The Soulslike subgenre of video games is a unique and deadly subgenre that’s popped up in recent years. Several characteristics define a game as Soulslike, characteristics that are hallmarks of the subgenre. Such as punishing, brutal, almost masochistic combat, a story that makes little to no sense at the best of times, and a macabre, gothic atmosphere full of macabre, gothic enemies.
Thymesia, the most recent game by Team 17, checks all those boxes with abandon.
If players have been waiting around for the next challenging combat system after they conquered the Lands Between in Elden Ring, their waiting is over. While its main story tends toward the shorter side, and its characters are empty and distant, I doubt anyone will be playing Thymesia for its story or characters. It’s all about that unforgiving combat, baby.
With over a dozen weapons to unlock, varied skill paths, and customizable moves for days, Thymesia does a masterful job of letting players develop their own play style. Which they will use to die at the feet of their enemies time and time again.
Welcome to my Thymesia review.
Who am I?
I’m just a dude who’s been hacking and slashing since I was a wee lad. I’m just a gaming bro who learned how to beat games before there was an internet to search.
I’m a guy who knows there are only three kinds of games in the world; bad games, good games, and Titanfall 2. So sit back and relax, I’m going to explain why Thymesia is an excellent game for some people. And a potential heart attack for others.
Gameplay–The Meat & Potatoes of Thymesia
How can I sum up Thymesia’s gameplay?
Death. Lots of death.
As with any Soulslike game, the enemies you encounter are much stronger than you. Their attacks stagger you immediately, they can kill you in three hits or less, and their attack range is much broader than yours. In the course of learning their attack patterns and skill sets, you’re going to die. A lot.
But as long as you learn something from each of your deaths, I’d still call it progress. Sure, you got your skull bashed in. But you also learned that during the boss’ second phase, his combo is extended by two moves and he finishes with an unblockable sweep of his sword. Important info.
The most unique aspect of Thymesia’s gameplay is their twist on dealing damage and hurting enemies. There are two kinds of attacks in Thymesia, attacks with Corvus’ sword and attacks with his predator claw.
Every time you damage an enemy with your sword, you deal normal and plague damage. That plague damage will heal over time unless you attack with your predator arm, preventing that bit of health from regenerating.
It makes for a chaotic way to fight at the beginning of the game. You’re constantly checking the enemy’s health bar, looking at red versus green, and trying to time your light and heavy attacks just right.
By the end of the game, you get a pretty good rhythm going for most enemies.
Defense was hard for me to master in Thymesia. All that perfect parry nonsense was hard to time when I’m already timing my different attacks and dodges. But thankfully, Thymesia doesn’t lock you into a specific style, forcing you to play the game their way.
I suppose that’s my usual hang-up with Soulslike games; they want you to play their way. And if you don’t, you die. A lot.
The skill trees in Thymesia are open and editable at any time. Are you having a hard time with that boss? There’s no need to restart the game and build an entirely new character. Just edit your skill tree a bit; move this point over to offense, move this point over to health. Boom.
This meant that, for me, instead of having to parry, I could choose to unlock a straight block move. It removed the parry altogether but allowed me to block 75% of incoming damage instead of missing the parry and taking 100% of the damage. And since I was always more of a dodge kind of guy anyways, I was able to unlock a move that let me dodge straight at a character and leap into the air off their attack. Which then opened a whole new world of ariel combos and attacks for me to explore.
The abundance of plague weapons to unlock and upgrade was a bonus to the combat that I wish I had utilized more.
I liked that Thymesia let me choose the way I wanted to play and gave me plenty of customizable options.
Visuals & Aesthetics
The visuals of Thymesia get a profound and resounding… meh.
They’re alright. You’re not going to find yourself awed at the graphics like in a Resident Evil game, and you’re not going to be pulled in by the cinematics like it’s Dead Space. The graphics are pretty bland, and there is hardly any cinematics to speak of. The only cutscenes exist right before a boss fight, and since you have to watch them over and over again after each of your deaths, you get frustrated with them quickly.
Team 17 does a great job distinguishing each region by a specific look and feel. The Royal Garden is a wildly different experience than the Hermes Kingdom, and that comes across in visual details.
The details are there. The design is solid. But it’s nothing that stands out against its competitors.
The Story Of Thymesia
Ah, the narrative of Thymesia.
What is the narrative of Thymesia?
No, seriously. I’m asking because I don’t know.
On its head, Thymesia’s story is painfully simple. But the more you play, the more you wonder why you’re still unlocking lore and story notes. “There’s more?” I kept asking myself whenever I picked up a file on the ground. I think the writers made a straightforward story, realized it was a little too straightforward, and added layers of convolution to make it bigger. The result is a simple story that manages to throw players off its trail with random asides that don’t matter.
“The Twilight Circus is important! But so is this coup that happened in the Kingdom! And so is this experiment lab beneath the Royal Gardens! Also, this legless abomination we call God!”
In reality, none of those things matter. They’re just fluff for the story.
Haunting, grotesque fluff that adds to the creepy atmosphere of Thymesia. But fluff all the same.
In Thymesia, you play as Corvus. Corvus works for the royal family of the Hermes Kingdom. He’s a plague doctor/assassin/alchemist/poisoner and he’s done something terrible. The problem is, he’s not sure what.
The first time you die in Thymesia–which I’m betting won’t take very long–you’ll be told it’s okay that you died. After all, it’s just a memory.
That’s right, the entire story of Thymesia takes place in Corvus’ mind.
With the help of the small but powerful Aisemy, Corvus is trying to remember what caused the Hermes Kingdom to become what it is today.
There are multiple endings to Thymesia, and you’ll understand why when you get near the finale. There’s not much narrative. Once the premise is explained, the prologue defeated, the game sets players off on their quest. And unless you search for notes scattered around the map, you won’t unlock a shred more of the story.
Thymesia User Interface
The user interface of Thymesia was simple yet solid. No extra bells and whistles to distract or fancy up the screen. No useless clutter. Everything is where it needs to be during gameplay and while navigating through menus. Zero complaints.
In retrospect, this may be the most well-designed feature of the game.
Want To Go Again?
Thanks to the unique structure of Thymesia’s maps and quests, there isn’t much of a need to restart the entire game for a fresh replay. You can go back and replay maps and quests as much as you’d like. This enhances the replay factor in a single playthrough significantly.
Replayability for Thymesia is definitely there. Personally, once I killed a boss, I had zero desire to fight them again; once I cleared a level and got over my initial celebration, I vowed never to play that level again.
However, thanks to the long grind of leveling up and the need to harvest item drops from enemies, I found myself diving into every extra mission presented to me. It provided an opportunity to get more experience and more plague weapons to level up. And if I really wanted a specific plague weapon, I did go back to find and farm that specific enemy.
Replayability is there for Thymesia. Whether you want to restart the entire story when the ability exists to replay levels at a whim is up to you.
You Might Also Like…
Well, the usual suspects come to mind.
- Dark Souls
- Elden Ring
But then you’ve got some more obscure titles.
- Mortal Shell
- Monster Hunter
- For Honor
When it comes to alternatives, they don’t necessarily need to be Soulslike. They just need to have brutal combat, a poor story, and larger than life world.
The first batch of games is AAA quality with stellar gameplay, story, and engagement. They didn’t win awards for nothing.
Of course, you have the series that started it all in Dark Souls. If you’re considering playing Thymesia but haven’t played those, you deserve neither. Sekiro is a twist on punishing Soulslike combat, relying more on parrying than dodging. And Elden Ring is a horrid amalgamation of everything one might consider Soulslike that came before it.
The second batch has some large titles–Monster Hunter and For Honor–but two smaller ones as well. The combat in Mortal Shell is beyond brutal, and the way you unlock bonfires and collect experience points is the same as in Thymesia. The dodging, parrying, and attacking in Godfall is even tighter than in Thymesia. Highly recommend.
Monster Hunter has some punishing combat, but it’s against giant dinosaurs and dragons, so it makes sense. Not to mention there’s so much more than just combat in that series. And For Honor can be as unforgiving as they come if you play a high difficulty, or professionals online.
The Good & The Bad
- Tight, challenging combat
- Editable skill tree
- Multiple play styles to capitalize on
- Large levels
- Lack of characters or story
- Confined map design
I won’t list bugs under cons because I know the development team will get around to fixing them in a patch shortly after launch, and it won’t be a problem for long. But I can’t tell you how many times I got stuck on a random piece of tile, unable to move or dodge off it, just waiting for an enemy to put me out of my misery.
It’s a game with well-designed combat. That’s clearly where Team 17 put the majority of their focus. But the other aspects of the game are good enough to hold their own as well. The game is a bit short, at least compared to the other games listed in Alternatives, but it’s challenging and provides enough side content that it can keep players entertained for hours.
As far as Soulslike games go, I’d say give this one a try. It’s not a hefty investment like Elden Ring is. It’s not as confusing as Dark Souls or Mortal Shell. And it’s not a straight grind like Monster Hunter.
Thymesia is a game that knows what it does well and leans into its strengths. If you’re a fan of the Soulslike genre, give it a try.
And if you’re not a fan of Soulslike, like myself, it’s a great appetizer. It’s not something that will make you break any controllers or curse the development team and their unborn children. It’s a game that’s just challenging enough, forcing you to adapt to survive. But since it gives you options for that adaptation, it feels more flexible than its competitors.
There’s plenty Thymesia could do that would elevate their score in my opinion. First and foremost get rid of all the bugs and glitches. I’d bump the score up to an 8 immediately if there weren’t so many defects throughout gameplay. If the story was slightly longer, if the enemy design was more striking, and if they’d developed their unique world more, I’d give this game much higher marks. But it’s little more than a Soulslike hack-n-slash, and that earns it a solid 7.
Question: Dude, where’s Bloodborne on the list of alternatives?
Answer: To quote my nonexistent country aunt, “There ain’t no guns ’round here!” There are no firearms in Thymesia. And though the story gets convoluted at times, it’s nothing like Bloodborne. And Bloodborne has way more features and mechanics than Thymesia. Soulslike. Not Bornelike.
Question: Did you know you could beat Vargas the first time you met him?
Answer: Yes. The possibility exists of eliminating one of his health bars. But he has that charging move that is unblockable and unavoidable. He will tackle you and chop you in half, regardless of how good you are.
Question: Are there any updates planned for Thymesia?
Answer: As of right now, there are no DLCs announced for Thymesia. Team 17 has a history of just making a sequel rather than creating DLC content, but we’ll see what the future holds.
At the end of the day, Thymesia leaves both combat style and story engagement entirely up to the player. You can choose to play through the extra missions and side quests to understand better the characters, lore, and world of Thymesia, or you can get by with the bare minimum. You can fight enemies with standard tactics and do what the game encourages you to do, or you can develop your own style and crush enemies with brutal finesse.
Thymesia is a game that isn’t trying to develop its own cinematic universe or get players to empathize with their characters. It’s a game with tight combat, challenging enemies, and large maps to explore. And their honesty is something I can respect, even if I do utterly hate Soulslike games.