Thea: The Awakening Is A 4X Roguelike And Out Now

In spare minutes during the last day or so I’ve been trying to get my head around Thea: The Awakening [official site]. It’s a “turn-based strategic survival game.” It feels at times like a crossover between Civilization and my beloved NEO Scavenger, in that it’s a 4X but one in which you only ever have a single village and in which individual villagers have real value. But then its combat plays out as a card game designed by a programmer who worked on The Witcher 3’s Gwent, and your exploration of its world is marked by choose-your-own tales of Slavic mythology.

It is interesting. It seems quite good. And it left Early Access last Friday.

The initial setup is that you’re a fallen god aiming for re-ascendance. You pick from two randomly unlocked gods when you begin playing and then unlock their abilities and more gods through play. It’s a game in which you’ll die a lot, but your god-progress is persistent.

You’ll die a lot because you’ll begin with a single village containing just a handful of residents, and a single expedition crew with only a few members. You assign your villagers at home to gather food and materials and to start crafting clothing, while your expedition force can either go uncover territory, fight monsters and have magical adventures or – more usefully in the early game – head to a forest to collect more firewood. It’s extremely easy to get carried away with adventuring and end up with too few supplies to survive, or for your small band of explorers to simply become injured in a fight and be unable to recover from their wounds.

That means you’ll cherish individual people in a way uncommon in strategy games. It also means staying home is a valid playstyle, and there’s plenty of depth to the research trees and crafting recipes to make that a worthwhile experience.

You’ll only ever have that single village, but as your population grows – individual villagers have names and stats and occasionally give birth to children, much like real humans – it becomes more tempting to commit expeditions to the further reaches of the world. This leads to encounters with procedurally positioned storylets, in which you’ll either end up battling magical forces or making tricky decisions that can lead to grand rewards or dooming curses.

I’ve not played it nearly enough to know whether all these different systems add up to something cohesive, but I like what it’s trying to be. Thea is available for Windows via Steam and Humble for £12.

25 Comments

  1. rustybroomhandle says:

    Bizarrely the devs have said that since they are unable to test the Linux version of this, they’re just going to give it away for free.
    link to steamcommunity.com
    Have heard that it works fine and is actually a decent title. I’d feel more comfortable throwing them a few bucks. Or maybe to help them test and get it on Steam. (Linux community is good about this sort of thing)

  2. RedViv says:

    Purchased it based on the recommendation of a friend, went to work very very tired today.
    Turns out that a game that finally, FINALLY, allows me to send around a bunch of old hags enchanting and murdering various kinds of monstrous threats is actually really exciting.
    Also greeting me by unlocking Zorya and Marzanna for the first gods was a very nice welcome.

  3. spleendamage says:

    I’ve been playing this quite a bit and I like it. The artwork is good. The combat card game is pretty easy to pick up after a couple tries. For any encounter you initiate there’s a lethal and non-lethal mode (with less rewards for victory), which is nice. Even when your characters go down in lethal combat, they don’t necessarily die, but when they do… it’s a real (but not game-breaking) loss. Moving around the map is the only issue for me and not significant enough to put me off. Party movement is a bit glitchy, sometimes the map is just too damn dark, and there are a lot of wandering stacks (and since I never auto-resolve the combat, that means a lot of card battles).

  4. Sian says:

    How similar to Gwent are the battles? Because I found the Witcher’s card game frightfully boring and them being too similar could potentially turn me away from Thea.

    • Stuie says:

      I find the battles to be a bit more tactical than Gwent; you have to place your troops and play buffs for best effect. It is more about the individuals you have at your disposal, and leveling them up and equipping them, rather than generic cards being placed in rows.

      Also, non-combat challenges play out in the same type of “combat” system. I like this consistent means of addressing challenge.

      Good footage/explanation of combat can be found on youtube: link to youtube.com

  5. TheAngriestHobo says:

    Currently enjoying this one. The writing isn’t amazing – you’ll be surprised when you learn that English is the author’s first language – but the gameplay, setting, and art are all pretty unique, and the experience is extremely reminiscent of King of Dragon Pass. All good things in my book.

    That said, I keep running into a problem where an immensely powerful army (squad? party? whatever?) decides to set up camp on my doorstep, spending multiple turns massacring any settlers who aren’t out on an expedition. It’s not a question of manpower distribution, either – I’m simply outclassed. The only viable strategy I can see (that hasn’t already been tested and failed) would be to vacate the village entirely until they leave, which I’m thinking of trying next time. Any other suggestions?

    • elbandito says:

      I’ve got to turn 160ish and have needed to join together most of my people in a single mob to go take on some of the nastier (4-skull) lairs or groups. Opt for hunting or whatever if you can as it’ll obviously reduce your risk to people getting seriously injured.
      I also came to the conclusion today not to hoard materials… just build good stuff as soon as you can!

    • Thathanka says:

      Not sure why you think the writing is poor. I thought is was superb; similar to Sunless Sea. Maybe your comprehension is not what it might be.

      • Sleepy Will says:

        The Sass!

        Writing is fine, but it’s clearly an indie title written by someone who isn’t a professional writer. What it lacks in polish it makes up for in imagination and enthusiasm.

      • Erayos says:

        This, so much this.

        The writing is simple, direct, and conveys the “right” vibe, I love it. Even if the writing of this game is completely different from the one of everything Witcher-related, they both convinced me slavic mythology/folklore might be one of the best things out there.

      • TheAngriestHobo says:

        “Maybe your comprehension is not what it might be.”

        Sigh. Grow up, manchild. You can make counterarguments without having to stick in petty little personal attacks with no substance.

        As for what’s wrong with the writing? Let’s see, it’s missing tons of punctuation, the author can’t decide if he’s writing in modern slang or a traditional fantasy style, articles are often missing, etc. etc.

        However, none of that is to say that the story is bad. I’ve been enjoying the ideas and situations I’ve been presented with, just not the execution of that presentation.

  6. elbandito says:

    As a 4x fan I’m playing this quite a lot right now. It’s possibly the best game of it’s type i’ve ever played. It’s quite difficult, although you can tweak this, but it’s possible to make more progress each game, so i’ve not got frustrated.
    The UI isn’t perfect as it doesn’t deal with increasing numbers of items / people very well, but otherwise it’s very informative and accessible.
    There’s loads of content in events and what have you, and it’s full of interesting mechanics, like attracting children and adults to your settlement.
    The card combat game is pretty clever but can be a little unforgiving if you make the odd mistake. But you can save the game to a limited extent if you choose to us it.

    One thing. I was disappointed to find you can’t dismantle children (as you can other items).

    I recommend this game whole-heartedly!

    • jasta85 says:

      what’s even more impressive is they tried to kickstarter it twice and failed to get funding both times (I backed both times) but still managed to get the game finished with their limited budget. Definitely a great example of a dev team dedicated to their project

  7. Cablenexus says:

    Finally a kind of attention for this GREAT game. When I bought it I made 25 hours in the first two days. I’m very happy with it and this game deserves your playtime and hopefully a more in depth review on this site. I thought about the comparisson with NEO Scavenger as well last days lol

    Do you like in depth game without any compromisses and a fully supportive and kind dev team please, a perfect ambience, 4400 items to explore, crafting. A really good mix of 4X Rogue and RPG and beautiful artwork to bring you in the right mood. (For example background changes to subject of fights and so do the soundeffects). If you don’t want to fight you can choose around 8 other challenges where your other skills comes in to play. You have to raise children. You can explore elf/demons and even rats to join your party. For me without doubt a big fat 10/10 score and GOTY award for the last ten years. Original, Very well done and makes a stale genre fresh again!

  8. csbear says:

    I am really enjoying Thea! One of my favorite strategy games in a long while. I actually bounced off of it during my initial play through, but that definitely changed last night when I stopped playing at 2:30 AM! Give it a couple plays and you will see the depth shine. Kind of like Neo Scavenger which I also enjoy.

    The writing as others have mentioned can be improved, but overall it doesn’t take away from the pleasing ambiance of the game. It actually reminds me of Crusader King IIs writing for some reason. Maybe it’s the simple, tongue-in-cheek, story that it tries to convey.

    As for combat, I personally like it. I originally viewed it as shallow, but once again, a couple of play throughs revealed some strategic depth that was great to see. The successful usage of tactical skills to get through difficult battles put a big grin on my face.

    Yes, there is a some micromanagement when dealing with expedition inventory and equipment, but since there is only one city to deal with, that balances it out. I realized that this is one thing I love about Thea… only one city to manage. The focus is on your lonely home base, so each expedition is ever so meaningful.

    My love for the 4x(-ish) genre has returned. Think I may drop FO4 for a little and also get back to Endless Legend and Age of Wonders…it has been awhile.

    • Gothnak says:

      I agree, the detail in one village is so much more interesting than the vagueness and similarity of 5-10… However, i wish you could move it about when you have cleared out an area.

  9. Premium User Badge

    teije says:

    Looks pretty interesting. Big fan of both Neo Scavenger and KoDP. Have to check this out.

  10. Gothnak says:

    Read the review, watched the video, bought the game, played it for 3 hours…….

    Enjoyed it a lot, thanks everyone, never heard of it until this point. Am still learning how to play the card combat game the best but as my expedition is 5/6 warriors i don’t see the point of doing anything but ATTACK!

    50 turns in, only been slaughtered by an encounter with very large, very poisonous spiders, but that was 1 space from my village, so managed to get back and recover.

    • pipja says:

      Well, the challenges work in this order of difficulty:
      1 skull = 2 challenge cards
      2 skulls = 4
      3 skulls = 7
      4 skulls = 10
      5 skulls = 13

      With more skulls the challenge cards are also stronger (more hp, hits harder, etc.)

      While on the other hand, the fight (pew pew) challenges are a lot more straight forward. Usually the more skulls the harder (very very very very dangerous stats) enemies are, even if they are limited in numbers. For example fighting a dragon can be very bad business unless you have like 20 pimped out people in your expedition (with like… 25+ armor points armor with top of the line gear and very high level). And even then you can still come off the fight with several critical wounds that will kill a couple people after you hit the end turn button. So if you can manage it, always initiate fights (unless it’s a story battle that you have no choice but duking it out in melee) so you have other non-physical challenge options.

      There are so many things I could talk about but I’ll leave it to you to find out

  11. Thathanka says:

    This is a fantastic game. More sites should be covering it. For me, it’s a contender for game of the year.

  12. Aetylus says:

    This game is fantastic. For a while I couldn’t quite figure out what it was and then it clicked. Its a 4X where everything feels new. Not Civ-with-tweaks new, but holy-crap-I-have-no-idea-what-will-happen-next new.

    It’s exactly the same feeling as playing Civ for the very first time. Remember that?

  13. Premium User Badge

    Harlander says:

    Is there a demo?

  14. cpt_freakout says:

    I wishlisted it instantly when it came out, but now, with all the nice words about it in these parts of the internet I’m definitely getting it for the weekend.

  15. Joshua Northey says:

    Definitely the best game I have bought in months. Maybe all year. Some many late nights.