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Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X
Genre: RPG/Action
Publisher: Team17
Developer: OverBorder Studio
Release Date: Aug. 18, 2022

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PC Review - 'Thymesia'

by Andreas Salmen on Aug. 19, 2022 @ 12:40 a.m. PDT

Set against a world ravaged by a plague, Thymesia will challenge players with fast-paced melee combat while they unravel the mysteries that haunt the harrowingly beautiful world.

Like many other titles to date, Thymesia is an action-RPG that fits squarely in the "Souls-like" category. I've grown a bit tired of Souls clones, especially after Elden Ring, but releases like Mortal Shell still twist the formula just enough to be enjoyable. Thymesia follows that same path, but it doesn't always come together in a way that is different and meaningful, especially in the visuals department. What it lacks in visual distinction, it does make up for with some very addictive and flowing combat mechanics that feel thoroughly satisfying.

Thymesia is set in the kingdom of Hermes, a world where alchemy is common but has slowly gotten out of hand. The land plagued by disease, and all hope to restore it to its former glory lies with Corvus, our plague-masked protagonist. Corvus is armed with a saber and can momentarily transform into a raven, both of which are great aids in combat. As Corvus, our aim is to recover memories that will eventually aid him to heal his world. To get to those, we need to get through some harsh environments and bosses. Compared to Dark Souls, Thymesia can be deceiving since it isn't as relaxed when it comes to its story. The game ending that you see depends on how well you paid attention to the memories you have recovered. If you can answer its final question correctly, you may be able to save the world after all. I did not feel very invested in the actual story moments, but it adds to the world-building. That won't completely hide the fact that a lot of what you're seeing and doing feels very familiar.

The bulk of the experience is the combat. It's here where Thymesia shows off the flashy mechanics that were carefully curated and combined into a surprisingly cohesive and fun system. It's reminiscent of BloodBorne, with a sprinkle of Sekiro in its parrying systems, making it an often offense-based but tactical experience. Corvus has a saber for regular attacks and a feather attack, each doing different kinds of damage. Regular attacks deplete the primary health bar of enemies and leave wounds. This second wound bar, if not depleted quickly enough, restores the primary bar. To win, you need to deplete both of the enemy's health bars by alternating saber and feather attacks until the foes bite the dust. That creates urgency to follow up attacks quickly enough before an enemy can heal the damage you've just caused if you're not fast enough. The game essentially encourages you to continue to engage with enemies up-close and to use dodges or parries to create openings. Winning requires meticulous observation of enemies and environments, learning attack patterns, and a lot of trial and error.

One key difference between Thymesia and most other games in the genre is the absence of a stamina bar. The game works a lot with its animations, so once you commit to a move, you're going to see it through. Technically, that means you can dodge a lot in quick succession, but due to animations playing out, if you dodge slightly out of sync with an enemy's attacks, you're still going to get hit. It takes a bit of getting used to; some may or may not prefer this over stamina-based games, but it works quite well. However, there were moments when I felt very restricted. Even one incorrect button press often left me defenseless, with no way to cancel or intervene even when there was plenty of time to do so. Once you get into the swing of things, Thymesia feels tight and reasonably responsive. It's absolutely a game where you reach a certain flow-state as you dodge and punish enemies throughout a level, and it reaches some great heights when everything comes together.

An absolute high point of Thymesia is the variety in character-build options. Corvus collects currency when killing enemies, and he loses the currency upon death unless it's retrieved in the next run. Beacons serve as checkpoints where players can change basic equipment and, most importantly, level up and invest in the skill tree. This can include extra buffs for dodges, increased damage for the saber, using projectiles to teleport, a counter for critical attacks (very similar to Mikiri counters in Sekiro), and many more. When I completed the main story after roughly seven hours, I had invested half of the possible skill points, and I still had several sub-quests to complete, but my build was already quite satisfying to play.

I'm not a fan of the parrying system in Thymesia, mainly due to small parrying windows and little returns when successfully parrying. I focused on dodges and dealing damage. Each successful dodge gave me an offensive buff, and my feather attack closed small distances very effectively. My play style revolved around getting in some damage, dodging away, and closing in to attack the wounds. I could see other players coming up with other, equally viable tactics and builds.

There's no equipment or armor, and you keep your main equipment throughout the adventure. Over the course of the game, you collect weapon shards from enemies. These unlock an extensive arsenal of plague weapons that unleash devastating attacks governed by your energy meter; the weapons can be further upgraded with more shards. Even after seeing the credits, I did not have all of them unlocked, and I didn't upgrade more than a handful to their full power, so there is some hidden depth, since some have their own neat little mechanics.

Thymesia has a solid foundation because the developers have put together a skill-centric combat system that flows well and has various skill tree options and a huge selection of powerful special attacks. It succeeds in creating a compelling and addictive gameplay formula, but it also often fails to do something interesting with it. Environments look bland and too close to most other games of its kind. Enemy variety is present but not impressive, and bosses vary from annoying to enjoyable, but never quite outstanding when judged at the high bar that other games have reached in the past. Should that deter you? Maybe. If you can see past the mediocre, there is something special and enjoyable here, and I had a lot of fun engaging with it when it worked.

A lot of that lies with its mixed bag of technical achievements. Thymesia looks "off" in a few ways. Transparency and cloth animations look out of place, enemies and Corvus can feel floaty, and the motion blur is nauseating (but can be turned off). It performs well, so there's not much that I can fault it for on the PC, except a few crashes that required me to force-quit the game to resolve. Otherwise, it feels not bad but not necessarily good, either. This may be due to budgetary restrictions or because it was rushed out the door, but the presentation and execution feel severely lacking, while the combat and gameplay clearly aim for higher goals. It's not a deal-breaker for a game like this, but I'm difficult to excite when Souls-like games look like you poured a brown-gray color palette over everything.

All in all, Thymesia is a mixed bag, but it scores where it counts. The tactical combat is a fun mix of BloodBorne and Sekiro that stumbles in several places. It's not distinct in its appearance, and it doesn't do as well in level and boss designs compared to other games of its genre. If you can look past that, Thymesia provides about 10 hours of content that won't shake up the genre but can entertain the right players.

Score: 6.7/10

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