It’s always a shame when a game manages to do some things so well but others so poorly. Thymesia, the third-person fantasy RPG from OverBorder Studios, is a prime example of this, with satisfying, high-energy combat that rewards patience and familiarity with its admittedly tight progression systems that immediately stand out as something special. At the same time, its twisted story about a plague-ravaged kingdom and the secret agent who can save it, as well as the inconsistent quality of the exotic locations it takes place in, are largely half-hearted and make the whole adventure easily forgettable. .
The story of Thymesia follows Corvus, a generic but well-dressed royal agent who is brain-scrambled like a breakfast egg. It is likely a consequence of his direct involvement in a plague sweeping across the country, a disease that empowers some creatures while maiming, killing, or mutating the rest. With the help of a disappointingly cryptic childish ally, you must climb into the dark, sticky void that is your memory to remember how you got here in the hope that you can find clues on how to undo this tragedy.
Screens – Thymesia
I really liked the setup of this story early on, but I couldn’t have cared less about Corvus’s mysterious purpose at the end of the roughly eight-hour journey. This is partly because there is surprisingly little dialogue and very few NPCs to draw information from, with most of the plot delivered via notes placed on maps for you to spend time collecting and deciphering. This kind of storytelling has lost its luster a bit after being supported so heavily in games like this over the last decade, and even ignoring that fatigue, Thymesia’s notes aren’t particularly convincingly written. Also, the story itself is tried-and-true territory when you get past the opening pitch – the fact that it’s based on a conspiracy revolving around magical blood turning people into monsters doesn’t help Thymesia unravel. of the “bloodborne clone” accusations. .
Corvus’ memories take place in three locations. Two of them, Sea of Trees and Hermes’ Fortress, are largely bland environments that you’ve probably seen in other games before (and probably better). The first’s misty plague swamp features many rope bridges and treehouses that look so much alike under the putrid haze that it becomes difficult to navigate. The latter is just a medieval fantasy fortress, in ruins and casting a shadow over some scattered forest areas around it. The swamp at least had a terrifying hammer-wielding mutant to liven up the journey through it, but the fortress is packed with generic knights of various kinds, with no real visual or thematic surprises.
The mundanity of these stages becomes much more terrifying compared to the third area, the Royal Garden, which is truly one of the most interesting environments I’ve ever seen in a game like this. It starts out as some sort of weird set of greenhouses where big, twisted flowers grow, and descends into a library ankle-deep in blood. You can dig even deeper on subsequent visits through side quests, eventually into a cave of full blood, replete with a creep factor that stands out among a genre defined by it.
You can also revisit the other two locations in side quests, but their creative flourishes are limited to simply changing the path you take through them and changing the doors that can be accessed. When you get to explore previously unknown places, there’s nothing dramatically different about them. Needless to say, doing these optional parts in places other than the Royal Garden was a bit boring.
These side quests are technically optional, but the things you find when you complete them are essential to figuring out how to end the plague and fix the world. (You could absolutely beat Thymesia by completing just the main quests, but the resulting story conclusion might be lackluster.) There are several different endings you could land on based on a few factors that I won’t spoil, and I would have been motivated to watch all of them if you didn’t have to replay the final boss fight each time to do so, especially when the only thing you Really determines the ending, aside from having the right items and information, it’s how you choose to use them after the final fight. And actually, even the “good” ending is a bit of a disappointment, unfolding into a simple slideshow of ink pictures with a few scattered blocks of text.
Despite the shortcomings of the story, Thymesia’s combat is its main highlight. Corvus moves quickly, smothering his enemies with a volley of blades, dashing out of range just before they can strike back cleanly. There’s no stamina bar to contend with here, meaning the limiting factor on your attacks is simply the length of a combo chain, similar to a fighting game. By default, there is also no blocking, which means your defensive option is either a fairly tricky timed parry or a reliable dodge. Deflecting an attack returns damage to the attacker at a decent rate, making every little encounter a choice between passively waiting for an enemy’s flurry of attacks and attacking during downtime, or being proactive, soaking up damage with well-placed parries. to soften them up before it’s your turn to attack.
Combat is very much a tug-of-war like this, as there’s no reliable way to stagger enemies. They they can be amazed, of course, but how and when almost always felt like a roll of the dice, an unpredictability that also applies when the bad guys decide to counter your. There are apparently a limited number of attacks you can freely throw at an enemy before they counterattack, but you’re never actually told exactly how many, though you do have access to abilities that can affect this hidden feature in various ways. . However, this is largely moot midway through the campaign, because most enemies outside of bosses become fairly trivial as you get stronger.
When slicing and chopping, you need to be aware of the dual nature of an enemy’s life bar. Your normal sword attacks damage the white part, exposing a bit of green underneath it. The white bar will refill unless you use your spectral claw attacks to damage the green part, permanently shortening the bar. Deliberately weaving sword and claw attacks is key to dispatching your enemies efficiently, but since these attacks don’t directly link to each other in combos, the dance can sometimes feel clunky. But for tougher enemies, a significant part of this combat system’s unique tension was competing to effectively “block” the sword damage done with a few well-placed claw attacks while dodging his big moves.
Bosses come in two forms: very large, clever pushers, and agile mud-stompers. The former have more creative designs but patterns that are much easier to learn and avoid, making them more “experiences” than actual challenges. Still, one of these fights was one of the most memorable parts of Thymesia, having me run across a series of platforms to pop plague cysts and clear mist as a behemoth slammed into place around me. The last few fights resemble your more standard one-on-one encounter, where a boss has a huge list of possible ways to kill it quickly and you have to dive, dodge, and deflect much to avoid being scrubbed. These get easier over time as you get stronger, but that particular first cardcast pitcher feels like a big, thick, frustrating wall of abilities.
Getting stronger involves the usual collecting a coin from enemies and spending it to increase stats like health and damage, but you’ll also collect and upgrade plague weapons – secondary attacks that mimic the weapons your enemies will use against you. These weapons give you powerful abilities to vary your offense, like big hammer blows or a fast and accurate bow. Most interestingly, you can steal a single-use version of plague weapons from enemies, giving you another layer of offense on the fly. This was especially good for elite enemies and bosses, who usually have powerful abilities at their disposal.
The talent tree can also modify Corvus’s moves or change them entirely. There’s an upper limit on how many talent points you can have, which means you can’t just max everything out, so making good choices is key to becoming a true killing machine. Options like extending the deflection window or changing your counter to a block are interesting, but I leaned more toward abilities that gave me offensive buffs when I dodged attacks at the last second or extended my normal and grapple attack combos. Synergizing these with the dodge and health gain spread options allows me to fine-tune my playstyle, but most options tweak your game with passive buffs or additional utility rather than completely overhauling how you interact with the combat. That’s not a bad thing, necessarily, but it does limit the scope of what’s possible in combat, and people who love force-focused builds and big guns will be left wanting here.