Over the past few years, the souls-like genre has exploded, making a massive impact on the gaming frontier. These are games made for people who love dying over, and over, and over… (you get the idea,) with the hope of beating that one boss or enemy to progress further; only to get insta-killed by the next powerful combatant in the way. Games such as Elden Ring and Dark Souls have opened up a whole new world of self-punishment and keyboard-breaking frustration. Being one of the people I have just mentioned I was delighted to stumble across a new contender for the souls-like crown. It’s called Thymesia, and I’ve been very lucky to get an early look.
As the story of Thymesia goes, Alchemy was the solution seen to all of the Kingdom of Hermes’s ailments and illnesses. As such, this science was used to enhance its citizens and heal those in need. Sadly, as is often the way, the greed of the people became too great and as a result, the kingdom fell into turmoil and chaos. In the wake of the madness, infected monsters and blood-crazed citizens now prowled the gore-soaked streets and any hope of a solution to the mayhem has been lost.
You roam the Kingdom as Corvus, a plague doctor and alchemist who just so happens to be the realm’s final hope; unfortunately after a near-death experience, you have lost all memory of how you came to be. If you are to stand any hope of returning order you must dive into each one of your memories while facing off against brutal monsters and unforgiving bosses to uncover memory fragments. As always seems to be the way, whilst trying to fathom the truth you will only uncover more secrets and questions.
Thymesia revolves around notions of death and plague from the core gameplay all the way to the art style and color scheme. If you are expecting a colorful and bright affair then you will be sorely disappointed, but that doesn’t imply that the dark and deadly artwork is unpleasant in any way. The main menu alone sets the theme off nicely, with a fog-backed street for a background, with clean and simplistic lettering. This carries through to the user interface throughout the game, giving things a distinctive smoky look, while still making everything easy to interact with and understand.
As we dive into the game itself we start with a beautiful and unique slideshow-style cutscene explaining Thymesia’s backstory. It’s from here that you are put straight into a simple tutorial walkthrough explaining the game’s controls and mechanics. This is where you really begin to get a feel for how Thymesia is unique from its other souls-like counterparts. I’ll explain a little of just how this applies as we go.
Let’s start with the weapons system. Instead of having an armory of swords and armor to swap between, the devs have opted for a different way of using your tools of the trade. You harness the plague and seize plague weapons from your enemies. This will in turn allow you to use a one-time use weapon or unlock certain weapons along the way. Every plague weapon has its own traits and move set, each to suit a different situation or combatant you face. This is great because it adds a variety of ways to progress through each mission.
With every souls-like game, an enemy’s attack can possibly destroy your health if you aren’t careful and Thymesia is no different. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid such devastating blows by either dodging out of the way or parrying at a precise moment to block the oncoming onslaught. In this title, you will start off with a basic, upgradable, dodge that allows you to quickly jump out of the way of your foe before they can land a blow. The other option is to try to parry your enemy’s attack at the correct time to prevent being hit and create a small opening for some potential tide-changing damage. Parrying, if used correctly puts your foe into a stun-locked state allowing you to get those all-important hits in. This unfortunately doesn’t mean you’ll become an unstoppable deflecting god, as more skilled enemies can come at you with critical attacks which will be indicated by them glowing a murky luminescent green. Now at this point, you may be asking, “Luke how am I meant to compete with such an attack?”, well that’s where your Raven form will come into play.
Your Raven form is made up of two parts; The first of these is your standard heavy attack which is a claw-like blow that allows you to steal plague weapons as mentioned before, whilst also doing damage. As you attack, your enemy’s health bar will start to deplete leaving a light green bar beneath it. If you don’t manage to keep up your attacks, your opponent will slowly start to regenerate their health depending on how much of that green plague bar remains. Using your claw-like attack removes chunks of their plague bar, stopping them from healing.
The second function of the Raven form is a counterattack, allowing you to defend yourself against those critical attacks mentioned earlier. When you see your opponent glow that luminous green you are able to use your Raven ability to stop them in their tracks. The first form of this power sees you launch a feather at your enemy. If timed correctly this will hit for a chunk of damage and stun-lock them for a longer amount of time than your standard counter. As you progress through the game you will be able to unlock different ways to use your Raven form to tackle different combinations of attacks and opportunities.
As with other souls-like games you may have encountered stats are everything if you are to become more powerful and face the perils ahead. You’ll gain memory fragments from slain enemies and collected loot. Using these fragments will give you the currency you need to upgrade your stats. You just need to make sure you don’t pop your clogs after using them though. Any fragments in your inventory are safe. but once used if you die you’ll drop them wherever you took that sword to the head. You have the chance to recover them if you manage to make it back to your decaying corpse, (marked by a glowing mushroom-like marker,) however, if you die a second time before reaching them they are gone forever.
All being good, you’ll get to your next save point and have the chance to level up. With each level, you will gain a talent point with which to upgrade your abilities further. From changing your Raven form to adding buffs to different attacks, your ability tree forms a vast collection of ways to change how you want to play. Let’s remember that this is a souls-like, so you’re going to need all the help you can get right from the beginning because the first boss is no joke.
Taking into account that this game is a preview and still currently beta testing, it feels polished and a pleasure to play. I have only had a chance to scratch the surface of Thymesia’s storyline and gameplay so far but it is just as enjoyable as any AAA game of the same genre I’ve encountered. The updates Team 17 has released during my time with this title have made some important quality of life changes. This being said, I can imagine future patches making what is already a great game better still. If you’re looking for something to fill your death and punishment needs, I would highly recommend putting on your plague doctor mask and delving into the world of Thymesia.