The Thaumaturge Interview: Gameplay, Setting, Combat, Choices and More

In our exclusive interview with Design Director of Thaumaturge, we touched different aspect of the game including gameoplay, setting and more.

Apart from working on CD Projekt Red’s Unreal Engine 5 The Witcher Remake, developer Fool’s Theory is also working on a story-driven isometric RPG with turn-based combat. While the game has been in development for a while now, it got officially announced last month. If you missed the announcement trailer, you can check it out below:

The game is set in early 20th century Warsaw where supernatural elements are evident. While talking about the inspiration behind The Thaumaturge with SegmentNext, Karolina Kuzia-Rokosz, the design director of the game shared:

From our core, we’ve always looked for a way to tell meaningful, mature stories. In the process of inventing The Thaumaturge, our hero and the unique way he interacts with the world of the game, we came up with an idea to shape the world itself as faithful to reality but spiced with a twist, in order to make the fantasy powerful enough. One of thaumaturges special talents is to look under the surface of things. Thaumaturges call it “Perception”, an ability that allows them to grasp a single feeling, a sensation, or a thought, left by someone within inanimate objects. Wouldn’t it be fun to have such an ability in everyday life? To be able to connect with the lives of secretive people? Or maybe those inevitably blurred through years and ages, yet you would still be able to catch patches of their nature, personal life, love passions, and miseries? We sure do find it tempting. But that’s not all there is.

Thaumaturges are also masters and tamers to these ethereal creatures we call Salutors. These are personifications of myths and legends and can be encountered around the world. Thaumaturge can take a wild Salutor, which from now on will protect its master. They make you feel powerful, and we definitely wanted that.

And on top of that, thaumaturgy is a rather rare gift, bestowed upon one the moment they are born. You are a rare sight, you are significant.

The 1905 Warsaw won’t just be supernatural beings and elements only. The inhabitants from different cultures will make the city alive offering different activities to the players.

Most of the team members are from Poland, so we decided on a setting that is close to our hearts. And from a designer’s point of view, choosing an authentic city and a period in history helps to build the reliability of such a place and the narrative. It’s also an interesting setting because of the cultural melting pot, which Warsaw was at that time. It broadens the variety of possibilities. You can use different types of local music, different designs of the Salutors, or languages. The year in which The Thaumaturge unfolds, 1905, was also chosen deliberately. It was a painful period in our history, as Poland, torn by foreign partitions, was absent from maps. It’s obvious for us, but I have a feeling that all that context isn’t well-known, so it’s great to be able to capture it and tell about it through the game and show it to the wider audience. Also, Warsaw was destroyed after the Second World War. It was rebuilt, but Warsaw in The Thaumaturge is a city that no longer exists. It cannot be visited, and I believe that this might attract people who aren’t normally interested in games.

The game has been in development for more than 4 years but we haven’t seen much of the gameplay. The design director assured that for sneak peak, we will have to be a bit patient.

The initial idea was pitched to 11 bit studios almost four years ago, so the concept phase began even earlier. And in terms of gameplay, the announcement actually contained two trailers. The second, hidden one, was a mix of footage from gameplay like exploration or combat. But in terms of the full gameplay reveal, please be a bit more patient.

The Thaumaturge is being advertised as a story-driven RPG so there is a heavy emphasis on the narrative. Players will also have to make some personal choices in the game and they will also be impact the fate of other characters as well. Karolina explained:

The game tells the story of Wiktor, who is an eponymous Thaumaturge. He is a defined character in terms of his past but within the game’s story, players will be able to make some personal choices, since he isn’t defined in terms of his approach to important matters. We portray turbulent times, and players will be able to form their own opinions on life in the partitioned country, faith, etc. But you’ll also be deciding the fate of other characters, as Thaumaturges can manipulate people and bend their will to their own needs. 

Explaining the impact of choices and replayability in the game, the Design Director shared that while players won’t be able to see everything in one playthrough, they have tried their best to explain different choices and their impacts to the players for different quests.

You won’t be able to see everything in one try. We aim for a certain level of replay ability, but at the same time we don’t want to make players feel wronged, so we emphasized clear communication of possibilities available to them or the possibility to approach a given quest differently. It’s full transparency during important choices, where you know the reason why other options aren’t available to you.

At its core, The Thaumaturge is a narrative driven game. However, that doesn’t meant that there won’t be any combat. It’s a turn based combat however, the use of Salutors will make things unique.

First of all, we don’t have random encounters in the game. Every combat is a result of narrative, even if those are smaller bits, like ruffians who want to rob you in a dark alley. So, the enemies count isn’t related to the player’s progress. As for digging into details, we got a thing called Action Queue. Because Wiktor’s mystical abilities let him predict enemy moves. So, players will see clearly which of their and their foes’ attacks will land in which round, as stronger blows take more time to be executed, and can plan accordingly. We got Salutors. They can be changed on the fly, and they not only cause damage but also apply various states to enemies. We have Wiktor’s skill tree, with upgrades added to his hits, that can, for example, raise your chance to land a critical blow. And we got diversion. Thanks to it, you can lower enemies’ focus, and expose them to powerful, deadly, but quickly executed moves.  Our combat is composed of several layers of the strategic approach to encounters, and the camera angle and the UI add a bit of jRPG flavor to the equation. 

Karolina also explained the character development in The Thaumaturge as well. There will be character skill tree in the game as well and players will be able to develop their character based on different attributes.

We treat the thaumaturge profession as a kind of a class of the character, and we felt a need to set up our own set of rules, to describe it to its full potential. Because of that, our character skill tree contains dimensions of Heart, Deed, Mind, and Word. They are more ambivalent. They touch upon human feelings, tendencies, and temperaments, so things that thaumaturges deal with, better than traditional metrics like strength or magic, and let us better represent the range of skills used by thaumaturges.

For now, The Thaumaturge is only set to release for Microsoft Windows through different digital distribution platforms including Steam, Epic Games Store and GOG. When we asked if the game will be release for consoles as well, we received the generic response that for the time being, they are focused on PC however, they do have plans for consoles down the road as well.

We want to reach the widest possible audience, so we’re not ruling anything out and of course, we have plans to also release The Thaumaturge on consoles.

While explaining the Investigative mechanics in the game, Karolina shared that different clues will present themselves only if the character is developed in a certain way. The clues you find and the clues that you miss will impact the outcome of the quest in different ways.

Thaumaturges perceive their surroundings in a wider, more tangible way, even to the degree where they can tell what emotions filled those, who used or possessed given objects. But clues also have sort of layers of knowledge, that are hidden behind the aforementioned dimensions, and only a specifically developed character will be able to fully untangle some of them. So you may be able to find all items or tropes in a given location, without being capable of drawing all essential details from them at the same time, which leaves certain possibilities or impactful decisions at the later part of the quest locked.

Salutors in The Thaumaturge felt like Personas to us. So we asked how they actually work in the game as they will be at the core of the whole experience.

Saultors obey those who capture them and serve their thaumaturge. You know about the combat part and their impact on battles, but their presence is also tied to the player’s progression, but let’s not elaborate on that for now. Another thing to note is that they give Wiktor the ability to manipulate people and bend their will to be accommodated with your cause, which serves as another gameplay mechanic. From the design point of view, they serve as a personification of folk beliefs and superstitions. And in terms of the story, their presence conveys the message that it’s impossible to achieve great things on your own, so Salutor is an important part of the lore of the game.

From the technical point of view, The Thaumaturge is being developed using Unreal Engine 5 just like The Witcher Remake. According to the developer, UE5 has made their work “convenient and comfortable”. As for technologies like DLSS and FSR, the developer wasn’t able to comment on the matter as the game is still in development so we can’t be sure whether they will be included or not.

UE5 is a powerful engine, that, compared to its predecessors, allows us to develop the game’s world, assets, and overall tools at our disposal in a more convenient and comfortable way. Also, it provides a great number of support sources.

The game is still in development, so we’re not denying any possibility, and until the last stretch, we will be looking to make it look and perform as best as possible. 

The Thaumaturge doesn’t have a concrete release date yet but considering that it has been in development for more than 4 years now, a 2023 release date is likely. We expect this game to release before the release of The Witcher Remake atleast. Hopefully, we will see some more gameplay of this mysterious RPG soon.

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Ali is a passionate RPG gamer. He believes that western RPGs still have a lot to learn from JRPGs. He is editor-in-chief at SegmentNext.com but that doesn't stop him from writing about his favorite video ...