In what is perhaps the most popular subgenre going at the moment, “soulslikes” have quickly become the darlings of AA action games. Taking the name from the original Souls games by FromSoftware, many tend to be quite forgettable, but some manage to find a unique hook or angle that allows them to stand on their own two feet.
OverBorder Studio’s Thymesia certainly wears these influences on its sleeve. You’ve got endlessly respawning enemies, some tough bosses with predictable attack patterns, and a combat system that you need to adapt to. The aesthetic of the game even mimics that of Bloodborne’s, however without any of the gravitas that game’s plot had.
Thymesia is set in a fallen kingdom that was once thriving. You play as Corvus, an alchemist who the kingdom turns to for salvation. Corvus must venture deep into his memories and find the lost cores that allow him to save the world whilst also piecing the truth together.
This has you venturing through a series of memories, collecting items and defeating bosses to achieve your goal. The game very much has a revolving quality to it, where you are constantly circling through the same areas to defeat new enemies. When beating a level, an alternative version of that stage becomes available, with new objectives and different enemies. It’s a fun way to reuse familiar environments with a new context.
Thymesia’s combat is its greatest strength, but also comes with some caveats. It gives you a few options for how you’d like your playstyle to be. You’ve got your standard sabre slashes, but you can also use ranged feathers to interrupt enemy critical attacks, as well as deflects that can inflict damage too.
The unique thing about it is that sabre attacks wound an enemy, but you need to follow up with a slower claw attack to actually damage them. Otherwise they’ll heal. It’s a fun way to change up the combat as you’re encouraged to be aggressive but also creative. It’s not enough to attack quickly with your sabre, as you need to also carefully insert these special claw attacks in your rhythm.
Another aspect of Thymesia’s combat that OverBorder has shouted a lot about is the game’s Plague Weapons system. This is a separate weapon that deals massive damage at the cost of energy, taking the form of many different attacks. For example, one is a giant hammer, while another takes the form of a long spear. There are a couple dozen plague weapons to select here, so you’re given a wide variety of choice in how you want to build your character.
So in essence, Thymesia’s combat is easily the best part of the game due to its attention to multiple playstyles and high difficulty that gives you breathing room to learn how each enemy pattern works over time.
One thing that makes this a little more appealing is how scaled down the game feels. OverBorder knows it’s too ambitious to do a full-scale action RPG with masses of skill trees and attributes to level up. Instead, you have three stats you can evolve which affect several attributes. Likewise, these give you “talent points” to give you special abilities during combat. It’s nothing too complex, and you can figure out your build and get it to where you need it to be within just a few hours.
But the system does come with some unfortunate drawbacks. For example, movement controls can be a little clunky. There have been some moments where my dodge did not go in the direction I wanted, meanwhile my deflects don’t register despite me hitting the button at the exact right moment. It’s the little things that makes the combat just feel a tad bit awkward.
Similarly, I also ran into some bugs during my testing. Some enemies would refuse to die after reducing their HP, meaning I couldn’t score upgrade points or recover my health because an enemy would just sit there motionless but still “alive”. There were also moments where invisible walls were placed where I did not expect them to, which made combat in tight areas a little frustrating.
By now we’re definitely starting to feel the effects of genre fatigue amongst soulslikes. And Thymesia certainly reaches a point where it can’t separate itself from the games that came before. However, there is still a lot of originality in its combat systems and world design so that the game doesn’t feel too derivative. It’s just a shame that clunky controls and awkward bugs hold it back.
For our Thymesia review, a PC copy was provided by Team17.
Tested on a PC featuring:
Ryzen 7 3700X Processor
Corsair Vengeance 16GB RAM
Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 Video Card
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