The Art Of Thief by Paul Davies (book review).

‘The Art Of Thief’ is a graphical celebration of the Square Enix video game and published by Square Enix, available on Xbox 360 and Xbox One, PS4 and Windows PC formats.


From the first look at the cover it is clear that there is a spectacular treat inside. The cover is a misty grey background in which a faint figure can be seen with an outstretched hand grasping towards the reader.

The book itself works on a number of levels. For a fan of video gaming, it is a rare chance to revel in the stunning background art which one often simply blasts through in pursuit of in game glory.


For technology fans, it is a chance to view computer art at a stupendously high level.

For art fans, this could be a chance to study the most modern and widely enjoyed form of 2D art around.

The book begins with a description of the titular character, a highly skilled thief called Garrett. His initial development took place over a mindboggling three year period. Part of his dramatic appearance is his magically damaged right eye. This eye seems to glow green through a mass of scarred lids. This is a nice example of the characters form and game play being linked. The magical accident enables him to have super-human focus and it adds a nice element to the back story. As one might imagine with such a dexterous person, the dramatic attention to detail extends to his hands. Four glossy pages are dedicated to these elegant tools of the trade.


There are also a series of dramatic sketches showing the development of Garrett’s animalistic posture. I am not sure if the initial sketches were watercolours or drawn digitally but the results are a stunning montage of ninjitsu forms.

I was also struck repeatedly by the subtle differences in the textures of the various materials used in clothing and equipment. One wonders how much of this magnificent detail is appreciable in the final game.

This attention to detail also shows in the storyboard sections. The Mission 2 storyboard consists of 85 cartoon sketches. The storyboard reads like the skeleton of a graphic novel. It would not be a huge stretch for such a thing to be developed.


No game of this nature could function without a large cast of supporting and non-player characters. From the main antagonist and his army, through to a large cast of bystanders and civilians. Here again the attention to detail is mind-blowing. The text describes how technical needs dictate a certain amount of recycling and reusing of facial features and body shapes, but the finite combinations provide a huge variety of people. The differences in appearance between rich and poor and young and old are testament to the creative power of the games creators.

With detailed descriptions of the design of traps and loot, the book gives a deep insight into the games mechanics. I can recognise a ruby cabochon necklace in a Victorian style and a Fabergé influenced treasure chest. The attention to detail echoes the facets in a perfect gemstone.

The amazing sumptuous artwork reaches its peak with the shots of the scenery. Imagine a bleak steampunk world picked out in misty sepia tones. I am in awe of the detail displayed. Computer art and CG movies and games are at the point where they are able to display detail beyond mere human eye’s ability to resolve. Time and again the viewer of these images will wonder how much of the amazing detail will be missed when playing the game? This echoes real life to an extent. How much of the detail of the world around us is missed in our daily lives.


Overall, this book is a spectacular series of prints sequenced together to give an insight into the incredible world of ‘Thief’. Reviewing the artwork almost exhausted my list of superlative descriptions. I have yet to play the game which in a way meant I was able to judge the book on its own merits. Happily these are many and varied. The book will appeal to art and game lovers equally.

Andy Bollan

March 2014

(pub: Titan Books. 191 page illustrated hardback. Price: £29.99 (UK), $34.95 (US), $41.00 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-78329-097-0)

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