Game Reviews PC

The Thaumaturge Review – The Suitor For Your Salutors

In The Thaumaturge, you play the main character Wiktor (with a W, not a V) Szulski, who is a practitioner of thaumaturgy. This gives him the power to forge a pact with devilish creatures called Salutors. As your story begins, you find a very weakened Wiktor at the start of the game.

To restore his powers, he banks his hopes on the infamous real-life historical miracle worker, Grigori Rasputin. After doing so, a small mystery at the start of The Thaumaturge serves as a vertical slice of its gameplay loop revolving around investigation, dialogue choices, and combat. The RPG properly opens up when Wiktor makes his way back to his hometown of Warsaw upon receiving his life-changing news.

Much of The Thaumaturge involves running between several Warsaw districts to search for clues that push forward a main or side quest. Normally this doesn’t sound too appealing to most, but the sights and sounds of The Thaumaturge’s depiction of life in this period help elevate what’s typically a mundane task in other games.

This feeds into the title’s numerous interactive collectibles such as notes, journals, newspapers, and other miscellaneous items found along the way. Developers Fool’s Theory is a Polish studio, which I believe allows them to examine 1905 Warsaw under a microscopic lens that hits close to home. It’s easy to tell how hard they dug for intel at this time to encapsulate how people would express themselves or spread a message in a certain style to rally others to their cause.

Traces is another ability that brings something new to the game. With “traces” you can flesh out someone’s personality based on lingering feelings and sentiments they’ve imparted onto an object that they have held previously. Detecting and observing objects of interest that carry a person’s trace on them is a core part of its gameplay loop because these ultimately form a conclusion to unlock a dialogue choice that can potentially move a quest forward in a certain direction.

To detect relevant clues, players press the right-click button on the mouse for Wiktor to snap his fingers and perceive them immediately; red dots will converge and highlight the item once Wiktor is near enough to the object of interest. Then, an object usually has at least one “test of perception” which is a statcheck to see if Wiktor has enough levels in the Heart, Mind, Deed, or Word stats to unravel the trace left on the object. Once all traces have been uncovered, Wiktor will then form a conclusion based on his findings.

Pressing a button to locate objects in the environment is a blessing and a curse. As people wander from one place to the next, there will also be hidden miscellaneous collectibles that will only be shown when Wiktor snaps to hone his perception; the snap shows the way to the marked objective, too. Therefore, I found myself constantly spamming my right-click button whenever I traveled around to ensure that I didn’t miss anything.

Now you do not need to find every single thing to complete the story or move it along, though they can unlock hidden landmarks for Wiktor to check out and earn some experience points. The landmarks are merely a sketch that depicts a social activity that people indulge in upon visiting them.

When it comes to fighting, I think this is where The Thaumaturge dominated. Wiktor and your selected Salutor face off against multiple enemies at once. It is up to players to mitigate as much incoming damage as possible, while mounting a calculated offense to dispatch enemies strategically. Wiktor has a light and heavy attack. Light attacks come out quickly but do less damage. Heavy attacks can take out a respectable chunk of life at the expense of Wiktor needing an additional turn to execute it. He can also forgo dealing direct damage to an enemy’s life and either inflict an ailment or sap their focus, instead. Depleting all of an enemy’s focus allows Wiktor and his Salutor access to a super attack; Wiktor has his focus bar that players must maintain, too.

Each Salutor has a unique move set that carries different specializations. One is good at inflicting, extending, and stacking Suffering on the opposition. Wiktor’s trusty starting Salutor, Upyr, can heal Wiktor as it inflicts damage. Another handy Salutor can interrupt and slow enemy turns consistently. Wiktor can switch to any of the Salutor (once they are captured) on the fly once it’s a Salutor’s turn; switching to a different one to execute their attack does not consume a turn. All of the Salutors are based on European folklore with a focus on Slavic legends.

I find it to be a very satisfying battle system that pushes people to plan their attacks ahead of time. Enemies become quite vicious as they relentlessly inflict Wiktor with ailments as they assault his focus or health continually.

Another thing I found to be fun is that Thaumaturges can take advantage of a person’s state of mind to lightly hypnotize them to mentally bend their decision-making on a case-by-case basis. Also, the more points you have in the 4 different traits (Heart, Mind, Deed, or Word) will not only make them more open to your suggestions. You can make them change their mind completely.

The Thaumaturge’s sound design and voice acting help bind everything together. Traversing through the streets of Warsaw is often moody as audibly downtrodden people roam around finding a way to survive another day. Dialogue exchanges often involve people who have a certain irritated tone to them. It helps ground this world despite the supernatural twist to it.

Developer Fool’s Theory and 11 Bit Studios has crafted a pretty solid turn-based RPG with The Thaumaturge. Wiktor Szulski’s supernatural powers carve the way to a satisfying battle system that creates its own identity, despite reflecting other games that it has been compared to. I firmly believe that RPG fans should add The Thaumaturge to their library. I know that this year will be plentiful, but this game should be a notch in your belt.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

This review was written based on a PC review code for The Thaumaturge provided by Fool’s Theory.

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