Xbox version tested
Review code provided
It’s an Omen!
It’s 6am, Sonny and Cher are crooning through your radio alarm clock and you wake up with an all too familiar sense of dread that you’re going to have to watch everyone die at the hands of a purple Cthulhu worm-beast... again.
Yes it’s Omensight the action RPG, mystery adventure game from Spearhead Games which lets you live your own Groundhog Day fantasy, but instead of Bill Murray and Punxsutawney Phil we have a glowing blue mystical being and a dead owl.
To explain, you play as the Harbinger, an otherworldly entity who looks like Navi got delusions of grandeur and ran off with some Samurai armour and a big glowing sword. Thankfully she also lost her voice in the process as you are very much the silent protagonist, forced to live the same day over again to uncover secrets and treasonous plots, solve a murder and hopefully prevent a big neon snake from devouring the world.
The mystery at the centre of this game is the murder of Vera, an owl priestess whose very presence helps to keep Voden, the evil purple people eater at bay. With her death however, the currently at war Rodentia and Pygaria are very literally doomed. The Harbinger is summoned to help reverse this fate by bonding with the dying souls of Ludomir, Draga, Ratika and Indrik in order to re--live the final day with each of these characters to uncover the truth behind Vera’s death and prevent the apocalypse.
As the silent protagonist a lot of the heavy lifting is done by the other NPCs, and for an indie game the voice acting is generally really good and the characters are interesting and charismatic enough that you start to feel quite involved in their ever-repeating day and grow quite attached to them.
There are some definite character tropes, Ludomir the bear is a tank with alcohol and anger management issues. Ratika is the sassy bard mouse with a magical guitar and Draga is the feline leader of the Emperor’s army, who is holding out for peace. Then of course there’s the Emperor himself, Indrick who is some sort of bird and is straight away pinned as the boo-hiss baddy of the tale.
Your only method of communication with other characters is through the use of the Omensight. You learn this skill whenever you solve a mystery or uncover key clues and see a vision of events leading up to Vera’s murder. You can then go full Mr Spock and forcefully mind-meld with the other characters so they can see what you did. Their reaction to this information, other than searing pain and a sense of violation, can then open new plot points and help progress the story.
The time-loop aspect of the game is a clever storytelling device, and while some people might find this way of reusing environments and game assets tedious or repetitive I honestly didn’t mind. The way the story develops means you can unlock more areas, learn more about each character and the enemies get progressively harder to defeat, especially as you find yourself fighting on both sides of the battle.
This does also sadly mean than on occasion, and in order to progress or unlock new information, you will have to kill one of your companions and this can feel especially brutal when you’ve just been BFFs a moment before.
This leads me on the combat which is actually pretty decent. For me it’s a sort of reminiscent of Batman fighting mechanics, where you can chain attacks and perform some serious aerobatic feats until you cock up your timing on a counter or dodge. There’s also a tiny sprinkling of Devil May Cry as you get awarded additional XP based on how “stylishly” you fought.
As the Harbinger you have more than a sword at your disposal, and as you level up you unlock a small selection of spells. These are quite standard RPG abilities and include dash, force throwing objects about, and the most useful ability of all, freezing time. This was the ability I spammed the most as there is always something satisfying about stopping time and absolutely twatting something about the head while they stand perfectly still only to keel over dead when the fabric of reality reasserts itself.
There isn’t a skill tree in the traditional sense, but you can upgrade spells or other attributes by spending Amber which allows for a little bit of character customisation. I sunk my Amber into health, sword damage, defence and freeze time, but you can also improve your companion’s fighting abilities as well.
The mystery-solving part of the game is not quite the puzzle I expected, as you don’t really solve things just experience them. You can alter the difficulty of the mystery-solving by having a sort of mind palace which checks off important information as you find it. Or you can switch this off like I did and just amble about like an aggressive spectral Columbo. The stakes never feel too high however as you don’t have to solve the mystery in a limited number of steps, so you can revisit and replay sections as much as you like to gather every single secret, collectable and XP to level up but for me this felt like a missed trick.
Oddly the ending of Omensight has a little bit of controversy surrounding it as it suffered at the hands of the righteously upset fans. I’m not going to go into spoiler territory here, but the ending of the game is a bit on the bleak side, but it suits the narrative and it would be impossible to get a completely happy ending unless the Harbinger knows a friendly Time Lord. But a “happy ending” is what the people wanted and this was fuelled further when some hackers found hidden video files hinting at an alternative ending.
So the Omensight Definitive Edition features the “Good” ending which can be achieved by finding and unlocking every memory and doing a bit more timey wimey stuff. Curiosity got the better of me and I looked up the good ending on YouTube and frankly I prefer the downer version. The happy ending is so fairytale and clichéd that even Disney would be spinning in his grave, or whatever a defrosted head in a jar would do.
The need for this alternate ending raises an interesting question, are we such slaves to the binary good/bad ending that anything else is “poor” writing? Well, that’s an argument for another time.
Omensight is a great action RPG. The mystery-solving is paper-thin and if you are expecting to flex some Sherlockian muscles you will be disappointed, but it’s a good-looking game with a decent plot, and characters engaging enough that I often felt quite bad when I had to take one down in order to unlock more information. I can understand why some people might find the downer ending a bit of an anti-climax or that they’ve been denied a proper reward but if you do get the Definitive Edition you can swap a bitter-sweet end for a sickly-sweet end or just watch it on YouTube like I did.
TBG Score 7.5/10
Platform: Steam, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 07/06/2019
No. of Players: 1
Category: Action, Adventure
Developer: Spearhead Games
Download link: Microsoft Store