This title was reviewed on Nintendo Switch, but is also available on PlayStation 4 and PC.
As you should know by now, I am fond of games that bend genres, often feeling like a ton of games in one. When it came to Thea: The Awakening, I was sceptical at first because I am not that much of a fan of the 4X genre of strategy game. But when I found out it was a mishmash of genres, I immediately looked forward to playing it. So how does Thea hold up? Let’s have a look.
The visuals in Thea are pretty good. They’re typical of modern 4X games, with the game having a boardgame-esque appearance, with character models being massive compared to the world to help them stand out. The graphics are solid due to the variety. Each character archetype has its own model on the map, and there’s a ton of variety in the environments, such as snow and grass.
The story focuses on the world of Thea, which has recently re-awakened after an apocalyptic event where The Darkness engulfed the world. You play as a deity, whose weakened powers only let you control a small population in Thea. After helping set this small population up to be able to comfortably survive in their village, you are then tasked with finding out what caused The Darkness to spread in the first place. After that, the story proceeds in a non-linear fashion, with the decisions you make drastically affecting it. The story here is interesting not only because of the deep backstory but also because of its non-linearity and focus on choice.
For the most part, Thea: The Awakening is a blend of 4X strategy, survival, and rogue-like. The main parts of 4X you utilize in the game are the explore and expand aspects, as you’ll be doing a lot of exploring of the world and expanding your small village and band of survivors. The game’s survival and rogue-like elements come in in the fact that there’s a ton of resource management, as all of your characters need the likes of fuel and food to survive, and if your characters die, they’re gone for good.
Each element in the game has its problems though. For starters, the pacing of the exploration. The game works on a grid system similar to the later Civilization games, and while that is fine on its own, for me it’s the fact that you can only move a limited number of spaces per turn, and I’ve always hated the fact that in games like this I have to hold a button to go to my next turn before I can continue moving. Resource management isn’t problematic per se, more that it’s kind of pointless.
Each one of your villagers has a trait that makes them better at something, so you can just have a ton of gatherers, assign them to gather resources, and, since it’s all done automatically, leave it at that. Resource management only comes into play when you want to send a party out to explore, and you have to assign them a surplus of food to survive, as each member uses up one unit of food per turn. The biggest offender has to be the combat however. In a bid to cram as many genres as they could into this game, the combat is card-based, and it’s annoying and confusing as all hell. Even after following the tutorial I just couldn’t grasp it, and even then it was far too slow-paced and ruined the flow of the game to the point where I just began to auto-resolve each conflict I got into.
The audio is pretty good. The sound effects here are well-done and don’t get annoying, the music fits into the fantasy environment quite well, and the voice acting is pretty damn good, even if it is just by one guy who reads out all of the story beats.
If you look up a definition for ‘Jack of All Trades, Master of None’, you’ll find Thea: The Awakening. It intrigued me with its blend of 4X strategy, rogue-like and survival elements and card-based combat, but almost all of these elements have flaws. The game’s survival elements in regards to resource management take a backseat since they’re done automatically, exploration is a slog because of the fact that you have to keep ending your turn just to move, and the card-based combat is an absolutely boring affair. When they’re all blended together there is some enjoyment to be found, and I do commend cramming 4 genres together, and managing to tell a solid, non-linear story while also looking and sounding decent. I’d say give the game a go if you’re curious.