Omensight review: Dawn of the last day (PS4)

(Image courtesy of Spearhead Games)

If you’ve ever been afraid of waking up to the same bad day over and over, I have some bad news for you: Omensight is not going to ease those fears. Developer Spearhead Games was put on the map by its 2016 hit Stories: The Path of Destinies; Omensight is very much its spiritual successor, as the combat and visuals are unmistakably a Spearhead Games product. This was an early promise of greatness, but the roughly nine hour playtime left me pining for the adventures of yesterday.

The story begins with the end of the world and the arrival of the Harbinger, a shining, legendary figure who has appeared — and not for the first time — to save the world. The Witch who guards the Tree of Life is the Harbinger’s guide and she explains the apocalypse is brought on by the murder of the Godless-Priestess Vera and the disappearance of her soul. It’s your job to follow four different creatures during their last day in order to piece together Vera’s death and defeat Voden, the bringer of the end.

Each of the four protagonists (or antagonists, as alliances shift as you uncover clues) start off a bit shallow, then slowly grow into more fleshed-out characters — but only just. Emperor Indrik comes into the story as the ruthless leader of a nation at war, then quickly becomes understanding and apologetic for his actions. The reason for this is… he realizes he was wrong — not a groundbreaking turnaround. Thankfully, the others have more depth; Draga, a general in Indrik’s army, is torn between her duty and doing what is “right.” Coincidentally, her voice acting is also among the best in the game.

Omensight’s murder-mystery-meets-fantasy narrative has enough meat to push most players through to the end. The hidden clues you find scattered across Urralia offer necessary insight into the lives of the characters before the Harbinger’s arrival. Portions of this exposition should’ve been revealed during dialogue as opposed to being hidden; connecting with the characters becomes difficult without it. And after replaying events over and over, it’s a shame the emotions weren’t coming through. It’s a testament to the so-so storytelling which needed more polish.

Back to the voice acting: it is pretty decent. The bear-warrior Ludomir is convincing as the tough guy with anger issues and a big heart. Draga, again, has a stellar voice actor/actress. The roguish Ratika is entertaining to listen to, as well. Too bad the dialogue was too uneven for any one character to truly shine. The NPCs are largely lackluster in both dialogue and acting.

The environments are crisp and punchy, making the multiple trips along a select few linear paths seem less tedious. Journey mastered this visual style years ago though, so the minimal-texture aesthetic isn’t as inspired as it once was. This doesn’t mean Omensight isn’t a pretty game, because it is. There just wasn’t enough variation in the map to make the end of the game not feel like a slow crawl to the final confrontation with Voden. And the soundtrack doesn’t do the few environments many favors. While not distracting, none of the songs build on the experience. They mostly fade in the background and are a missed opportunity on the part of the developers to maintain the atmosphere they were aiming for.

Technical issues don’t help the immersion issue, either. Three or four events didn’t trigger during game play, requiring a complete game restart. Progress was lost, though not much thanks to a generous auto-save feature. The game crashed once during a boss fight which, again, required a full restart. They were common enough to make playing inconvenient, but they are something to be aware of.

Combat is mostly an enjoyable experience in Omensight. The freeflow system makes targeting specific enemies a chore at times, but for the most part, dodging, slashing and hacking is a seamless affair. Upgrading the Harbinger’s various skills happens quickly. The Phantom Dash is perfect for getting out of a circle of enemies; Delay of Fate slows down time and allows you to bound from enemy to enemy with ease.

Dodging is a crucial (read: necessary) skill to master. When an enemy is moving in to attack, an exclamation point will appear over there head. You typically have a wide reaction window, right up to the enemy’s weapon being pixels away from the Harbinger. If you master the art of the dodge, swarms of regular enemies don’t pose too much of a threat. The boss fights aren’t as forgiving, and from about halfway on, you’ll spend much more time dodging than attacking. This spike in difficulty is not unfair, but it is jarring.

(There are potential spoilers regarding the epilogue of the game in this paragraph.) After defeating Voden, Spearhead wraps up each character’s not-so happily ever after in a few lines. In a game where death permeates the world of the living, the morbid endings for the protagonists are fitting; more effort could go into making these deaths not seem to sudden and unwarranted, though.

Is it worth it?

Despite the lacking narrative, a few technical issues and an unimpressive soundtrack, Omensight is worth its 8-12 hour playtime. Urralia is a beautiful world which makes the retreading of the same areas less tedious. There’s plenty of effort on behalf of the voice actors to bring Omensight to life, though the dialogue lets them down at times. Should Spearhead Games decide to build upon the story of the Harbinger, the land of the Pygarians and the Rodentians would be worth another visit.

 

3/5

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s