In the realm of action role-playing games, the use of foundational ideas from the genre-establishing Souls series has enabled plenty of games to make their own mark in the role-playing arena known for its challenging combat. For OverBorder Studio and Team17, the end result is Thymesia, where Soulslike combat meets fresh gameplay elements that change things up just enough to warrant an extended look.
Set against the backdrop of the falling of the Kingdom of Hermes, the once glorious empire rose to power using alchemy, but it soon became clear that the price to pay for such progress was becoming too steep. Attempts to halt its use were met with repeated failure, and it didn’t take too long for the kingdom to fall prey to chaos as infected monsters begin prowling the bloodsoaked streets.
The only hope lies with the player, who takes on the role of Corvus, an enhanced individual that can harness the power of not just the plague infecting Hermes, but also that of the Raven. Thymesia takes an interesting route for its storytelling, where instead of a large open world, there are different levels to choose from, each full of dangerous enemies, but more importantly, pieces of Corvus’ fractured memories that open up new areas and quests to be completed.
That’s not to say progress is entirely dependent on going off the beaten path in order to amass these collectibles, but it is a different approach to encouraging exploration and engaging with the lore, which serves to add even more colour to this particular world.
Of course, at its core, Thymesia has a rightful focus on its combat system, governed by the familiar stamina system that requires players to be more measured when engaging the enemy. Light and heavy attacks allow for combos to be strung together, but Corvus’ surprising mastery of the plague opens up another avenue to inflict hurt.
In the initial stages, this comes in the form of ripping and seizing plague weapons from both normal enemies as well as the bosses lying in wait. This could be a spectral spear that gives you distance while attacking, or a powerful hammer that does great area-of-effect damage. Seizing them successfully allows limited use of these special armaments, but as you destroy more of the opposition, there is always the chance of special shards associated with said plague weapons dropping as loot.
Collect enough of them, and you can unlock permanent additions to your arsenal, giving you a more dependable option of otherworldly abilities to even the odds. Running on a separate energy resource, combat then becomes more varied and interesting the deeper you dive into Thymesia.
It also helps that the game features a competent upgrade system that not only allows the hardworking players to upgrade and modify Corvus’ abilities both in combat and movement, but also that of the plague weapons. By combining defensive and offensive options, coupled with complementary Raven abilities and plague weapons that can be enhanced for more bonuses, the progression in Corvus’ effectiveness is a key driver in getting better at the game.
And you are going to need as much practice as possible, especially against the inhuman denizens that have been corrupted by the plague. These monsters are all hostile and thirsty for blood, and are often a handful on their own. If you happen to be caught in a group melee, then things get even hairier.
Expect to fight enemies with varying attacks and patterns, requiring you to approach each battle with caution and strategy, dividing and conquering until Corvus is the last one standing. The aforementioned enhancements definitely help, and mixing up your abilities will only make your life easier instead of worrying about stamina constantly. Learning how to read enemies, being smart with parries and dodges, and striking at the most opportune moments are vital factors for victory.
This is even more paramount when facing the minibosses and level bosses that hold the important components for upgrades, such as the ones for your healing potions, which also have their own crafting system for players to find the right mix when it comes to defensive and healing benefits.
While minibosses are tougher variants of some of the enemies you will find wandering the world, the end-level bosses in Thymesia often take a gigantic leap in difficulty, requiring players to be at the top of their game. A certain boss might overwhelm you with powerful blows if you are too hasty, while another tests your defensive mettle with parries proving an integral counter to their attacks.
Unlike the rest of the encounters, the boss fights are rightfully highlights in Thymesia, and the real test of your prowess in this world. Knowing that besting them not only grants you bragging rights, but also important resources should provide impetus for most players of this genre, and even if you find it hard for the first few bouts, grinding and upgrading are always methods that can help.
Speaking of grinding, the standard rules apply in Thymesia, in that you will lose your precious resources for upgrading every time you perish. Make it back to where you were slain, and you can retrieve your valuables.
That said, the game does not exactly feature a wide breadth of enemies to fight; it can feel a tad repetitive especially when you are doing subquests in shorter levels that make use of the same environments. On one hand, that means you will only become better at killing them, but on the other, things might get too predictable to be fun.
Thymesia is also not exactly a long experience unless you are into incessant grinding, and it should take seasoned veterans probably around 8 to 10 hours to see it through. Not that it is a bad thing, but it is one factor to consider when there are alternatives such as Elden Ring lying about. At the very least, the upgrades and the memory chasing makes the journey more interesting.
At the end of the day, Thymesia is another good addition to the growing space of Soulslike, delivering something different enough in its storytelling and the tweaks made to combat. While it may not be the best when it comes to variety, it cannot be faulted when the all-important combat has plenty to offer. Even in the age of calamity facing the once thriving Kingdom of Hermes, there is still a silver lining after all.
Thymesia launches on Steam on 18 August.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
With its gruelling action and interesting premise, Thymesia joins other contemporaries in enhancing the Soulslike genre with enough freshness to stand on its own.
Gameplay - 7.5/10
Story - 7/10
Presentation - 7/10
Value - 7/10