Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Thea 2: The Shattering is a fascinating game with no clear genre and lots of moving parts. Most of the time, it works – though it is a challenging game to get into. If you like tactical games and have the patience to try something new and different, Thea 2: The Shattering can prove to be a sometimes frustrating but also often rewarding experience.
I was a big fan of the original Thea: The Awakening when it released. It was a flawed game, but the things it did right hooked me in unique and interesting ways. Thea 2: The Shattering attempts to recapture that strange mix of roguelike, card game elements, RPG, tactics, 4x strategy and more into this sequel. The original game had the benefit of sort of coming out of nowhere, while this sequel certainly has heightened expectations around it.
We have a narrative steeped in Slavic lore – something I’m not particularly familiar with. That has its plusses and minuses, as it makes everything new and interesting, if not necessarily readily familiar and easy to pick up. You take on the role of a deity who gathers some true believers that struggle to survive a harsh world. You have elements of 4x exploration, right down to a hexagonal map with a fog of war that obscures the procedurally generated map until you move around on it. You can be a warmonger or a diplomat – though the former is a bit more straightforward, especially early on as you are learning the ropes. Thankfully the writing, the deities and really just the overall story are engrossing. Events feel weighty and important. That said, it’s worth warning that there’s some mature, rather dark themes here that might not be everyone’s cup of tea.
In typical 4x / strategy fashion, things start out somewhat simply, but as time passes and the timeline grows – so do your options. Units can do a variety of things – but some are better equipped than others to handle specific tasks. Exploration is exciting, if daunting initially. Having the right unit for the right job is key as well. That’s not to say you can’t gather supplies with a warrior – but he’s built to fight not collect resources. Villages and islands are important to establishing a civilization, and finding new islands and discovering rare resources feels both challenging and rewarding when you pull it off.
The learning curve here is real, however. For one, there is a heavy reliance on random numbers – which can make some encounters and events feel decidedly unfair. Especially if you find yourself on a bit of a losing streak with the numbers. Additionally, there are a lot of menus here. By and large they make sense once you’ve worked through them enough to understand how and why they are laid out the way that they are. That being said? It is a lot of menus and at least for me, the early going was a bit of a slog as I learned my way around them. Find some stop quality materials to build with and have a bit of luck in early encounters, and watching your people grow and flourish is incredibly rewarding. That being said, it’s pretty easy to die during the early stages and a few bad draws can ruin everything when your resources are so limited.
In terms of the gameplay and progression – there’s a lot going on here. There’s a higher level meta game to manage, but at the same time you have to delve into the stats and numbers to make the most of your units and try to slant outcomes to your benefit as much as possible. This can feel tedious at times. Thea 2: The Shattering builds somewhat off of the foundation of the original – enough so that veteran players can more or less figure out what this sequel expects of them. That said? It is a new game with numerous changes that generally seem to work.
How real is the aforementioned learning curve? I’d say expect to put in a dozen hours before the various systems really start to connect in your mind. Even then? It’s not an easy game. There are difficulty settings, but even on the most forgivable one – you can lose pretty easily if you aren’t careful or get a few bad breaks from the random number generator. This mostly shows up in the combat, which has its own card system that it uses.
Thea 2: The Shattering is a unique blend of multiple genres that plays out against an interesting take on Slavic mythology. It never really settles into a particular groove, with card combat, lightweight 4x exploration, RPG elements where decisions impact the unfolding story and more. However, it will not come easily, even if you were a fan of the first game. The menus are many and the learning curve is steep. The beginning of a campaign can be frustrating for one reason: bad luck.
Thea 2: The Shattering shares that DNA from the first game, but has evolved into something different – and something with higher expectations. It’s hard to say whether or not those expectations will be fully met by fans, but at the same time? Like the original, Thea 2: The Shattering has an addictive quality that tugs at me in a variety of different ways that kept me engaged for hours at a time.Score: 7.25 / 10