Killers and Thieves Impressions—Limited Stealth

Strategic loot ’em up with intriguing story but muddy gameplay.

Game: Killers and Thieves

Developer: Alex Thomas

Publisher: Stoic

Reviewed: PC

Greypool sounds like the ideal spot for staging heists. It’s shady streets and melancholic tunes are certainly convincing enough. But while Killers and Thieves premise of directing a crew of multi-skilled crooks sounds good in theory, the mission layouts aren’t so user friendly. The game objective is simple: recruit thieves, expand their skills, and generate income to keep your unsavoury guild afloat. Your starting point, The Patron Saint, acts as a hub for everything including expenses, training and the world map, from where you can access story missions (and optional missions if you’re after extra XP). Beyond this point gameplay becomes fuzzy—even in the tutorial.

Locating where your thieves are positioned on the map, and determining who is who, is confusing. There’s no marker to identify where they’re hiding, so you can’t predict if they’ll emerge at an inopportune moment and end up in an altercation with guards. This spells trouble for genuine levels because Killers and Thieves prioritises stealth, and alerting guards too much causes even more to spring forth. However, once you slip inside the hamlets, the joy begins. Controlling these adult Oliver Twists to unlock doors and pick up bounties fills you with a slow adrenaline rush that only builds when guards patrol so very close by. If you steal too slowly, you risk being captured and imprisoned for three days, so it goes without saying that selecting the right thief for the job is important. The animations are great, and capture the same beautiful and cartoonish fluidity of The Banner Saga, so it’s a shame character art is reused and thieves don’t feature more distinct design during heists.

The rest of Killers and Thieves turns into a micromanagement smorgasboard that sees you juggling the costs of properties, feeding your merry bandits, and waiting several turns for their training to complete. It’s an intriguing combination of elements, yet feels mildly repetitive. Initially, earning gold is fun. It grants you power to upgrade core and minor abilities which raise your chances of success during heists. There’s a diverse range of characters too, and their sporadic dialogues are well-written and had me excited to advance the story. However, the visual representation for each new area hardly differs, draining player motivation despite a wonderful setup.

Overall, Killers and Thieves has its heart in the right place, but its mix of stealth and strategy quickly becomes monotonous—even for lovers of stealth like me. A clearer user interface and more variety in level design would lift its appeal tremendously. It’s out now through Steam for $19.99 USD.

A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.