Thea: The Awakening, I’m sorry to say, is one of those games I had never heard of until I played it. This is despite it being out for quite a while and having multiple expansions and updates already released for it. Thea: The Awakening a marvelous hidden gem that get it right where it matters.
With that said what is Thea: The Awakening? Think of Thea as a mix between a Civilisation game and a choose your own adventure game. Or a mix between Endless Legend and King of Dragon Pass (two excellent games in their own right). Players start with a small village and a handful of people and the plan is to survive and prosper. Where this is different from other in the genre is there is are a whole host of quests both main, sub and side. With varying rewards, difficulty and purpose. Some of these crop up because of entirely random events, but others are triggered because your village has met certain requirements. All of which feel wonderfully organic and make sense within the world of Thea: The Awakening.
Within your village you can assign villagers to gather resources, craft items and build structures. Each of which help you to grow stronger as a people either through better equipment, steadier income or other benefits. Exploration, however, is where you can have some real adventures. Selecting a troop to head out into the wilderness to explore ruins or gather rare resources is the only way to truly survive in Thea.During an expedition your party may run into monsters to battle (actually you will definitely do this), so bringing fighters is extremely important. However, fighting is not the only time you will need to do ‘combat’. Thea: The Awakening will also have you performing ‘combat’ under range of other circumstances such as trying to convince somebody of something, avoiding getting food poisoning or performing magic. And that brings us onto how ‘combat’ is played out in Thea and it might be one of my favourite features.
Every ‘battle’ in Thea from a fight against skeletons to talking your way out of a situation requires you to play a simple, but fun card game. Each character in the party participating in the event has their own stats including health, defence and attack. They also have special abilities as well. At the beginning of the game you dealt 6 cards; 3 main cards and 3 tactical cards. Only the tactical cards have special abilities and it is much easier for the 3 main cards to participate in the challenge. Through effectively planning your expedition and the order in which you play your cards, then challenges that seemed insurmountable can be overcome. This simple system with very few rules just you play a set number of cards, then your opponent does the same makes each challenge feel real and the whole thing seems to make perfect thematic sense in the world of Thea.
However, that is not to say Thea: The Awakening is perfect. Some of the events are a bit cliche such as a man with a name like Arthur from a play that sounds a lot like Camelot want to get a sword with a name very similar to Excalibur. But there aren’t many of them. Also the game does an OK job of explaining what to do, but not always the reason why. Why craft things? How do you make a one sword better than the other? What do pastures actually do? This is left for you to figure out yourself. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but some of it isn’t obvious and makes the game feel more complicated than it really is.
Oh and I haven’t even mention the free expansions. No, you didn’t miss read that. Thea: The Awakening has free expansions. And plenty of them. A co-op mode has been added for free. Additional events have been added for free. Loads of quests and stories around the giants have been added entirely for free. There is also the promise of further additions. Honestly this game has had some of the most post-launch love I have seen and all it is free.
Thea: The Awakening is a gem. Lots of distinct ways to play. Events that are well written and a story that is engaging. If you enjoy games like Civilization and Endless Legend, but are less interest in numbers and more in a more focused narrative then Thea: The Awakening is for you.
I will leave with a short tale of a young man named Sasha. He recently came of age and trained as a fighter. On his first expedition outside the village the party came across a dungeon and decided to explore its depths. Seeing some useful herbs they gathered those and delved further into the dungeon in search of treasure. Eventually they reached a dead-end and turning around to leave they found themselves engaged with fearsome giant spiders. After a pitched battle the expedition was victorious, ,wounded but victorious. Alas young Sasha had been poisoned. A previous journey had uncovered a cottage where a healer lived who could cure such ailments. The party quickly set out to reach the healer, but were quickly set upon by skeletons. Vowing to protect Sasha until he could be cured the expedition kept him out combat. As they drew closer they began to run low of food and each went without so they could reach the healer. Finally the party reached the healer, exhausted and starving but were able to cure Sasha of the poison. They hurriedly ran for the safety of the village to recover and resupply for the next expedition into Thea.
That is just one of many stories that will happen in every playthrough of Thea. You become attached to these individuals for their heroic feats, masterpieces they create and their personal failings. You have to play this game.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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