Thymesia Review – Innovation or imitation?

Reviewed August 16, 2022 on PC

Platforms:

PC, PS5, Xbox Series X

Released:

August 9, 2022

Publisher:

Team17

Developer:

OverBorder Studio

I really am a lover of the Soulsborne genre. Possibly one of the newest and most definitive game genres around, the style mixes intense challenge with rewarding gameplay, cryptic and dense plot and lore, and larger-than-life themes. Many games, both indie and big budget, have stepped up to the plate to challenge the big dogs (Dark Souls, Bloodborne, and Nioh to name a few) and failed. Some have succeded to carve out a niche audience for themselves, such as The Surge and recently Stranger of Paradise. Then there are others that come and go, not particularly terrible but not at all brilliant, and are a flash-in-the-pan experience that you’ll probably forget in another month’s time. I believe Thymesia, the latest Soulsborne entrant to the scene, fits in this camp.

Thymesia offers up many of the ingredients that fans of the genre are familiar with. A once great city has succumbed to a plague, and it is up to you, the player, to figure out what has happened and defeat the grotesque beasties that now inhabit the land. Familiar? I thought so.

The game has everything: a world built upon Colossal Trees, a plague, a blessed flame, alchemical healing, and ‘beacons’ used to respawn. At times, it certainly felt derivative, but also somewhat comforting to know that there are some staple elements at play to lay the foundation for some hopefully¬†satisfying gameplay.

In Thymesia, you play as Corvus, a blade and claw-wielding witch-doctor-esque warrior with a knack for the elegant dispatching of foes. Enemy variety is solid, with enough different combinations to keep players on their toes, as well as the occasional environmental hazard to test your wits. By utilising a fairly diverse range of combat elements at your disposal, you will guide Corvus through each of the game’s stages and take down the boss of the area. The bosses are all varied, well designed, and brutally challenging. Luckily, the game provides you with many options and strategies to fight these enemies.

The game is smooth as butter and the animations are fluid and well executed. Graphically, the game shines, and is a sterling example of a modern “indie-ish” title that really commits to visual and mechanical excellence. Thymesia truly presents as a game with a high-end budget.

Combat in Thymesia is the game’s crowning jewel and far exceeds expectations, especially considering how poor combat often feels in the non-FromSoftware Soulslike titles. Corvus fights with a blade, his plague claws, feather-like projectiles, and ‘Plague Weapons’. Grasping these various combat elements to destroy your enemies is endlessly satisfying, and the bosses of the game truly put you to the test in your strategic deployment of said elements.

The aforementioned Plague Weapons is one of the coolest and more innovative mechanics introduced in Thymesia. By holding down the right trigger, Corvus charges up his plague claws and thrusts them into the enemy, ripping out a Plague Weapon from within them. Initially, these are single-use attacks; a thrusting spear attack, or a fanning projectile attack using throwing knives. However, later in the game, you are able to equip these permanent side-arms to deploy in combat. There is a large variety to discover throughout the game, as well as some unique ones available from the game’s bosses, providing an excuse for replayability and experimentation. For me, I stuck with the spear – getting range on enemies and being able to stagger them from a medium distance sat very well in my play style.

Speaking of playstyles, Thymesia is fairly open in its character build options, which is a welcome feature and sits in line with most other good Soulslikes. I built my Corvus into a fast-moving, frantically slashing warrior which ended up feeling very similar to Sekiro. You can alter the contents of your potions to give certain buffs and bonuses, such as increased damage and defence for a period of time, and even have an auto-heal perk that will automatically use potions after a kill shot. Can’t complain about a built-in second wind!

“After repeatedly throwing myself at particularly rough bosses, I would often return to a beacon to muck about with my build…”

At every level, you will gain an additional point in a stat of your choice, and then a talent point which is used to unlock different perks. The talent tree is extensive and varied, with many different buffs and adaptations available for a range of different playstyles. The game allows you to chop and change these at will too, so you are never locked into one particular playstyle. After repeatedly throwing myself at particularly rough bosses, I would often return to a beacon to muck about with my build to try and address the shortcomings I was facing.

Where I can heap praise upon Thymesia for interesting combat and creative systems, I can also heap criticism on the fact that none of this feels like a leap forward or true innovation for the genre. While the cliche use of adjectives and certain pronouns to set up the world and environment is comforting on one hand, it is also a symptom of a genre that is failing to move past its, admittedly immense and impressive, roots. Instead, like so many before it, by the end of Thymesia I really felt like I just played through yet another imitation, albeit one that flew fairly close to potential greatness.

It feels like a game that was intended to be much longer and deeper than the final product. There are seeds planted early in the game that never really come to fruition and leave me wondering if something occurred during development that halted fleshing out more of the game’s hanging threads. I would have loved to have seen more of the world, more of the lore, and more degradation of the world to witness the vile and grotesque results.

Finally, there is a certain awkwardness to Thymesia that is somewhat difficult to define, but after many hours in the game, I believe it to be a lack of voice acting, sense of purpose, and character depth. Sure, Soulslike games are not big narrative blockbusters, but there is often enough context and character injected into the game to give it a certain personality or identity.

“…a real lack of urgency and purpose for Corvus’ task, with no real definitive characters fleshing the game out.”

I found Thymesia a little off in this regard; a real lack of urgency and purpose for Corvus’ task, with no real definitive characters fleshing the game out. While there is dialogue, none of it is voiced and often the dialogue is displayed during boss fights – so obviously the player will miss this because they are desperately trying not to die. It is a shame because I believe there is definitely something engaging and intriguing to the world OverBorder Studio has made, but it is presented so awkwardly that I didn’t really feel connected to it.

6.5

Decent

Positive:

  • Great and impressive combat mechanics
  • Fluid movement and animations showcase excellent production quality
  • Striking visuals create a wondrous experience

Negative:

  • Derivative, if a little comforting, world-building and lore
  • Stops short of fleshing out the world and introducing more variety
  • Lack of voice acting leaves character interactions and plot feeling awkward

Thymesia is unlikely to blow anyone’s socks off, especially if they are a Souls veteran. A snappy, fluid, and visually striking experience doesn’t quite make up for the lack of character and purpose the game unfortunately suffers from. You’ll likely enjoy your time playing the game and fighting through the different locations and bosses, but Thymesia still fails somewhat to leave a lasting impression.