Game Review – Tears of Themis

Tears of Themis logo

Tears of Themis
未定事件簿 (Wèidìng shìjiàn bù)
Otome game / gacha
miHoYo
Android / iOS

Summary:

Stellis. A beautiful, modern city that many call their home. But its bright veneer hides a rising crime rate and mental health crisis — and all these strange cases may be related. A young lawyer is about to discover Stellis’ secrets and answer the call for justice — and maybe find love along the way!

Review:

I’ve mentioned Tears of Themis before, but what do I actually think of the game?

Tears of Themis, like most gacha games, involves collecting something. In this case, cards, known in-game as Visions, which are either R (common), SR (uncommon), or SSR (very rare). You use items called Tears of Themis to receive a card with an image of one of the four male leads (and maybe the heroine) on it. Each card has a type and one default ability. More on those later.

The game features a standard draw pool and temporary pots which boost the chance of certain cards. Every 10 pulls you are guaranteed an SR card and an SSR within 100 before those counts reset. For me personally, it took quite a while before my luck rose above trash-level. Even then, when I got an unexpected SSR card early, I was so upset — it wasn’t one either of the high-chance ones, which I desperately wanted for gameplay purposes. (More on that later.) There was also a card that kept stalking me! You can earn draws by logging in regularly, completing tasks, or participating in events, but obviously, the game wants you to spend money for redeem more chances to get a new, valuable card.

Duplicate cards turn into pieces to boost your copy, up to a max of 5 stars. Any further duplicates will change to an item that can be exchanged for a generic item to boost your star level.

Tears of Themis Card Sample

You use these cards in debates, which are the crux of the game. You can make up to 5 decks of cards, and you select which one beforehand. Your deck size is based upon your character level, up to a max of 16. Eventually, you can also build a supporting deck which you can stuff with your less useful cards to help boost your power level during the debate. Obviously, more power is better.

Each debate is made up of up to three waves of “arguments”, which are usually colored red, green, or blue. The three colors operate in a paper-rock-scissors arrangement. Play the right color for 1.5x damage (called trumping) or use the wrong one for .5x damage. The first wave or two will have multiple, weaker arguments before the final big argument, the color of which you can see before the fight. There is also a neutral black color, but that’s usually reserved for bonus or grinding-type stages.

You have a hand of five cards at a time, and these are drawn semi-randomly. I say semi for a reason.

By default, players and opponents will spend turns going back and forth to deplete the other’s HP. For players, HP is based upon your character level and the power/level of your cards. For opponents, the HP is divided (unseen) into those individual arguments, and any excess damage is not carried over. So if an enemy has, say, 10,000 HP but the argument is 2,000 HP, even if the card inflicts 3,000 HP of damage, the opponent will still have 8,000 HP. So there will be times when you won’t want to waste good cards to finish off (refute) an argument.

Tears of Themis Debate

If you run out of cards, you will need to waste a turn to reshuffle the deck. Debates will end when either person’s HP is reduced to 0 or if you fail to finish the debate within a certain number of rounds.  If you do lose, there is no penalty; you can retry again and again, mess with your deck, or give up at any point. The first time you win you are given a guaranteed reward; beyond that, it’s a random or lesser amount.

As in most card games, there will be times when the hand you’re given is either good or really crappy. Sometimes, even if you’ve split your deck in a statistically probable way, you end up with a handful of cards you don’t want or need just yet. Maybe not just in color but in abilities. Cards always have one ability that activate when you play like boost blue cards or down opponent’s defense, and cards can have up to two passive ones, all of which can be leveled with items. So ideally, you want to not just play the right color but play them in an efficient order.

Bad luck wouldn’t normally be an issue because there’s no penalty for losing. However, if you exit, the game keeps the same RNG with your card hand and replacement order. So even if you look at a hand and know it’s not going to work, you pretty much are forced to play out the debate so that you can lose and reset the card order. Messing with decks is also an option but is also rather annoying. I really wish each time you entered the debate it was wholly random.

There is an auto-debate feature, and you can even set it to do multiple rounds of the same stage.

R cards can only reach level 70 with one major boost (called Evolving) while SSR/SR can go up to level 100 and can Evolve twice. Evolving also changes the image of the Vision as an added bonus, and leveling up SR/SSR cards unlocks little story extras for bonus rewards. Rather quickly, you won’t be playing stages for experience; you’ll be grinding for items to upgrade your cards. You will continue to earn experience for your character to raise your deck limit and HP, but soon, completing daily goals will be your main source of XP rather than debates.

That’s also because, like most freemium games, there’s a limit on how much you can play for free. Each story or debate-related part of the game uses up AP, from 5 to 20 points. This is gradually recovered at a rate of 1 AP per 6 minutes, and you can earn or pay for items to boost it back up. Good news: if you leave a stage early, like if you couldn’t complete a debate, you are refunded the AP cost. You will also get an automatic refill when you level up, with overflow so that no AP is wasted. If you do the daily tasks as well as claim the daily freebie, you should not run into long dry spells unless you are playing this game for hours on end.

From the start screen, you can choose options like buy things or mess with your cards. You can also unlock the NXX and Visit options.

NXX will allow you to gain free money or card XP items as well as earn points to redeem toward debate bonuses like doing more damage or increasing defense. The Visit section is more or less the character/romance routes of the otome game. You can earn affection by touching them or playing a quick game (short old maid or paper-rock-scissors — and no, I don’t know why you’d go up to your calm, practical boss to randomly ask to play such a game). Earning affection gradually unlocks new sayings when you touch them as well as story chapters. There’s a limit on how much you can boost their affection per day, and this area is going to take a while to complete. You can spend your daily affection on whomever you like. But beware — there are debate stages here as well, and you can only use cards featuring that guy! But it’s obviously easier than the main X-Note section.

Tears of Themis X-Note

The Story section is obvious, and I’ll get into that in a moment.

Study is important to grind materials for your cards. Two options of them are available every day (max two plays each). The other levels you can tackle as much as you want, but they only become available on a set schedule.

Events are comprised of short-term play areas as well as permanent ones. The two constants are designed in a Greek mythology style with a retro game vibe with one being an increasingly-difficult series of debates while the other is a series of waves between treasure and debates with set difficulty. Other Events are rotated in that may have their own story, rules, or format, like a board game.

The main story is divided into chapters. The game has sealed off parts of the story since its debut, and more content is going to be added. So far, there are four regular chapters, and the fifth is divided into three parts. The four chapters, despite being a significant amount of gameplay, all basically end up being a prologue. You don’t unlock all the extra areas and boosts until Chapter 4. Looking back, I wish I had just sped through them first instead of doing Anomaly Levels. These are debate-only stages available once a chapter is complete which yield valuable resources. You will likely want to revisit them often, but getting all of Tears of Themis to open up is more important before doing these tangents, and I wish I hadn’t veered off early.

Each chapter is divided into levels, which require AP to unlock. Some levels are just straight plot involving characters talking, and some are debates. The reason for debates have an in-game explanation for them but do not flow well in context. Like, someone’s about to talk, and then I guess you’re randomly yelling at a flower picker before going back inside to listen to what they have to say? Whatever.

But there are also times where you either need to:

  • look at an area, clicking on things of interest
  • choose two pieces of information to unlock a key point
  • go to court and present evidence

These are similar to games like Ace Attorney. And like Ace Attorney — or an episode of Scooby-Doo — criminals and police sometimes leave obvious stones unturned and clues behind. The first two don’t have force you to get the answer right in a limited time, so these portions end up feeling superfluous. You can lose the trial portion, but again, you just reenter the stage and just keep trying like a normal debate stage in order to advance. The only real downside is you have to jump through a few hoops by showing your evidence again before you can get to the debate part of the trial. And yes, these trials are highly fictionalized with all the direct grilling of witnesses and the prosecution. Tears of Themis‘ gameplay is in the card battles, and it’s not nearly as much of a puzzle like Ace Attorney.

Tears of Themis Levels

But those debates will cause you to hit a wall at times. The difficulty level in the main story is not a perfect rising slope. Unless you are investing a lot of money into the game, there will be times where you are doing fine and then suddenly are struggling. Unfortunately, just boosting a card or two doesn’t usually help; you need to likely need to boost most or all of your deck — and probably by at least 5 levels each, maybe more. Costs can quickly skyrocket, as you need multiples plus in-game money. Some boosting items are available to purchase with real money, but require grinding, luck, or exchanging badges you receive daily from friends. I know I’ve mentioned before I’m the type of gamer who likes to sit on items in fear I’ll need them in the future, so it’s always nervewracking to me to use up items!

So what is the plot about anyway? “You”, the heroine named by the player (I chose Maria since it is a name that can go well in the Western localized world of the text or the Japanese world of the spoken dialogue option) is a junior attorney at Themis Law Firm in the industrialized slightly futuristic city of Stellis. Also working there is Artem, a renowned lawyer with an amazing win record. He’s practical and a bit stoic on the surface but is kind. But the heroine is soon reunited with Luke, an old childhood friend who is now a private investigator and is delighted to see her again. Then Artem introduces her to Vyn, a psychiatrist who is rather mysterious and analytical. While she heads to an art show mentioned by Vyn, Maria meets Marius, a graduate student at the college there. He also happens to be the current president of the superconglomerate Pax Corporation, but the young businessman loves to be casual and tease the older heroine.

(Spoilers in trailer below.)

While it’s basically confirmed in any story synopsis of the game, it’s not until you get through the prologue-like first few chapters that the story gets to its real point. All four men are or end up in NXX, a group dedicated to analyzing and investigating mysterious cases in Stellis. There’s a clash of personalities and opinions in the group, but the heroine is invited to join and does. While the first four cases are all one chapter long, their first chapter as a group is divided into three sub-chapters. This is all that’s currently available, so I am not sure how long it will be between main parts. Events will likely help fill the void between main parts, especially intricate ones like the current Mysteries of the Lost Gold.

There are some rather farfetched cases, but again, that’s probably going to be familiar to fans of Ace Attorney or even games like Professor Layton. I forgot what year it is in-game, but it’s not too futuristic. Most technology is basically the same as ours, with the exception of the Big Data Lab which is basically some supercomputer that helps guide the government and everyday life. Also, the Pax Corporation is into everything — everything. Both these and some other tech means that a lot of the detective work or delayed analyses are delivered to the heroes with ease.

For me, I’m more interested in the overall story and the dangers the NXX group will face from exposing the truth rather than the individual cases themselves because they can be a stretch in logic and execution. But, of course, having hot men flirt with “you” (aka the heroine) is probably going to be the real reason people, likely females, keep up with it.

And so far, keeping up with the game isn’t too bad for those who don’t want to spend money on this game. Tears of Themis usually has at least one freebie every day, and completing various parts also awards players items to spend. Like, the aforementioned Mysteries of the Lost Gold event gives you 10 free draws just for starting it. Plus with the 10 default draws and the fact that new players are guaranteed an SSR within their first 30 pulls on the permanent event, that means that it won’t take players long to get a couple of strong cards in their deck. I’ve spend I think $4 so far, and while it’s tempting to spend more, I restrict myself. This game seems to be very fair and accessible to low-spending players. Yes, players will have to back off at points if they don’t have the cards and/or levels to move on, but there are a good amount of free items available in-game and from checking social media accounts. I don’t think anyone will feel forced to spend money.

Speaking of items, sometimes it feels like there’s an RPG-level amount of them, and it can be hard to decide what you may want to target next or how to use what you have. The game also doesn’t do a good job of explaining their uses, so it’s a bit overwhelming at first. To do anything almost always requires multiple of an item, and as you make the cards stronger, the costs can quickly skyrocket, especially when you are spending 20 AP a battle for a non-guaranteed drop or 50,000 Stellin per card boost.

I’ve bounced back and forth playing this on an iPad and Android device. Sometimes it will sync automatically. Othertimes, the app will force me back to the login screen (which I don’t have to reenter my details each time, thank goodness!) to play. You do need to be online to play this, which is a bummer. Updates have been fairly common, and download speed can vary. In the app, there are options for Smooth, High Quality, and Ultra Quality, and I absolutely don’t think there’s much argument to not immediately switch to High Quality upon start. Smooth seems blurry despite its name, and Ultra just depletes the battery so fast. The middle is so optimal I wonder almost why there are other options. There are times when the game seems to temporarily glitch/freeze, but some of this may have to do with my own Internet connection. Seems like closing the app is faster than waiting it out.

This is already pretty wordy, but players have voice options, and I am still blown away by the Japanese seiyuu miHoYo got. Seriously, Eren/Todoroki/Melodias/Kakeru/Icouldbehereforever Kaji himself? He’s the biggest name, which serves well as the what seems to be the canon/main love interest, but the others are no strangers to the anime and otome game world either, including Otomate titles like Code:Realize. I think I also recognized some of the supporting cast’s voices, but I don’t think there’s been any confirmation yet of their identities. The main story, minus the heroine’s lines, are voiced. Extra parts may have unvoiced sections, but the vast majority of the game has spoken dialogue. The four love interests, when onscreen, do move their mouths to match the lines.

Tears of Themis Story Dialogue

Others, however, have still character portraits. Incidental characters are just all white bodies with no face or other defining features. While the graphics are otherwise gorgeous, these can sometimes take me out of the experience. There are also times when there are CG-like pictures, and these can have motion. When reuniting with Luke, for instance, it’s like you’re walking along with him. Very nice. On the investigation stages, parts where you are supposed to touch do have a tendency to stand out more, but sometimes they draw a little too much attention because you aren’t supposed to investigate them until a part 2. It was sometimes hard for me to draw attention to the rest of the background when there’s an obviously suspicious area or whatever you can’t touch! But otherwise, the backgrounds are nice, with some less important ones being recycled for other events/storylines.

Honestly, this looks and sounds like a video game you’d find on store shelves for standard price.

Translation:

Note that I’m basing these comments on the Japanese voiced version of the game.

Tears of Themis is a localized game.

Minase Natsuhiko – Luke Pearce
Sakyo Shizuma – Artem Wing
Izumi Kei – Marius von Hagen
Moritsuki Rei – Vyn Richter
Himono Subaru – Janus
Big Data Center – Big Data Lab

“Bocchama”, in English, says use first name (Harry)
“Onee-san” is “Miss”

In the story, the heroine’s codename is “Rosa”. But in extra event, answer is “Rose”. Seems to be “Rose” in Japanese. Also in the bonus sections, the heroine usually addresses Artem as “Mr. Wing” — which seems more appropriate since he’s a senior attorney at the same law firm. Although it’s true in the West, coworkers unless really higher up are usually referred to by their first names. Sometimes this can go back and forth in the same scene. Vyn is usually “Dr. Richter”, so he doesn’t have this problem as much.

Yes, there are a lot of these types of things where the Japanese dialogue has characters being formal and/or using family names while the localization has a more casual atmosphere. In one stance, there’s a boy “Yuuta” — nickname “Yuu-kun”. In English, it’s supposed to be “Hugh” and “Hughie”. But for instance, Vyn tends to be formal and calls him “Yuuta-kun” while Luke uses “Yuu-kun”. But in Luke’s scenes, the name is often written as “Hugh”, and there’s one instance of Vyn using “Hughie” which is not correct according to the spoken dialogue. In return, Yuuta/Hugh calls Vyn by his Japanese family name but the English has him calling by Vyn’s personal name.

In other cases. Like, in one example, Marius in Japanese does the “hoooo” skeptical effect — which is roughly equivalent to sarcastically going “Reaallly….” in English. The line’s text is six words: “Firing her for fabricating news. Right.”

Japanese something like: “It doesn’t matter the reason. It still helped a bunch.”
Line: “I know.”

So it can be distracting to hear one thing and yet reading another. It also kind of bothered me when a dialogue box continued to a new one for one word. And it’s almost always one single world. For as often as the game rewrites much of the script, I don’t understand why lines couldn’t have been tweaked more.

Final Comments:

Ideally, yeah, I would have paid $50-60, owned a physical copy on my Switch, and played through Tears of Themis without all of the daily limitations. But this is a gacha game I’ve stuck with for more than a month, which is a record for me. Not only that, I’ve actually completed what’s available with minimal cash. Tears of Themis is actually a freemium game that can actually be accessible to players of all income levels. And while the card-based play relies on luck, the puzzle aspects are limited, and the story can be a stretch, the game still looks and sounds impressive. Which, of course, is perfect for those who just want to swoon over hot men.

Reader Rating


4.33/5 (3)

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4 Comments

  1. alsmangablog

    I’ve seen a lot of people talking about this game recently and was getting curious about it. The debate card mechanic sounds interesting and I’m definitely a fan of bizarre, Ace Attorney style, court cases! 🙂

    Reply
    1. Krystallina (Post author)

      This game does have some of those so-crazy-it-just-might-work schemes, so if you enjoy Ace Attorney, I think you’ll like this game.

      Reply
  2. dreager1

    Impressive sticking with it for a full month. I’d definitely say it’s a sign that the game is good. I’ve played several gatcha but on average I only stick around for a week and any that make it longer than that get the seal of approval from me. Like right now I’ve deleted all of them (Not counting Pokemon Go since I don’t really consider it as a gatcha) except for Mega Man X Dive. That one looks like it’s sticking around for the longhaul.

    The debate gameplay sounds pretty thorough. It’s cool how they spun it into the gatcha theme but I do see how it would be a smoother experience if you could just pay the $60 up front

    Reply
    1. Krystallina (Post author)

      It really would have been nice to just go for a full game experience on the Switch (or PC, but definitely Switch). But at least it feels like this game gives out more freebies than the average gacha, especially when there’s a special event going on. That at least alleviates some of the gacha-ness, but full games > gacha all the way.
      Plus actually having most of the game voiced is impressive.

      Reply

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