Thymesia review - A short but impressive indie souls-like
When I heard about Thymesia last year, I was genuinely curious about the game. It looked like a great mashup of two of my all-time favorite titles: Bloodborne and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. The combat looked sick, and the atmosphere immediately reminded me of the crammed and blood-soaked streets of Yharnam.
I awaited the game's release to get a chance to experience it for myself. I wasn't expecting anything revolutionary, which would be asking too much for a small indie studio and their first souls-like project. Yet, I was pleasantly surprised by Thymesia's unique combat and gameplay systems and undeniably fun boss battles.
Although the game was quite brief, clocking in at around eight to nine hours left a lasting impression on me. I find the game's story quite forgettable and, at times, incomprehensible. But the fast-paced combat and engaging boss fights overshadowed the game's narrative inconsistencies.
A visceral and satisfying combat system
In Thymesia, players take on the role of a character named Corvus, who looks like a plague doctor but prefers to hunt infected beasts and humans instead of curing people.
The combat in Thymesia is centered around the "wounding" mechanic, where players must damage enemies twice to kill them. At first, this confused me since the player character only has a single HP bar while the enemies (even the common ones) have two, a white one, which reveals their actual health bar colored in green.
I thought this was a way to balance the difficulty of the normal enemies, and the bosses would have a single healthbar, but I was wrong. Even the bosses had the same dual HP shenanigans.
Additionally, the white health bar can regenerate over time, which baffled me, and I thought the game was using these cheap tactics to inflate the difficulty for the sake of it.
However, once I started getting to grips with the combat system and its intricacies, such as parrying and using the "plague weapons," I started to see the real meaning behind the dual healthbar of the enemies.
Although the white health bar takes the same amount of damage as the underlying green bar, it is very susceptible to damage from parrying attacks.
Players are equipped with a saber and a parrying dagger in the off-hand, used to deal regular damage and oncoming attacks, and a "claw," which is used to deal massive damage to the green healthbar and absorb enemy weapons.
Absorbing enemy weapons allows players to use them as a plague weapon, which deals severe amounts of damage to enemy healthbars.
The game also has a solid PC port with proper mouse and keyboard support, usually missing from most souls-like titles. I played the entire game twice using a mouse and keyboard and never faced any issues.
Weaponizing the plague itself against the hordes of enemies
The plague weapons have several passive bonuses that can be upgraded with materials dropped from enemies. The bonuses range from additional attack buffs, added defense, and unique perks like health on hit. Plague weapons come in various types, each with its advantages and drawbacks.
At first, I did not think of using plague weapons since the general flow of combat was already hectic enough for me to remember all the parry prompts and the dodge timings.
However, once I started using them and got a bit habituated with the combat system of Thymesia, using plague weapons became second nature for me. It helped a lot, too, against the general fodder enemies and bosses in the game.
Thymesia is full of options for players to take advantage of during combat
The game is full of options for players to take advantage of during combat, such as the aforementioned plague weapons and two completely different counterattacks.
While normal attacks from enemies can be parried with the parrying dagger, it is useless against critical attacks. Players must throw "feathers" at the enemy to counter highly damaging critical attacks before landing the said attack.
Like the silver bullets in Bloodborne, feathers in Thymesia are a projectile mainly used to parry critical attacks but can also lure enemies or deal minor health damage to them. Unlike silver bullets, however, feathers regenerate over time, which negates any requirement of farming for the projectiles.
Thymesia's counterattack system is somewhat reminiscent of Sekiro, as that game has two different ways to counter incoming attacks, one being deflecting them and the other being "mikiri counter," which is specifically used to retaliate against thrusting attacks.
Lots of useful and game-changing skills
The similarities to Sekiro don't just end there. Although Thymesia follows a numbered leveling system akin to most action RPGs, it also features a robust skill system, which can drastically alter how players approach combat in the game.
This game's skills (called "Talents") offer multiple perks ranging from passive attack boosting buffs to different forms of claw attacks and upgrades to the weapons. The skill tree is broken into multiple categories for each weapon type, i.e., saber, claw, feather, and basic combat attributes such as parrying and dodging.
As players rise through the levels, more and more skills are unlocked in the menu for players to use. The best part about Thymesia's skill system, which I adored, was the ability to reallocate my skill points anytime I rested at a checkpoint.
This system made me fall in love with Thymesia's combat more since it allowed me to experiment with different skills without forcing me to grind for skill points, which bothered me with Sekiro.
Reallocating skills were also helpful during boss battles as I found the faster claw attack skill, which was very useful against normal enemies, being borderline useless against bosses. Thus, whenever I encountered a boss fight in Thymesia, I quickly swapped my short-claw attack skills with a long-claw.
Visuals, presentation and the fantastic soundtrack
Graphically, Thymesia is not that impressive. Given the game is released as a current-gen-only title, I was expecting a better-looking game.
But I wouldn't say it's terrible to look at. The game is built using Epic Games' Unreal Engine 4, which makes it look fairly decent.
The game's presentation, however, is something that I liked. General gameplay aspects of Thymesia are eerily similar to Dark Souls and Bloodborne, down to checkpoints and the death screen.
In most cases, I would consider the similarity of these concepts an outright rip-off. However, Thymesia does many things differently from FromSoftware's Souls games, such as its combat and skill system. Such minor things like these feel more like an homage than plagiarism.
A souls-like game is nothing without well-designed boss battles, and Thymesia does not disappoint in that regard. Although there are only a handful of boss encounters in the game, they are all memorable and fun to go up against.
Bosses are a mix of spectacles and challenges that kept me coming back to them even after they thrashed me more than 10 times in a row.
The most memorable encounter during my playthrough was against the first main boss, Odur, at the Sea of Trees level. Since Odur was the first mandatory boss in the game, I was not expecting the challenge the boss gave me.
The boss is as fast as the player's character and gives minimal downtime between its attacks, and it also has two phases. Fighting Odur is a battle of attrition, but one that is bound to teach players how to effectively use all the tools and skills at their disposal in Thymesia.
Another boss I found captivating was the "God of the Fools." Although it is a "gimmick" battle, akin to the Ancient Wyvern boss in Dark Souls 3, I found it a thoroughly enjoyable and satisfying boss to fight.
Thymesia's soundtrack is another aspect that impressed me. The melancholic music that played in the background while I explored the levels or the energetic score that blared whenever I encountered an enemy or a miniboss added to the immersion.
Boss soundtracks are a highlight in Thymesia, with each boss having an OST that compliments their personality and combat style. The soundtrack played during the Odur, and Mutated Odur boss battle is my favorite. It sits well with the boss' mysterious yet majestic character.
The underwhelming narrative
I was disappointed by the storytelling and narrative of Thymesia. The game had a promising start, with an intriguing plot that I initially found fascinating. However, by the end of the game, I had no idea what the story was about, coming from someone who finds the cryptic storytelling of FromSoftware's titles fun.
The characters, of which there is only a handful, are generic and have little to no personality. Even the protagonist himself is as bland as they come. I was genuinely surprised to see some bosses having more personality and character than the protagonist, Corvus himself.
It also did not help that the game had no voice acting, which I found weird since it has cutscenes and character conversations.
Thymesia's story is conveyed mainly through notes that players can find throughout multiple levels in the game. Although I find this cryptic form of storytelling fairly engaging, I can't say I felt even a bit engaged with Thymesia's narrative when done right.
The notes I found throughout my playthrough never compelled me with the information they conveyed. I played through the game twice to understand the plot of the game. Unfortunately, none of my questions were answered even after I sat through all the dialog and read all the notes I could find in the game.
By the time I even remotely came close to making sense of the story, it just abruptly ended. Suffice it to say. I did not enjoy the narrative experience of Thymesia.
Few shortcomings of the experience
While I like Thymesia's combat loop and boss battles, the game is far from perfect, as is evident by its lackluster storytelling. Apart from that, there are a few more issues that I came across during my playthrough(s).
The first and major one is the brief runtime and limited game replayability. I genuinely admire games that do not overstay their welcome, delivering a short but quality experience instead of a bloated and repetitive one. Lately, games like Stray have impressed with their quality despite being only a couple of hours long.
So knowing beforehand that Thymesia was one of those short but sweet experiences, I was genuinely excited. However, I was disappointed with the game's length and the small number of levels on offer.
I was not expecting content rivaling Elden Ring, but having only three levels is way too little for a souls-like in 2022.
The game's short runtime did not favor it, especially in the narrative department. After getting done with all three levels and their respective sub-missions, there is also no replayability, which is a real bummer.
Another issue that I faced during my playthrough was stuttering. I played the game on a PC equipped with a Nvidia GTX 1650 Super GPU, Intel Core i7 8700K processor, and 16 gigabytes of memory. Yet, the game struggled to maintain a smooth framerate throughout the experience.
Thymesia is an enjoyable and impressive addition to the souls-like genre from a relatively small team of developers. The game's unique approach to combat highlights the whole experience. With a massive arsenal of plague weapons, diverse skills, and spectacular boss battles, Thymesia is bound to keep players engaged.
Even though the immaculate combat system makes it a standout title among other souls-like games, the lack of a compelling narrative and brief runtime bogs down the overall experience.
Reviewed On: Windows PC (Review Copy provided by Team17)
Platform(s): Windows PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch (Cloud Version)
Developer(s): OverBorder Studio
Release Date: August 18, 2022