Wot I Think – Thea: The Awakening

If nothing else, Thea: The Awakening [official site] is different, and different can go a long way.

That also makes it a difficult game to assess. Most games lend themselves to comparison with the best games in their genre, or they are clearly borrowing from other games, and I can look at how one design is in dialogue with another. None of that changes how I feel about a game, but it does help me understand and articulate my reactions.

Thea doesn’t work that way. It’s a survival 4X RPG roguelike with crafting and card combat. I can recognize all the ingredients, but the game itself is sui generis. I can recognize the ingredients in the dish, but I’ve never encountered anything quite like it.

That’s an exciting, wonderful feeling. Especially because I’ve started to get a little exhausted with 4X games that take all their cues from Civilization and Master of Orion, where exploration and expansion take on a form as familiar and unchanging as a religious ritual. Where you know what’s waiting at the end of the road almost from the moment you take your first steps. With Thea, it took me a while just to figure out whether there was a road at all.

As that excitement and wonder started to fade, however, Thea started to fall apart. I got exhausted by the repetitive structure of each turn, where there was always another minigame to play. The card combat system is the worst offender, but there’s also the constant inventory-management and item-swapping between groups, endless worker reassignment as they craft the same handful of items over and over until they run out of recipe ingredients.

Thea, which had seemed like such an expansive new frontier, started to feel like a large collection of small ideas.

At the start of Thea, you learn that the eponymous fantasy world is “awakening” from a long period of magical, apocalyptic darkness. Civilization has been wiped out and you take the role of a weakened deity looking after a tribe of followers who broadly fall into three categories: gatherers, builders, and warriors. Your single settlement is where you will stockpile resources and build better gear for your characters, while expeditions head deeper into the unknown wilderness to find precious resources and unravel the mystery of Thea’s collapse.

There’s never very much to do with your village. I always had a few people there endlessly crafting items and maybe doing some subsistence farming, but “survival” receded very quickly as a goal, while the focus shifted to making sure my adventuring expeditions were armed and armored with the best gear via a simple crafting system.

Thanks to Thea’s event system, which has no shortage of random “screw the player” events, the village turned into a place where, occasionally and for no good reason, something bad would happen that would kill characters or wipe out supplies.

It’s on the expeditions that all the real action takes place. Your expeditions battle monsters, negotiate with demons, and visit quest markers to advance the story by various means. Depending on what kind of characters you have in your party, sometimes you can choose to avoid direct confrontation by engaging in battles of wits, words, and subterfuge.

Each type of challenge is resolved with a simple card-combat game. At first, I thought this was delightful. I love deck-building games, and good card combat systems can do a great job of creating a form of randomness that always seems more positive than negative. After all, a bad roll of the dice doesn’t leave me with anything to do, but a bad hand always challenges me to make something good come of it.

But Thea’s card game starts to get old fast, especially because its dynamics resemble a JRPG more than they do a modern card game. Every character in your party is represented as a card with a bunch of actions on it, so there’s not all that much randomness in each draw. Since every character will take part in each round, making weight of numbers a substantial advantage, the card game is more a question of picking actions and an order of operations for your party than of employing clever synergies between cards.

If your party is in a level-appropriate encounter, your special abilities will be effective. If you’re overmatched, nothing will work and you’ll get stomped. Most encounters in Thea can be auto-resolved or forfeited. Good, close-fought battles were rare, which also meant that the card game achieved its full potential just as rarely.

The reason I started to really dislike Thea, however, is that it convinced me, again and again, that I just needed to put more time into it. Everything would click into place after just a few more hours, a few more quests, a few more levels, a few more research upgrades. Then I’d get swatted-down by a giant pack of monsters that came out of nowhere, or a plague would devastate my settlement, and I’d see hours of work and character development erased. Sometimes, the setbacks were so bad and so close together that there was no coming back from them, and I’d have no choice but to start over.

Except I wasn’t learning how the game worked as much as I was learning the location of every single landmine it would place in my path. I learned which choose-your-own-adventure quests were viable for a party of a certain level of experience and gear, and which responses yielded better results. I learned what each group of enemies could do in combat, and how I could counter them. I learned what combinations of resources did in different crafting recipes so I could identify the best ones.

But once I’d learned how to navigate a new hazard, or learned how a question works and when my party would be able to complete it, that part of Thea was effectively dead to me. It was a box to be checked on my way to new parts of the game that I hadn’t uncovered yet.

What I learned, more than anything, was that the smart way to play Thea was also the safe and dull way to play. Combat challenges that seemed iffy weren’t worth attempting because even a close victory could be ruinous as my heroes succumbed to their wounds after the fight, or if my party was attacked by another strong enemy while it attempted to rest and recover.

Pressing boldly into the unknown sections of the map could lead to starvation or death, but a bunch of incremental excursions was a safe way to level-up characters and acquire better gear. So a lot of the game passed via auto-resolution while I built my party up to take on the next tier of challenges. Once they were done, it was usually time for some new item-building followed by another long round of patrolling the map and farming experience.

Despite the fact that I found most of this pretty dull, Thea is an enormously difficult game to stop playing. Once I overcame my early difficulties with the game and learned how to keep my village and expeditions safe, I was always chasing some new form of progress. I was either marching across the wasteland to a distant silver deposit that would let me craft great weapons and armor, or I was learning what my new Witch-class character could do once she had a few levels under her belt. I enjoyed watching my party become more capable, and absolutely crushing monsters that I’d once struggled to defeat.

Thea can be a charming place to go adventuring, too. It’s a world where you’ll go play yenta for a dwarf and a some kind of water-spirit that may or may not be abducting children to become fairies. You’ll encounter head-in-the-clouds university academics still debating whether it’s their fault the world ended, and runaway demons who try and convince you that if they only eat a few humans a year, they should get a free pass.

All of that made it easy for me to get curious about what might happen next, to feel like I was making progress towards some kind of goal that would reward me for the time I’d invested in all the random combat and item crafting. But then I’d realize that while the numbers were getting bigger on all my items and all my enemies, nothing was actually changing or evolving. It was the same game after 20 hours that it was after two.

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 out now for Windows via Steam and Humble. There is also a free and unsupported Linux version.

64 Comments

  1. TillEulenspiegel says:

    I’d love to play the game that I thought, in those early hours, that I was playing.

    Ouch. This is why I’ve held off on buying the game even though my first impression was that it was doing all sorts of interesting things.

    Taking some good-sounding novel ideas and tying them together and giving them depth is probably the hardest thing you can do in game design. Failure to make it work is the usual outcome.

    • Cablenexus says:

      Except this game is not fail in any of these goals but can only be improved by some valid arguments in the review.

      The review is missing some essential mechanics that makes the game easier or more casual to play for people who like that. For example you can activate a save function instead of playing in iron mode so you don’t lose your carefully build party at once.

      Also if you start playing the game and your first run is about 20 hours you see maybe 4 or 5 % from the game. The other 95% you see in a second playthrough because the God of your village is getting XP after your playthrough and with this you get different skills and a different game the next time you play.

      Also in the screenshots of this review you see only 20 of the 4400 items you can find, build or craft. By finding the right mixes you can attract even all kinds of creatures to your village and even in your party.

      I tell you honestly I play games over 30 years and Homm III is one of my favorite games and this is for the first times in years that I like a game so much just because the gameplay, ambience, artwork, replay value etc.

      In my Steam account I have over 250 turnbased strategy and rogue games so I love both of the genres and I can tell you this game does not fail in combining those genres. It’s perfect in what they offer and it can only gets better by the free DLC they are planning with an event editor and more buildings and items and gameplay.

      Critics is welcome but to call it a failure then you did not read the review or really have to try it yourself.
      Users on Steam as well as Metacritic rating this game above 9 in amounts of hundreds of reviews btw. It’s not fair to just look at one review and take one small piece of text from it and call it a failure.

      • TillEulenspiegel says:

        I read the whole review. I know Rob Zacny, and I trust his evaluation just a tiny bit more than a bunch of random Steam reviewers.

        • Cablenexus says:

          That’s fair. I just give you my opinion of the game.

          • Smoof says:

            Your opinion is fine and the review is fine, Thea does have some problems, but on the whole it’s a game that really draws me in, beckoning me for just one more turn; I’ve put in 30 hours so far and haven’t stopped ranting and raving about it to anyone who will listen.

            The most major problem with the game that I don’t think is highlighted in this review (and also suggests that Rob didn’t make it too far in the game) is the fact that the UI is pretty garbage. The fact that notifications show-up in two different spots, as well as spots that don’t intuitively draw your eye is really irritating. This along with the fact that late game management of a big village is a headache; I wish there was a sorting function or the UI was a bit smaller and able to fit more information on it.

            Thea is really worth it and it’s DRM free, so if your friend has a copy, ask to try it out. I actually was so excited about the game, I gave him a copy which he never even played, since he bought the game on the spot due to my enthusiasm.

          • Smoof says:

            Sorry, meant to reply to TillEulenspiegel

        • Hobbes says:

          I’d say give it a whirl when it hits a sale, probably over Christmas, you might find it to your liking.

        • Mario Figueiredo says:

          You do as you wish. But I will trust that even Rob will agree that a bunch of “random steam reviewers” as you so impolitely put it (they include you, btw), will beat any professional reviewer any time of the day.

          I, a random reviewer, don’t pretend to know it all. But I always found more value in the collected knowledge of the gaming community than in any game reviewer already born, and probably yet to be born. Naturally, I will keep reading professional reviews because they help me direct my thoughts and gain a certain feeling for a game. But I will always trust the community more.

          And this Thea review on RPS is just another proof of it; Of how a single person fails to fully review the game in all its capabilities and ends up missing out on some of its features. The game has also been more favourably reviewed elsewhere, btw.

          • king0zymandias says:

            It was Mad Max and its worryingly high score on steam that made me realize that I could no longer rely on the collective judgement of the gamer horde. For me it was a horrible game where you did the same three things again and again, and worst of all none of those things were particularly challenging, fun or satisfying. And it seemed people who called themselves gamers really love stuff like that, whereas the critical consensus was more on par with mine.

          • Kitsunin says:

            Exactly how I feel. The user reviewscape is heavily biased toward certain types of games, which Mad Max really exemplifies. The vast majority of people favor games which give them huge value for money, even purchasing at launch, something I find pointless because being smart with sales means you can play a ton of different games without too heavy of investment, if only you’re patient (most aren’t).

            They also don’t generally play a great deal of games, which means games which are too derivative, almost directly worse than other titles, or for some reason aren’t fun if you’ve played a lot of similar games, don’t turn away enough user reviewers for those reasons and so end up more highly rated than they “deserve”.

          • king0zymandias says:

            What really bothers me though is that these same gamers get all bent out of shape and start frothing at the mouth at the mention of mobile games, calling people who play them casual gamers and whatnot. Which I find perplexing, because surely you can’t claim that Mad Max, the Arkham games or Assasin Creed games are not casual games. It’s almost impossible to lose these, all you have to do is press attack-attack-attack and occasionally press counter when the game tells you to; everything is pointed at with huge icons and markers, it’s almost like you are expected to play them with half your brain functioning. It’s the very definition of casual. Surely even angry birds is more “hardcore”.

          • noodlecake says:

            Definitely not! I never trust Steam reviews or Metacritic user reviews over critics. Regular gamers often have pretty arbitrary reasons for their scores, or will use their genre preferences to severely taint their review score. Games like Mass Effect 3 got really low scores from players despite the game being very well made and enjoyable for the most part. Gamers will often vote down games that are a little bit unorthadox, or because they have a pixel art style, or because they are more artsy.

            I’d much rather trust professional game critics, although it is definitely worth having a look at Steam reviews too and taking those into account as well.

        • Joshua Northey says:

          I have the strong impression he simply was not very good at the game. Maybe he would be more comfortable with something where it is impossible to fail? He shouldn’t have trouble finding one, most games are like that.

          I find it an odd criticism of a survival game that it encourages caution.

          • Cablenexus says:

            I think as Metacritic user score for a game is 9.2 and the Steam score is 92% there is something good at a game. Possible if I have a Steam account with 250 + turnbased strategy and rogue like games and play games for around 30 years I don’t belong to the target audience anymore.

            Most games lack depth at the moment. Are downgraded versions of the original, are “streamlined” or casual and optimized for tablet. Some big gaming sites praise this trend. I don’t.

  2. carewolf says:

    I recently saw Stardock had released their successor to Fallen Enchantress, Sorcerer King several months ago. When reading the description, it seems almost like a more polished version of Thea, being a post-apocalyptic rogue-like not quite 4x single-city strategy/survival game.

    Why hasn’t RPS written about it, or did I just miss it?

    • Laurentius says:

      You did miss it. It got actually quite positive WIT. I made a mental note to pick this after I’m done with Witcher3 then but of course finihsing W3 actually took me another two months and I forogt about it. So good that you brought this up.

    • robc says:

      Sorcerer King starts strong but gets very repetitive. You fight the same enemies over and over. The artwork is nice. I much prefered Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes.

    • Joshua Northey says:

      There is some similarity, this is kind of an odd review because I just get the impression the reviewer was simply really bad at the game and it really colored his perceptions.

    • Borodin says:

      Here’s Wot Adam Thought of Sorcerer King in July 2015

  3. Excalibur101 says:

    I (very sadly) felt the same way after beating normal mode a weekend or two ago. There is so much to love about the game, but there are some big problems with how much a round scales the difficultly. The world has a hard limit on how tough it can get (each difficulty varies this), but the player has no limit. You will get stronger and stronger as time goes on.

    If you can reach a certain number of turns (seems like 200 or so on normal), you can amass enough loot and people to steamroll the rest of the game. You can beat the game with different strategies, but playing safe is the best way to win by a long shot.

    It is a big shame, because it is such an interesting game. I’m going to let it bake for awhile. The developers pump out patches like crazy. Hopefully these problems will be address at some point. It took 40+ hours for these problems to really start hampering the gameplay, so it may be worth it to pick it up and play those first fantastic few rounds.

    • klops says:

      Same here. Played one game for some 10 hours and won’t play more. It has promise but I felt bored after a few hours. That feeling never got better.

      I liked the game _in theory_ but it has too much things not like I wanted them to be:
      -The balance: play dull or die. The game is not fun now. I could survive, for sure, when I didn’t take too much risks. The game just progressed very slowly. I don’t find that fun at all.
      -Wound system and the overall “fuck you player” attitude makes you play too carefully. Boring.
      -UI. Add that to the repetiveness of crafting hhrrrrrsgrr!
      -Cardfights just lenghten the game more (although auto-resolution was good) and aren’t actually good. I wouldn’t call them bad, but definitely not good.
      -The writing style is often ok, at times it feels like some fan-translation. This started to put me off after a while.

  4. Cablenexus says:

    This game is just magic. The artwork, the design, the gameplay and the replay value is all great. There is since Heroes of Might and Magic III not one game crossed my path that makes me so exiting about a game. It’s hard for triple A devs to see competition from a game like this made by a small dev team. I have on my Steam account many friends who start playing it and have hundreds hours in the game already and I do not see them playing anything else.
    The game have great scores everywhere where users/gamers can give their opinion. That is for a reason.

    If this game is too hard or too complex for you then Civilization and Might and Magic are too hard as well. If you like the genre but want to see something fresh in a somewhat stale genre grab this title and play it.

    Nice that RPS shows to be somewhat objective compared to other big gamingsites who ignored this title completely.

  5. Premium User Badge

    Grizzly says:

    I for one, welcome that Rob “Three moves ahead” Zacny as our new Strategy overlord.

    • Stepout says:

      I just started listening to that podcast recently! The one where they talk about the differences between Civ V and Beyond Earth with Quill18 is brilliant. #329 I think.

      • crowleyhammer says:

        I second this, ive listened to every 3MA and apart from the Walker debacle it has been excellent.

      • mike2R says:

        If you liked that episode, this old one is a must listed for any Civ fan:
        link to idlethumbs.net

        Brian Reynolds (Civ 2 and Alpha Centauri lead dev, and Soren Johnson (Civ 3 AI dev and Civ IV lead dev) talk Alpha Centauri for over an hour.

    • robc says:

      Yes, so glad Rob found a home here. Best informational strategy game writer.

    • Premium User Badge

      Adam Smith says:

      Rob is one of the best.

      Edit – that unintentionally looks like a reply to the post directly above, as if I’m disagreeing that he is ‘the best’ with my ‘one of’! Rob is best.

  6. Dilapinated says:

    Yeah, a roguelike + choose-your-own-adventure system, unless the latter were procedurally randomized in some fashion or branched heavily based on party makeup/circumstances, would get old very fast. :/

    • Cablenexus says:

      I see triple A games reviewed here with a total playtime of less then 7 hours and they are overwhelmingly positive.
      So if someone who plays E sport games is hooked on a turn based strategy/rogue like game over 20 hours and can’t stop playing it’s a good game.

    • Premium User Badge

      FeloniousMonk says:

      Yeah, that’s exactly the issue. Choose your own adventure doesn’t work as well when it’s the same adventure every time.

    • klops says:

      I played one game for around 10 hours so there wasn’t that much repetition but I’m pretty sure that if someone plays this over and over again with the unlocked gods, the content could become pretty familiar.

      That’s why the game’s idea to restart, collect experience for new gameplays and restarting with new gods seems strange to me.

      Then again, King of Dragon Pass had a event system similar to Thea and I’ve played that game quite many times.

  7. Premium User Badge

    teije says:

    I too have mixed feelings about this game. Some pieces are done quite nicely, it has that “one more turn” feeling, and I love the premise and mix of game elements, but it does feel like a slog after awhile. Some of the random encounters are just completely unbalanced, like those dwarf bandits. I do agree it feels like a gem in the rough and with some major polishing, could be very nice indeed.

    But my biggest issue is that the writing is simply atrocious and unprofessional. I have rarely seen such poorly written descriptions/dialogues, such excessive use of “!!!” everywhere and tone-deaf slang. It sits very badly with the setting. Hiring a writer to improve that would do wonders for the game.

  8. Quite So says:

    Excellent summation of the state of Thea. It’s such an interesting iteration of a stale genre, but it just hasn’t quite nailed the “fun” part. The various systems are intriguing, and I love the world they are trying to build. The expedition mechanic is, for me, the best part of the game. I can see this idea being borrowed by other 4X games in the future. But the card battles do wear thin. I’m not a card game player, but I can get into a card mini game if it’s interesting enough. The crafting also needs some work, and general resource management could be a bit more elegant.

    I see so much potential here and I love that a developer is trying something that’s completely different from anything else. With a bit of refinement, Thea could turn into a truly outstanding game.

  9. robc says:

    Lots of valid points in this review. It’s not a game for everyone. When I reviewed it I pretty much said if you’re looking for something different and can overlook some flaws and repetitiveness then it’s worth checking out. If you’re more demanding of your strategy games you may want to hold off.

    The card battles are quite repetitive, but they held my attention a bit more than they seemed to with Rob Z. I wish that the devs put a unique spin on each conflict type to make it feel different then the others.

    • Cablenexus says:

      Did you mention that for every conflict type the battle background and soundeffects changed? That’s something very nice imo in this game and I did not see that by many other games rushed out the publisher office before deadline.
      I agree that some more variation is even more welcome.

      What I really like about the game is the whole story. It’s made by a small dev team without a track record as a team. They made thousands lines of text in an for them not native language and creates a huge story with open ended gameplay which I only knows from old books. Very creative, very fun and original because no D&D but Slavic Myth.

      The artwork is stunning and made by one or two person so it’s all handcrafted and not created by an art team of 100 different people. 4400 items in the game that is a lot of content! It was released bug free what’s a bless nowadays.

      Last but not least it creates an experience. Maybe it’s not the perfect game with the perfect interface and the perfect card game, but the ambience and atmosphere is unique. The content is huge and the replay value not seen before.
      The devs are great and speak with their fans in the forums daily. I even made new friends because of this game while it’s not even multiplayer.

      For me this is without doubt GOTY material.

      • robc says:

        It’s cool that you enjoy it so much. I definitely appreciate that it isn’t the same rehash of games we’ve already seen before. I also tend to root for the small dev teams to make it. It doesn’t make me overlook what I think are flaws, but I still root for them.

        I didn’t mention the different backgrounds and sound effects, probably because I didn’t even notice! I don’t care too much about things like that. I focus much more on the mechanics, which is why I wish there were some unique mechanics for each conflict type.

        The devs are actually former Witcher 3 devs, which is one of my favorite games of the year.

  10. Darth Gangrel says:

    “the game itself is sui generis” But is it anything like Sui Generis? link to rockpapershotgun.com

  11. mgardner says:

    Fair review, and I agree with a lot of the points made. I purchased this and played for a few weekends in a row. I don’t regret the purchase at all (it’s at a pretty low price point), but I don’t think I’ll come back to it any time soon. After all my playtime, I am left hoping the sales are decent enough for them to do a Thea 2 and really perfect the novel ideas and mechanics that made up Thea 1.

  12. Premium User Badge

    FeloniousMonk says:

    I think there’s a great genesis of an idea in Thea, and the good news is that it doesn’t feel so much broken as simply unfinished, but my major problem is with the pace and the replayability. A lot of the game mechanics are aimed at multiple playthroughs – your God gets stronger, you unlock new ones, etc. But the pace of discovery and expansion is so slow and the differences between Gods so minor that there’s very little incentive to play over again. Worse yet, I find that I’m dealing with the same decision tree over and over again – I haven’t had a game yet where I haven’t had to deal with the dwarf and the demon. It was cute the first time, it’s exhausting by the fourth. They need to work on increasing the randomization or diversifying the dialogue trees or this one will get old fast.

  13. Joshua Northey says:

    Best game I have bought this year, and that number is probably at 30? Really hits the right spot of interesting and different while being well made.

    Would love to see a scaled up version with more art resources/quests and a better UI, but for the budget it is amazing.

  14. Sangrael says:

    I’ve really enjoyed the ~30 hours I’ve sunk into Thea so far. Very unique, and hard to define, but I really enjoy what they’ve accomplished. The losses due to events or poor planning are also a lot easier to stomach than they would be with a normal roguelike, since you can end your game at any time and it keeps all the experience your god has earned that game. So no matter how much a particular session might derail, you’re still making overall progress on your deity.

  15. acespade22 says:

    Had my first steam refund issued with this game, The boring dull horribly implemented card game battle system was just to much of a game breaker for me.

  16. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    Interesting to see how the Hivemind seems to have a split personality regarding this game. Some really seem to like it, others find it okay-ish, and there are also those who didn’t like it. My personal take from that is that it’s in ‘try before you buy’ territory, although sufficient improvements to the game may of course change that. And since there’s no demo, that means I won’t buy it. Ever, maybe, considering I’m not a huge fan of civ management games (although in this case that isn’t meant in a derogatory fashion, I still enjoy the odd one or two).

    • Hex says:

      I was thinking the same thing, about the Hivemind split.

      Last time I saw something like this was over The Banner Saga.

      This inclines me towards purchasing Thea, because I was part of the rabid proponents of TBS.

      (Also because Cablenexus is hilarious.)

  17. xyzzy frobozz says:

    All I can think about when I read this game’s title is waking up a woman called Thea, and having her being really pissed off about it.

    “Why did you awaken me?”
    “Sorry Thea. Won’t do it again “.

  18. Warwise says:

    Hum, what a weak review. It looks like it was made as a kind of rant one does on a whim after a rage quit. Failed to actually portray both the game good and bad points and mention that this was done by like 4 people with a very limited budged, and sold by a very afordable price.
    You see, this game is hard. It is made by people who love and play strategy games, for people who crave good and creative strategy games. Yet, its not just strategy, its also a survival game like Dont Starve of FTL: Faster than Light. Its about survival, and that means random shit happens, just like FTL and Dont Starve, and previous knowledge you gathered from previous runs do help you to face new or old chalenges. What do you do? You survive. If you dont, just play it again. Dying is an expected result, just like most games nowadays like Dayz, Rust and other survival and rogueish games.
    Nonetheless, I do think this game takes time to enjoy, and is not for everyone. I´m not a fanboy, but it just pains me to see such a personal and biased review that fails to analyse which kind of people would like to play this game, and which so blatantly fails to analyse games for what it is and to which people it would be an interesting purchase. It may be usefull for those that know and follow the writer reviews and know his profile and game interestes, but for those that dont it is just a useless and biased review.

    • robc says:

      I never understand comments like these. Of course a review is personal and biased. It is purely based on the opinion of that one reviewer. A review isn’t merely a fact sheet that lists off features of a game – although there are all sorts of reviews that may try to contain more ‘factual’ elements over opinion that others. It is usually some combination of a description of what the player does in a game and how that makes the reviewer feel about it. Even parts of a review that are more based on fact rather than feeling (i.e. a description of how crafting works) is colored by that reviewer’s feelings on whether that feature works for them.

      Also, while it may be an interesting story for some, it doesn’t matter if a game is made by 4 or 40 people. The game is what it is. Do you expect people to buy a game out of pity if it is only made by 4 people? Sure we can expect more polish or a greater set of features from a larger game studio, but a game should be assessed for what it is.

      • Warwise says:

        I agree with some of your remarks. I think it was my mistake for not realizing this isnt actualy a review, but the actor´s personal opinion. Nonetheless IMHO someone who coments on a game should try to realize who would enjoy a game and who wouldnt, so diferent people can see if this is a game for them or not. That is what a review should do, IMHO. Yet this isnt really a review, it is the writer opinion, so that people that have a similar profile and taste, and think like him, can get an idea about the game through his eyes. Yet for someone that doesnt have the same taste and dont know what kind of games he likes, this is a worthless article. It is similar to Total Biscuit on youtube: If you know you have similar taste to him, his opinion matter. If not, it wont matter much. Yet even he usually has far less biased comments on the games.
        Anyway, the game price matters, and a lot. It should be comented, and considered.

      • Cablenexus says:

        I think you made a valid point about the reviewers personal opinion. I think most people are wise enough to understand that. What I dislike about this system is that the reviewer have an audience. The audience is not the audience for the person, but audience for the website he posted his/her opinion. So when Mr. X posted his review on Rock Paper Shotgun, in history it will be the review from RPS and not the review from Mr. X.

        To be honest I love to see a good in depth website like RPS have their games rated by more then one person. That way you can compare the reviews and the personal biased pros and cons. Also you can compare what games they reviewed before and what the personal taste of the reviewer is.

        At this moment i’m inclined to believe that an article about Fallout 4 on the frontpage of RPS daily have more to do with generating money then to inform gamers. I could be wrong and don’t want to bring this as an insult but I love to see more then one person speaking about gem like this which happens maybe once in ten years.

        • xyzzy frobozz says:

          Or are the articles to do with Fallout more to do with the amount of interest that they generate?

          Y’see, if people are reading about a certain thing, it follows that a publications will continue to write about that certain thing.

          It’s all very well and good to only write about niche subjects, but doing that ensures you stay a niche business.

    • xyzzy frobozz says:

      I hate the old “It was done by a small team/developer/budget” line.

      Who gives a shit? If the game isn’t fun, it doesn’t magically become fun when you hear that a small team made it.

      • Joshua Northey says:

        A) Nothing replaces fun, you are right about that.

        B) Stop being a dummy.

        Budget absolutely matters, because in some $60 game with a $10 budget some crappy art or poor writing is pretty irksome and makes you feel like it is not a quality project. That the people did not care. ON a tiny project those types of superficial sins are forgivable.

        That may not matter to you but it matters to a lot of people.

        I agree completely that if a game is crap “it was a small team” is a poor excuse. But this game isn’t crap, it is really good and interesting with a few rough edges. Those rough edges would be unacceptable on a larger project. This is not a larger project.

  19. dbemont says:

    I would respectfully disagree with your dislike of the game. In my view, it is GOTY material.

    While I agree that it is not a tense action-fest like some first person shooter, I would point out that the card game is excellent if you see it for what it is. Of course you should know you can win all the battles — if you start getting into battles you can’t win, then you have fallen behind in development and it’s essentially game over.

    The point is to win battles without casualties (in this one small way it resembles Heroes of Might and Magic). Many, many battles you know from the start will end with your opponents dead, but can this be accomplished without any major wounds, that is the question. In this game, wounds are what kill you, both literally and figuratively. At the minimum, a major wound requires camping to heal and thus losing precious turns (one of the main resources in the game, since you are in a race — the wilderness is growing stronger while you develop) or actually losing villagers to wounds (and your villagers are your most vital resource in the game).

    Avoiding wounds requires “deck building” which is half crafting items for your characters (pressuring you to go find scarce resources) and half decisions as to which characters to put together in an expedition. Stealth, for example, will give the card the incredibly valuable “first action” ability, but, long story short, generally means other offensive/defensive stats will be sub-optimal. And if you take along two characters with “first action” skill and both those cards are drawn into your action hand rather than into your tactical hand, you better have a plan B ready for that particular battle.

    One thing I have to add is that games vary incredibly, based on what resources you happen to find nearby. One game I was blessed with not one but two sources of enchanted bones within two moves of the village; an observer might have concluded that Thea isn’t such a tough game to win. Next game, no leather, no straw, no iron, not even a good variety of foods (which are incredibly helpful) and it was beyond me to find a way to rescue the situation. This is not your basic Civ, where the resources are doled out predictably; you are in for a true adventure, where most anything, good or bad could be out there.

    Naturally, opinions will vary, and I do not mean to dis this reviewer. But I’m one person who has been spending an alarming percentage of my waking (and even sleeping) time thinking about this game.

  20. EhexT says:

    The best thing you can when you’re interesting in Thea is buy it, download it, set a timer so you don’t play too long and after that time is up, decide if it was fun enough not to get a refund.

  21. Aiven says:

    Thea is a bit of an unpolished gem at the moment, but I can only say that I thoroughly enjoy it. Turn based strategy games has always been my favorite, I have thousands of hours in games like Civ2/4 and Crusader Kings 2. Thea is good, because it puts a survival twist on the traditional 4x games. And it does it supremely well. By limiting your number of town and villagers, it effectively forces you to take care of each and every one of your villagers. Instead of the endless land expansion drive, so common to this type of game, many of which are excellent, it does something different. And I really do appreciate playing something that I do not feel like I have played before. This is the same reason that I enjoyed Minecraft and DayZ too. The games may have been unpolished, but they had an original idea that made room for new genres. While I think that Thea is way too niche (hard-core strategy) to ever become a big hit, it has entertained me for 89 hours now and I am still playing it. Oh the enjoyment of struggling to survive in the wilderness :)

  22. Sentinel says:

    This is why I love RPS. The level of detail and examination in a Wot I Think is really useful in determining whether I’ll actually want to play a game. Thanks for a great review.