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Review of the game Thaumaturge: A Journey to 20th Century Warsaw

Review of the game Thaumaturge: A Journey to 20th Century Warsaw

Thaumaturge is an RPG-style experience evoking the atmospheres of games like Disco Elysium. Follow the game review.

Disco Elysium was released at the end of 2019 and quickly won the hearts of RPG fans. It focused heavily on storytelling, interacting with other characters, reading lengthy texts, and even its RPG and character development aspects were vastly different from traditional RPGs. Now, Falls Studio has crafted the Thaumaturge game, released today in collaboration with 11 Bits, which, despite its similarities to Disco Elysium, strives to have its own unique atmosphere.

The events of Thaumaturge begin in a village in 1905. The game's name is derived from a Greek word meaning "miracle." Thaumaturges in the game world are individuals with the ability to control terrifying creatures called Salitors and can hunt and tame them. Victor Zoltski, the main character, is a thaumaturge whose story starts in a village where he seeks the famous Grigori Rasputin. Rasputin, a highly mysterious figure in Russian history, is viewed by some as a saint and by others as possessing demonic qualities. While the game revolves around such a real figure, its story is not an accurate historical account but rather presents the creators' desired image of Russia in the twentieth century under imperial rule.

Victor, who recently faced difficulties in using his powers, somewhat improves under Rasputin's guidance, then receives news of his father's death in Warsaw. Thus begins Victor and Rasputin's journey to Warsaw, where the game's events unfold. While Thaumaturge has other elements in its gameplay, it is primarily a story-driven game, requiring you to clarify your mission from the start. If you approach this expecting a combat-filled role-playing game, you'll be disappointed, but if you have the patience for reading texts, listening to conversations, and making decisions based on them, Thaumaturge will provide you with a great time.

Thanks to his supernatural abilities, Victor can perceive the world around him differently, and upon entering Warsaw, he is immediately faced with the case of his father's murder, who, like Victor, was a thaumaturge and had a mysterious death. From here, you must gather evidence by completing various tasks in the game, reading patiently, and through other means like talking to other characters, ultimately reaching a conclusion and making a decision about it. And of course, this is done much more directly in the game than in adventure or detective works, or even a game like Disco Elysium; as mentioned earlier, Thaumaturge is a story-driven game that aims to present its story with all the details surpassing any other complexity.

In order to deliver a valuable story, the game utilized various elements, notably exceptionally good character descriptions. In The Thaumaturge, even the city of Warsaw itself possesses a unique identity, and both the city and the game's characters seem to have stepped out of a novel by the likes of Dostoevsky, with a touch of the supernatural added to them. Let's start with Victor himself, who quickly evolves from a mysterious and moody character at the beginning of the game into one with different complexities. The valuable point in the game is that you, as the player, determine Victor's identity through decision-making in dialogues. Thaumaturges' powers rely on their identity weaknesses, and Victor's weakness is "pride." Now it's up to you to provide answers based on conversational pride, which may offend others but at the same time, enhance his identity. This in itself has merits, or there's no need to worry about such an approach.

Aside from Victor, who remains a complex character by the end of the game as crafted at the start, other characters in the game, from Rasputin to Victor's sister and others, each have their unique traits. The creators have done exceptionally well in creating the human characteristics of the game's characters and portraying their behavioral complexities. The overall narrative of The Thaumaturge relies more than anything else on reading lengthy texts, sometimes scattered throughout Warsaw, as well as talking to characters, and as long as you have the patience to follow it all, it's an enjoyable story. It unfolds gradually, sometimes reaching its peak and occasionally surprising you with unexpected events. Naturally, alongside these aspects, some parts also appear somewhat complicated and even unnecessary, adding nothing to the overall experience, merely serving as elements to lengthen the game.

Regarding the overall gameplay, The Thaumaturge differs slightly from Disco Elysium, and the main difference between these two works can be seen in the relatively bolder role of battle and combat in The Thaumaturge. Although much of the game is spent exploring environments to find clues and connecting them to achieve results, and with these results, you can have full options in conversations and use them to achieve your goals, occasionally during this journey, you'll encounter enemies who could be soldiers of the Tsar or local people antagonizing you based on the story events. The combat system in the game relies on roles and Salutors play a prominent role in it. While the puzzle aspect of the game isn't overly complex, it instills a thirst for environment exploration and finding clues in the player, especially concluding different events, and instills a good sense of accomplishment.

In battles, Victor and his accompanying characters, whom you can make active simultaneously, have the ability to strike different enemies, with their duration varying depending on their strength and performance. On the other hand, enemies have the same circumstances entirely and can direct different blows to you, most of which are harmful, some of which have effects like disrupting focus. The presence of resurrected and different enemies weak against their specific types has given a relatively good attraction to the game's battles, but after the first few hours, the battles gradually become somewhat repetitive, and you'll feel like you're repeating the same scenario over and over again.

The RPG aspects in The Thaumaturge are also divided into four branches, each of which includes several different skills. The purpose of this article is not to compare the game to Disco Elysium, but given the undeniable similarity between these two works, it's possible to put them side by side. Personally, I believe that the character upgrade system in Disco Elysium was one of the unique examples of this component among games in recent years, and in the truest sense of the word, it could influence character upgrade and transformation. However, in Thaumaturge, everything is clear, direct, and linear. In the game, you sometimes face elements or obstacles that require one of your four components to reach a certain level, and skill upgrades grant Victor new combat moves or enhance his combat abilities. Apart from these cases, which can be seen in almost all RPGs, the game failed to add any special complexity to the character upgrade system, which is simpler than expected for a work trying to focus specifically on character change and customization according to the audience's taste.

Typically, in story-driven games, atmosphere can greatly help make the story and narrative more effective, and The Thaumaturge has something good to say in this regard. The creators managed to give a unique identity to the city of Warsaw itself, as well as design the corners of this city and the people who spend their daily lives in it in a way that helps convey the overall sense of the city's story. Despite the game's somewhat heavy graphics and sometimes taking some time to load textures, it's visually beautiful, especially the environmental designs, thanks to lighting effects and evoking the mood of the twentieth century. The game's visuals were pleasing. The music also plays its role well, and even if you're somewhat curious, you can find gramophones playing unforgettable classical music by looking around the environments.

Overall, although The Thaumaturge doesn't reach the level of games like Disco Elysium and has its own weaknesses, especially in its combat system, it's truly a valuable story experience. The game carries the spirit of Russian novels for top-notch authors, and thanks to exceptionally good character descriptions and creating an atmosphere that amplifies the impact of its story events, it seems to succeed in delivering a detailed, mysterious, and enjoyable story. A complex story. If you enjoy story-driven games, then The Thaumaturge will certainly not disappoint you.

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