Thymesia is an action RPG game with a gothic style that fits right in with the “Soulsborne” or “Souls-Like” genre. For those that have been too afraid to get into the genre, this game could serve as a way to “dip your toes in the water” if you will. The game was developed by OverBorder Studio and published by Team17. How does the game stack up? Check out our review of Thymesia.
Thymesia takes place in the Kingdom of Hermes, a place that has fallen into an age of calamity. Across the land, multiple kingdoms were falling due to a plague but Hermes Kingdom rose to power due to the use of alchemy that turned the plague into a cure. However, over time, the price of alchemy became too high and Hermes Kingdom fell into chaos and infected monsters took to the streets.
This is where you come in, you play as Corvus the kingdom’s last hope. Corvus was the successful result of alchemy experiments that made him beyond human. Corvus has raven abilities that let him throw feathers like knives among other things.
The story of Thymesia is framed as one big flashback. Corvus is trying to remember the answer to an alchemy formula that can be used to cure the kingdom. Every time you play a level it is him remembering what he did. As you progress through the levels you remember a little more about the rules of alchemy that will lead you to the formula that could cure the kingdom. Since the game is a flashback, every time you die – the game says “Memory interrupted” which I think is cool and it softens the blow than a screen that says “You Died!” but the font is practically the same.
The last thing I want to mention about the story is the fact that there are only two characters that you can speak with. One of them is the character in the hub world between levels and the other is a random librarian found off to the side in a library on one of the levels. Both of them are constantly giving you exposition dumps and it wasn’t until after I rolled credits that I went back and pieced together all the pieces to the puzzle.
In my mind, Thymesia’s soundtrack consists of one song and one song only. The main theme is such a good song and is an earworm. I can hear it in my head as I write this review. I can see that song going into trailers for any number of things that have a gothic setting. I hope the song gets used elsewhere because it deserves to be heard. The song is quiet, eerie, and epic all at the same time. I got to give a tip of the hat to the composer for that song – Good job, you really understood the assignment! I can’t say the same thing about the rest of the soundtrack. For me, the music was just a mood and blended into the background for me so nothing else stands out for me. It got the job done for me, which is enough.
The game had only one mixing issue that I came across in a boss fight. There were multiple elements happening at the same time and things just started sounding distorted, nothing too crazy, and it didn’t last a long time and is easily forgivable. There was one annoying sound design element I wasn’t a fan of and that is the footsteps. I played the game with headphones and I felt that the mixing of the footsteps was too loud on certain surfaces and the sound itself was a little obnoxious on said surfaces, it was going for a metal shoe sound which makes sense but it bothered me at times. I also just want to take a second to give a shout-out to the fact that on one of the levels the music cuts off before reaching the boss fight. It is so eerie just only suddenly hearing just your footsteps, when that happened I knew it was about to go down – it really set the tone.
Due to the game’s setting and art style, it’s very hard to make the visuals stand out. The gothic setting makes daylight scenes seem dark. With nothing popping out, it leaves Thymesia looking monochrome for the most part. I’m not sure what the solution is to that problem. For me, the environments were basic and even the more open sweeping shots looked bland. The environmental design seemed too “video game-y” at times with some of the level designs not seeming practical for people living in the world.
Performance isn’t any better either. I ran the game on PC with ultra settings on everything at 120 fps and despite that, the game has a pretty bad draw distance with textures popping in as I walk through a tight corridor. On top of that, I ran into some jank, when fighting enemies, I would push them into the walls, and some death animations would rubber band me across the floor. The worst offense of all was a boss battle, bosses have an unblockable super attack that when hit with it, a very elaborate animation occurs. I got hit with the super move but the game didn’t fully register the hit and so the animation didn’t play out which caused the game to soft lock. The boss would stand still and no attacks would register. It happened twice on the same boss fight and my only solution was to quit the game and load back in.
This is a hard one to sell, it took me about 18 hours to roll credits but it took about 12 hours before I got good at the game. Once I figured out the game, the game was a bit of a cakewalk for me. Soulsbornes have the reputation of being very grueling/difficult and at first, I thought the game was hard, but after figuring out what I was doing wrong, I practically was speed running the game. At first, I thought it was the tutorial’s fault for not properly teaching me the game’s mechanics, but, after watching the playback for this review, I realized that I skimmed past it on the pop-up screen. There were actually a lot of things that I wasn’t paying attention to in the game, but we will get there later.
I played the game using an Xbox One controller, the game supports a keyboard and mouse scheme but I wouldn’t be able to explain the controls using that. The main button you will be pressing is the right bumper (RB) because that is the melee attack button. I mashed that button so much that my index finger cramped a couple of times from pressing it too much. That was mostly user error because I didn’t have that problem with the last 6 hours of the game because I started attacking with other buttons. Right trigger (RT) is a claw slash attack. Enemies have a health bar similar to fighting games, I’ll use Street Fighter as an example. In Street Fighter, your health bar is yellow and when you get hit, there is a red health bar behind it. If you get attacked, your yellow health bar depletes but a red bar signifies how much you can heal from the attack, over time, if you don’t get hit, your yellow bar will fill up to the max of your red health bar. The same is true in this game, except it is white and green. The white health bar is essentially your health but not really, the green bar is referred to as your “wound” damage and you can regenerate to that bar. What I didn’t realize is that claw attacks deplete the wound health by a lot. So ideally you should use the RB attack to clear the white bar and the RT attack to go for the kill. I played over 10 hours of the game without using the claw slash attack. Let me tell you it was so hard to use melee attacks to take out both health bars. I probably would have rolled credits in 8 to 10 hours had I known that.
The left bumper (LB) is a parry attack. If you time the button press before a hit you don’t take any damage. In the early game, this button is quite useless because, in normal circumstances, you would be rewarded for doing parries. I’m going to use Ghost of Tsushima as an example. If you do a perfect parry in Ghost of Tsushima, you would have interrupted the enemy’s attack animation, and you are given the opportunity to attack the enemy for free. This game does no such thing. Not only are the multi-hit combos the enemy is dishing out not interrupted, but you can’t attack the enemy for free either. For me, this aspect of game design was frustrating because there is no reward for accomplishing that skill. I was rewarded for spamming dodges instead of parries. Perfect parries are stuff I do all the time in video games, whether it be fighting games, Ghost of Tsushima, or Trek to Yomi, I know how to time a perfect parry, this game was on another level, the game has this weird cadence to it. In the early game, I was constantly hitting the parry button too early because it was like the enemies had to accelerate into their hits. The enemies would telegraph that they are about to dish out an attack, and with my fighting game instincts, my trigger finger was constantly hitting the LB button too soon. Multi-hit attacks were also a pain because enemies would change their attacks which changes the timing of the parries. For instance, a spear attack would be two quick hits in succession with a pause before the third and final strike. So if you wanted to parry all three hits you would need to hit the LB button twice, then pause, then again because if you tried to constantly mash the LB button it wouldn’t work either because animations are so committal – meaning every move you and the enemy does finishes all the way through, and that includes attacks meaning if you are doing a five-hit combo, and the enemy was doing a five-hit combo, well you both are taking damage but who is better equipped to tank hits – the enemy. It’s not all bad though, the parry button becomes your friend later in the game when you spend the right skills in the skill tree. When upgraded, performing parries nets you energy and does wound damage to enemies which pair perfectly with claw slash attacks.
The left trigger (LT) is used to throw feathers (as if they were knives) and they are best used when enemies do their super attack. When enemies do a super attack they would glow green and often charge at you. If you time a feather throw perfectly it would interrupt their super attack and the enemies would often fall to the ground stunned, leaving them wide open for an attack. The A button is just to interact with the environment such as opening a door – and is usually context sensitive. The B button is a dodge and the game doesn’t seem to punish you for spamming dodges. In fact, the dodge becomes overpowered as you upgrade it in the skill tree. There is even a weapon that enables you to have infinite dodges for 30 seconds.
Finally, the X and Y buttons are your weapon buttons. If you charge the RT button, you do a charged claw slash attack and successfully landing that attack clones the weapon the enemy is holding. So if an enemy is holding a spear, now you can attack with your spear but it can only be used once, on the upside it doesn’t cost you any energy. The weapon you steal is mapped to the Y button. A weapon that you equip is mapped to the X button and you can use it multiple times but it costs energy to use the weapon, if your energy bar (the green bar) on the bottom left-hand corner of the screen is out, then you can’t use it. I just want to say my favorite weapon that I left equipped for pretty much the whole game was the bow and arrow. It’s so nice not having to approach and do damage to enemies from afar. A lot of weapons such as twin swords make you get up close and commit to doing an attack animation that leaves you open to getting hit so the bow and arrow were quite OP. The last things I need to mention are the right stick and up on the D-pad. If you press on the right stick it locks on an enemy. Sometimes it was useful, and other times it was a hinderance. Up on the D-pad would restore your health due to health potions in your inventory.
Now with the basics out of the way, how does the game actually play – well to be honest this is my first Soulsborne, so I can’t compare it to the Bloodbornes, Seikaros, or Elden Rings of the world. I can only go by how I feel having played it. In short, the game has you playing through levels with a specific objective in mind to accomplish. There are enemies along the way that you can slay including sub-bosses and final bosses that have cool animation take-downs. The game doesn’t handhold and if you are stuck it is on you to figure it out. I’m of two minds on this one. On one hand, there were a lot of things that were my fault and I simply wasn’t paying attention. Soulsborne games are not here to hold your hand and they are designed in a way to respect your intelligence. On the other hand, I’m so used to game design giving me a leg up. For instance, I was stuck in a boss fight for about two hours. Side note – shout out to the fact that save points are placed just before boss fights. Normally in game design when a player can’t progress through something, the game (often in loading screens) would give hints about strategies to try. This goes back to the wound damage bar. The boss in question had the ability to heal themselves both white bar and green bar. While I was only using normal melee attacks the boss would heal themselves all the way to 100% health. I had no idea how to beat the boss and one time I just played the boss fight for a good 20 minutes thinking it was a war of attrition because I was popping health potions to keep myself alive. I almost gave up on trying to roll credits because the game isn’t out as I played this game for review and no YouTube tutorials exist. Luckily I decided to exit out the level and play other levels instead.
That’s the other thing that I was surprised by, this game is short. Not including the last level, which I won’t spoil, this game essentially only has three levels. In fact, you can just play three levels and then the game gives you the option to go to the endgame. Luckily I chose not to because I wanted to be thorough for my review but this game really doesn’t force you to play everything. They treat all the other levels as side quests, which is fair because the side quests just have you going back to the level you played. The levels are designed with locked doors and passageways you can’t go through until you play it during the sidequests. It’s a great way to extract the most mileage out of your level design.
The last thing I need to mention is the game’s menu and skill tree. The menu has everything and I should have done a better job of exploring the menu because it wasn’t until after I rolled credits the first time that I discovered that all the lore is stored in a tab on the menu screen. This was super useful for the ending because the game quizzes you and I wasn’t paying attention and I got the bad ending. At first, I was scrubbing through 18 hours of playback before realizing all the lore was there in the pause menu. This made it so I got a good ending the second time around. However, I didn’t get all the endings because I didn’t get the achievement saying I unlocked all endings, but I don’t feel like I need to unlock them all because I felt satisfied with what I got. I’m not sure how many endings there are, at first I thought there were 42 endings because of how the aforementioned quiz was posed to me but after re-reading the lore – I think there are 6, but I’ll wait for YouTube to tell me that. The last thing I don’t like about the ending is the fact that I have to play the final level in order to get to the quiz again, instead of the game just letting me load straight into the final scene. This complaint isn’t that big a deal because I was able to beat the final level in about four minutes because suddenly it was easier the second time around (not that it actually was, I was just better).
As far as the skill tree goes, it is very involved and I won’t bore you with the details because this review is long enough as it is. What I will say is the game doesn’t make you commit to your build. The game lets you reallocate your level points and your skill points at will. So if you don’t like how you spent your level points, you can use an item to reset your level and spend your upgrades differently. I personally opted to do a balanced approach of spending in every category in harmony. What’s not limited to an item is your skill points, which you can delete and reallocate at any time. Every time you leveled up, you get another token for the skill tree. My personal gripe is after I got my character to level 30, the game stopped giving me tokens for the skill tree. So I never actually filled out the skill tree. I’m not sure why the game was designed to stop you from upgrading yourself beyond a certain point. I finished the game around level 37 so that’s seven times I didn’t get to enhance my character with new moves.
In my review for Godstrike I said “Every time I died, it was my fault, and I had to learn the boss’ patterns and openings and I needed to stop trying to force interactions the way I wanted them to go.” The same is true here, after I learned the game, I was able to beat levels in under 10 minutes. As a matter of fact, I did just that for this review, just to know that I can. When reviewing my early gameplay footage I cringe because of how much better I got. I played some levels for over an hour because I kept dying. Now I practically speed run the game and almost never use a potion and I feel good knowing that. So going back to the opening statement of this section… This one is a hard sell for me because after I got good at the game I actually liked the game, but would I tell someone who may not be good at Soulsborne games and who might get frustrated easily to try this game out? I’m not sure. I almost gave up on this game. I’m sure this would be a great game for people that are already fans of the genre, but is this game a great way to introduce someone to the Soulsborne genre? I’m going to say – probably. This was my first Soulsborne game – I figured out the rules and once I did, I became good at this game and found it enjoyable. This game might be considered easy. At only three levels (12 if you count the side missions) this game is easy to get into with not a lot of commitment needed to get into.
Thymesia was a roller coaster ride for me. It took a long time before I was truly able to get my bearings and get going. Once I did, I was able to have a good time and see the appeal of the Soulsborne genre. The game has design choices I find questionable, such as the game ceasing to give you skill points after level 30. The game has some performance issues with a few instances of soft locks and jank but nothing game-breaking. I love the main theme and hope that it gets used in other media. The game is short and if you want to get into the Soulsborne genre, you can’t go wrong with three to twelve levels depending on how much time you want to invest in this game. With all that said I think this game is good so that’s why I give this game a 7/10.
Thymesia will release on August 18th for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, & PC with a cloud version releasing on Nintendo Switch. The game will retail for $29.99. The game does have a free demo to download for those that wish to try out the game first. The publisher provided a code for purposes of review. The game was reviewed on PC via Steam.
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- Skill Tree can be reallocated at any time
- The game can be as short or as long as you want it to be
- Good first souls-like game
- Great main theme song
- The game stops giving you skill points after a certain level
- Only three main environments/levels were designed
- Some jank can be found
- Its easy to miss important info