"You are literally living the same day over and over, but there's always something new to discover as you tease out the path you need to tread in order to save the world."
In this day and age of 50+ hour mega-RPGs, it's nice to find a game that respects your time — something we all seem to have less of as we get older. 2016's Stories: The Path of Destinies was one such game, giving players over 20 bite-sized tales that could each be completed in an hour or less while working toward the larger goal of discovering the game's true ending. Two years later, Spearhead Games is back with a spiritual successor to Stories entitled Omensight. This game refines Stories' basic narrative and gameplay concepts, and throws in a twist: you are trying to solve a mystery.
You play as the Harbinger, a mythical figure who only appears when the world is about to end. With the help of a mysterious witch, you are able to rewind time and accompany one of four companions on their last day before the apocalypse. When you reach the end of the day, time resets and you're free to choose a different companion or make a different choice to see how things play out. The game is smart about this, allowing you to skip over content you've already seen, which is a huge improvement over the backtracking that became necessary in Stories. The titular Omensight is an ability that comes into play as you gain new information about your companions and the timeline of events that lead to the calamity. Using this ability on your buddies sends them (and you) down new paths, slowly unraveling the mystery until your course has but one inevitable destination. It's an interesting gameplay loop in that you are literally living the same day over and over, but in true Groundhog Day
style, there's always something new to discover as you tease out the path you need to tread in order to save the world.
There are only a handful of locales you can visit, and though their appearance does change depending on the time of day and how close you are to solving the mystery, you're going to be seeing the same five areas over and over again, which can get just a tad bit old over time. Luckily, the environments are beautiful, particularly the lava and fire effects, and I often felt like I was looking at a page from a comic book — which is intentional, I'm sure, as the art director has also worked on graphic novels. Characters are slightly less attractive, but hey, it's a game with anthropomorphic animals that is clearly not going for realism, so I will cut Spearhead a little slack. On the audio side of things, the music is good but doesn't really stand out, and the voice acting is inconsistent — your companions all sound great, while NPCs can sound almost laughably bad. In a longer game, these things would probably have annoyed me a bit more, but Omensight is a short 8-12 hour experience that you can chew through in a weekend, so it doesn't overstay its welcome too much.
As you move through environments with your companions, you'll engage in some light platforming and, of course, combat. Omensight borrows the basics of its combat from Stories but refines the formula a little. You wail on foes with your sword while keeping an eye out for an Arkham-style marker that indicates an impending attack you can either counter or dodge. Like Stories, you can grab and toss enemies or dash through them, but Omensight also lets you do cool things like slow down time or send Hadouken-style energy blasts at your foes. And then there's your companions: each has a special move that can be triggered on command. Cat-general Draga casts a powerful fire spell that blasts all enemies in range, for example, while the Rodentian revolutionary Ratika can temporarily enhance your speed, sending you zipping across the battlefield and making your attacks lightning quick.
Both your special skills and those of your companions operate on cooldown timers, and this is where leveling up and upgrading come into play. In between days, you can meditate to expend the experience you've gathered and level up. Each level grants you a new skill or an improvement for an existing skill, but you sadly have no choice in what you get when — leveling up is entirely linear. On the other hand, upgrading involves making offerings of the amber gems you find throughout the game, and here you do have a choice in what to power up. From basic things like more health and increased attack damage to shorter cooldowns and more uptime for your skills and those of your companions, you've got a decent amount of options that can help make things easier.
Having upgrades like this is good because combat doesn't always go your way in Omensight. Being surrounded by shield-bearing foes and mages means you have to be quick on your feet, and some of the bosses can provide a rather stiff challenge. Sometimes, I felt like the controls were a little off; I'd press a button to drop the Harbinger's time-slowing bubble, and it would take a while for the move to actually go off. Other times, I'd try to grab an enemy and nothing would happen. These little mishaps were more weird than game breaking, though, and it's worth mentioning that Spearhead is aware of some of these issues and has a day-one patch planned that should resolve them just in time for players to take to the field as the Harbinger. The camera is usually not an issue during combat, which is impressive considering that you have very little control over it, but the limited ability to pan it does sometimes feel awkward while exploring. Again, the brevity of the game works in its favor with little quibbles like this.
Omensight is definitely an interesting experience. I found myself drawn in by the twists and turns my investigation took as I tried to find out how the world had come to the brink of ruin. But at the same time, I kind of missed the choose-your-own-adventure style of Stories and the excellent one-liners provided by the narrator. Should fans of Stories check out Omensight? I would say yes. Spearhead describes it as a spiritual successor to Stories, and despite the change in tone, you can really feel how it's an evolution of Reynardo's swashbuckling adventures. For everyone else, if you like unraveling mysteries with anthropomorphic animals and seeing how your choices can affect the course of a single day, Omensight might just be worth picking up.
This review is based on a free review copy provided to RPGFan by the developer. This relationship in no way influenced the reviewer's opinion of the game or its final score.