Omensight - A Superb Follow-Up For Spearhead Games | A Short Pause Review
One of the standout games I played at my very first PAX East back in 2013 was a delightful co-op puzzle game called Tiny Brains. The folks representing developer Spearhead at that show were some of the most pleasant people I met at PAX East that year, and I immediately followed them on Facebook and Twitter as I knew this was a team I’d want to keep an eye on. I’m glad I did, because over the years since, Spearhead has made a number of neat games that I’ve really enjoyed. They found their biggest success yet with their last outing – Stories: The Path of Destinies — and they’re looking to continue that streak with their latest effort, the action-packed murder-mystery title, Omensight.
Set in the war torn lands of Urralia, Omensightimmediately casts players into the thick of the story. The game begins as several of your companion characters’ final moments are shown when Voden— a serpent creature trapped in the Void — appears to bring about the end of days. Players will take on the role of the Harbinger – a warrior spirit sent to prevent such events from transpiring – and with the aid of a Witch, will use the powers of the Tree of Life to rewind time to revisit and investigate the events surrounding the murder of the Godless-Priestess, Vera, whose death seems to act as the catalyst for Voden’s return. Utilizing the Tree, the Harbinger appears a day prior to Voden’s emergence and accompanies one of four influential characters — Ludomir, Draga, Ratika, or Emperor Indrik — as they relive the moments that lead up to Vera’s death.
Right off the bat, you’re greeted with the option to investigate Draga or Ludomir first. Draga is a Pygarian feline war general, while Ludomir is a bear out for revenge for the death of his sister, Vera. Regardless of whom you decide to start with, you can choose to play as the other character upon completing that day. While out with these characters, you’ll learn a lot about the world of Omensight, specifically in regards to the clashing nations of Rodentia and Pygaria as you try to piece together Vera’s murder. Venturing out with certain characters will unlock seals throughout the story that players can utilize to access previously gated areas which can lead to more clues and chests to aid you in your investigation. As you progress, you’ll also be able to join the rebel Rodentian leader Ratika, as well as Pygaria’s Emperor Indrik himself.
Each day you play through can yield different results with the same character. One run through might produce some new information to help with your murder investigation. Maybe you happen across a hidden path, which could lead to you unlocking a seal that sends you in an entirely different direction, thus altering the events you’re set to encounter. Eventually, one of these routes will lead you to an area that is significant to Vera’s murder and you will begranted you an omensight. Omensights can be utilized to manipulate a character at the beginning of a day to lead you to more clues or ways to prevent unfavorable events from happening.
Thanks to both the seals and omensights, the game opens itself up to lots of retreading. Replaying through a day can lead to different encounters in an area you’ve been to before and, with omensights, you can actually alter the results of these confrontations. With the power of an omensight, you can turn a fight against another companion into a chance to gain an ally. In addition, Spearhead has implemented the option to skip to the important moments of a day to cut down on unnecessary backtracking. While tempting, there are times it’s beneficial to revisit a day from the start, such as if you’ve acquired the ability to unlock a different type of seal and remembered seeing a door of that color earlier on.
Sure, finding new paths is a lucrative enough reason to completely restart a day that you have the option to skip ahead in, but you’ll also want to do so in order to gather gems and amber. These act as the currencies for both gaining and upgrading abilities. Gems are sacrificed during meditations at a statue between days to gain new abilities, while amber is spent to upgrade these, as well as the Harbinger’s health, sword damage output, energy meter, and companion abilities. Many of these upgrades prove to be very useful in combat, as they range from being able to slow down time to killing enemies with a single strike. As you climb higher and higher on the leveling tree, these abilities will be upgraded to consume less energy and give you the potential to deal tons of damage.
Despite some really cool abilities and afluid combatsystem, this is unfortunately where some problems begin to arise. Sans a very short period of time near the end of the game, your energy meter does not store energy earned in combat. Your meter fills as you attack enemies (and depletes should you get hit), so once all of the enemies are slain during an encounter, if you had been saving up to launch a multi-kill dash attack, all of that energy will be gone in a matter of moments. Given how fun these abilities are to use, it’s a shame that you can’t store your combat energy and carry it into the next battle. Now, there is an upgrade that will let you start an encounter with 1 node filled, but it’s still sad to lose a full 4-6 nodes after finishing a fight.
While the combat itself is also a joy — you’ll be dodging attacks and unleashing a flurry of slashes to take down your opponents — on several occasions I regrettably found myself not only fighting against the game’s enemies, but its fixed camera angles as well. In the middle of a “boss” encounter, with the camera centered above the middle of the area we were battling in, there were a number of instances where I found myself running or dodging towards the bottom of the screen and unable to see exactly where I was located. This happened a few times during normal game play as well. I remember preparing to jump between platforms, only to find the camera would shift just as I was about to leap, putting me off course and sending me to my demise. Some areas have gaps, but due to the camera being a little further out, sometimes it’s hard to determine if it’s a gap or if it’s part of the floor until you realize you’re already plummeting to your death. One spot in particular, I jumped up on a ledge to open a sealed door and, because the camera didn’t pan back on my way out, I overshot the path leading up to the door and fell to my death.
Frustrating camera moments and “non-storing energy meters” aside, Omensight shines with the story being told. As events unfold over the course of each day, every character’s role in that day becomes clearer as you reach the climax of the investigation. Voice acting and writing are both superb and will keep you engaged as you work to resolve Vera’s murder. While at times you may find yourself thinking the plot is predictable, a revelation will then occur that will completely spin you in a different direction. I found myself wanting to revisit as many days and times as possible to really fill out and gain an understanding of what transpired during the 9 hours that made up my first playthrough.
Omensight is the natural evolution of Spearhead’s Stories formula. Addictive combat, fun abilities, an enjoyable cast of characters, and a strong narrative add up to one of the studio’s best adventures to date. However, frustrating moments due to the fixed camera angles during both normal gameplay and combat did hinder my enjoyment at times. It’s irritating to be so close to the end of a battle, only to find yourself at either an angle the camera won’t pan to, or to accidentally tumble to your death because you didn’t realize there was a gap in the floor while you were focused on taking down a group of enemies. The lack of a rolling energy meter also hurts. There’s some pretty great attacks at your disposal here, and I don’t feel like I’ve had the chance to unleash them enough, especially when it comes to the more involved battles with several groups and waves of enemies to slay. Those qualms aside, Omensightwas still an absolute joy to experience, and fans of Storieswill likely be very happy with Spearhead’s follow-up.
THE LONG AND SHORT OF IT
Thanks to our friends at Evolve PR for providing us with a digital copy of Omensight for this review.