Thirsty Suitors finds growth and reconciliation through RPG battles


Face off with your not-so-evil exes

The demo for Thirsty Suitors starts off strong. Sitting on a long bus ride, there isn’t much to do but think about life, love, and who your Thirstsona is. And from there, it’s a long night of dealing with your past, your inner perception, and battling your ex in an RPG duel.

I got to play a slice of Outerloop Games’ Thirsty Suitors as part of the Tribeca Games spotlight this year, and it was hard to slot into a genre. It doesn’t neatly fit one, and I don’t think it needs to either. Its blend of adventure, RPG, and even skateboarding simply clicks together, in a fun and very relatable experience.

The protagonist, Jala, is on her way home after a particularly rough break-up. But home doesn’t always mean sanctuary, especially if you left it in a bad spot. That’s the impression I got early, as Jala’s internal narrator chides her and pokes at all her insecurities.

Look who walked in

There is walking around in town, answering some dialogue questions to determine my Thirstsona (including some rather incisive inquiries), and yes, skateboarding. The focus of my demo was an encounter with one of Jala’s exes, though; the rather muscular Sergio.

Sergio is the boy back home who crushed on Jala and never un-crushed. He’s been harboring feelings since grade school, and now that Jala is back on the market, he’s shooting his shot. And in beautiful RPG fashion, that shot comes in the form of a turn-based battle, command menus and all.

Attacks went back and forth, with quick-time rhythm moments popping up to time out perfect hits or guards, similar to the Mario RPGs. I loved the 1-2-3-4-hit tap-in the devs added, making it very easy to pick up the rhythm for each hit.

As the fight goes on, Jala and Sergio argue about life and their past relationship. It plays a narrative role, setting up why these two didn’t work out while also highlighting how each has changed, or not changed, in the time since.

It also plays up different combat maneuvers Jala can use to get the upper-hand. At one point, I threw out a flirtatious look, leaving Sergio smitten and open to attack, taking extra damage from certain skills in the process. It’s straightforward but works very well, especially when it links up with the story.

Make peace, not war

The battle heated up more and more, until Sergio hit his power spike and changed the world around us. It was kind of like the Domain Expansion in Jujutsu Kaisen, which honestly ruled and I hope was at least part of the inspiration.

Anyways, Jala and I replied the way anyone should when faced with a stubborn, seemingly unmovable opponent: calling mom. Jala summons her mother, who towers over the battlefield before bringing down a thunderous chappal on Sergio’s head. It was wonderful.

The fight doesn’t end by beating Sergio up, however. This is a key part of what I dug about Thirsty Suitors: that this RPG combat, turning a terse verbal sparring into fantasy RPG battles doesn’t end in defeating someone else, but making peace with them.

It’s clear that Sergio has built a memory of Jala into a version of her that doesn’t exist. And Jala’s been a bit callous in the past, too. Both of them recognizing they can do better, and maybe start off on a better footing with each other, is the real resolution.

Homecoming

After playing this chunk of Thirsty Suitors, and getting a tease of more exes waiting in the wings, that’s what I’m really looking forward to. Going back home and seeing old faces again is always strange; games like Night in the Woods have captured that feeling so well, and I get similar vibes from Thirsty Suitors.

But I’m also looking forward to seeing more of Jala’s hometown in Timber Hills. The Steam page teases more skateboarding action and even a cooking minigame, where Jala works to improve her relationship with her mother through cooking. For all the wild theatrics of mentally battling your exes, there’s a quiet, intense relatability to trying to reconcile your version of the past with others. And along the way, hopefully finding a way to move forward and grow a little bit in the process.

So yes, Thirsty Suitors is absolutely on my radar now. It’s charming, fun, and strikes an even balance between an authentic, real story and goofy fun. I’m hoping the chappal sticks around, too. Wishlist it on Steam here.

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