Tears of Themis: a first look at the recent beta

miHoYo, known best for their highly popular online multiplayer RPG Genshin Impact, have turned their attention to the otome market with their new title Tears of Themis.

As an upcoming otome title dropping on Android and iOS systems as a free-to-play game, it has been gaining some well-deserved traction before its upcoming release. And having been lucky enough to experience the recent closed beta, I’m here to cover my initial thoughts on the title, spoiler-free.

As we are covering the beta version, note that some things discussed here may be altered and updated by the time the finalised product releases.

Tears of Themis

What is Tears of Themis?

In Tears of Themis, our main character — who can be freely named — is an associate lawyer who works in one of the biggest law firms in the fictional Stellis City.

In the main story, each chapter has players accompanied by one of the four love interests: Artem Wing is our emotionally closed-off boss who has a hidden soft side, Luke Pearce has re-entered the MC’s life after harbouring a childhood crush on her, Vyn Richter is an intellectual and calculating professor, and Marius Von Hagen is a wealthy and arrogant painter who studies under Vyn.

Each one comes across as typical archetype of the genre, but indulging in Tears of Themis’ side content such as its character stories will uncover the surprising depths and individual charms contained in each love interest that might be initially hidden away.

In fact, Tears of Themis has one of the strongest love interest pools within the otome genre. The love interests are all extremely different from one another, but each of them have so many strengths in their personality and such wonderful characterisation that while players will doubtless gravitate to one in particular according to their own preferences, there’s so much more going on underneath the surface.

After seeing enough of their character stories, it will make it tough for anyone to pick a favourite by the end of it.

Tears of Themis

General beta thoughts

The art of Tears of Themis will be one of the first aspects of the game that you will take notice of, thanks to its polish and production. CGs in particular are gorgeous and consistently high quality, with the rarest of obtainable cards featuring unique animations.

Weather is depicted as part of the card’s events, and facial animations change the more you evolve the card. Sprites are brought to life by subtle movement, blinking and lip-syncing. And in fact the game’s opening sequence does wonders in showing players what they are in for, thanks to its fluid character movement, vibrant colours, and a minimalistic, compact UI.

There are plenty of locations you’ll be exploring, from different office buildings to crime scenes in each chapter — and many more to be found in card story events. The backgrounds are clean and crisp, with an overall refreshing and appealing colour palette. Additionally, the music sounds a lot better than you might expect from a mobile game; the OST is impressive and highly enjoyable in its own right.

Another design detail I could not help but notice and appreciate concerns our very own heroine. Not only is she depicted with eyes in every single portrait and CG, she also has plenty of emotive expressions and lines of dialogue with heightened emotions, such as being surprised or humoured.

It’s a refreshing take on what is often seen as a negative aspect of otomes on mobile devices, but the compliments are not just surface level. Our main character is a very likable person, being smart, sassy, compassionate and reliable from what we have already seen. She is relatable to the player, and has her own merits, strengths and traits you’ll come to admire the more you spend time with her.

The narrative is layered, with each chapter case being linked, leaving for a satisfying and always engaging plot the more you progress through its main story. But for someone whose majority of enjoyment comes from the romance within otomes, Tears of Themis delivers with its endearing and cute individual card events, and side-story content that expands upon the love interests with meaningful and charming arcs to the boys. It’s probably the best aspect of Tears of Themis: miHoYo has managed to excel at balancing the detective gameplay and the romantic stories.

As a mobile otome with the majority of lines fully voiced (with the exception of our main character and card events) the audio options are currently Chinese, Japanese and Korean. Each one is as strong and polished as the other, but I of course stayed faithful to the Japanese audio as it contained the star studded cast we all already know and love – Junichi Suwabe (Kaoru Rindo from Cafe Enchante, Abraham Van Helsing from Code Realise and Higa from Bad Apple Wars) as Artem, Yuki Kaji (Kanato Sakamaki from Diabolik Lovers, Kei Okazaki from Collar x Malice and Kakeru Yuiga from Norn9) as Luke, Jun Fukuyama (Mozu from BUSTAFELLOWS and Etsuya Tokiwa from Dairoku: Ayakashimori) as Vyn, and Kaito Ishikawa (Il Fado de Rie from Cafe Enchante, Dante Falzone from Piofiore: Fated Memories) as Marius.

Tears of Themis

Gameplay breakdown

To label Tears of Themis as “the Ace Attorney otome” feels suitably fitting. It’s high time we saw an otome title centred around the intricate and high tension drama of a courtroom and presented in such an appealing way.

Tears of Themis’ story takes centre stage, with its romantic aspects best explored through the character stories of its four love interests during “Visits”. The setup here will not be too unfamiliar to any fan of the genre on the mobile platform, with the previously covered Obey Me! following a similar narrative structure.

However, Tears of Themis strikes gold in balancing these two important elements just right. For those who want an appealing and engrossing detective adventure game, you have this in the main story, and those who are more interested in what romance the game has to offer can put more of their energy into progressing through each character’s story to witness all the adorable and fluffy material.

In the detective portion of the game, inspecting individuals and making conclusions can feel like a 50/50 selection at times, but making the correct assumptions feels all the more satisfying if you manage to do so without making use of the hint button.

The hint option is available during investigations, whereby a point-and-click system takes over after the visual novel narrative arrives at a particular destination. And you’ll sometimes need that helping hand at these moment; as miHoYo have been amazingly thorough in concealing clues in some scenes.

The hint mechanic is not at all an unwelcome tool, since it sets the player up with choosing how difficult they want these sections to be. In a rush and want to get the investigation over and done with for more story? Consider it done; the choice is yours, after all.

While the interrogation portion is the most simple of these procedures as the game does not ask anything of the player during this time, the linking of statements and items does well to make up for it. Successfully solving why statements or items are connected feels the most satisfying of all the mechanics.

Possibly the only trip up on such a hand-holding system comes in the form of Tears of Themis’ final trials. These Ace Attorney-styled courtroom showdowns at the end of every chapter really shine in their presentation, with splendid animations of our MC donning a pair of spectacles and a nice suit to effectively deal out justice with style.

The individual animations of our legal opponents is also a neat and appreciated attention to detail. Its gameplay here, however, is a bit too easygoing despite the high tension of the ongoing verbal battle. Selecting the wrong answer or providing the incorrect evidence just points you back to retrying it until you select the right outcome.

This is understandable for a mobile game; players wouldn’t respond well to being hit with a Game Over and having to expend more energy to retry the same chapter. It is worth pointing out, though, due to how it pulls down the high stakes of such a key moment, and again brings down the overall difficulty of the game.

Tears of Themis

Gacha system

As a gacha experience, players should expect the typical mechanics that come from mobile games here.

The use of an energy resource is necessary for any story segment to be read. If the energy falls under the threshold required to start a chapter, then players have to wait for it to refill over time, or use consumables which can be purchased or received from in-game rewards to raise the meter back up again.

The narrative beats are, as you might expect from a mobile game, fairly short, but the amount of time it will take to clear certain chapters will vary among players due to the detective mechanics that can keep you preoccupied for much longer than you would expect.

It’s impressive how much miHoYo managed to pack into its gameplay functions as they offer so much to experience. The main gacha system mechanic is seen in the game’s card banners; you pull from these by acquiring Tears from progressing through the story, or during events as rewards, similarly to Genshin Impact.

The card collecting aspect of the game is one of the most addictive yet, due in part to the previously mentioned animated CG’s in the rarest forms of them.

Spending time on building a suitable deck and applying resources to evolve them is worthwhile, as experiencing the card’s events as depicted in its art is only one reason to indulge in this as a pastime. You’ll truly feel it’s worth the effort after having experienced only a few adorable and memorable scenarios with the love interest of your choosing; you’ll also be rewarded affection points affiliated with the character on the card, making your visits to the love interests all the more frequent as see their personal stories develop.

Card decks can be auto-selected before an in-game “debate” begins, making for a quick and simple solution to players with less time on their hands. For those who want to jig around their decks manually, it’s important to keep in mind the three categories the cards fall into to make their argument balanced or more effective against the debater. These categories are wisdom, empathy and logic. These small sections of “debate” gameplay sprinkled throughout the narrative makes for a nice change of pace to the solid blocks of text you’d typically expect from a visual novel.

Finally, do not feel anxious with how many in-game items there are, as the game makes navigation a breeze. Daily challenges and core progression mechanics reward players with plenty of resources. And there’s plenty to discover and enjoy about the game’s mechanics in order to obtain as many resources as possible on a daily basis, such as making sure you always make time to connect with other fellow Tears of Themis players to obtain Friendship points that can be used on many items to evolve cards.

Tears of Themis

Side-story content

During the previously mentioned “Visits”, players will spend some quality one-on-one time with their chosen love interest by playing rock-paper-scissors, a card game, or just simply interacting with them by touching them all over. (Lewd! – Ed.)

If we could not get it in Fire Emblem Fates, we can thank miHoYo for proving us with the touch-screen goods we deserve! And the previously mentioned animation perks of Tears of Themis is once again a highlight here, with the love interests’ sprites breathing, moving and reacting to your touches.

And by engaging with this aspect of the game, you’ll earn more affection points — which in turn does wonders for accelerating the unlocking of their individual and charming character stories. It is once again important to note how well done and interesting these stories are, as each adds a new facet to each of the love interests’ characters. They bring out not only the love interest’s own motivations that might go unseen in the main story, but add further exploration into their characterisation, and their own perception of events and thoughts — sometimes even concerning the main character.

Tears of Themis

Closing thoughts

Tears of Themis will not be shaking up the platform with anything massively new to the genre for a mobile game. But what it does provide is well worth checking out.

With engaging and entertaining dynamics and character interaction alongside an appealing and relatable MC, the cast of Tears of Themis is solid.

With its impressive and gorgeous art style, even its side characters will be solidified in your memory. Its mechanics are numerous and offer engaging gameplay, with its highlight being the finding of connections through clues.

Overall, Tears of Themis is proving to be a very interactive otome experience, and has made me finally appreciate the card collecting system found in many other mobile otome games due to the addictive and rewarding evolving of cards to unlock the specific scenario depicted in the card’s CG.

In short: watch out for this one’s full release — it’s a good one!

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Lilia Hellal
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