Spearhead Games are once again messing with accepted conventions in Omensight, an excellent 3D action platformer with RPG elements that has you traveling through time to solve a murder mystery. The FNGR GNS Review;
Games like Omensight just don’t get made anymore. 3D action platformers with anthropomorphic characters are something the majority of the games industry left behind with the PlayStation 2 and N64 but Spearhead Games’ latest shows that with the benefit of 20 years of game play and narrative improvements, this genre still has plenty of life left in it when left in the right hands.
Omensight begins at the end of the world. The fantasy world of Urralia is being torn apart by war between the forces of Rodentia lead by the musical mouse Ratika and the armies of the oppressive Emperor Indrik, the leader of Pygaria. As these 2 nations wage the final battle in their war, another force rises – Voden, the snake-like harbinger of the Void. As columns of purple light burst from the ground, the world literally ends. In this game, you play as the Harbinger, a mute creature made of blue energy that is prophesised to appear shortly before the end of the world. With the help of a Witch, you escape the destroyed Urallia and aim to stop the rise of Voden by travelling back in time to investigate the murder of Vera the Godless-Priestess who’s untimely demise is the key to preventing the end of the world. Nothing, however, is as it seems.
The game takes a Groundhog Day like structure from here on out. You repeatedly travel back in time to the “dawn of the final day” (add your memes here) and accompany one of 4 characters – The hot headed Bear Ludomir, the feline Pygarian general Draga, the playful but strong willed Ratika and the surprisingly deep Emperor Indrik – whose lives are intertwined with one another. You get to travel with them until the world ends once again. Each new iteration of this day benefits from the knowledge and experience you’ve gained from the previous. By collecting Amber shards, you can upgrade your abilities. By shadowing certain characters, you can learn to break certain seals which in turn opens doors that are locked to other characters. XP you earn through discovering new information and defeating enemies can be used to level up and unlock new skills. The most interesting aspect of this iteration is that once you’re garnered enough knowledge about the events surrounding Vera’s death, you unlock the “Omensight” which allows the Harbinger to show other characters a vision which they instantly know to be truth. This drastically alters the motivations of the subject you meet depending on their relationship with the other 3 key characters.
This is where Omensight is at its best. The writing and game design that iterates around the characters and their desires and motivations is masterful. At the beginning of the game, each character is driven by their stake in the war between Rodentia and Pygaria. They either hate or respect each other but as you obtain information from one which you can then reveal to another, it tears back layers to reveal new depths and nuances. As you learn more about the death of Vera the Godless-Priestess and show that to the 4 main characters to accuse or enlighten, friends become enemies, long-time foes attempt to set aside their differences and their interactions with one another become ever more elaborate. This is complemented by optional memories you can unlock by finding collectables off the beaten track of each level which give real meaning and depth to the cast of colourful personalities.
Throughout Omensight, you visit only 5 locations repeatedly but thanks to some pretty impressive level design, the game very rarely feels repetitive. Each character takes their own route through each level, taking jumps while others take locked doors so there’s something unique for each retread through a level. As you progress, the enemies become more numerous and more difficult to kill as well as new traps and pitfalls which add a little spice to levels you’re already traversed. There’s a few optional branching paths too which offer a risk and reward for those wanting a challenge. Shortly before the end of the game, some mild monotony does start to set in but it’s offset by the additional challenge to the combat.
The combat in Omensight is a slightly improved version of the system that Spearhead Games used in Stories: Path of Destinies. The developers have obviously taken note of some of the criticisms that were made of their previous title and have added a more strategic element to the combat here. To put it bluntly, the combat in Omensight is akin to that used in the Arkham Games, dancing from enemy to enemy, combining quick and heavy attacks into 3-hit combos and dodging when an sign indicates a villain is about to attack. In addition, the Harbinger has a few special attacks which are unlocked as you level up. You can fire off projectiles after racking up enough successful without damage, slow down time, pick up and throw enemies and can instantly kill a foe with a deadly quick attack. There’s a lot of subtleties to the combat that aren’t immediately apparent but as you enter the last third of the game, the sheer number of enemies and the boss battle difficulty spikes means you have to master the intricacies or end up dead. It’s a very satisfying challenge.
There’s one small issue with the combat however – the camera position is fixed. Sure, there’s a little leeway and you can move the view very slightly with the right thumbstick on the DS4 controller but sometimes that’s not enough. There are some areas when the camera gets too close or into a too narrow ariel position which means you can’t see all the enemies around you. This means you can’t dodge incoming attacks because the “!” signal above an enemies head is off the screen. This doesn’t happen often but in a tough scrap, the last thing you want is to get hit out out of the blue from an enemy you couldn’t predict coming.
Visually, Omensight is an absolute delight. It’s like a moving comic book from beginning to end with some simply stunning vistas that alter dramatically depending on the time of day it is. The lighting, the colour palette and the artistic styling employed throughout are simply beautiful. The world that Spearhead have created here is full of lore and the environments complement them perfectly.
Performance wise, this title does occasionally suffer from some frame rate slow down. It’s only a mild stuttering and it was only ever when the camera panned quickly over an area with a lot of depth. During combat and platforming, when you really need the frame rate to be spot on, the frame rate was perfectly smooth so this is a bit of a non issue but it’s worth mentioning for those of you who love to count frames and pixels.
Spearhead Games are a developer that’s making a real name for themselves by messing with accepted conventions within their game designs and plot and what they started with Stories: Path of Destinies, they’ve nearly perfected with Omensight. There’s an incredible narrative here that’ll have you guessing and re-guessing “whodunit?” as the murder mystery turns on its head with each new revelation and each character reveals their true selves under scrutiny from the Harbinger. A visual treat for the retinas and with combat that’s much improved since Stories, Omensight is a 3D action adventure game that has all the hallmarks of a PlayStation 2 3D action adventure made in the heyday of the genre but with the benefit of 20 years in technological and design advancements to spruce it up. Some occasional frame drops, a little bit of repetition and some occasional dodgy camera angles aside, Omensight is an edge-of-the-seat adventure that is hard to put down from the start until the credits roll.
Developer: Spearhead Games
Publisher: Spearhead Games
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we recieved a review copy from the publishers. For more information, please see our review policy.