Switch version tested
Review code provided
Explore, battle and try to survive in Thea: The Awakening for Nintendo Switch. This turn-based game of strategy is heavily inspired by Slavic mythology and comes from developer MuHa Games. Originally released on the Steam platform back in 2015 we now see it updated and ported to the number one hybrid console by the talented publisher Monster Couch.
Our story starts in a time where a mysterious entity only known as The Darkness, sadly not the British rock band from the mid-’90s, has fallen on the land. Resources are scarce, the people are downtrodden and there are no more heroes. A small band of survivors pull together, train and become the next wave of monster slayers on a mission to restore balance to the land. Much like Obi-Wan to Leia, they are the only hope! – well until one dies and needs replacing.
I was in two minds about the best way to play, traditionally this genre of game is suited to a PC with keyboard and mouse inputs, the Switch in handheld mode functions just fine but there is a lot of info to display on not a great deal of screen. Docked would be the preferred method for this challenge. The main titles and introduction offer a good overview of the events so far with a pleasing art style that is fantastical and grim. There isn’t a great deal of animation going on in, none more so than in the cutscenes, but the voice acting adequately makes up for this delivering the story in a concise manner. The crisp sound effects also go a long way to make this an immersive experience whichever setup you decide to play with.
The world created for Thea is procedurally generated and having played this previously on the PC it still had a fresh feeling playing this time around as each playthrough is never quite the same. The game sets up to combine an in-depth story, with over 200 non-linear sequences so the blub informs us, and a robust turn-based tactical style of play. I was hoping to find a cross between Age of Empires, The Settlers and Advanced Wars but this never really reached the same hights on that front. Once the basics are mastered by way of the in-game tutorials you are then relatively free to complete tasks and missions in the manner you deem fit. Being able to refer back to the advice given is a godsend. The field of play which you occupy is split into hexagonal blocks clouded by a ‘mist’ that is removed upon nearing, each block represents an area of movement which is only limited by range your party has left much like a game of chess. Initially, you will not want to venture far from the home settlement as you get to grips with the extensive resource management and combat systems within. Opting to hunt, gather essentials and build up home defences is a smart move until you feel braver so anyone that likes to rinse and repeat sidequests will be in for a good time. With the vast set of choices, resources and skills that come into play every decision needs to be carefully considered and planned if you want to survive and succeed, which naturally is the overall aim. The inventory management system at first glance is dazzling, often a case of trial and error. Crafting plays a key part in Thea with thousands of items to find and develop it will be a hard task to complete them all.
The combat style opted for is a strange choice with its core mechanic being a complex card-based system. It takes a little bit of getting used to but once you have lost a couple of times something will, hopefully, click and you can set out to winning those gritty, ruthless battles. My first battle took place against a bunch of wild bores, also my second and third technically but that was due to the fact I had to keep replaying it because I didn’t know how best to approach it. Enemies come in thick and fast with a good hundred, or thereabouts, of unique types but let’s face it all of them are out to get you. It was later that I realised conflicts can be settled in a number of ways, outnumbered or underpowered then you may want to try the diplomatic way out or simply choose a safer path (run away). Sometimes a fight should be the last resort (seriously, just run away).
There’s a lot to take in with the sheer amount of things to do so this is going to keep you playing for a long time, if you decide to persist with it. Throw in the fact that there are a couple of different endings which all depend on the choices you make throughout and there’s plenty of reasons for a replay of two. Unlocks and perks carry over to the next game which helps speed up additional runs. Definitely a game to keep going with just to see how it evolves with experience.
Like life itself, this game is a strange proposition. Not entirely what you expected or wanted but it’ll do, the tutorial (childhood) takes 18 years but in some cases can last 36 depending on how quick on the uptake you are. The stage straight after is one of awe, that is until you realise there are too many systems in place and life becomes overly complicated. By the time you’re in the end game you just want it to be over as it has simply gone on too long. Thea: The Awakening is ok but only if you are a fan of this genre and in all honesty it is more suited to being played on a PC. Having said that this port makes a good effort and the voice acting is brilliant. The inclusion of a card-based battle system adds a level of complexity that was just one step too far and it took a lot of fun out of playing.
Beard Score: 5.5/10
Nintendo Switch Essentials:
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 01/02/2019
No. of Players: 1
Category: Adventure, Board Game, RPG, Strategy
Publisher: Monster Couch
Download link: eShop