When a small team of seven talented individuals get together and create something memorable, there is something special to be said. No, I’m not referring to The Seven from Amazon’s The Boys. I’m talking about the small team at OverBorder Studio and their debut Souls-like title Thymesia, a title with sharp looks and an even sharper edge.
The player is dropped into the plague-bearing Kingdom of Hermes where an age of calamity is putting it mildly. The kingdom elected alchemy as the solution to all problems, and due to the abuse of alchemy beyond just stopping the plague—to heal, enhance and basically make life easier—the negatives started rearing their ugly head and soon saw the streets riddled with monsters and sickness beyond control. Nigredo—or the decomposition stage of alchemy—seems to have sucked all the life and colour out of Hermes. The comparison to Fullmetal Alchemist’s first law of equivalent exchange cannot be understated as “To obtain, something of equal value must be lost,” and lost it was indeed.
The player takes control of a silent amnesiac protagonist, Corvus, donning a Victorian plague doctors mask as the only hope to excavate the truth from recalling memories, thus we have the title’s exact meaning Thyme + Amnesia, Thymesia, and a compelling intricate storyline lies in the binding of this well thought plot device that drives the story forward. As Corvus, I was dropped face-first into this dreary world filled with visual shades of grey, dark green and an overall condemned atmosphere.
The visuals are striking, and the classical background music completes the atmosphere with a dark signature that could be taken as ‘abandon all hope.’ I cannot overstate how well the soundtrack fits the setting. The usage of crescendo as the player runs into confrontation is a delight and seized my undivided attention. A brief tutorial—while far more informative than Bloodborne, or other FromSoftware titles—is more than enough to set the player behind the sticks into Hermes. Corvus can strike, dodge, parry and utilize special abilities to cut enemies into ribbons.
“OverBorder Studio went above and beyond with the rich lore of Thymesia, and the way it works so well is a massive accomplishment.”
The enemies do indeed fight back and they fight back with vengeance. Learning attack patterns is the only way to proceed, and adaptability is the players best tool in getting through the hellish landscape. After the tutorial segment the player is greeted with an obvious ‘I’m a bad guy’ antagonistic figure who sets a beast named Varg, with a great sword on our feathery hero. This boss fight is a battle you’re meant to lose by design, just like the opening segment of Elden Ring against the Grafted Scion. It didn’t stop me from trying MANY times.
Corvus is then dropped into a beautifully designed hub world called Philosopher’s Hill, a type of vacation house for the royal family, where Aisemy, a daughter of the King is met. Aisemy never introduces herself as such, but her identity can be found out by reading into the collection story pages that Corvus can find throughout Hermes. This is where Thymesia grips vague storytelling with an iron hand, while the narrative seems vague at first and, it makes no sense; the underlying lore picked up while travelling can reveal secrets about the Kingdom and its inhabitants and trust me, it’s worth it. OverBorder Studio went above and beyond with the rich lore of Thymesia, and the way it works so well is a massive accomplishment.
Of course, the rich lore of Hermes and the soundtrack are compliments to what really counts, the gameplay. There are bon- I mean beacons, placed throughout the various biomes that Corvus will visit through the treacherous Hermes, where the player can level their character as they see fit. This can improve abilities, grant specific talents that add to prowess in battle, and utilize alchemy itself to adjust and upgrade potions making them more effective, adding on to simply healing Corvus’ definitely low health points. Imagine Estus Flasks from Dark Souls, but with boons for the player that allow for less damage received, more damage dealt, and even energy points can be restored with the potions.
The difficulty of Thymesia is nothing to smirk at. Combat is brutal yet satisfying. Every time an enemy triumphed over Corvus’ beaten frame, I was able to adjust my tactics and beat them into submission… eventually. Upon death—which WILL happen—Corvus drops his memory shards (experience points/souls/runes) and they can be collected by revisiting the site of his demise upon the next attempt, just another nod to the prowess of the FromSoftware Souls design.
Combat in Thymesia is fluid and seamless, with impeccable design. Besides the basic RB/L1 equals light attack, Corvus can utilize a brutal claw strike (RT/L2) which turns him almost monstrous, to damage his enemies. This is where the design takes a notable novel direction. Enemies have two health bars, the brighter is a ‘Wound’ bar which overlaps the darker underlying bar which is the true ‘health’ of adversaries. If enemies don’t receive damage fast enough, the wound gauge recovers, making fights more treacherous, longer, and giving the player higher stakes to finish enemies with greater importance on speed.
By using light attacks to damage the wound gauge, and claw attacks to cause permanent health damage, adversaries enter an ‘execution state’ where Corvus can lay them to rest finally. Another unique mechanic that needs attention is the Reave system, where Corvus can hold his claw attack down and rip off an enemy’s weapon. This ‘reaved’ weapon can only be used once and can turn the tide of battle. Reaving doesn’t kill or disarm an enemy, but it is truly effective in adding to the arsenal Corvus can unleash on the plague.
“Thymesia does also feel very short, as without reading the lore, a FromSoftware veteran could speed run the title in a meagre amount of time.”
After getting enough shards of a weapon type to drop from ANY given enemy, Corvus can unlock them as an equippable ‘plague weapon,’ which can be used multiple times with a limited energy gauge. This bolsters Corvus’ powers even further, making the plague riddled kingdom of Hermes quiver with fear if used properly.
Boss fights are TOUGH but heavily rewarding when overcome. The first—beatable—boss is a magician called Odur, an annoyance that the player more than likely wouldn’t want to smell. His background lore can also be found in the story pages littered throughout his inhabited biome called the ‘Sea of Trees,’ adding to the dense lore of Thymesia. After defeating him, Corvus gets an amazing plague weapon which allows unlimited dodging for a limited time and is by far my favourite plague weapon in the game. Jetting throughout the kingdom unharmed feels like taking off the training wheels on a bicycle for the first time, until it runs out and a hiding enemy barrels into you, causing imminent death.
The shortcomings of note are that besides Philosopher’s Hill, all the biomes feel too similar to call different, making it my favourite location in Thymesia. There are notable difficulty spikes from random enemies that feel cheap in nature, and don’t have any warning which can dishearten weary travelers venturing through Hermes.
Thymesia does also feel very short, as without reading the lore, a FromSoftware veteran could speed run the title in a meagre amount of time. Also, this is definitely a ‘me’ problem, but besides the Thymesia flavour of the Sekiro Mikiri Counter, which throws Corvus in the air if timed right against an unblockable attack, there is no way to jump, which just feels lacking for some reason.
Thymesia is a work of art. As not just a love letter to the FromSoftware successes, Thymesia is equipped with an incredible soundtrack, stellar design, and a tough as nails nonadjustable difficulty that will make any player who triumphs over Hermes feel elation at their accomplishment. The rich lore adds to the depth of the Kingdom and allows immersion beyond ‘just another FromSoftware clone.’ With this title, OverBorder Studios may just have to call themselves ‘The New Seven.’