Thea: The Awakening released last week on the Nintendo eShop. This unique take on strategy has mostly flown under the radar thanks to releasing the same week as Wargroove. Fans of strategy, god simulators, and 4X games should give it a deeper look, though.
Thea combines several elements from different game genres to create an entirely new experience that stands on the shoulders of giants. MuHa Games is busy with Thea 2: The Shattering and its Early Access launch on Steam, but the dev has graciously answered a few of our questions about the Switch launch.
The World of Thea
Thea: The Awakening is a god simulator at its core, but there are so many different genre influences in the game. How did that come about?
The initial idea was actually quite different than the final game. It took a good amount of brainstorming and reiterating on the design before its final shape emerged. We looked at some successful strategy/survival games out there and tried to figure out what was the one element we liked the most about them and then tried to apply that to fit our design.
Fans of The Witcher series and those familiar with Slavic mythology will find a lot to like about the lore and legends of Thea: The Awakening. The team worked hard to create a story-driven RPG where players live in a world plagued by creatures from the dark.
Were there any legends or myths you didn’t explore in Thea that you wish you had?
I am sure there are many that I am yet to discover, but I can’t think of any I did read and could not use, I am my own boss after all. Slavic mythology and folklore are undergoing a great revival in Poland, so I am sure I will come across such stories once we are finished with Thea 2.
What was the inspiration for the narrator’s tone of voice?
The inspiration for us was more the old fashioned RPG feel from tabletop games, where the GM voices everything. The fact that it is an English voice seemed the right choice for the style of writing. We tested a few voices with Eastern European accents, and they were just not right.
Unlike most ‘god games’ where your worshippers are mere pawns, you get to know your villagers very well in Thea. Last night I had to stop playing a bit after one of my best warriors succumbed to her wounds after a fierce battle with a Baba Yaga and her minions.
Was this level of intimacy planned from the beginning or something that evolved as you worked on the game?
It was something we had in mind from the start of the project, definitely. There were some ideas that due to time or design constraints had to be dropped – stuff like permanent or semi-permanent injuries, relations with other characters in the group etc. Some players even suggested a “memory hall” screen, so that you could remember your deceased.
This kind of link to your characters can have a downside too though – every now and then there was a new thread on the game’s forum from a frustrated player that stopped playing after losing their favourite party member in an event. So perhaps the fact that we didn’t have the means to implement all those nasty ailments wasn’t so bad at all 😀
Designing Card-Based Combat
The card-based combat system in game is ingenious because it makes every character valuable in ‘combat’ depending on the situation. Medics and crafters will be infinitely more valuable in an intellect challenge than the most battle-hardened warriors.
How did you settle on a card-based conflict resolution?
It was one of those cool ideas that came about as a result of our limited budget. All high-profile 4x games do a fancy 3D battlefield with animated models and whatnot. We simply could not afford that, yet we wanted to do something more interesting than a simple grid-based, numbers-over-portraits presentation.
The implementation of the card game mechanics took quite a while, but it was something fresh and it tied in very nicely with the overall design.
Porting to Switch
What made you decide to bring the game to Nintendo Switch?
In 2017 we managed to bring Thea to Xbox One and PS4 with the help of our friend Andy at Tactile Fusion. At that time neither we nor Andy had much experience with Switch, it was a very fresh platform on the market. An opportunity for the Switch port arose in late 2018 when we’ve met Monster Couch on some gaming event and they offered to take care of both porting and publishing.
How was the porting process for the game from PC to Switch?
The main challenge was to get it to load quickly and work smoothly on Switch, due to hardware limitations. But the whole process took less time than we had anticipated and, at least from our perspective, it was totally painless.
Did you have any difficulty in porting the mouse-based interface for controllers?
The majority of interface rework was done during XBox/PS4 port, so the Switch port was mostly the case of changing button icons. In general, re-creating the navigation in a way that is friendly for console players was a lengthy process with a lot of testing and re-iterations but we’re very satisfied with how it turned out.
Recently we learned that Tangledeep sold better in its first week on Switch than it did in half a year on Steam. Both games had the misfortune of launching the same week as Wargroove, a much anticipated title for most Switch gamers.
Are you experiencing an uptick in sales compared to PC launch, Xbox/PS4 launch, and Switch launch?
We can say that Thea did noticeably better in its first week of sales on Switch than on other consoles. It’s quite surprising, especially when you take into account that less people own Switch than Xbox One or PS4.
Additionally, we’ve learned a bit too late that there was another strategy title from a big publisher being released on the same day, such competition made the launch a bit more stressful.
Another point is that Thea is now ~3.5 years old, so it’s by no means a fresh thing in the gaming world. All in all – a positively surprising start.
Thea 2 is in Early Access on PC right now. Any possibility that we will see Thea 2 on Switch in the future?
We’re not considering any ports until the game has been fully finished, which will take a while yet. Life has already surprised us more than once, so who knows.
I’d like to thank MuHa Games for taking the time to answer my questions about the game. It’s a solid strategy game mixed with a heavy dose of village management and story-driven lore. It’s available for $17.99 on the Nintendo eShop.
I’ve been enjoying the game during the course of writing my review, which will be up in a few days.
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