Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thea: The Awakening (Impressions, part three)

This post brought to you courtesy of WhichWich, where I'm working until Eli 14.3 starts his hockey practice. Please excuse typos.

What makes games of this type work well is that there are a ton of decisions that are a tug of war between competing interests. As an example, let's consider the initial strategy setup in Thea.

You first choose a god to align with, which gives you a particular, special bonus. Of note: the more experience points you accrue using this god, the more bonuses you unlock.

Right now, I'm using a sun god that helps me gain experience points more rapidly. So, in theory, my people will level up more quickly.

I can choose a focus for my village (craftsmen/gatherers/warriors), and this time, I choose gatherers. More valuable materials require more skill to harvest, and it can stretch over multiple turns. Camping somewhere gathering resources is dead time otherwise (although at least you can heal), so I want advanced gatherers that can gather a resource in one turn.

Why am I trying to be so efficient? Because the game gets progressively harder after certain turn thresholds are passed. So time is of the essence, as they say.

"I must explore at pace!" says the man who no one else talks like anymore. Or ever.

Choosing gatherers as a focus means I have some solidly skilled gatherers in my starting village and expedition. The problem, though, is that my craftsmen are weak, as are my warriors. So I have to survive long enough with a weak battle expedition to be able to gather the resources that my craftsmen need, and it will take the craftsmen longer to make the items that will gain research points to help me progress along the tech tree.

Every decision pulls on something else, and that's good.

What my expedition needs to do is explore the map, gathering items and resources, but not getting destroyed in battle. Which can be tough when you're starting out, because your initial armor and weapons is generally crap.

If you do lose your party in a battle, they don't die right away. Many of them will survive their wounds if they camp for a few days and rest/heal.

Some will die, though, and that's brutal in this game, because units are absolutely not disposable. They have their individual skills and personalities, and while you might have a stray join your party occasionally, your village growth comes almost completely from children maturing into adults, which is a slow process.

Plus, the children might not even make it. A plague wiped out all the children in my village (and a few of the adults) in one playthrough, and it was devastating. That's also a reason to always have a competent medic in your village, because if you don't, look out.

While you're out on expedition, your home village can still be attacked, which can be quite nerve wracking. There's a real sense of a genuine struggle for survival in Thea, where individual lives matter very much, and mistakes are punitive.

Which is awesome.

There is so much to manage, and so much interesting complexity, that I find myself sitting down for 20 minutes and playing for several hours without even realizing it.

I'm always sorry when I have to stop. I can't give a game a higher recommendation than that.

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