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When I started playing Thea: The Awakening, I was excited for its possibilities. I'd love to play the game that I thought, in those early hours, that I was playing. If the card battle system were better and less predictable, if there was more stuff to do with your village and a greater tension between exploration and protecting your home, if failure weren't quite so punishing or random at times… Thea breaks the mold by doing a lot of different things at once. It just needs to do all of them better.
Thea: The Awakening is good. Very, very good, and where something like Civilization is hard to play in short bursts, Thea is an ideal title for train trips and the like. I have no idea how the team has handled the sequel (currently in Early Access on Steam), but with this first one, there is a superb foundation here for what could become one truly special franchise.
A single playthrough can last hundreds of turns but once you've earned a victory, it will simply unlock new quests and options. The complexity leads to all sorts of different ways you can enjoy your time but also creates a gigantic barrier to entry. Without watching a YouTube video of a playthrough being completed and explained on the fly I may have just given up, which would have been a shame because Thea is a fantastic title worth spending the time to figure out.
Thea: The Awakening is a mishmash of different genres that could have come out feeling jumbled and confused. However, some smart design choices allows Thea to be something bigger and better than the sum of its parts and brings its interesting experience over from PC to console rather successfully.
Slavic mythology, card minigames, and hexagonal turn-based strategic gameplay are just the beginnings to what Thea: The Awakening has to offer. With such a high replay value, it'll keep you entertained and busy for much more than you would expect. It definitely packs a big punch for an 'under the radar' game, and should definitely be on the wishlists of those who fancy strategy, resource management-based games.
It might look like Civilization on the surface, but once you realise it's actually a hybrid of card game, gamebook, RPG, and strategy game you'll be hard pressed to think of anything that you've played this year that's more fundamentally fascinating than this one. [OpenCritic note: Matt Sainsbury reviewed both the PS4 and PC versions. Their scores have been averaged.]
For fans of simulation titles with a sweet mix of RPG elements, Thea is an easy recommendation as there is very little on the Switch that even compares in the genre.
You will enjoy Thea: The Awakening for hours, if only you don't be discouraged by badly designed controls and difficult beginnings. Unique gameplay and atmosphere make it game worth your time.
Review in Polish | Read full review
Thea: The Awakening is something of a surprise, really. From an unknown indie developer comes a game that blends RPG and strategy together very well, in a fashion that means one doesn't dilute the strengths of the other. It is complex, sure, and perhaps that will be off-putting for as many as it will be endearing for, but there's an original game here - one that ought to appeal to fans of both spectrum of genres.
If you’re looking for an impressively varied strategy simulation title, there’s little else on the Switch that compares to Thea. Its mechanics take a solid amount of time to pick up, but once you have a good grasp on things, you can settle into a nice and comfortable gameplay loop. Your ultimate goal might be a large town, or a dedicated group of high-level warriors. Whatever it is, Thea gives you a great deal of freedom to do it, as long as you trust and prepare for the unexpected. For fans of simulation titles, Thea is an easy recommendation – for Role-playing enthusiasts, it might be a bit of a risk. If you’re willing to submit to the gods and take risks, you’ll find a game with satisfying depth, mixed presentation, and a lengthy and fun campaign loop.
Thea: The Awakening is one of many games that ended up slipping through the cracks around here for one reason or another, meaning the Nintendo Switch release is my first real experience with it, but all of the talk I’d heard about how it incorporates a number of totally different genres without becoming defined by any of its disparate elements was 100% accurate. Chatter about Thea: The Awakening‘s PC version being superior to its console counterparts also ended up having some substance behind it.
Thea does almost everything decently, but its flaws hold each of its parts back from being great. The one undeniable success in the game is the top tier story and worldbuilding that makes the game worth your time if you can get past the flaws.
With so many interlocking systems, Thea: The Awakening is a bit of a Frankenstein of a game, but kudos to MuHa for bolting together everything so seamlessly and for trying something new, though it might be time for developers to put card game subsystems on ice for a few years.
There's a lot of good in Thea: The Awakening. Nearly every bit of text is voiced, it's cool being able to grow your group of people, handling combat head-on or simply selecting to auto-resolve is implemented well, and there's a great deal of customization.
Never mind the fact that Thea: The Awakening can frequently feel like a needlessly complicated 4X stategy/survival rogue-like/card battler. If that was its only issue, this would be an easy recommendation. Regrettably, the inconvenience that is its user interface mars what could be something really awesome.
The game is certainly not a bad showing of a top down survival 4X title, but when compared to other similar titles in the genre, there isn’t really anything to pull the player back in for more.
Thea: The Awakening wants to be many things. It wants to be a proper 4X game; it wants to be a through-and-through survival experience; it wants to be an RPG, a CCG and many other genres all at once. It succeeds at some, but often at the expense of others. There are some really great ideas here – the almost Pratchett-esque silliness to some of its scenarios and the focus on Slavic myths serves as a striking source of inspiration – but the focus on micro-management busywork simply gets in the way of the empire-building fun Thea should really be embracing.