The Thaumaturge review for PC, PS5, Xbox Series X

Platform: PC
Also on: PS5, Xbox Series X
Publisher: 11 bit studios
Developer: Fool’s Theory
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: Not Rated

I went into The Thaumaturge with high expectations. After all, not only was the premise pretty cool – magical alt-history version of Eastern Europe in the early 20th century – the studio behind it, Fool’s Theory, are currently at work on The Witcher Remake for CD Projekt Red, and they helped out Larian Studios with the development of Baldur’s Gate 3. If that’s not an impressive pedigree, I don’t know what is.

And, undoubtedly, you can see how that background helped create a game with all kinds of ideas. It’s clear that a lot of thought and care went into making this supernatural-infused version of Warsaw. There are tons of characters with richly imagined backstories, loads of historical details packed into the world’s environment, and a battle system that combines your standard turn-based combat with support from mystical beings that can tear into your enemies.

Unfortunately, while The Thaumaturge isn’t lacking for ideas or background stories, it rarely finds a way to make any of it interesting.

Take the game’s combat, for example. At first, it comes off as pretty interesting. It seems like have all kinds of different attacks, and as you unlock more of those mystical beings – the salutors – you can find multiple ways to use them to your advantage. It doesn’t take long, however, for it to become clear that even if the game gives you plenty of options, you’re basically just doing the same thing over and over again – notwithstanding the different ways to approach battles, there’s really only one way to take them if you want to win, so you’ll just end up doing the same actions over and over again.

The same goes for your investigations into the world around you. While The Thaumaturge encourages you to hunt down clues to figure out what to do next, all you’re really doing is picking up the objects the game marks very clearly, and then the game tells you what conclusion to draw. It’s as if the developers looked at the way that Frogwares implement Sherlock Holmes’ “mind maps” in their series – you pick up clues, you make connections, and you use those to make deductions – and decided it was too easy. You’re constantly just being spoon fed information, which takes all the drama out of any investigating you may be doing.

In fact, you could even say the same about all those characters – including the main character, Wiktor Szulski, the titular “thaumaturge.” In theory, the game is allowing you to make your own decisions and drive the story in whichever direction you want to go. In reality, however, it all feels pretty linear, as you exhaust dialogue trees and choose between obviously right answers and obviously wrong ones.

This last point is probably the most disappointing thing about The Thaumaturge, since the game clearly went to so much trouble to make its world seem alive. There are all kinds of famous (and infamous) historical figures, and there’s plenty of material for the game to play around with – the game even gives you Rasputin as your sidekick almost right off the bat! – but it never feels like it’s leading to anything interesting.

And that’s the hardest thing to believe about The Thaumaturge. You’ve got an interesting setting, a ton of material, all kinds of ideas, and a studio that clearly knows what it’s doing. That all of that got combined into something as forgettable as this is pretty disappointing, and it makes it awfully easy to skip past this game without a second thought.

11 bit studios provided us with a Thaumaturge PC code for review purposes.

Score: 6.5