The Thaumaturge Review – Embrace the demons within

Reviewed March 5, 2024 on PC


PC, PS5, Xbox Series X|S


March 4, 2024


11 bit studios


Fool's Theory

Set in early 20th-century Warsaw, Poland, in a world where esoteric demons and troubled humans unknowingly co-exist, The Thaumaturge is thematically distinct and undeniably intriguing. It’s here, in these delightfully dark surroundings, that a story-driven RPG with stylish turn-based combat exists, with morally ambiguous decisions around every corner. Delivering some sharp writing and compelling supernatural narrative possibilities, The Thaumaturge is well-crafted and impossible to ignore, even if some of its production could use a bit of an upgrade.

The Thaumaturge follows the story of Wictor Szulski (pronounced Victor), a Thaumaturge – a sort of old-school “magician”, someone who is gifted (or perhaps burdened) with the ability to peel back the curtain on people’s emotions. He’s able to draw deep connections between these people and the objects they have touched, all the while able to liaise with demonic creatures called Salutors, who burden folk via their flaws.

Wiktor is grieving the loss of his father, also a Thaumaturge himself, and it’s this connection to the dark side that leaves him confused. Naturally, in 1905, some folk question the witch-craft dark magic vibe that being a Thaumaturge supposedly comes with, while others are eager to enlist Wiktor to use his abilities to help them. Regardless of which path you want to go down, the story comes to a head as you piece together what happened to your father during his mysterious death, where that leaves you on your search for identity, and how it impacts those around you and your family legacy.

“…the dark tone doesn’t stop the views from being breathtaking.”

1905 Warsaw itself is a rich setting, full of inhabitants with their own varying views and beliefs; Russian soldiers, Jewish merchants and Polish townspeople, among others, provide lots of interesting backstory. The high-society formal parties prove to be just as devilish and dangerous as the dilapidated buildings and hidden bars full of strange ne’er-do-wells. It’s a thrill to explore, with points of interest around each district allowing you to take in the views, or perhaps sit and take in the surroundings, literally whipping up a quick drawing on canvas to create a memory.

There’s a lot of thought in the game’s design, with environments quite detailed and gorgeous. The isometric perspective allows for a beautiful view of what’s around you, and the dark tone doesn’t stop the views from being breathtaking. Buildings are adorned with flowers across their balconies as fancily dressed women whip out their parasols for a walk in the park. In stark contrast, the cemetery is gloomy but still pretty, in a haunting way, with flickering candlelight reflecting off of the mud while mourners grieve the loss of their loved ones, crying over tombstones.

Looking too closely, however, and that uncanny valley “dead behind the eyes” look is hard to ignore when having conversations with key characters. Some of the animations are wooden, as are the performances from certain cast members. Even Wiktor himself comes off as stilted in cut scenes, much more natural are the delivery of his stray observations about the world he finds himself in. In the streets, while there is a background crowd noise representing “hustle and bustle”, characters themselves don’t speak unless spoken to, with dialogue simply represented as lines of text above their heads instead of audio. With some clipping and other niggly visual inconsistencies throughout, The Thaumaturge absolutely kills it with art direction and style but is lacking a bit of polish elsewhere.

Another high point of The Thaumaturge is its combat, which is visually the most freakin’ stylish take on turn-based battles since Persona 5. Everything is immaculate, from the catchy soundtrack filled with erratic strings and piano that’s reminiscent of the period it’s set in, to the stunning (and fairly violent) attacks that you’re able to achieve when you’re in the thick of an intense brawl. This is particularly true when it comes to the demon-like Salutors that fight alongside you.

It’s hard not to be impressed by the brutality on display, like when your main skeleton friend Upyr stabs a sword through the guts of an enemy, or when the demonic six-legged Bukavac takes a massive bite out of their neck, or when the creepy sorcerer-like Weles uses their lizard-tongue to disgust and disarm enemies with a dark and creepy kiss. The animations here are slick and further enhance the creepy, supernatural style.

You’ll slowly build a roster of these creatures that can be used in battle; when it’s your turn to fight, you’ll choose one action for yourself, and one for just one of your Salutors, each with their own attack speed, represented by a helpful timeline at the top of the screen. Naturally, quick attacks don’t do as much damage as very slow ones, and balancing your abilities with those of your intense mythological demon pals is where battles have a strategic edge that feels incredibly satisfying to crack.

Draining Focus from your enemies is important, as it can leave them vulnerable, as is capitalising on their weaknesses using specific Salutors. There are different buffs you can apply to your abilities as you go along, too, adding further depth. If you’re clever, you’re able to stack and combo different abilities; for example, you can reduce Focus with Wiktor so that the giant Golem can hit with double damage, pummelling enemies into a paste to devastating effect. Completely draining an enemy’s focus leaves them open to a sort of super-attack, while other Salutors are more effective in healing. As you’re juggling the timing, the Focus of you and your foes, plus the various health pools in play, there is plenty of substance to match the style in The Thaumaturge’s girthy battles, which are rarely a pushover and often require careful tactics to win.

Outside of combat, your core role is examining objects to come up with observations. You’ll find interactable objects by pressing a Perception button, which highlights them in what looks like mysterious red confetti, allowing you to investigate them using your Thaumaturge abilities. Each observation linked to an object is very thoughtfully written, and with a lot of detail; based on your traits of Heart, Mind, Deed and Word, you’ll eventually link objects together to draw conclusions.

It’s neat to piece together evidence in this way, even though the act itself feels rudimentary, with the Perception button essentially pointing you where to go at all times, highlighting items and objectives. The writing is strong enough that it still feels gratifying to put the pieces of the puzzle together, but it would have been nice if this was presented in a way that had you investigating and coming to your own conclusions, rather than it being laid out for you.

“What were those other options? What could I have done differently? It’s enticing for additional playthroughs…”

This is mitigated somewhat by the dialogue choices you’ll make when talking with key characters. Based on how much you’ve upgraded your traits, certain conversation options will be unavailable. Earlier decisions have ramifications; there were several times I saw a conversation option blocked out with the words “As a result of your decision, this path is closed”. Some responses you can choose are clearly a bit cocky, and that can feed your personal Flaw of Pride, which can also change what future options are available, with potential consequences. It makes it genuinely feel like your choices have a ripple effect; in some instances, I only had one conversation path to follow, with two blanked out, and the choice I was left with wasn’t the best. What were those other options? What could I have done differently? It’s enticing for additional playthroughs and makes choices feel less binary, which is a nice touch.

It all comes to a head in a satisfying conclusion, and the method of slowly discerning the flaw of each person, “capturing” Salutors (with some optional ones in the mix) and progressing your Thaumaturge powers is absorbing until the credits roll. I did find it frustrating at one point later in the story when some dialogue choices were blocked out because I hadn’t been spending my Thaumaturgy points on those traits; I was focused on improving my abilities and being an all-rounder in combat, which impacted the choices I was left with later, so it did feel a bit like I was penalised somewhat for playing it safe.

It’s worth noting also that there are a lot of readables in The Thaumaturge, including notes, letters, newspapers, and of course the very detailed observations and conclusions as you piece things together, with large paragraphs of text. It’s enthralling for the most part and provides a larger context for the world around you, but if you don’t like reading a lot in your video games, it could be a bit too much to handle.

We tested The Thaumaturge on PC but also the handheld ASUS Rog Ally, and found performance to be similar on both. The experience ran just as smoothly on the Ally with gorgeous visuals, although the text-heavy nature of the game doesn’t lend itself particularly well to a smaller screen.




  • Incredible visual detail and well-crafted world
  • Combat is super stylish and tactically satisfying
  • Choice-based narrative where actions have consequences
  • Each unique Salutor is thrilling to unlock and experiment with


  • Lacks polish in some of its production
  • Investigating could have more freedom

The Thaumaturge is a riveting mix of investigating gorgeous environments, weaving together narrative threads and battling through punchy, stylish turn-based combat. It’s a story where it feels like the choices do matter, and that makes decisions feel weighty as you progress through the twisted and memorable supernatural setting. Some of the investigations hold your hand a little too much, and it’s lacking some overall polish in some areas. Even so, The Thaumaturge absolutely nails the brief in every other way, making for a compelling RPG that stands on its own as unique, visually impressive and deliciously dark.