Tropes in games are inevitable. Much like film or books, games will borrow ideas from one another and write them off as creative interpretations. This is completely fine and totally natural; no human being has wholly unique thoughts, odds are that if you’ve thought of something cool, someone else likely did too. Thymeisa’s most significant issue is that it believes it is doing Bloodborne for the first time when Bloodborne did it back in 2015 and did it near flawlessly. If you’re looking for an exciting gothic-themed Soulsborne game, and one that you can play on Xbox consoles, this is not the one I’d recommend.
The worst trope in games is killing the player for story progression. I don’t mean in a cutscene, or even in the same way that Infinity Blade on iOS did it all the way back in 2010. Rather, I mean setting the player in front of a boss early on, only to kill the player, regardless of the player’s skill. This isn’t something new in the Soulsborne genre, but it is always annoying. It takes away agency in video games, and agency is the only thing that separates video games from movies. Worse is when this kind of opposition is leveled at a player less than 10 minutes into the game. I wouldn’t have cared nearly as much about this if it had happened 100% in a cutscene, but the fact that I was shown a big, daunting boss only to try my hardest and lose because the team at OverBorder Studios decided I should, doesn’t bode with me and should have been a sign of things to come.
The Black Parade
While this game delivers enough ambiance and music to send a relapsed emo-kid into a spiral, it fails to deliver on anything close to competent gameplay. When dealing damage to enemies, players have a window of opportunity to use their Plague attack to lock in the damage they have dealt to combatants. Instead of the damage you’ve dealt being permanent inherently, you must use your plague attack quickly, or else the enemies will regain the health you just took from them. This is a fun idea on paper, but in execution, it led to plenty of deaths that could have been avoided if I didn’t need to “seal the deal” on my damage output.
A large part of the Soulsborne games that put FromSoftware on the map is a class system: players can build their god killer the way they see fit, whether you focus on magic, ranged attacks, a sword and shield, and so on, Thymesia fails to give the player any such choice. Instead, it opts for a wildly overpopulated skill tree system that, to the game’s credit, can be changed and adjusted as you see fit every time you visit a beacon, Thymesia’s answer to bonfires. The biggest issue with this is the lack of weapon variety. In my time with the game, I never saw the option to wield anything other than the sword and dagger, the latter of which is used for “parrying” and not attacking outright. When most of the heavier enemies are using weapons that outrange your own, you’re forced to lean on the upgradeable dodge, parry, and feather stun moves.
While there aren’t other weapons to wield, you are given the ability to steal weapons from enemies in the form of single-use power-ups. By charging your plague attack, you make a version of your opponent’s weapon and can use them against them, but only once per charge. This was probably my favorite part of the combat and had I been able to use their weapons permanently, I probably would have enjoyed my time far more than I did.
Tragically, the parry system in Thymesia is in shambles. The entire game suffers for something that should be intrinsically part of the game, rather than something that is downright bad unless upgraded in a particular way. Where games like Dark Souls or Bloodborne have a parry, Thymesia has a half-hearted attempt at blocking an enemy attack. Should you find yourself fortunate enough to parry an enemy’s attack, you’re looking down the barrel of a follow-up attack that itself cannot be blocked because your button press cooldown timer has yet to elapse. As I said earlier, if you opt into the side of the parry tree where you gain a block, wherein players take a reduced percentage (ranging from 60-75% less) of damage instead of parrying by holding the parry button, you effectively lose the ability to parry all together. I tested this on one of the game’s earlier bosses and failed to parry the boss in all three attempts. It just doesn’t work.
As if to compensate for a parry system that outright doesn’t work, OverBorder Studios introduced the feather stun mechanic. This makes it so that if an enemy decides, completely randomly mid-combat, to come at you with a heavy “Critical Attack”, you can stun them with this feather move. The player is given a limited supply of these feathers which recharge slowly over time, but the tells for the enemies are severely misleading. When an enemy begins their heavy attack, they send out a short green pulse, effectively telling you to get ready, but just like trying to figure out when in an animation is the right time to parry, players must discern when to throw their feathers. It’s a frustrating cycle that leads to inconsistent stuns with shockingly brief windows of time for the player to engage with an enemy. This is coupled again with limited, short-range weapons that require you to close the gap in combat. I found that if I was able to get the stun to work, which happened increasingly rarely as I went on, I infrequently had enough time to close that distance and then get to attack. Instead, I found myself getting close enough to unleash a volley of slashes only to have the enemy swing at me in such fast succession that I’d be respawning at the nearest Beacon.
Thymesia isn’t all bad. I genuinely enjoy its aesthetic and music and the art style is a fun take on a gothic kingdom, if not a little too derivative of Bloodborne and Elden Ring. The music fits the world near perfectly and I’m legitimately sad that I’ll likely never see or hear more from this world. Even the basic combat against trash mobs is satisfying, but only because it doesn’t rely on more than half of the game’s combat mechanics. While Thymesia feels a bit better than the recent Dolmen, it’s still not saying much. I hope that this game gets a little more love from the dev team in the months to come. I think Thymesia has so much potential. Unfortunately The game’s terrible parry system, lack of variety in its weapons, and incredibly frustrating feather stun move compound into a game that I struggled to enjoy, despite my best efforts.