“Thymesia” is itself a mutant of types, contaminated by the contagious affect of From Software’s video games, whose cursed lands and opaque designs surge by way of its veins. Pull up “Thymesia’s” bloody floorboards and also you’ll see Hidetaka Miyazaki’s signature etched within the foundations. It reveals all of the basic signs of a Soulslike — branching degree designs that loop again on themselves, sparse relaxation factors, forex that will get left behind while you die, teasing you to retrieve it — whereas its setting and lore pull inspiration from the streets of “Bloodborne’s” Yarnham. There’s a gothic tint to “Thymesia’s” medieval locales, a plot that equally facilities on experiments with blood, and the black-clad Corvus, adorned with feather cape and plague masks, could possibly be the brother of “Bloodborne’s” Eileen the Crow (the phrase “Corvus” refers to birds of the crow household).
But dig even additional, and also you’ll discover that the most important affect is “Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.” Simply as From Software shifted its components away from RPG territory with its story of a rogue shinobi, “Thymesia” is primarily a personality motion recreation, the place leveling up is simplified to boosting one among three traits — sword assaults, claw assaults and well being — then choosing skills from a talent tree. As such, though you possibly can customise your play type, Corvus stays a selected type of fighter.
On paper, “Thymesia” thus reads like a mishmash of different folks’s concepts; like a crow certainly, grabbing no matter shiny objects entice its eye to adorn its nest. As soon as you agree into Corvus’s sneakers, nevertheless, it’s clear that Taiwanese developer OverBorder is just not solely one of many extra realized college students of From Software’s faculty of magic, it is aware of just a few methods of its personal. Given how infested “Thymesia” is with well-worn tropes, it’s in remarkably impolite well being.
The principle purpose is Corvus himself, and his expertise for demolishing plague-ravaged woodcutters, pikemen, knights and extra on his quest for scraps of misplaced analysis and natural supplies that will result in a treatment. He’s a wiry, supercharged model, palms gripping twin blades with jealous depth — a scalpel-sharp saber in the suitable, a modest-looking parrying dagger within the left. Each weapons wound opponents, whether or not he’s dancing round them to unleash biting slashes, or standing toe-to-toe completely deflecting incoming strikes. And as with “Sekiro,” he can parry absolutely anything, from hefty hammer swings to the plummeting weight of a large bat.
But these slick methods received’t dispatch enemies on their very own. One in every of “Thymesia’s” methods is that blade wounds heal after a short while. You possibly can slice a mutant right down to the final sliver of their life bar, however behind it lies a second meter, glowing inexperienced, signaling regeneration. To make injury stick, then, it’s good to unleash Corvus’s plague vitality, manifested within the type of a heavy lunging claw assault. That is the yang to your sword and dagger’s yin — close to ineffective towards an unscathed fiend, it chews by way of wounded flesh to ship the kill. With it, battles purchase a salsa rhythm: quick-quick-slow, quick-quick-slow.
There’s extra. As soon as an enemy stands depleted and susceptible for a dramatic execution assault, you possibly can cost up the claw for the ultimate blow and steal their weapon. The spice of selection in Corvus’s life comes from the collection of these “plague weapons” you possibly can collect, from a spear that spits out three ahead jabs to a whip that may launch you towards distant enemies, and plenty of extra. At first, such armaments expire after one use, however some foes drop crystals when killed, which let you unlock their weapons for everlasting choice, then energy them up additional.
This array of blades, claws and plague weapons combines with devastating impact, stuffed with weight and texture. Corvus’s saber connects with a crisp crunch, like biting right into a freshly cooked french fry, whereas repelling a collection of doubtless lethal blows emits sparking, echoing clangs, and a plague hammer smash will brutally lay flat smaller foes. The encore as you spring ahead like a coiled cobra, claws swinging, then lands with biting venom.
Sequences of that kind aren’t straightforward to craft towards something apart from rank-and-file goons, but “Thymesia” is rapidly rewarding in addition to punishing. Enemy combos aren’t as complicated as a few of these in “Sekiro,” and the stability in fights between protection and offense is way more equal, even in boss battles. One of the best of those evolve into epic tugs of battle, the place a profitable chain of parries and counters can see you push your foe into retreat, till they handle to counter your assault, which you may then parry in flip, or steer away, taking a second to breathe and heal earlier than clashing as soon as extra.
Even when (like me) you often discover timed parry mechanics anxious, it’s price persevering. One unlockable talent in your tree is a barely longer parry window, on the expense of some energy, pulling a way of mastery into nearer attain inside the pure confines of the character’s growth. Otherwise you may choose to tailor your efforts round blocking (some) injury, or double-dodging to make you extra cell, or a lighter, sooner claw assault, and you may rapidly re-spec at relaxation factors do you have to change your thoughts. No matter you select, “Thymesia” stays difficult, however minor alterations make huge variations.
And it’s particulars like this across the fight expertise that make “Thymesia” purr. It’s honest to say the sport solely actually excels on this space, nevertheless it’s laborious to complain when it’s nailing the joys of the combat and refining the methods facilitating it, quite than spreading itself too skinny. The choice to share its protagonist’s razor-sharp give attention to acrobatic violence feels particularly wise given the sport’s comparatively low manufacturing values, which may’t hope to compete with these of its influences. As such, enemy AI is primary, execution strikes clip by way of surroundings, and textures pop in at alarmingly shut vary at instances. However parts which are essential to victory — body price, digicam — stay stalwart allies.
Likewise, “Thymesia” has to compromise on aping From Software’s adventures with regards to scale. In actual fact, you possibly can entry its finale after beating solely three fundamental levels and managers. Whereas the places are imaginative, together with a treetop circus and a tropical backyard, that’s not precisely filling. Fortunately, although, it’s not the whole story — with a nod to the buildings of “Demon’s Souls” and “Nioh,” you possibly can revisit ranges to finish sub-quests. At first this implies monitoring again by way of areas, and sadly there are few new enemy sorts, however discoveries inside ultimately expose contemporary ranges and exhilarating to-the-wire boss fights. Suffice to say, it’s properly definitely worth the return journey.
Regardless of some repetition, then, the complete recreation doesn’t really feel miserly, and might simply final 15-20 hours — comparable a minimum of to different character motion video games reminiscent of “Devil May Cry.” Additionally, within the wake of the gargantuan “Elden Ring” this 12 months, it’s fairly comforting to see this type of problem return to extra finite house. Finally, you’ll have walked dirty paths like these many instances, but when the Soulslike virus stays lodged in your core because it does in “Thymesia’s,” it is best to simply change into absorbed into its diseased world, by no means as soon as hoping to be cured.
Jon Bailes is a contract video games critic and social theorist from the U.Okay. He’s the writer of “Ideology and the Virtual City,” and might be discovered on Twitter @JonBailes3.