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.