Saturday, February 2

Review: Thea - The Awakening [Nintendo Switch eShop]

One of the great traits of many indie titles is a willingness to recombine ideas and try new combinations of gameplay and game systems to make something new and compelling. That said, not all new recipes knock it out of the park on the first try and can end up a bit half-baked. While I appreciate the ambition of Thea: The Awakening, and it’s combination of Civilization-like world exploration and building with card-based combat, unfortunately it may be a bit too complex and cumbersome for its own good.

Starting with the strategic component survival is a bit of a complicated task, as you’ll need to worry over collecting resources and building up your town while also being sure to have expedition groups out in search of resources and likely a bit of trouble as well. Random encounters, typically with numerous choices for how to resolve things, occur with regularity and there’s no sure and consistent course of action that will yield the right results, you’re going to have to roll with things and do your best. The variety in the challenges you’ll face and the choices you’ll be presented with may be one of the most interesting aspects of the game, though it can also be one of the most confounding.

The other major piece of the puzzle is the card-based combat you’ll get engaged in. What’s a bit unusual, and takes some getting used to, is that these card sequences aren’t only used for battle, they also serve as the interface for resolving other scenarios. For instance,  dealing with animals, depending on the composition of your group (you should consider diversifying as much as you’re able to be able to tackle as many scenarios as possible), can provide an option to Hunt them rather than attacking outright. You may also be able to negotiate in some way. As much as the normal inclination in these sorts of games may be to attack, the fact that your party members can be put at risk by taking damage in a battle (they don’t just heal up when the battle concludes), may convince you to try other means whenever possible. It’s all up for debate and you’ll need to likely try and fail different strategies to see what works for your style and the people you have to work with.

If all of this sounds a bit overwhelming and/or confusing then I’d say you have the rough idea. New and different can be fun but it can also tend towards being bumpy. There’s a pretty extended tutorial that tries to walk you through a lot of major concepts but for some things trying and dying may be the only way to really learn. If you’re looking for a slow burn of a game that you can grow into and savor this may be a good match, but if you’re itching to get in and have fun anytime soon you may want to consider something else.

Score: 6.5

  • An interesting mix of multiple elements from other titles
  • Each time you play decisions you make and encounters you run into will vary, often making for unexpected results

  • While the tutorial does an admirable job of trying to walk you through everything crucial there’s simply too much to explain, at least clearly, and you’ll need to experiment to learn more
  • Though the card-based combat can be interesting at first it ultimately gets quite repetitive