Bite Sized Reviews: The Thaumaturge

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Bite Sized Reviews: The Thaumaturge

11 Bit Studios are one of my favourite publishers. From This War of Mine to The Invincible, this talented group have developed and published some truly inspiring games. What’s more, they usually bring something refreshing to my gaming palette. In Frostpunk, I had the joy of deciding crimes against humanity in the name of brutal survival, while Moonlighter was a flawed, yet interesting mix of dungeon crawling and shop management.

This War of Mine was one particular case back in 2014 when I got my first ‘gaming’ machine after my crap university laptop finally bit the dust. Surviving the brutal siege through thick and thin, forcing players to make horrific decisions: that is how they make their games. So when I learned 11 Bit Studios was making a new game called The Thaumaturge, I knew I could not stay away.

The Thaumaturge launched on the 4th of March, and I want to thank the publisher for providing access. Set in Warsaw in the early 20th century, this is an alternate world of powerful sorcery. Players play the role of Wiktor Szulski, a struggling thaumaturge who can see past the present into the supernatural. This takes the shape of a detective RPG where Wiktor must use his powers (after searching for a healer) to navigate the delicate political situation under Russian control when family domestics draw him back home. The narrative and setting drew me in from the beginning.

Graphics bring the region to life, as I stroll through the game’s immersive environments. Character control is limited by the locked camera, and I would prefer a free camera system. Plenty of ways to customize controls and graphical settings, this is a hefty game to run on the PC especially. The graphics show off some impressive visuals, but older systems are going to struggle. After my laptop failed with a crash during the opening sequences, I switched to Geforce Now and experienced a much smoother ride.

Note to self. Pay attention to Minimum System Requirements. Sometimes, they really mean it!

The world is filled to bursting with lore and notes to collect, and I found that more enjoyable than in most games. The lack of voiced chatter from characters while exploring was a bit disappointing. Voice acting and minor characters are a mixed bag, and in some cases, they feel stiff. Despite this, I found Viktor well-written, and most of the dialogue works for the setting. There are frequent dialogue options that felt like they made a difference to how I wanted to play Viktor. A sarcastic asshole, or a tired man who is trying to make a difference? I enjoyed messing with people during dialogue or kicking the shit out of the irritating Russian soldiers. They felt a little cardboard cutout as minor antagonists, but it suited the setting.

The gameplay in The Thaumaturge revolves around tracking objectives with the Thaumaturge abilities, I got Witcher vibes. Different objectives involve looking for information through using Viktor’s power (drawn from a creature called an Upyr). The setting and lore exploration make up for the simplicity of the missions: early impressions, but I felt like it was more of a glorified fetch quest. Unlike other games with ‘fetch’ quests, I did not find them boring. These are the guys who made the Witcher remake, after all. This game uses systems and worldbuilding to make these simple missions interesting, and I got increasingly invested in the story. Sure, the premise of approaching darkness won’t win prizes for originality, but it’s the flesh around the bones that makes The Thaumaturge compelling.

Combat is turn-based, using Viktor’s abilities and his bond with his demon to overcome opponents. The combat starts slow and basic, but the tutorials show off some flashier stuff. While combat is not the game’s strength, it isn’t bad either, and so far does not detract from my enjoyment of the game. I’ve only played a few combat sessions so far, and I hope to return to this for a future update.

To conclude, The Thaumaturge leans heavily upon the fantastic setting and atmosphere to sell itself, and it’s caught my interest. I’ve called this an early impression: due to my technical problems at first, I wasn’t able to progress as far as I wanted. It ticks most of the right boxes, although I found player movement a little cumbersome. Being able to freely control the camera rather than locking it onto Viktor’s reference also feels like a mistake, because I wanted to freely look around the world. A minor nitpick perhaps, but an important one. The combat might end up getting repetitive in the future, but I came away from my opening hours of The Thaumaturge wanting more.

You can buy The Thaumaturge right now on Steam, and The Epic Game Store.

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TheThousandScarAuthor/Blogger/Cartographer/Streamer/Narrative Game Writer/I play far too many games. |

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