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The Thaumaturge Recensione

The Thaumaturge Review: between horror, repentance and perdition

The Thaumaturge by Polish studio Fool's Theory, revives the flame of a Warsaw occult to lost: review

Knowing who is behind The Thaumaturge, I admit, gave me a lot of peace of mind. The Fool’s Theory team, in fact, is composed of former members of CD Projekt RED who, at the time, originated the project of The Witcher (2007), based on the books by Polish writer Andrzej Sapkoswki. With The Thaumaturge, new Isometric RPG with an emphasis on narrative and which we have included in our list of most anticipated Games of March 2024, the goal of the development studio, backed by 11bit Studios (still reeling from the reception of The Invincible a few months ago), is to creating a dark and brutal story in a landscape, in my opinion, that has never actually been properly exploited over the years.

If you loved Don’t Nod’s Vampyr, if truculent and gory stories are your bread and butter, The Thaumaturge’s is infused with suffering and death. It is a video game that takes you through a nightmarish scenario and, in the process, shows the historical facets of a complex period. It is the time of Marx, of the birth of uprisings in the most cramped towns of that period and of a total allegiance to Slavic mysticism that is so distant from the European mentality and appears, inevitably, detached from the ties of the Old Continent.

The team’s ability, however, was to bind itself deeply to a historical fidelity that is understood from the very first moments, when the Warsaw map opens. In this sense, Fool’s Theory even chose to dust off the old map of the town and then use it in its video game, littered with neighborhoods, streets, roads and wonders but also with nightmares and fears. It is the same effect that created the aforementioned Vampyr, a work with a brilliant narrative that created glitter and choices to be made with maturity and intelligence. The Thaumaturge executes this symphony perfectly, recreating an exciting atmosphere full of engaging moments. Will they be miracles, then, or merely sins to be eradicated like the obtunded prodigies of a madman?

Paris to Warsaw

It is a complex year, the one proposed by Fool’s Theory, in which, in addition to revolutionary uprisings and a veto against Tsar Nicholas, Poles – like Russians – are involved in major social changes. It is a time that also saw the emergence of the Soviets in the Russian Empire, which had subjected Poland to constricting and encroaching Russification in the nineteenth century, effectively removing any semblance of freedom, hard-won after World War I, with the emergence of the Pillow States. It is, finally, a period still choked with mysticism, the Orthodox Church completely tied to Russian politics and knots tightening on a hungry, angry, and tired people.

Wiktor Skulski, recently returned from Paris, is a thaumaturge, an individual capable of seeing ethereal creatures belonging to an alternate world, called Salutors. They are abject beings, like parasites that bind themselves to a body until it is drained: they have the ability to take advantage of the faults of others and, at the same time, alienate them from the world around them. The victims, completely corrupted, commit horrific acts, groping in a distressing and total darkness, littered with panic that binds, in addition, a popular discontent. It is the favored banquet for the Salutors, now stronger than ever.

The Thaumaturge Review 1

Leaving out important plot parts so as to avoid spoilers, the tale of The Thaumaturge is approachable in carat and care to that of the recent Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden (if you missed it, here is the review of Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden):): the dialogues are skillfully written and well blended within the narrative and writing, appropriate to the context, is unexpected, powerful and engaging, and by appealing to the fears and fears of the characters in turn drained by that insistent and intrusive fear, able to make people completely lose their reasoning.

The narrative focuses, above all, on poor Wiktor, who left Warsaw because of a bad relationship with his father while in the background, there is the succession of events happening in the Polish capital, a city broken by Polish independence will and the czar’s regime, with the secret police constantly on the hunt for rebels. It is precisely the history and context of The Thaumaturge, elevated to the asymptote through remarkable cultural and scriptural knowledge, that make the work effective.

The beauty of The Thaumaturge

The production is suspended between two souls, which are summed up in a simple (although you cannot rotate it with the mouse) but essential isometric visual. The Thaumaturge pushes for total exploration to acquire as much information as possible, also founding a system related to the search for clues similar to that already seen in other similar works, thus of nothing new on this front. The soul of the work, precisely, is another: the relationship with the secondary characters, with Rasputin (a fantastic sidekick for Wiktor) and the choices that can lead to bare combat, or to a different resolution.

Whatever happens, it is still relevant to reiterate that the production’s well-implemented turn-based combat system offers several ways to interface with enemies in addition to the ability to drain an opponent’s lifeblood. Nonetheless, while the combat is exhilarating, it tends not to delve too deeply into all its possibilities, choosing to get straight to the point and immediately putting on the player’s plate the choices to be made to prevail against enemies.

The Thaumaturge PC

Net of this slight weakness, somewhat dampened by the progression, the battles are spectacularly rendered with brutal sets. It is blood that is the absolute master: the cruelty that manifests, in the course of the experience, forgives no one. This is precisely the most interesting element, further supported by an absolutely convincing fluidity of play. The game design, though simple, is intelligently structured and makes each role element always divergent as well as brought to its best in every respect. You are looking at a splendid video game, made with passion and love, as well as intelligent and strengthened by a brilliant as well as well-composed game idea honed to its best.

The exploration that goes along with the turn-based combat system, as well as the ability to to perceive the nuances of a wonderful city like Warsaw, makes the work a gem of great value, capable of enthralling and engaging, but above all of show the most questionable sides, sensible and problematic of the people with whom one interacts in the course of the experience. In 2007, when The Witcher was published, what worked great was the authenticity of the human relationships: this was extended with the other publications devoted to Geralt of Rivia, the Strider. Inside The Thaumaturge brilliantly retraces that brilliant goal, totally in focus and maintained at a very high level throughout the entire gaming experience.

Warsaw within reach of PC and Steam Deck

I have played The Thaumaturge on both PC and Steam Deck. Despite not being verified yet, Valve’s platform still did great, executing its purpose perfectly. In this regard, I found no hiccups whatsoever; on the contrary: everything runs smoothly, great. But to discover Warsaw, on the other hand, you don’t need an overstudied technical side.

There is a need, in fact, for art direction that works, and by the grace of the team, this is present. Warsaw, as I mentioned earlier, is a beautiful city, alive and pulsating, full of cultural junctions and noteworthy settings. Shining even brighter is the sound design and musical compositions offered for the occasion, which are unforgettable and yes, truly of high caliber. If you love works of love, ones that thrill and engage, giving you plenty to play and think about, The Thaumaturge is the work that could completely split your brain.

Nicholas Mercurio

Cosa succede se unite letteratura, tanta curiosità e un mix letale di videogiochi indipendenti e di produzioni complesse? Otterrete Nicholas, un giovane virgulto che scrive tanto e vuole scrivere di più. Chiamato "Puji" ben prima di nascere, dovete dargli una penna per tenerlo calmo. O al massimo un pad.

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