Thymesia is a grueling action-RPG in the vein of that Souls-like genre that everyone loves so much. And is probably one of the tightest experiences I had in quite a while. Here's our Thymesia review on OverBoard Studio's upcoming masterpiece.
Souls-like in DNA, Capcom in the Soul
Oh boy, this is gonna make some people mad. Maybe not, but I will start going out on a limb here and claim that Thymesia is probably better in mechanics than what it aims to replicate. If you're into these Soulsborne games that are just kind of hard and focus more on the action than the RPG part. Then this title is for you. I will get into why that is at length, but I want you to know that I absolutely adore this game. Even if it took a little for me to click.
So my biggest fear right now is that most game enjoyers out there will either look at this game and scoff because it looks like cheap Elden Ring, Dark Souls, Bloodborne, or Sekiro which we collectively decided is the greatest games of all time. And or will compare this title by a relatively small indie company to those games. Yes, you will notice the budget constraints by the simple lack of voice acting and cutscenes that transition a little awkwardly.
But if the presentation is what I have to sacrifice to get a fast-paced action game that rewards player skill and forces interesting decisions onto you then I gladly take it. Because all of you have been lied to, this is Sekiro when you launch it and turns into Devil May Cry 3's original release once you meet the first boss. Now visually it is nothing special outside of some great character and level design. Because instead of Bloodborne, the main inspiration I sense here is probably closer to a Diablo 3.
Levels are largely linear with some branches to explore and they do that thing everyone loved in Dark Souls so much where they loop back into another. And if you only play the critical path, you will miss out on heaps of it. But let's put a pin in that and start from the top.
Made man by the Plague, Undone by the Plague
You are Corvus, a hunter who is on a quest to rid the Kingdom of Hermes from a terrible scourge. Hermes was once famed for its advances in alchemy until man did what man does best, messing everything up. The story is framed by Corvus trying to recollect the events that led to this catastrophe in hope that somewhere in those scattered memories there is a way to undo this. And while this seems a little generic from the start, the story does throw in a couple of curve balls to keep things interesting.
The developers probably knew that some players would not care about the deep lore they've created. So the story is largely told by you picking up notes and evidence that'll give you the larger picture. Thymesia plays is very close to the chest in that regard. The writing is neat and the mystery was engaging enough for me that I started writing notes down on my own. And while I've finished the game by now, there are still things that are not clear to me and seem to be more critical information that I have yet to discover.
The story mostly exists to give context to the levels and enemies you encounter. They especially flesh out some of the bosses and other characters, who tragically don't have any voice lines. They do have combat grunts and the whole nine yards, but it's a little distracting to try and read their dialog while you're busy not being torn to pieces by them. Besides that, if you enjoy reading through heaps of notes there is actually some decent depth here and you get the feeling even though the levels seem disjointed at first. Everything follows a clear-through line and is connected.
Scourge Sweeping in Style
Let's talk a little about why I'm actually all over this game and my only actual complaint is that there is not more of it. First of all the level design. If you played especially the first Dark Souls, this kind of design might be familiar to you. Long paths that occasionally intersect with each other and a ladder that suddenly creates a shortcut. Now the levels themselves are neither super expansive nor inherently complex. In function, they are more combat gauntlets that you have to brave that usually create challenges through enemy placement, by either grouping them or hiding them behind corners.
Every level has its own unique color palette they give off that kind of gross plague horror you'd see in a Diablo. And each level also has its own sort of vibe to it, so it's a little tragic that there are only three of them. But I should inform you that this is a critical path only, after you finish a level you unlock the sub-quests for those memories. Sometimes they are just restricted to one area you've already explored and on other occasions, you get to open some doors that were closed before. Some of those sub-quest levels have entire sections that you'll only skim through and even offer optional boss challenges.
If you want to learn what is going or simply remind Corvus of the slaying machine he used to be, those are highly recommended. I wouldn't do them in order of levels though, because some of the later encounters within those sub-quests tend to be rather hard. Which transitions us smoothly to gameplay.
When you first play Thymesia you'll probably think of it as a mash-up of Bloodborne and Sekiro. After all the game is all about moving quickly, parrying and having tricks up your sleeve. You can attack by either using your saber to deal wounds and chip damage or your claws in order to sap the life away from enemies. You're rather fast so it's not uncommon to quickly overwhelm an enemy and execute them on the spot. Tougher enemies require a little more strategy. Here comes our dodge and parry ability into play. Either get out of the way or parry an attack right before it hits in order to deal with wounds.
I should probably explain this. Enemies health bars come with a kind of vitality meter you have to knock down by creating wounds. After you can use your claws and other abilities to get that meter down to 1, that'll cause the enemy to be dazed for a while and can execute them. If you don't execute an enemy in time, they'll recover. So especially in boss fights, the game turns into this fascinating dance of desperately trying to keep the pressure on the enemy while also dealing with the pressure from them.
And it's amazing. The parry mechanic is really snappy and you usually have to learn the rhythm of attack patterns. Enemies are usually different flavors of humans, but they can wield a variety of weapons. Each has its own patterns that you have to learn, with bosses having special weapons that are unique to them. Since the game often forces you to play pretty aggressively, you'll have to learn how to parry and or dodge. Combat then fully reveals itself, because this isn't a souls-like at all. This is just Devil May Cry without the jump button.
Especially in later levels, once you're comfortable with the systems. You're actively encouraged to disrespect any boss or enemy that gives you trouble. You'll right up in their face, mixing up saber and claw attacks while parrying everything. And that's not all either! You can also charge your claw to copy an enemy's weapon and unleash a one-use combo upon them. You can also unlock these weapons separately and use them but they come with a cool down and heavy energy cost.
Every weapon serves a distinct purpose, by either creating pressure, breaking guards or just giving you a free ‘Get Out' card. Pair this with the feathers you can throw to either stop wounds on enemies from healing or depending on the skills you chose, give you a fast counter or a quick teleport.
Spoiled for Choice
Yes, Thymesia has a skill tree and it's probably the best I've seen in the genre so far. Because instead of just leveling up the two damage types and vitality, you also get to pick permanent perks to use. This gives you the option to cater Corvus to your liking. Because you can either choose a path on your parry for example, that either gives you a more generous parry window at the cost of the amount wounds being caused. Or get a permanent block that blocks 70% of damage. Or you can also choose the path that'll reward you for parrying perfectly.
This creates this kind of dynamic difficulty that you're in charge of. The game is hard don't get me wrong. It's about on the same level as those Souls-like it tries to imitate. But you can always choose if you want to play safer and sacrifice damage or you play more risky for more of it. It's a great system that even allows you to completely disable abilities you don't use in order to put the skill point into something useful.
One of my little pet peeves here is, that enemies after being beaten for a while will sometimes throw out a glowing super attack. If you have the right skill for it, you can either parry it for a damage buff or dodge into it in order to get a devastating jump attack. Normally I'm kinda against of making special abilities unblockable. But in Thymesia it works because compared to Sekiro, it's one catch-all ability. And I also get different options, depending on my playstyle or what kind of benefit I'd prefer.
A special shout-out goes to whoever designed that lady knight you'll face towards the end. I'm not gonna spoil anything, I just felt like saying it was the most fun I've had with a boss since Yozora in Kingdom Hearts 3. Talking about Kingdom Hearts by the way. I believe many of the enemies have a revenge value similar to the ones found in Kingdom Hearts. For those not in the know, the revenge value basically allows an enemy to skip out of a stagger animation and just hackle at you if they feel like it. You'll especially notice it in boss fights here and I loved it personally.
Besides two of the boss fights which felt a little underwhelming but were quite the spectacle. All the other bosses are top-notch. Each one had its own identity, and unique rhythm and was just generally fun to fight. My only criticism is that cutscenes don't auto-skip when you throw yourself against a boss over and over again. But I appreciate that they usually had a checkpoint very close by.
My big fear right now, is that Thymesia will fly under everyone's radar and kind of be put off as some other Souls-like game. Which… yea it kinda is but at the same time, I think it plays a lot better than anything From Software has made since Armored Core. Controls are fast and responsive, the level-up system forces you into different playstyles instead of just giving you everything and the world and its story are actually pretty fascinating. I will probably go through it again just to get everything.
And honestly, if my only big complaint is that I want more. I think there is no greater praise than that. But its length is perfect for the level of variety it offers. Yes to some dudes in armor are a little boring. But at least those different types of guys and girls and weird twisted formally human beings are fun to fight. Especially when you get on the naughty list of one of those with a bigger health bar and upped aggression.
The flaws that Thymesia has.. which are largely its presentation are not really its fault. And I appreciate a game that chose to focus on gameplay over wasting its budget on expensive voice acting. It would've been nice for sure, but it isn't really needed either. And the fact that OverBorder Studio's first title managed to churn out something so polished with a small team of seven developers is honestly quite mindblowing.
So I beg of you if you either love really challenging RPGs or fast-paced action games. Do give Thymesia some love. I genuinely think that this next to Sifu and Neon White is probably the most fun I had with a game. I'm very partial to fast titles that require you to learn precise execution, but I do not care. I have no idea what everyone is whining about with the lack of big releases. This year has been amazing for smaller titles that would've probably been overshadowed by the big AAA titles. Thymesia releases on August 18, 2022, on PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series S/X.
Thymesia review Final Score – 9/10
Review Code was Provided by Team17 and reviewed on PC
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