When he was 10 years old, Strafe witnessed his father shooting his mother in the back of the head; angered and confused, Strafe ran away from home. While living on the streets of Noah, the Thieves Guild found him, and a thief named Ida raised him as her own child. Strafe, however, was still haunted by the memories of his mother's death.
Strafe is raised as a member of the Thieves Guild, and on his eighteenth birthday he is sent on a job to steal a signet ring from the house of a rich aristocrat of the city. When he arrives, Strafe sees his own father conspiring with the aristocrat, Sear. They are planning to eradicate the Thieves Guild, allowing the poor parts of the city to fall into chaos. Strafe abandons his mission to report the news to the Guild. A street war begins between the soldiers under the employ of Sear and the Thieves Guild; both factions fight to take control of the districts of the city.
The game is a third-person stealth shooter with elements from the Assassin's Creed series (such as the free running and climbing systems). In areas with enemies who have bulletproof armour or magical protection, it is recommended to quietly kill them, but when confronted with large numbers of unprotected enemies the game plays more like a traditional shooter. This is based on the approach to mixing stealth and combat used in Batman: Arkham City, but in a third-person shooter format.
Each district has an Influence value, which represents the influence the Thieves Guild holds in that area, measured as a percentage. The Influence for the entire city is also tracked. As Influence increases in a district, more money is earned for completing quests, more allied thieves spawn, and other positive benefits are earned.
Various actions, known as Tasks, can be performed to increase the Influence in a district. They are:
- Completing Main Quests in the district. Each quest earns 15% Influence.
- Completing Side Quests. Each side quest earns 5% influence.
- Clearing out Guard Posts. Guard Posts are specific areas where a large number of soldiers are stationed. If all of the soldiers are defeated, they will stop spawning in the Guard Post and 2% Influence will be earned in the district. Each district has 5 Guard Posts.
- Placing Propaganda posters. There are 10 poster locations in each district, where a poster can be placed to earn 1% Influence in the district.
The Guard Posts and Propaganda tasks in the Thieves District are completed during two of the district's side quests.
Upon reaching 90% Influence in any district, a new quest is unlocked which allows the final 10% to be obtained. These quests are akin to the main quests in their length and complexity, despite their optional nature. These quests also have unique rewards outside of obtaining Influence, such as new items or upgrades for Strafe or the Guild Hall.
Noah is broken up into six districts. They are:
- Thieves District: The location of the Thieves Guild Hall, which serves as the main hub for Strafe during the game.
- Gateway District
- Market District
- Moon District
- Rotten District
- Capital District
Dungeons is a term used loosely to refer to any area which is loaded separately from Noah, and are usually the settings of most quests.
- Sear's Mansion: The mansion belonging to Sear, located in the Capital District.
- Market Warehouse: A large, abandoned warehouse in the Market District which was likely used while importing and exporting businesses still thrived in Noah.
- Bank of Noah: A bank built by the nobles in the outskirt's Market District, to try and profit from the lower classes.
- Noah Sewers: A vast sewer system running beneath the entire city.
- Elven Mines: Mines built by the Elves long ago, which have since become a base for criminal operations and, deeper still, the lair of the Dragon Noah.
- Crown's Estate: The estate of Crown, one of the richest and most powerful nobles in Noah.
- Risk Sanctuary: The site of Dare's challenges, it can be accessed from various portals throughout the city; each new portal found unlocks a new challenge.
- Pistols: Strafe's default guns, two pistols which he dual-wields. They have unlimited standard ammo.
- Hand Cannon: A stronger pistol than the default Pistols, but it isn't dual-wielded, has a slower firing rate, and has limited ammo capacity.
- Sniper Rifle: The most accurate gun in the game, with high damage (and even higher damage on a headshot), but a low firing rate.
- Shotgun: A short-ranged weapon which fires in a spread, dealing large damage to a single target or small damage to many.
- Throwing Knives: Silent weapons with a short range that instantly kill unaware enemies, but which are easily avoided or deflected otherwise; best used as a stealth weapon.
- Standard Ammo: Default ammo used by all guns.
- Heavy Ammo: Takes longer to reload, but deals more damage.
- Pyro Ammo: Sets enemies on fire.
- Cryo Ammo: Freezes enemies for a short period of time.
- Electro Ammo: When an enemy is shot electricity jumps to all nearby enemies and deals damage.
- Knives: Default ammo used by the Throwing Knives weapon.
- Smoke Grenade: When thrown, creates a smoke screen that most enemies cannot see through.
- Grappling Hook: Allows Strafe to grapple onto most climbable surfaces from a distance.
- Lizard Plush Toy: When thrown, begins emitting noise which can distract nearby enemies.
- Dragon Plush Toy: Much the same as the Lizard Plush Toy, but it explodes when an enemy draws near. Has a much slower recharge rate than the Lizard Plush Toy, and cannot trick an enemy who has seen it's effect before.
- Masquerade Mask: Allows Strafe to have a separate Notoriety level with and without the mask equipped. If Strafe equips or unequips the mask while visible to a guard, however, his Notoriety level will carry over.
- Boost Gloves: Allows Strafe to perform a vertical jump while climbing walls to ascend more quickly.
- Light Boots: Increases Strafe's jump height and movement speed.
- Bandolier: Allows Strafe to hold twice as much ammo.
Guild Hall Upgrades
- Fast Travel: Earned after completing the Full House side quest. Allows Strafe to instantly travel to and from a number of locations throughout the city via underground tunnels; new fast travel locations are unlocked as influence is gained in each of the districts.
- Thug: Thugs use melee weapons such as clubs, axes or knuckles, but have low health and no special defenses.
- Soldier: Soldiers use light automatic weapons, but have low health and no special defenses.
- Sniper: Snipers use sniper rifles, which reveal their position by the laser sight they emit but can deal lethal amounts of damage if Strafe does not avoid them. They have low health and no special defenses, however.
- Knight: Knights wield shotguns (which can nearly instantly kill Strafe if he exposes himself to them), and wear special enchanted armour that is immune to bullet damage. They can be killed with Throwing Knives if caught unaware, or by a headshot otherwise. Their armour makes them quite slow, but if Strafe reveals himself to them at a close range their shotguns are almost always lethal.
- Pyromancer: Pyromancers throw explosive fireballs at Strafe which light him on fire, dealing sustaining damage, if he is caught in the blast. They have no special defenses, however.
- Cryomancer: Cryomancers cast a short-ranged freezing spell which slows Strafe down as he is exposed to it, making him an easier target for other enemies. They have magical protection which protects them from standard bullets, but which can be pierced by Heavy or enchanted ammunition, or by Throwing Knives.
- Ashley: A mercenary hired to join Sear's army.
- Noah: A dragon who sleeps below the city of Noah, and the city's namesake.
- Lock: Strafe's father, conspiring with Sear to destroy the Thieves Guild.
- Sear: A noble who seeks to destroy the Thieves Guild and throw the poor districts into chaos.
- Jeremy Coarson: A non-Guild thief.
- Mist: A non-Guild thief.