A time-hopping adventure whose storytelling intrigue is let down by a lack of excitement elsewhere
The ability to travel through time has fascinated me for a long time. On the one hand, it would be a blessing to be able to rectify past mistakes. On the other hand, what if fixing these mistakes only led to even worse problems? In Omensight, the latest effort from Stories: The Path of Destinies developer Spearhead Games, the butterfly effect of time travel isn’t quite a concern. When every action you take always ends in the same destructive fashion, any possible solution needs to be explored. Even the best course of action can still reap unintended side-effects, however.
The apocalypse has begun for the land of Urralia. Torn apart by war, a dark god has arrived to destroy anything that remains. While the end of days may be looming, there is still a way for the war-torn land to survive. Enter the Harbinger, a mystical being that only appears in times of great crisis. With the ability to move through time, the Harbinger must work with four different citizens of Urralia in order to piece together just why Voled has made his presence known. To do so, she’ll have to use her Omensight ability to open their eyes to new, disturbing information. With new information influencing their actions, both sides of the war will have to put their differences aside if they are to save the land they are brutally fighting over.
Time travel stories can be a tricky thing to pull off. You don’t want to get plot threads crossed up, and the threat of repetition is always there. Spearhead Games has had experience in the past stringing together a sprawling story, and they manage to do so successfully here as well. While the Harbinger returns to certain areas repeatedly, each new trip through always felt different from the last. You’re constantly getting access to new information that helps piece together this convoluted mystery. The trick here is that you can only go back to the final day of Urralia, which means you need to think logically about how to present any information you come across.
The game is also smart about playing with who you think is responsible for unleashing such a terrifying evil. At one point it seems like rampaging emperor Indrik is at fault, however a new bit of information paints his chief nemesis, the trickster Ratika as the main culprit. The shifting narrative helps you stay invested in a story that seems more straight-forward than it actually is at first. The one thing I didn’t care for was the ending, even though I understand it thematically. I wish the end-game made better use of the alliances you made previously, as casting them aside does call into question why I spent as much time with them as I did.
While the threat of repetition is avoided by the story, it can get a little boring having to constantly travel through the same exact areas repeatedly. There are only five main locations, and while these locales do have alternate pathways, by the end of the game, you’ll have explored all of them a little too thoroughly. Repeatedly returning to the areas also means that you end up fighting the same wave of enemies constantly. The only benefit to these return trips is that you can loot the same treasure chests repeatedly as well, which makes upgrading the Harbinger’s abilities a more manageable process. However, I would have either taken a handful of new settings or more in-depth investigating over that beneficial side-effect.
Combat-wise, Omensight plays like a shallower version of the Batman Arkham series. The Harbinger has a quick, but weak light attack and a stronger, but slower heavy strike that can be easily chained together. Even with the help of your allies, you’ll frequently be surrounded by enemies, so it’s important to be on your toes. Thankfully, the Harbinger has a quick dodge that lets her avoid almost any attack. Learning how to work parrying into your combat chains is not only integral to survival, but also necessary for gaining XP.
The Harbinger may begin her quest with only light and heavy strikes, but additional abilities can be unlocked over time. As you repeatedly trudge through the final day of Urralia, you’ll gain experience for things such as unlocking new visions, not dying and mastering the combat engine. As you level up, you’ll unlock different abilities like being able to slow down time or dishing out a powerful strike that can kill an enemy in a single shot. Crystals that you collect during each mission can also be used to augment your base skills and acquired attacks. Finally, the ally you choose to work with on a given day can also assist you with a bonus ability. Drunkard bear Ludomir delivers a devastating splash, while Ratika can provide you with a temporary ability boost.
The combat in Omensight is solid, but it never really rises above just being good enough. Stringing together combos is easy, but it can occasionally feel too shallow and sloppy. On the regular difficulty, you can easily cheese your way through almost every battle without having to switch up your tactics. That’s not inherently a bad thing, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good thing either. Instead, the combat is just kind of there, filling in the time in-between story beats. It’s a real meat and potatoes engine, so to speak. And it’s a shame, because there’s a real style to the action that would have seemed even better if it was as fun to control as it was to look at.
Speaking of flashy visuals, Omensight has a wonderful sense of style. The world of Urralia is soaked in bright, eye-catching neon hues. It would have been easy to cake the destroyed land in dull browns and blacks, but a splash of color makes the world seem like it’s actually worth saving. The only issue with the look of the game is that some of the level assets seem like they are reused repeatedly. The main character styles are equally memorable, particularly if you love anthropomorphic designs. Forgot to mention it, but there are no humans in the game. Every character is either an animal or some kind of mystical creature. While the basic enemies are forgettable, the four main side-characters, as well as the Harbinger, are excellently designed. Giving them memorable looks and personalities goes a long way towards wanting to help them survive the potential end of days.
Omensight is the type of game that doesn’t truly excel in any one category but manages to do just about everything competently. The time-traveling storyline does an excellent job of building intrigue but bungles the ending in a dour and unfulfilling way. The combat is flashy and easy to get a handle on but lacks depth and occasionally devolves into pure button-mashing. What’s here is put together well enough to be worth recommending if you’re looking for something a little more off-beat than usual. However, with so many other excellent action titles out there, there are better ways to spend the 8 or so hours that it would take you to save Urralia.