Thymesia - Review
A lot of games have drawn inspiration from software with varying degrees of success, but many developers look to emulate that high degree of challenge that comes from the likes of Dark Souls. Bloodborne, and Sakura. They often miss the fact that it's the combination of thoughtful, tight gameplay and deliberate encounter design that makes these games fun.
Not just a punishing difficulty Phimesia, a 3D action game that draws heavily from some specific titles, manages to strike that balance, successfully creating a soul that taps into the same rewarding moments provided by its biggest inspirations. Phi Messiah draws most obviously from two of the software's games, the aggressive horror-inspired Bloodborne and the fast-paced, dual-focused Sakura Shadows Die Twice, and to be sure, developer Overboarder Studio owes a lot to its inspirations.
It has a similar atmosphere to Bloodborne, and even its protagonist, Corvus, looks a bit like a yharnam hunter, or, more accurately, a hunter of hunters. Eileen the Crow's Thymessia takes place in a kingdom called Hermes, in a world beset by a plague that infects both people and animals, mutating them and turning them into monsters.
As such, Corvus is a sort of superpowered fighter with a connection to the alchemists who are trying to cure the plague. Your job in Thy Messiah is to remember what has already happened. Each level in the game is actually a lengthy recollection of a past event, and Corvus has previously ventured through three different locales in the kingdom and killed the monsters found there, uncovering information about experiments to cure the plague.
The whole story is a bit thin, with little explanation spent on who Corvus is, why he's such a great fighter of flake monsters, or how he got these memories. The other characters want him to examine them, but the story is not the star of the show in Thy Messiah; it is instead the fast-paced, offense-heavy gameplay that has you ripping through small enemies and battling some tougher, more inventive bosses.
The key mechanics of thymessia are basically ripped straight out of Bloodborne and Sakura, and both are used to great effect. Bloodborne is a game that eschews blocking for aggression and dodging. While Sakura mostly encourages players to duel and deflect incoming attacks with their blade, Dimesia puts major focus on similar ideas.
You have a sword in each hand for the entirety of the game, using them to slash away at enemies and, when timed correctly, parry incoming attacks. You'll alternate between agile avoidance and standing your ground against a volley of blows. The tight, responsive controls and expressive character animations mean that both approaches are highly satisfying.
You'll quickly learn to spot when you need to parry an attack and get a knack for where your dodges will take you and how to best outmaneuver almost any foe. The game's fast combat works exceedingly well, finding the same tough but rewarding cadence as both Sakura and Bloodborne. Though you'll occasionally fight multiple enemies at a time, it is largely a game about tough duels and carefully planning your attacks.
You want to do as much damage to your enemies as possible without overcommitting. As in Soulsborne games, hitting attack buttons can lock you into animations that make you vulnerable to counter-attack. Oftentimes, defense is the best offense since deflecting attacks not only protects you, it can wreck the health bars of your opponents where overboarder steps away from The software is in how it deals with health in Thy Messiah and in the various means of playstyle customization.
The game affords you enemies in thimesia who take two kinds of damage: wound damage and damage to their overall health. Regular attacks decrease a white wound's health bar, exposing a green overall health bar underneath. The plague causes wounds to heal automatically. So, after a short time, the white health bar recharges to the same length as the green health bar.
Thus, the only way to really damage enemies is to hurt them with regular attacks, then hit them with a special, high-powered attack. You can specifically target the green health bar, whittling it down so you can ultimately drain both bars and perform an execution move. The claw doesn't really damage the white health bar but drastically damages the green one, so you need to chain your standard attacks together with the claw attack to have a lasting impact.
The trade-off is that the claw takes a moment to charge up, potentially leaving you vulnerable. So combat becomes a quick and elaborate dance, requiring you to plan various moves and string them together with parries to deal different kinds of damage while also making sure not to overdo it and leave yourself open to attack.
Blasting bosses often comes down to playing defensively with parries and dodges, dealing them wound damage, then finding an opening to get in some quick claw strikes to actually hurt them in the long term. Because parrying deals damage to opponents, you're incentivized to attack aggressively and to master the timing of blocks, turning all aspects of the fight against your opponent.
It's these combat mechanics that make Thy Messiah a blast to play, especially once you get the hang of them and fall into a rhythm. The game also brings to bear several other good ideas that add to the underlying strong mechanics, borrowed from Soulsborne games. As the claw attack, for instance, can be charged up and at full strength, you'll actually wrench away a spectral plague weapon from your enemy, which can then be used once yourself.
As you face opponents, they'll occasionally drop items called "skill shards," which give you training in particular weapons. With skill shards, you can unlock and then level up plague weapons, and then equip them at your thymesiest save points, so you can steal weapons from enemies as you're fighting them for single-use, special attacks, and use the equipped weapons you brought with you as long as you have enough of a resource to recharge.
Called energy The plague weapons give you a wide range of special moves in addition to your swords and the claw's ability to steal a weapon from someone annoying you. It provides a handy means of changing tactics on the fly. Dimesia relies on a similar leveling system to Bloodborne, Sakura, and the Souls games, but with another smart addition.
Like in those games, you gather a resource from enemies you kill that you can spend at save points to level up, increasing your base stats every time you do. You also unlock a talent point, which you can invest in one of a bunch of different skill trees. These give you a host of possible upgrades, like different kinds of dodges, a parry that trades off damage dealt from deflections for less exact timing, a damage boost to your attacks, or the ability to gain health from executions.