Did someone call a plague doctor?
Team 17‘s latest creation is a brutal Soulslike set in a macabre, gothic universe dominated by horrifying magics. Thymesia is a game of intense combat, grueling mechanics, and a faceless, speechless protagonist. It’s a game that requires quick thinking if you want to survive.
It’s the masochistic kind of grind that only Soulslike or horror fans would enjoy.
But thanks to a unique combat system and a myriad of plague weapons to employ, we think the gameplay of Thymesia is an improvement on the Soulslike formula. It doesn’t lock players into a specific way to play the game. With skill trees that players can edit whenever they want, the game gives players the freedom to conquer bosses in various ways. And with some straight-up unfair bosses, players will have to experiment to find the best combination of weapons and skills.
Let us show you a glimpse of the haunting world and relentless combat of Thymesia.
Story and concept
Of any Soulslike game that exists, do any of them have a clear and straightforward story? Do any of them have cutscenes that offer exposition? Do any of them have a story that makes even a little sense?
I didn’t think so.
Thymesia is no different.
On the one hand, the concept of Thymesia is so simple it makes us ask, “Is that it? Really?” On the other hand, the story of Thymesia is so layered and complicated I wouldn’t know where to begin. Because the beginning isn’t technically the beginning, because…Magic.
You play as the protagonist, Corvus. He’s a capable and murderous plague doctor who’s also maybe a royal assassin for the Hermes Kingdom. And by maybe, I mean definitely. Corvus has a problem, however: he’s lost his memories. He has no idea who he is, where he is, or how the world got to be in its current state, which is a severe problem since he is the one who put the world in its current state.
To help Corvus figure out what went wrong and why he can’t remember anything, a young member of the royal family of the Hermes Kingdom, Aisemy, works with him to bring forth his lost memories.
Every map players load into with Corvus is another memory he’s trying to piece together. And at the end of that memory, little Aisemy will ask Corvus, “Is this everything that happened?”
The end goal is for Corvus to remember everything; the experiments, the circus outbreak, the capital coup, and the difference between vile and pure blood.
The story of Thymesia gets all jumbled up with details that don’t matter. What matters, though, is that the world is currently screwed, and apparently, it’s Corvus’ fault. Figure out what happened.
The story tries to add all these useless details of researchers for the royal family working on potions or soldiers of the Hermes Kingdom infiltrating the Twilight Circus. None of it matters; in our opinion, it detracts from the core concept. Which is very simple:
The world is in bad shape. And you’re responsible. Figure out what went wrong.
Thymesia isn’t going to blow anyone away with their graphics. While the visuals are enticing and detailed, they don’t hold a candle to the competition. You have just enough detail to figure out what the grotesque growths on your enemies are, but not enough detail to get queasy from looking at them.
But to us, we weren’t playing Thymesia for the visuals or attention to detail. And honestly, if there were more details, we would’ve been too distracted to survive in the brutal combat.
Sound and atmosphere
This gets a thumbs down. The atmosphere is barely there, and the sound is not fully utilized. Team 17 clearly focused on gameplay mechanics more than other aspects of Thymesia, and it shows.
There is enough unique atmosphere that each map you visit will feel distinct, a minor part of the whole experience. But you’re not going to feel impressed. We’re reasonably sure Team 17 only added the bare minimum to keep players just immersed enough to keep playing.
There is some sound design; it’s not as if the game is muted. But the enemies’ voices are so low that we didn’t know they were talking until halfway through the game. We didn’t even realize a boss was monologuing at us until we’d fought him dozens of times. There is music to enjoy while you murder your foes, and you’ll find it’s responsive to your health. The more health you have, the more sophisticated the music. The less health you have, the more harried it becomes.
It’s a nice feature to instill in players, “Hey, you’re gonna die!” But it’s so subtle that we didn’t notice it by the second or third boss.
The actual investment Team 17 put into Thymesia was in its gameplay. This is where Thymesia shines, and it’s the only reason many players will even consider picking up the game. The story and visuals aren’t going to bring players in. It’s the gameplay.
And boy, is the gameplay intense.
Corvus has a lot of abilities as a plague doctor assassin. He attacks with his falchion, has a predator’s arm, can parry or block, dodge, shoot projectiles, and choose from over a dozen plague weapons to use.
Whenever Corvus hits an enemy, he does plague and normal damage. Plague damage will heal over time unless he attacks with his predator claw. Effectively, Thymesia found a way to twist the light and heavy attack formula many games follow. Light attack with the falchion to stack up plague damage, then heavy attack them with the predator claw to reap all the health away.
But thanks to all of Corvus’ other abilities, you’ll never feel like you’re limited to light and heavy attacks. There are tons of skills to unlock based on your strengths as a player.
We weren’t the best at parrying–the parry window is so damn narrow! So we used a skill that traded the parry for a regular block, which allows us to block critical enemy attacks instead of getting wrecked by them. We also used dodge a lot–dashing around the map with our enhanced double dodge–so we unlocked an ability that let us dodge into the air. Suddenly aerial combos became a reality.
But we used Corvus’ feather ability way more than anything else. You can leave it as merely a projectile that damages enemies and interrupts their combos. Or you can upgrade it to replenish plague energy with each successful hit, have them regenerate every five seconds, and attach a feather dash attack to them. Once we upgraded our feather, we were obliterating bosses in no time. It was our greatest strength. But others who can master the parry may find that their greatest strength.
There is a learning curve with Thymesia, as with any Soulslike title. But we didn’t feel the curve was too steep with Thymesia. Sure, we frequently died in the beginning. And we don’t care what you say, and it was impossible for us to play the game with a keyboard. But you do pick up the rhythm, the flow of combat. And by the end of the game, you’re assassinating enemies left and right with minimal effort.
We were surprised at the replay value of Thymesia. It’s relatively high, but there’s no need to replay the game from the beginning. Thanks to Thymesia’s mission selection screen, players can go back and replay levels whenever they want. They are encouraged to do so, as beating enemies and collecting their item drops is the only way to unlock more plague weapons.
So if you want more options in combat, you have to go back and replay the game. But thankfully, not from the very beginning.
Unless you really want to.
Final thoughts on Thymesia
Thymesia is a game heavy on the combat and easy on everything else. It’s a game that was meant to scratch that brutal combat itch some players have.
Thymesia will not wow anyone with its story or presentation, and the characters are almost nonexistent. But it will keep players entertained for days as they try to beat every boss and mini-boss in the game while collecting all the plague weapons. And since the combat is an improvement upon other popular Soulslike games, players will have fun while repeatedly dying to overpowered foes.