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Thea 2: The Shattering (Early Access Preview)

Posted by GG Goblin On December - 14 - 2018

I am a god.

Polish-British indie developer MuHa Games have been keeping themselves busy. 2015’s popular Thea: The Awakening ensured that a sequel would go down well, and so MuHa Games got to work. Now, after a successful KickStarter campaign to provide some funding, Thea 2: The Shattering is available on Steam Early Access, giving players more of that combination of 4x strategy, RPG, survival and card game that proved so popular the first time around. As someone new to the series, does this Early Access title have what it takes to pull me in?

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It doesn’t take much to pull me in. Throw in the suggestion of 4X strategy and a smattering of a dark fantasy setting based upon Slavic myths and cultures, and I am pretty much sold. Thea 2: The Shattering is off to a good start then. The game combines multiple genres, including RPG systems and a card game, into something a little different from the majority of games out there, and while I would imagine knowledge of the previous game would have meant a little less work to understand what is going on, there are some fairly standard ideas here that make sense and are easy to grasp.

But that is not to say that everything is easy going. From the main menu, as it stands right now, players are able to work their way through a couple of tutorials that will explain the card game which takes care of the battles. The tutorials are nicely presented as little stories, and go so far as to explain the various different aspects of the combat, from the importance of the two different rows, to things like true damage and shielding.

Battles take place on a table divided into two rows for each side, with the middle most rows being for melee, and the back rows for ranged attacks. First up is the card placement, which carries over a number of turns. Each card has a points cost, and players are given a number of points each placement turn to pay for the cards they want to put down. As the player may only have a limited number of cards in their set, which mostly represent characters in their group, they may lay down clone cards if they wish, with each clone increasing in point cost. By having the cards laid in this way, it ensures that neither player will be able to have the advantage of seeing the opposing players layout before hand. This is important as a lot of the combat comes down to the placement of the cards, with aspects such as splash damage doing damage to multiple cards around the main target.

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Some characters will have multiple abilities to choose from, such as different attacks that can have different effects, and the player will have to choose which they want to employ before they lay the card. Then they would lay the melee attacks in the front row, with ranged attacks behind. Once placement has finished, the combat will resolve itself across two rounds, with each of the cards attacking the card in front of them, or the card nearest. This will continue until the two rounds have completed.

These card battles are apparently an adaptation of the battles in the original game, which is perhaps where the knowledge of the older game would come in handy. There are some fairly complex ideas here and a lot to learn, such as mental battles or working out the attack order to make full use of what you put down and where. It can be quite difficult, and the card game doesn’t feel as comfortable as I would like.

The card battle system is probably the most complex side of the game, hence the dedicated tutorials I guess. Starting the game proper, players first get to choose a deity, a hero and assign some traits, which mostly come in the form of other members of your starting party. They are then introduced to the text based adventure where some small imp-like creature hands over a Cosmic Seed and declares that the player will need this if they wish to build a village, or they could use it to make divine artefacts if they would rather be a traveller. Apparently creating a village without the seed will lead to all manner of bad things happening, which is good to know. Anyway, you get some handy resources and are then left to your own devices, at least for the moment.

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There is guidance available, which is nice as being thrown in the deep end can be a little foreboding. Thea 2 can be played in different ways, with the player able to settle villages and build an empire to control the map, or just wander the lands as a nomad. The player is presented with a procedurally generated map, ensuring each play through will be different, which is mostly covered by fog of war to begin with. Thea 2 is a turn-based game and so players will be able to move their group around the map, within their current movement allowance, and perform various other actions before ending their turn.

Different events that can be found on the map will lead to choices to be made, and possibly battles to be fought. These events and choices come in a text form and are quite well written, almost like a choose your own adventure book. As they progress, players will earn advancement points that can be spent in a variety of different skill trees to learn recipes for crafting. Crafting takes place when the player sets up camp, and will allow the player to create all manner of different things, from equipment and weapons, to meals or buildings for a village. All crafting will require resources, which the player will have to send out members of their group to gather from whatever is available nearby.

In all, Thea 2 is pretty impressive. Even visually, the game is very good looking and seems to fit in with the well crafted world. Early Access usually means unfinished, and I can see that there may be some balancing issues that the developer needs to work out, and a few bugs here and there. However, Thea 2 seems to have come to Early Access in a closer to complete form than most fully launched games. The developers seem busy, so I am confident that the game will only get better as it races towards full launch next year.

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Thea 2: The Shattering has a lot to offer. The 4X strategy side of the game is solid and, when combined with certain survival mechanics and RPG systems, can be really deep and satisfying. The card game battles are certainly unusual, and they can be tricky, but they give the player something new to learn and raise the difficulty of the game. So far as Early Access games go, this is better than most and I can confidently say that if you are looking for a 4X strategy with a little twist in the formula, Thea 2: The Shattering is worth picking up right now.

Find Thea 2: The Shattering on Steam Early Access, priced at £19.99.


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