concept art, and behind-the-scenes commentary from the artists shine a light on the dark alleys and deadly foes Garrett faces every day. The City and its oppressed citizens are realised in stunning detail, from the secrets and lies lurking around every corner, to the halls and treasures of the Baron himself. Follow Garrett through the back doors of The City and into a world of amazing detail and surprising beauty.

Titan Books’ The Art of Thief will give fans and in-depth look at Square Enix’s enormously anticipated new game, featuring exclusive concept and development art, as well as detailed creator insights and commentary throughout. This book will showcase Garrett’s underworld in beautiful detail and truly show the art of the Master Thief.

An art book can be more than just a bunch of pages filled with pretty pictures. Done right, an art book can give you valuable insight into the thought processes that go into the design of something, be it a TV show, movie or – in this case – a computer game, and give the entire thing much more depth and personality.

Titan Books are well known for the quality of their ‘Art of ‘ books, and once again they haven’t failed to deliver.

I have spent the day immersed in the pages of this book. I’m a great admirer of the ‘steampunk’ genre, and of alternate histories that feel real but have a small twist that makes it just that little bit fantastical, such as the inclusion of magic or technologies far ahead that of reality. The world of Thief is one such creation, a pseudo-Victorian world of darkness, decay and weird things that I don’t remember seeing in the history books.

The world is at once recognisable and different, recognisable enough to be able to connect to the reality of it but just so far removed so that you can revel in the strangeness of it all.

This hardback edition, with a minimal uncrowded cover that’s probably the brightest part of the entire book, is quite hefty so you already feel like you’re getting your money’s worth.

The Art of Thief expresses these weird and wonderful differences only too well. After a forward from Nicolas Cantin, the game and art director of Thief, the book begins with chapter one and this is an overview of ‘Garrett’, the game’s protagonist. It’s an interesting design study, with plenty of images of him in various stances, designs for his sneaky hands (which you’ll no doubt see a lot of in the game), facial renditions, small storyboards of him in action and equipment. With plenty of unobtrusive notes there’s a lot to learn here and the designs and artwork, even though some of it is a little repetitive, is excellent.

The next chapter, ‘Characters’, gets much more meaty as we see the designs of plenty of people that populate the world of Thief. Personalities shine here through expressions and costumes and the design work is incredibly atmospheric; the designs for the Watch are particularly impressive.

Chapter 3, ‘Loots, puzzles and Props’ details the smaller things in the game, such as things that Garrett might be stealing, the trials and problems he might face getting to the things he wants to steal and the nasty surprises awaiting him should he steal it. There’s some amazing oil painting artwork and Victorian style flyers/posters here that look great

Finally, my favourite part of the book is Chapter 4, ‘The City’. This is where the book oozes atmosphere and the dark, grimy world of the game comes to life. The decaying Victorian-style architecture seems to be almost camouflaged against the dreary, grey rain-soaked sky and the locations, varied and expansive, look to be amazing places to game in. It makes me want to grab my controller and play the game right now, the illustrations just make me want to experience the locations. This chapter is rounded off with a glorious map of the City so you can get an idea of just how large the place is.

As much as this book makes me ache to play the game on my console, I’m also a tabletop roleplayer and I could use this book to run a very successful steampunk-style Victorian campaign with no problem. The art on show here can’t fail to inspire any kind of gamer.

This is an excellent book filled with some amazing artwork. Paul Davies writes clearly and doesn’t intrude on the images, and the insights he gives regarding the inspiration and thought that went into the designs is informative and interesting. Titan Books have once again produced another ‘Art of’ title that both looks great and reads great. This is a must for any fans of the game, the genre and art in general.

Highly recommended.