HIGH Fantastic, fast-paced combat.
LOW It’s easy to get lost.
WTF I don’t like it when scary guys jump out at me.
From Software’s infamous “Soulsborne” genre is one many indies have attempted to replicate. Loosely defined as a game with few cutscenes, oppressive enemies and environment, and loss of progress upon death, this sort is punishing and mysterious, but ultimately one that’s highly satisfying when mastered.
OverBorder Studio is the next to take a crack at the genre with Thymesia, an obvious ode to Bloodborne, which is thought to be the finest of its kind. Though there are a few components that could be expanded upon, Thymesia provides a thrilling combat system, solid progression mechanics, and yes, lots and lots of “game over” screens.
Following the quest of a mysterious, yet fashionably garbed man named Corvus, Thymesia weaves a fragmented tale of a hero attempting to regain his lost memory and discover how his world was ravaged by a plague that transforms people into savage monsters. Through a series of flashback recalls, Corvus will enter various sections of his domain to hack and slash his way through (mostly) linear levels, plague-ravaged civilians, and intimidating monsters from a third-person perspective.
Much like other titles in the Soulsborne genre, the plot here is intentionally vague since the focus is more on combat and world-building. While the former is stellar (more on that shortly), the latter has room for improvement — the creepy ambiance is solid, but areas are usually one-note and don’t grow and change much as Corvus advances through them. This often leads to getting lost, as each blood-soaked corner and bridge looks much like those from just a few moments earlier.
Combat is, of course, center stage in Thymesia and it does not disappoint. Equipped with dual-wielding swords, Corvus is incredibly fast on his feet, and lethal with his blades.
Enemies have two components to their health bars — HP and a stagger meter. Once the stagger meter is depleted, Corvus can perform an automatic assassination. However, this meter replenishes over time, encouraging an aggressive and relentless playstyle. Normal sword attacks can drain the health meter, while the powerful, slowly-charged claw attack gnaws away at the stagger bar. Those looking for magic spells or ranged attack options will be disappointed, as the only projectile in Corvus’s arsenal is an attack-interrupting feather, which can only be thrown a limited amount of times. This doesn’t provide many options for character building or varying playstyles, but those who love frantically-paced melee and memorization of enemy movement patterns will feel right at home.
Unlike other titles in the genre, Corvus is not limited by a stamina bar, meaning he can dodge and attack as freely as he wishes. The only hindrance to his movement comes from his attacking and dodging cooldown frames – again, encouraging faster-paced combat.
Thymesia‘s “plague weapons” also offer some fantastic mechanics. Using his claw attack, Corvus can essentially copy his opponents’ spears, axes, and other weapons to use them to his advantage for a single use. There’s a great variety of weapons, each feeling unique and rewarding to master, and the satisfaction of using an enemy’s blade to land a killing blow is glorious.
Apart from basic combat and the plague weapons, Corvus has a large pool of abilities to master, which can all be unlocked at checkpoints with currency he earns by defeating enemies — abilities like leveling up his stats, earning new abilities, and enhancing the healing potions that he carries. Thymesia does a fantastic job of making the player feel as though they’re always progressing. Whether making Corvus’ sword attacks stronger, enhancing his claw attack, or making the dodge more effective, I felt as though I was rewarded every time I arrived at a checkpoint… as long as I didn’t die before arriving and lose my currency.
While the mechanics were great, the enemy variety is a bit of a letdown. Once Corvus has encountered the roughly eight-to-ten generic baddies on offer, the player should have their movements down pat. The challenge lies more in the combination of different baddies surrounding Corvus, and the uncertainty of what might jump out at him from around the next corner.
On the plus side, bosses are a strong suit. Corvus will face off against both epic, imposing monsters as well as agile and quick super-humans just as lethal as he is. The large bosses provide more cinematic experience than challenge, but the smaller, faster bosses are worthy adversaries.
Thymesia is a short adventure – Soulsborne pros might complete it in under eight hours, but with its deep combat and constant sense of progression, it never outstays its welcome and remains consistently engaging. It’s a bite-sized entry into the genre that doesn’t try to redefine its parameters, but instead hones in on a few core aspects and maximizes their potential.
Disclosures: This game is developed by OverBorder Studio, and published by Team17. It is currently available on PC, PS5, and XBX. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on PC. Approximately 9 hours of play was spent playing the game, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated M and contains Blood and Violence. From the ESRB: “This is an action role-playing game in which players assume the role of a character on a quest to save a kingdom from plague. From a third-person perspective, players explore various locations (e.g., towns, dungeons, ruins), while battling mutant creatures and infected inhabitants. Players use swords and claws to kill enemies in frenetic melee-style combat. Battles are highlighted by impact sounds, cries of pain, and large blood-splatter effects. Players can perform finishing attacks on weakened enemies, often resulting in close-up impaling with blood and slow-motion effects. Some areas depict large blood stains and/or corpses lying in large pools of blood.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: There is text in game, but text is not resizable. Audio cues are not required for progression, but hearing a moaning baddie around the corner can be very helpful, making the game not fully accessible.
Remappable controls: Controls are completely remappable.