ThymesiaAugust 18th, 2022
PlatformPlayStation 5, Xbox Series S|X, Nintendo Switch (Cloud), PC
An era of plague and unease fills the kingdom of Hermes as alchemy falls by the wayside. What’s similar to the Bloodborne affliction of the same namesake lies in the sudden deterioration and torment of the ordinary populace, transforming them into various mutations as their blood is irreparably tainted. Perhaps the sole savior of this fallen kingdom is a raven-masked alchemist named Corvus whose answer to the plague can forever change the outcome of this one great kingdom. Corvus' adventure throughout the kingdom of Hermes may be one to recover his memories, but to players that have seen so many Soulslikes before, Thymesia comes as a welcome memory.
To say that Thymesia only pays an homage to From Software’s ninja masterpiece would be a disservice to the level of care that OverBorder Studio has poured into their Soulslike. While Corvus may not have the same precision of combat training that Sekiro’s Wolf has undergone, what Corvus makes up for it is stability. By foregoing mechanics like stamina, Corvus can continue his onslaught of attacks without needing to catch his breath. Nearly any enemy attack can be parried with the correct timing, even hulking two-handed sword attacks that could cleanly carve Corvus in two. There are two primary tools to evade damage for the attacks that cannot be parried. One is the typical dodge, but the other takes another page straight out of the Sekiro playbook when it comes to stepping into the attack. No longer just limited to piercing attacks as Sekiro first introduced the mechanic; Corvus can step into the oncoming attack in the same method as a Mikiri Counter and jump straight into the air, giving the opportunity to follow up with a heavy attack, pending that the player invested points into the correct skills.
While there is an abundance of talents and skills to unlock in Thymesia, Corvus can only earn a maximum of twenty-four talent points all the way up to hitting the level cap of 50. This is one of the rare Soulslikes where there is a hard cutoff to the main character's potential, leading up to the bulk of talents and blood skills to make the difference. Across the talent tree are a number of essential skills for players to pick up. Among the most essential skills are ones that grant Corvus either a larger pool of feathers or faster regenerating units, an improved claw skill that leaves the enemy bleeding, and either of the parry affinity skills (one increases the window to parry while the other increases the overall combat damage).
Corvus’ main combat tools in Thymesia are a standard sword and the ravenous claws he can unleash to strike at the wounds left on enemies, and if the hit defeats them, can rip their weapon for single use in combat. If you find a weapon you like enough, spending the shards dropped by specific enemies unlocks the ability to equip Corvus with one (or two, if talented) of these plague weapons to add a third and fourth weapon into the flow of combat. Just about every plague weapon that Corvus wields can be more effective than his standard sword, and while there isn’t one specific weapon that surpasses all others, there will certainly be some that each player will gravitate towards in their play style. For myself, the heavy axe was my main one until I unlocked plague tentacles from a mutated version of an early boss before finally settling on the bog standard bow and arrow to keep wounds afflicted on enemies while I was recovering my energies.
Combat takes another note from Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice with the health system employed by enemies in Thymesia that runs similarly to that of the ancient samurai health gauges. As Corvus deals regular combat damage, those hits don’t necessarily mean the end of his target. Instead, they leave wounds on the target that slowly close back up and restore health if they aren’t dealt with properly. Getting knocked down or dashing away to chug a health potion usually means wasting all of that effort with nothing to show for it. To keep pressing the advantage, slipping a claw attack or two between saber attacks will rend those wounds and deal lasting damage to the target. If there’s more of a gap that prevents Corvus from dashing or teleporting to meet his target across the battlefield, throwing a feather at the target will keep those wounds from closing back up.
Thymesia’s focus on conjuring up remedies to combat the plague is key to Corvus’ journey in two ways. For one, the potions that the player must chug to recover their life in the heat of combat come in three forms which must be selected before heading off on a quest: the standard potion that takes a moment to heal regularly, a heal over time that restores much more health, or smaller quick drinking potions that Corvus can carry in greater quantities. Using herbs and spices collected throughout the land, Corvus can imbue his potions with passive effects that can increase the effectiveness or provide additional statistical boons (throughout my entire time spent playing through multiple runs from beginning to end, not once did I come across a sprig of Rosemary). The other essential remedy comes in how Corvus plans to beat back the plague. Shortly after an encounter with Thymesia’s final boss (which is a highlight of the fast-paced combat all its own), the player is tasked with preparing two of the boss’ cores he’s collected and creating a solution to saving the kingdom, quite literally Corvus’ Answer. Each ending is earned by selecting two cores out of the six collected. Selecting cores of the two Pure Blood bosses will lead to one such ending, for example. Corvus won’t have to replay the entire game to come up with a different answer to the plague; simply continuing the game puts Corvus back just before his encounter with the end boss.
While Thymesia’s length is heavily skill-dependent, the adventure is over before you know it, even when compared to other Soulslikes from similarly sized developers. With only three biomes to explore, the structure of Thymesia first puts players into exploring each large-sized map and carefully exploring the labyrinthian corridors from beginning to end and each leading to a boss of that region. Once completed, additional side quests open up, typically three per region, that remix the levels by either having Corvus adventure from end to beginning or explore different previously locked sections to face off against different enemies and bosses. Once a quest is cleared for the first time, Corvus’ collectibles and keys stick with him, so future runs through the dilapidated castle won’t require locating keys and unlocking one-way passages a second time. Even with a hearty amount of grinding for levels early on and unlocking every plague weapon and at least two of the available endings, I had barely placed eight to ten hours on the clock. Veteran Souls players could easily clear through the entire campaign in a long afternoon with enough dedication.
In fact, the length to Thymesia remains perhaps the sole major poison to this crafted take on the Soulslike formula. Few newcomers into the genre can have such a breakout into the combat as OverBorder Studio, and while I felt like Corvus’ journey was relatively wrapped up by the time I had sought out every ending, I look forward to seeing the studio tackle the genre once more with a higher production opportunity. Until then, Thymesia remains their best title to date with a fully Soulslike experience you can see through over a single weekend.
Reviewed on PS5 (code provided by the publisher).
A welcome change of scenery to the faster strain of Soulslikes, Thymesia gets straight to the point of sword and claw without lasting any longer than necessary.
- Fast-paced combat that mixes skillful parries and dodges
- Health and wound mechanics incentivize pressing the advantage as much as possible
- Two dozen plague weapons to mix up combat styles
- Sekiro-style parrying leads to some very impressive feats of tug-of-war between sabers and giants
- Only a handful of sidequests and missions to undertake
- Less than a dozen bosses yet one as unlikeable as Bed of Chaos made the cut
- Pitiful drop rates lead to barely seeing select materials
- Limited PlayStation 5 features, including lack of proper DualSense support and lengthy loading times
- Allowing an enemy to recover their wounds results in losing all of that hard work
- No voice acting during boss fights, requiring players to read moves and lines
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