Note: This cloud version of Thymesia was tested on 100Mb superfast broadband using both 5G WIFI and wired LAN connection.
The Kingdom of Hermes has fallen into a time of calamity. In a world where the use of powerful alchemy was once widespread and welcomed, things have gone terribly wrong. The now blood-soaked streets are filled with plague-stricken monstrosities, and it’s up to you, Corvus, to take out the mutated scum.
OverBorder Studios’ Thymesia is the latest in a long line of Soulslike experiences that attempt to capture FromSoftware’s magic, while adding a few of their own twists and gameplay wrinkles for good measure. As it is de rigueur with the genre, we have the same basic rules as usual at work here. Bonfires, now known as beacons, dot the landscape and provide a chance to rest and boost your stats while also restoring any nearby enemies. Death sees you leave behind your collected memories and gives you a chance to return to collect them, and there’s a central nexus, here known as Pilgrimage Hill, that you can return to whenever you want to wallow in the game’s brooding atmosphere or have a disappointingly short chat with the one NPC who lives there.
Yes, if you’ve played a Soulsborne you already know the general gist of how things play out in Thymesia, but this is a game that has managed to get a little extra attention in the run up to its release because, well, that look The company. There’s a nice art style at work here, Corvus is a fast and flashy protagonist, and at first glance the haunted forests and blood-stained streets that you scratch and slash your way through give off a bit of a gore vibe that, let’s face it, is a atmosphere well worth giving up.
In addition to this, the game’s combat has received enough fresh ideas to warrant investigation. Corvus attacks enemies with a combination of quick saber slashes and a slower, heavier claw attack. The general idea is that enemy health bars have two items that you must work to destroy. Slash them with your saber and you’ll see the white line turn green, indicating that you’re dealing Wound damage. The white will regenerate and reclaim the entire exposed green area unless you then strike out with the claw, permanently removing the green portion and actually doing permanent damage on top of temporary wounds. Turn the bar down to zero and your enemy will be opened up for a finishing move indicated by a glowing red spot robbed right out of Sekiro.
It’s a system that encourages you to stay on the front foot, pinning down enemies with combos – there’s no stamina to worry about here – to prevent their wounds from regenerating. On top of this, Thymesia introduces a neat plague weapon mechanic that sees you steal every weapon skill your current enemy possesses by charging up your claw attack and then unleashing it, sending Corvus charging forward to pluck the essence of their weapon from them for a one-time use .
The plague weapons on offer give you plenty of options to play with, there are a total of 21 to collect, covering great big hammers, whips, swords, axes, scythes and more exotic bloodsucking food, adding a layer of strategy as you blast your way through levels, you collect memory shards to increase your stats and skills with an eye on the boss lurking at the end of each area.
After some time, you’ll also unlock plague weapons permanently in your inventory, giving you the option to put them into a second slot and giving Corvus a mix of permanent and one-time use plague weapons to play with. As you engage enemies you’ll receive random drops of weapon-specific upgrade points that can then be used to boost the attack stats of your collection. Use your claw to attack a hammer wielding enemy and they will drop hammer upgrades, sword enemies will drop sword upgrades and so on.
When it comes to leveling up Corvus’ core stats, all you have to worry about is pumping your memory shards into Strength, Vitality, and Plague attributes, and each level you gain rewards you with a talent point to spend in the game’s talent skill tree. This is where you can freely unlock and then reset various skills at your convenience to build a Corvus that best suits your playstyle. You may want to pump all your points into your saber, for example, to ensure it gives you a lot of energy back when you attack – energy is what you need to perform plague weapon attacks, after all – and there are also upgrades for your claw , dodge, deflection skills, quills, and more general stuff like buffs to your attacks when your health drops below a certain level.
The core combat system here is actually pretty solid and unique stuff, at least on paper. However, you may have noticed that we mention quills, dodges, and deflections in the last paragraph, and this is where things start to fall apart. Thymesia has way too many systems in play for its own good, some of which feel completely pointless and most of which feel like they need some refinement and tweaking due to how annoyingly narrow their options are.
Take the game’s quills as an example. These are used to offset an enemy’s charged attacks and delay wound regeneration, and are deployed with a quick press of the left trigger. After being introduced to this mechanic in the tutorial, we completely forgot about it. It just feels unnecessary, does very little damage – at least until you level it up – and just dodging charged attacks and then going in for some saber and claw attacks feels like a much better option.
The same issue extends to the game’s deflection system. Time your block with the left shoulder button and you’ll deflect an enemy’s attack. Fair enough. But the reward for doing this is not worth the difficulty of mastering the extremely tight and difficult timing. There’s no opening for the enemy to do a fancy riposte here, so it’s much better to just dodge away.
But even dodging has its issues, feeling unrefined – especially in this Switch Cloud version, which we’ll discuss in a bit – and for the most part we opted to hammer the dodge button instead of trying to get into a rhythm of perfect escapes.
It all results in battles that feel loose and baggy on the defensive side of things, never reaching a place where it makes the player feel like they’re in total control, weaving in and out of enemy attacks and delivering resistance when the opportunity presents itself. In short, on offense, Thymesia mostly feels good, but outside of this, it’s a jumble of mechanics that could, and should, have been streamlined. Take out the springs and deflection and just give us plague weapons, saber/claw attacks and a dodge and this might have felt a lot slicker overall.
Outside of combat, well, you have to take Thymesia’s indie nature and budget price into consideration here. There are only three different areas in the game, with a small hub and a final small boss region to bulk things out a bit. Not too much in the way of variety all in all. You’ll run through an area once and meet the boss, then you’ll be offered a series of sub-quests that see you go back to a slightly different version of the same area to collect something or fight a secondary boss. This equates to a lot of backtracking and repetition in both scenery and enemy types, and it’s a problem exacerbated early on by a first big boss we needed to grind for a good few hours to beat. Not an ideal start.
This early-game paint job didn’t just leave a bad taste in our mouths either, it also resulted in us feeling completely outmatched for the rest of our adventure, leading to run-of-the-mill enemy encounters and boss fights that felt much easier later in the campaign than anything we encountered in the opening hours. Or at least it would have if we hadn’t been in a constant battle with terrible input lag, image quality issues, artifacts, and other issues related to this being a cloud version.
We have had good experiences in the past with such as Hitman 3 – Cloud Versionand yes, we have had serious problems (Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy: Cloud Version), but here things are at their worst. Due to the fast-paced, combat-heavy nature of Thymesia’s gameplay and the tight windows of success for deflecting, dodging, and attacking, the input lag and image quality issues here result in an experience that is truly borderline unplayable on Switch. Consider going through Dark Souls for the first time with a lot of lag, unresponsive controls, and completely messed up timing attack animations, and you’ll get the general idea of how this works.
Of course, we realize that your experience may vary depending on your internet setup, but we tested this game on a very capable 100Mb 5G WIFI and a wired connection with very little success. You only need to glance at the screenshots throughout this review to get an idea of how blurry and unreadable this game looks in combat. Muddy image quality and compromised inputs in this type of demanding, action-heavy game are unfortunately not something we can live with.
In the end, what you’ve got here is a very poor version of a game that’s already a pretty average experience, even when playing on hardware that can run it perfectly. Thymesia’s combat is a mixed bag, its level design rather bland and its lore underdeveloped. Had it worked well on the Switch, we’d only recommend it to the most ardent Soulslike fans. However, with the performance of this cloud version proving to be so intolerably poor, this is one version of OverBorder Studio’s indie adventure that we recommend you stay away from.