Have You Played… Thea: The Awakening?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

I am bored of traditional 4X games and am eager for something different. Thea: The Awakening [official site] is certainly that. It’s a 4X-alike which skips ‘expand’, giving you just a single village to look after, and a mobile expeditionary squad with which to encounter the world’s fantasy creatures through brief choose-your-own adventures.

If you choose-your-own battle, it then cuts to a card game where you deploy your units and skills in order to fight off the monsters, but you can just as often talk your way out of situations. What matters is not beating everything you encounter, but surviving. That means running away, licking your wounds, and most of all, gathering resources for your villagers to turn into food, new clothes, weapons and more.

This unusual mixture of genres, and a strange pace, have made it a hit with many tired 4X gamers. I don’t think it quite works at any state, but the experience is certainly more than the sum of its parts. It’s the kind of game that feels like it badly needs a sequel, and one that can fix the UI, improve the writing, re-balance and add tactical complexity to the card game, and otherwise polish a neat set of core ideas.


  1. Tom-INH says:

    I played this a lot over Christmas and really enjoyed it, although I agree that there were parts which didn’t quite work it really felt like a fresh take on a genre that I really struggle to get into these days.

  2. klops says:

    I have. And I didn’t care much for it. Interesting but something’s off.

    The WIT’s comment on Thea being pretty dull is spot on. So is the last paragraph of this article. Hopefully a sequel will come and improve all those parts mentioned.

  3. Viral Frog says:

    I have not and the last paragraph of the article explains why. I could see myself picking up the game on a big sale and enjoying it, but I don’t think I’d be happy with it if I paid full price.

    Here’s to hoping we get that refined sequel, because the concept is brilliant. I bet they could nail it down the next time ’round.

  4. dbemont says:

    All I can say is I really, really enjoyed this game. Must have logged a couple hundred hours of gameplay.

    For me, the card game worked very well, and the strategic map game varied wildly from game to game, giving it high replay value.

    It does help to understand a particular design decision, though. Playing (win or lose) opens new special abilities and new options of gods to play — making the game get easier as you go along. So if you start at a high difficulty level, you might get very discouraged. And if you remain at a low difficulty level too long, you may get bored.

    Other than that, I offer two pieces of advice:
    1) You will get very frustrated if you don’t grasp that once you are above the easy level, you will encounter armies too tough to survive. You need to attack, because that way you get options such as negotiation or stealth attack. (And you better do what is necessary to make some of your characters capable in these areas.) If you wait for them to attack you, you have no options.
    2) Every battle offers the choice of automating. While you’ll want to play out the card game against any serious competition, you will be bored to tears if you play out every little skirmish against malicious spiders.

    • klops says:

      Thea did not differ that much after a playthrough. The gameplay was the same whether I was a cunning lord of the underworld or some unlocked muscular sun god.

      The whole XP gain from finished games and focus on playing the game over and over again was something I did not like, but I seldom finish a 4x game anyways so that was expected.

      Advice number two was a part that I liked and thought was well made. They made the automated combat very competent.

  5. Syt says:

    As chance would have it, Thea: The Awakening is also the game in this week’s Let’s Play on my YouTube Channel. If you want to hear me mumble disaffectedly and mutilate the English language you can laugh at me here: link to youtube.com

    Or you can check out the Let’s Plays of the many, much more accomplished YouTubers who have covered the game already. :)

  6. teije says:

    I really tried to like this one but the terrible writing was just too much for me after about 20 hours. (And I can’t be that fussy, since I played the original Space Rangers 2).

    It was just so juvenile and bad, with multiple !!! everywhere. If the dev hires a writer to go through and fix it up then I’ll try it out again, since it has an interesting mix of ideas in there.

  7. Don Reba says:

    I know a guy who used to play Thea: The Awakening in the mornings instead of his coffee.

  8. Sound says:

    Sunless Sea and Darkest Dungeon have a child. Except Darkest Dungeon isn’t the father – Banished and Sunless Sea had this one brief fling…