Thymesia Review

Three things I like about this game, and two I don't

By Paul Hunter

It feels like I've been playing new soulslike games all year long. Salt and Sacrifice, Dolmen, Stranger of Paradise, The Tarnishing of Juxtia, not to mention Elden Ring from the originators of the genre. And there's still Steelrising and Soulstice arriving next month. It's a crowded genre these days, and as such, it takes something special for a new soulslike title to stand out among the crowd.

Thymesia is one such game that did actually rise above and pique my interest, mainly because of its blatant Bloodborne aesthetics worn on its sleeves, plus its plague doctor protagonist that looks straight out of Assassin's Creed. While it seemed far from original, any game that gives me even modest Bloodborne vibes is near impossible to pass up. Now that I've played through the game's roughly 10-hour campaign, including side missions, would I recommend it to soulslike fans? Let's take a look, here are three things I liked about the game...and two I didn't.

Liked: Saber and Claw Attacks

Thymesia's story is one that's well known to fans of the genre: a once thriving kingdom discovered an incredible new power source, that some warned of its potential dangers, which naturally got ignored until said source backfired and corrupted the kingdom's inhabitants, sending the land into an age of calamity.

In this case, the source of power is alchemy and within a few days of the catastrophe nearly everyone within the kingdom transformed into bloodthirsty monsters. You play as Corvus, one of the few citizens that wasn't corrupted by the alchemy disaster, who—wait for it—wakes up with amnesia. The secret to finding out what happened to the kingdom, and to Corvus himself, now lies within his memories.

While the story may not be too original, the gameplay adds some fresh new twists to the tried and true soulslike formula. The most notable is all enemies have a white Health bar that you have to whittle down, but also a secondary blue Wounds bar you also need to deplete to zero. Corvus has two basic attacks: Saber strikes that deal a fair amount of damage to enemies' health bars, plus Claw attacks that dole out a ton of wound damage, while barely scratching their health bar. The twist is, enemies will regain their white health after a few seconds if you don't attack them—so you need to engage with ruthless aggression. In a sense, it's similar to Bloodborne, which encouraged and rewarded applying constant pressure to enemies, only with a Thymesia reverse spin on it: instead of regaining your own health by attacking, you prevent the enemies from healing.

A further layer that adds depth to the gameplay is that foes will only regain white health up to their current wounds damage. So if you inflict 50% wounds to your opponent, at most they can regenerate up to 50% health. Combat, as a result, has a rhythmic dance feel to it where you'll saber attack to inflict health damage and create wounds, then switch to powerful claw attacks to shred their wound health. Once an enemy's health and wounds reach zero they'll enter a dazed state, complete with a Sekiro red dot appearing on them, indicating that you can perform an Execution to finish them off. Also channelling its Sekiro inspiration, there's no stamina gauge and combat runs at a fast and furious pace as a result.

You have one more main attack, and that's your long-distance feather strikes. When enemies flash green, if you time your feather attack correct, you'll inflict critical damage and usually leave enemies stunned. But actually in practice I found that your feathers served a much more important purpose: these quick attacks can prevent enemies from regaining health, and therefore are great to use between your attack combos. Whenever your opponent jumps out of reach, or when you need a breather to inject a healing potion, feathers are your go-to attack for delaying their health regen.

All your attacks combined, plus the lack of a stamina bar, gives Thymesia such a fun, fast, satisfying feel to its combat. I really enjoyed the fast-paced battle rhythm that felt like a satisfying mix of Bloodborne and Sekiro.

Liked: Upgrading Corvus

In many ways, Thymesia leans into the soulslike genre staples. Defeating enemies nets you Memory (a.k.a. souls or XP), and you drop your Memory pool whenever you die (which you can later retrieve), and levels have save points, called Beacons, where you can also level up your character.

I really like the upgrade system in Thymesia, which consists of six different Talent skill trees: Saber, Deflect, Dodge, Claw, Feather, Strategies. Each tree lets you build up specific abilities, whether that's extending your saber combo, giving you a double dodge, or increasing your total feather capacity. There are some extremely useful abilities that can give you a huge leg up in battle, including adding a healing effect to enemy executions and allowing you to perform a devastating double claw strike.

Aside from the usefulness of Talent upgrades, perhaps the best part is you can refund your points at any time and then reallocate them. Purist might say that eliminates the risk or tradeoff by going down permanent unlock routes, and while that's true, I appreciated that I would respec my character at any point and it was especially useful before boss fights. One particular boss struck fast and so I beefed up my dodge and deflect skills to counter, while another boss required me to attack aggressively, so changed up my skill allocation to focus on extending my strike combos and damage. It's a great system that begs you to experiment, without punishing you by locking your choices in.

Thymesia also features special attacks, called Plague Weapons, that can severely damage enemies, stun them or even drain their health. Plague weapons are acquired by defeating enemies and collecting their dropped Skill Shards, which can then be used to unlock weapons or upgrade them. The weapons range from powerful axe strikes to long-range flying daggers to ground-smashing hammer slams. Upgrading plague weapons offers a whole variety of benefits, depending on the individual weapon, such as increasing the damage, reducing the cooldown time or lower the MP required to cast. Plague weapons are another great addition to the combat in this game.

Liked: Boss Fights

While the common enemies in Thymesia are fairly straightforward to defeat, the boss battles is really where the game shines. The first level, which takes place in a giant tree village that appears to have once hosted a circus, has you face off with a mini-boss acrobatic circus performer that throws knives and another circus strongman mini-boss wielding a giant mallet. The final showdown is with the circus Ringmaster who possesses lethal cane and kick combos, along with fast card throws and sword thrusts. These boss fights where challenging and exciting, particularly the Ringmaster who's a pretty brutal first boss to fight.

For sake of spoilers I won't get into much details about any of the later bosses, but I found them equally as thrilling to face off against and they're brutal fights. Boss fights also begin with short cutscenes very reminiscent of Bloodborne with their dramatic unveiling of who you're facing off against and the might weapons they weild.

Didn't Like: Short Length

I'm going to cut Thymesia some slack here because it's an indie title with an obviously smaller budget and scope compared to FromSoftware releases, but I felt that just when I had mastered the combat and was looking forward to flexing my skills, the story was already wrapping up. There are only three medium-sized areas to explore and the game can be beaten in about eight hours.

Levels include sub-quests with different objectives, including new boss fights, so you can keep playing after the credits roll if you like. I did appreciate this extra content but I can't help but wish there were a few additional areas to explore as I would have been happy to play through a 20-hour or more campaign given how satisfying the combat is. In fairness to the game, it is price appropriately at $30 so you do get good value for your money.

Ultimately, I hope Thymesia is a great success for OverBorder Studio and Team17 because I'd happily revisit this game world if DLC or a sequel gets announced.

Didn't Like: Enemy "Out of Zone" Health Regen

My one big frustrating with combat in Thymesia is that enemies seem to have defined 'zone' in which you can do battle with them. If the enemy steps out of their sweet spot zone they rapidly regain all their health and heal all their wounds. It was incredibly aggravating to engage a tougher enemy, and after a few minutes of battle, the take one step out of their sweet zone and suddenly they're back to full health. Arg!

Contrast that with say Demon's Souls where you can bait a Red Eye Knight all around the castle without thinking twice. In Thymesia I also had a few times where I'd walk just a step or two away from battle to heal up, only to find when I re-engage the enemy was back to full health. Super annoying and it makes you wonder why enemies couldn't just retain the damage you've already inflicted on them, just like in virtually every other soulslike game.

The Verdict

I had a great time with Thymesia, from it's Bloodborne-inspired atmosphere to it's buttery-smooth gameplay. I only wish the game was longer—its three worlds can be completed in about 6-8 hours. At its budget price though, it's certainly worth the cost of admission. And there's certainly a solid foundation here for more adventures in this haunting and punishing world, let's hope!

Final Score: 7.5/10 - Good

Thymesia details

Platform: PS5, Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch, PC
Developer: OverBorder Studio
Publisher: Team17
Genre: Action RPG
Modes: Single-player
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)

A key was provided by the publisher.