Developer: OverBorder Studio
Reviewed On: PlayStation 5
Also Available For: PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X|S
OverBorder Studio’s Thymesia is the latest souls-like to be released (as of the time of this writing and probably not for much longer) into the wild and highly saturated modern video game market, but where many of its contemporaries feel merely inspired by FromSoftware’s ubiquitous formula (their Fromula, if you will), Thymesia feels more like a proper rip-off of Bloodborne specifically. The story follows a man named Corvus, an amnesiac alchemist attempting to find the cure to the plague decimating the kingdom of Hermes within his own memories scattered across it. The plague in question turns anything it infects into violent, bloodthirsty beasts, and was seemingly the direct result of tampering by Hermes’ top medical practitioners, a setup that should sound very familiar indeed to fans of Bloodborne.
The similarities do not end there; Corvus’ design very obviously resembles the signature stylings of one of FromSoft’s Hunters, and the combat takes many cues from Bloodborne by being fast-paced and brutal, with an emphasis placed on countering and dodging enemies rather than blocking them to create openings. I will grant that this not an egregious copycat move the way the story is – there’s nothing wrong with games taking gameplay cues from one another if something just works, and in any case Thymesia does do a few original things that set it apart from its forebears.
The most notable of these differences is the plague weapon system, which allows the player to take a page out of their enemies’ various books to mix in with the more standard combos. Each weapon can be acquired either by “reaving” it from an enemy as a one-time use thing or by unlocking them with crystals the enemies drop. The permanent versions can be upgraded to expand both their potency and functionality, and many of the plague weapons are genuinely fun to use. Playing around with the plague weapons to find the ones that worked best with my particularly playstyle was highly enjoyable.
On that note, I will say that Thymesia is very accommodating on the whole to a broad variety of different playstyles and approaches. In addition to plague weapons, Corvus has access to a sizable perks tree and three different kinds of healing items with varying degrees of speed of use and restoration power, each of which may be further customized by mixing in herbal ingredients found throughout the world. Both the skill tree and potion mixing are fully modular with no penalties whatsoever for switching things up as many times as the player wants, and even the player’s base stats can be respecified, albeit a limited number of times.
There’s also the matter of requiring the player to switch their attack patterns up between their saber and their claws, Corvus’ two default weapons. Attacking enemies with the saber or deflecting their attacks deals “wound” damage, which appears as a green section on enemies’ health bar underneath the white. Wound damage is temporary, and if an enemy is allowed breathing space its wounds will regenerate, meaning that in order to kill the player must cement the wounds by attacking them with their claws before they have the chance. It’s a creative idea and one that further aids in creating a fast-paced, somewhat hectic gameplay flow, though I could certainly understand it not appealing to some.
Unfortunately, everything besides the gameplay in Thymesia is rather lackluster. Enemy designs and environments are uninspired and boring to look at, the story is unoriginal (as previously noted) and doesn’t do or say anything interesting, and there are some rather notable audio issues including an extremely obnoxious bug with the final boss music restarting every time the player lands a hit against the boss. Even the level design leaves much to be desired, consisting of only four relatively small maps (plus a plain, flat arena for the final boss) that are reused across roughly a dozen “missions” with only minor changes to differentiate between them, and to top it all off character creation is non-existent. For me, having a set protagonist (and especially not even having any options for armor or clothes) is automatic points off in a souls-like, and a game has to do a lot to make up for it, which Thymesia does not.
Hardcore souls-likes fans who have already carved their way through every other even halfway-decent title in the genre will get a kick out of this game. The gameplay is quite well-designed, and the risks it takes pay-off almost without exception. For everyone else, however, there’s not much incentive to play Thymesia over any of a number of other titles with better realized stories and settings. I didn’t hate the time I spent with it, and at times rather enjoyed it, but mostly it just made me think about how I still want to get around to playing Nioh 2 or going back and finishing Remnant: From the Ashes.
Thymesia's strong gameplay feels wasted on such a lackluster presentation.