Tobold's Blog
Sunday, November 29, 2015
Thea: The Awakening

When playing Civilization, I always liked the early phases the most, when you are still exploring the surroundings of your starting city. In the later phases you have too many cities and too many armies, and that somewhat bogs the game down. So what if somebody made a game where you only ever had one city and a very limited number of armies? Maybe fantasy rather than historical. That would be a rather cool game, wouldn't it? It turns out that somebody made that game. It is called Thea: The Awakening, and it only costs $16 on Steam during the autumn sale. Which is a great price for a game that compares well with some other hex-based fantasy world exploration games that come at full price.

At the core of Thea is an innovative combat game which has you playing cards in turn with your opponent. Each card represents one of your characters, or the monsters the opponent controls, and has values for health and damage. Half of your cards are for direct combat, the other half can optionally be played for various effects that manipulate other cards. Overall that gives great tactical gameplay and is much fun. And because your characters don't just have combat values but also other skills, for example social skills, the same system is used for skill challenges. And if you don't want to bother playing that card game for some insignificant opponent, there is an auto resolve button too. Just don't use it for the hard fights, because you can do better manually.

You characters come in different character classes: Warriors, medics, gatherers, and crafters. You will leave some of them in your village (there are no settlers to found more villages), while others you send out in "expeditions". You might send out adventuring types to do quests or explore ruins, while you might send out a gathering party to collect some resources you need. Everybody needs food and fuel to keep warm, and lots of monsters wander the world and can attack your village and expeditions. So you need to be careful and try to get your economy going in order to survive. Thea is billed as a survival game, and with the limited number of characters you get, you really don't want to lose many.

Your characters get stronger with time, and you will find a lot of resources and gear. Crafting can create more gear, and there is a sort of tech tree for researching materials, crafted items, and buildings. The crafting system is quite interesting, because recipes aren't totally fixed: You can use various alternative materials, and depending on the quality of the resources the quality of the crafted item improves. You can also salvage unused items back into materials.

All of this plays on a procedurally created world. But that world also contains various story elements and encounters. Often you need to make a decision, and what decisions are available depend on the skills of the characters involved. So although you might come across the same story elements again on your next playthrough, there is a lot of replayability. That is also helped by a system where your progress in a game makes the god you chose at the start stronger, so if you didn't manage to survive you can try again with a few more powers.

It has been a long time since I last got into that "one more turn" fascination of a game like this. Thea: The Awakening is really one of the better and more innovative games of this genre. You get a full-price value game for the cost of an indie title. Recommended!

That looks fantastic. Card-based combat is the icing on the cake!
Thanks, Tobold, just bought this based on your recommendation - I had been put off buying it on steam because it was described as a 'survival game'.
Well, "survival" is in so far correct as the game clearly has a loss condition, and your village is under an increasing onslaught of enemies as the game progresses. I would guess that at the highest difficulty level it becomes quite likely to lose the game rather than to survive and win. On the plus side the game keeps score of everything you do, so even a loss will give you points to level up your god.
One of my favourate features in CiV was the support of small civs. I liked how some win conditions were based on you having just a few mega-cities.
Actually, there is "one-city challenge" mode in Civilization V.

Overall, this game sounds like a mix of turn-based craft the world and generic card combat game.
Souldrinker: you could define it in a lot of ways. The thing is, it has a lot of quite rarely found influences, so putting them together makes something pretty unique!

Think Card Hunter crossed with Die2Nite crossed with Lords Of Midnight ;-D
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