Game Review #391: Thea: The Awakening (Nintendo Switch)
Updated: Aug 7, 2019
Reviewer: Sara Terpilowski
Developer: MuHa Games Publisher: Monster Couch Category: 4X, Strategy, Survival, RPG Release Date: 2.1. 2019 Price (at time of review): $17.99
Buy Thea: The Awakening from the Nintendo Switch eShop here. Some games are designed to drain your time, and the turn-based strategy game genre has time-draining on lock. I am a huge fan of the genre, and MuHa Games' Thea: The Awakening is a wonderful entry into my library of games. But Thea: The Awakening is much, much more than just a simple turn-based strategy: it includes elements of RPG, survival, card combat, and 4X gaming pioneered by Sid Meiers' Civilization and other empire management games. Roguelike combat leaves you devastated when a beloved villager dies and adds a certain edge to the survival element. RPG-like equipment management and crafting can waste hours of your time. All of these elements mix into a genre-defying game with a deep story that is almost 100% voice acted and illustrated with beautiful art.
Bringing Light to the True Believers In Thea: The Awakening, you take control of a god (inspired by Slavic mythology) and lead your people to rebuild their society and population after the world has spent over 100 years shrouded in darkness. Your God character levels up as you play, and new gods are unlocked as you progress in subsequent playthroughs. While progressing through the deep storyline during your playthroughs, decisions that you make throughout the main quests affect the outcome of the story, encouraging replays to unlock more gods and see different endings. You control your villagers on their quest to bring the light back to Thea... or maybe they will take a different path. Also, as if saving the world from a magical, devastating Darkness wasn't enough, it seems that Giants may be returning to Thea, but are you strong enough to take them on?
Every Turn Matters The main gameplay of Thea: The Awakening will be familiar to anyone who has played a 4X-type game. The overworld is a gridded hex map, dotted with resources, event areas to explore, and enemies to fight. You begin with a village (the only village you get) and a single expedition force of a handful of villagers. The expedition force faces the brunt of the challenges in the game as you move them around the map, and in late game as population grows, you can create multiple expeditions to carry resources and clear enemies on the map. Movement randomly triggers encounters, either with enemies or in areas where you need to make a decision.
Combat and other challenges are resolved using a card mini-game, which can be skipped and the results rolled if you are confident in your characters’ abilities. As you clear encounters and main story quests, you progress through a crafting tree and make ever stronger items and equipment. But the clock around which your turns hinge is the game's day-night cycle. As the sun fades into darkness, your visibility lowers to nearly nothing and enemies on the map become much more aggressive, but you can simply make camp with your expeditions and stick in one spot. Although enemies can still attack, you can bide your time and gather resources as the night passes. Surviving characters will level up and be stronger when facing the next night!
This review is in particular for the Nintendo Switch port of the game, and it is just that: a direct port of the Steam/PC version. I had not played the game on PC prior to picking it up for Switch, and although I have heard complaints that the game is very difficult to figure out, I did not have much of a problem getting the hang of resource gathering and management, combat, and equipment menus. My one big issue with the game, however, is that this port completely ignores touch-screen controls. It is simply not an option. This makes navigating the menus with D-pad buttons and A-button mashes a bit fiddly. It certainly takes some getting used to, and becomes especially irritating when you have amassed a large stock of some resource and then would like to distribute it to your expedition force. You can spend a solid minute or two holding the D-pad left or right to share stock of over 1,000 of a resource when you only want to expedition group to hold 100. In the PC version, these menu functions are much less fiddly with the ability to click and drag the mouse, and use of a keyboard, and some updates to the UI to fit more with the format would have been nice. But even with these minor issues, the gameplay is deep and encourages replay.
Audio/Visuals As I mentioned earlier in the review, nearly every line in this text-heavy game is voice acted, and voice acted well! The story is engaging and beautiful illustrations accompany each piece of plot during encounters and quests. The illustrations on cards representing your characters are also detailed and pleasing. There is no full-motion video and minimal animation outside of the overworld map, but you don't miss fully animated cutscenes. The quality of the voice-acting and the writing still creates a fully immersive experience while playing.
Keep Coming Back Anyone who has ever enjoyed a pen-and-pencil RPG, a 4X strategy game, a survival game, a card game, a resource management game, crafting equipment and detailed micromanagement will find something to enjoy in this game. It may have a learning curve for players unfamiliar with the gameplay beats, but the replay value alone makes it worth digging in. I've logged over 65 hours in the game so far, and I believe I will log many more, considering I still have two gods to unlock and several to level up!
Buy Thea: The Awakening from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.
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*Review Code Provided by Monster Couch