The Thaumaturge is an upcoming RPG from the team at Fool’s Theory and publishers 11 bit Studios that’s looking to tell a rather dark tale. It’s an ambitious project that seems to be combining elements of story-driven titles like Mass Effect and the Witcher. Which shouldn’t be too much of a surprise since several members of the dev team previously worked at CD Projekt RED. It also mixes in some traditional turn-based combat that somehow feels akin to Pokemon despite its much darker and adult-oriented story. While the game is still in a very early build stage, the dev team was kind enough to give me a hands-off preview during GDC 2023.
Now, you may be wondering to yourself what exactly is a Thaumaturge? Essentially, they’re humans with a dark, mystical power to see things other can't. In the game world, people can sometimes be haunted by demonic beings invisible to a normal person’s eye called Salutors that feed on their flaws and traumas. The deeper the flaws, the tastier the victim. A Thaumaturge has the ability to tame these demonic-looking wild Salutors, but the process comes at a price. If a Thaumaturge is successful at capturing a Salutor they will take on the negative trait of the person it was feeding on. It’s like if Ash felt all of Pikachu’s resentment for keeping him squished up in that Pokeball.
Players will take on the role of a Thaumaturge that goes by the name of Wictor from 1905 Warsaw, Poland. In the demo, Wictor has recently failed to capture a Salutor and is in bad shape. In order to gain back his powers and heal himself, he has sought out the help and healing powers of Rasputin. In order to prove his story to the mad monk, Wictor had to use his perception abilities to find items owned by Rasputin and decipher character traits from them.
Players will have four skill trees or Dimensions as they’re called in the game that they’ll be able to augment to fit their playstyle. Unlocking skills for Heart, Deed, Mind, or Word will grant players various extra clues or dialogue options throughout the game.
After getting a look at how Dimensions and dialogue play into the narrative, the team gave me a look at one of the mysteries that the prologue would have on offer. The village elder had been murdered, burned to death in their house. It was up to the Thaumaturge to search for clues, interrogate villagers, and decipher who had committed the crime in order to capture the Salutor that had been plaguing the citizens. During the investigation, Wiktor ends up being able to find a few items with an emotional trace that helps lead him to the true perpetrator.
A few locals ended up not taking kindly to the Thaumaturge poking around though, which made for a great chance for me to see how the combat will play out. Battles are turned-based affairs in which it will be up to Wiktor to take out his opponents with a little help from his captured Salutors. Unlike a Pokemon Trainer though, Wiktor has no qualms about getting his hands dirty and can dish out his own array of punches and kicks. As a Thaumaturge, he can command his demon buddies to deal out damage and inflict status effects like stunning an opponent or get buffs from them. The one big rub here is that enemies won’t be able to see your Salutors and will be focusing all their attacks on Wiktor.
One thing I took away from my time with the devs was that they really want people to think about the choices and consequences of their actions in the game. They told me that they want people to think about the decisions they make in the game and what they would do in a similar situation even when not playing the game. It’s an ambitious task to say the least, but even if you’re less compelled by the moral quandaries of the Thaumaturge, I think we can all agree that the idea of catching all the demons sounds like fun. Though it doesn’t sound like the traits you’d take on from them would make you the very best, like no one ever was.
This preview is based on a hands-off demo given by the dev team at GDC 2023. The Thaumaturge will be coming to PC at launch but does not currently have a release date at the time this article was published.
Blake Morse posted a new article, The Thaumaturge is looking like the Witcher with demonic ghost Pokemon