Dressed to kill

Short Cuts: Of Guards And Thieves

Swanning through the aisles of Valve’s recent Steam Sale, I happened upon an ingenious little multiplayer title by the name Of Guards And Thieves. With nothing to lose but the dregs of my credit injection, I prodded Subvert Games‘ compact title through the checkout and went in blind.

Which is contextually on-point, as far as this tidy asymmetrical overhead grab-bag of goodness is concerned. If the pixel rapscallions from Monaco ever bumbled into a match of Rainbow Six: Siege or Splinter Cell’s Spies versus Mercs multiplayer, you’d get Of Guards And Thieves.

There are a number of modes on show, but the real jewel in the crown is Guards and Thieves. A two-round serving, players get the chance to play both sides in sequence. The main difference between the two groups comes down to visibility; guards only have a flashlight and environmental lighting to parse their surroundings, the thieves sport night vision goggles. Wondering what security firm couldn’t spring for NV aside, this divide emphasises an opposing modus operandi for both sides.

Thieves have the bonus of being able to see their opponents at all times, using the environment to skirt the limited but lethal cone of guardsmen’s torchlight. Thieves can hide in environmentally-specific assets like shrubbery or vents, as well as switch off lighting to cover their approach or retreat. Their target is an array of valuables in desperate need of retrieval, and the act of plumbing a complex in teams to divert and confuse the security detail is nothing short of thrilling.

By that same token, patrolling the nocturnal premises as a guard offers equally exciting options. Both the thieves and guards have a number of selectable classes to choose from, each with their own capabilities and kit. The guard side offers up a riot shield class, medics, CQC stealth operators and factory-standard brutes with business-grade small arms. Working your way around your charge, flashing beams through windows into darkened courtyards in the hope of getting a flash of interloper, listening for the sound of breaking glass along corridors; the limited awareness of the guard only heightens the feeling of fending off a liquid foe. It’s top notch gaming.

Did I mention it’s free?

Sure, there’s an option to pay a tenner-odd to increase hosting and mode abilities — which I think is well-worth it, given the content — but Of Guards And Thieves doesn’t have the whiff of a have/have not community split between the paid-up players and the free folk. It’s an adamant stance the developers have taken and explained since the Free-To-Play model was announced. It is also a game that would simply fall apart if the servers became parched for players. The more players, the better.

A gem. Go steal it.

NB: Steam currently only sports the PC version. Though still in Early Access at the time of writing, the developer has promised Mac and Linux ports on Steam at full release. However, if you’re Jonesing for some multiplayer in Cupertino, you can snag the equivalent online demo on the OGAT page.

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