Review: Omensight – Groundhog’s Doomsday

Image courtesy Spearhead Games Omensight is a hack and slash meets classic whodunit story. It’s a successful mesh of the combat found in the original God of War (2005), and the adventure elements of the time-tripping murder mystery of Ghost Trick. It’s a title that doesn’t skimp out on challenge, both in its relentless action and in the unraveling of its mystery. Omensight is a potent, somewhat short adventure that doesn’t wear out its welcome. Developed by Montreal-based studio, Spearhead Games, Omensight takes place on the last day in the land of Urralia, before its total annihilation. The longstanding war between the Pygarian Empire and Rodentian Rebellion has reached its climax, ending with the release of the dark, destructive god, Voden. You play as the Harbinger, a celestial spirit being summoned at the eleventh hour, who must relive the last day again and again to solve the murder of the Godless-Priestess, whose death brought on the apocalypse. Image courtesy Spearhead Games The Harbinger conducts her investigation by forging a connection with the spirits of four characters who died shortly before Urralia’s destruction: Ludomir, a revenge filled bear; Draga, a cat and loyal general of the Pygarian army; Ratika, the mouse leader of the Rodentian Rebels; and Emperor Indrik, the eagle ruler of the Pygarian Empire. The Harbinger can visit each of these characters at the beginning of the last day and assist them on their given mission while she susses out pertinent clues to the murder, only to go back again to the first day and select a new partner to use what she's learned to find out more information. On a major breakthrough, the Harbinger gains the Omensight, which allows her to share key pieces of info when she visits or revisits her partners, causing them to act differently and possibly reveal even more clues. It’s almost like being Sherlock Holmes with the assistance of four different Watsons. Only here, each of your partners is a major player in the events of what is ultimately a very tragic play. Image courtesy Spearhead Games Sandwiched between all of the brief moments of clue hunting and storytelling are long stretches of combat sections with just a skosh of platforming. Combat makes up the bread and butter of Omensight as you’ll be walking into arena after arena filled with dozens of soldiers, rebels, and monsters--depending on your chosen path and partner. To defend yourself, you have quick light attacks and stronger heavy attacks for shielded opponents. Dodging is also a major component of combat, as it’s often the only way to avoid an enemies' telegraphed attack. In Omensight, you will be swarmed from all sides, where a misstep can lead to losing more than half your health bar. The combat is plentiful and punishing. But the Harbinger won't be alone, as the partner you choose will fight by your side with their own special abilities, such as Ludomir's crowd clearing attack or Ratika's temporary boost to the Harbinger's speed and attack damage. Fallen enemies also net you energy, which you can spend to level up and acquire your own special powers, such as slowing down time and telekinetically pulling and throwing enemies. These powers, along with the Harbinger's health, attack damage, and the recharge rate of her and her partners' abilities, can be further improved through the exchange of collected amber, part of Omensight’s upgrade system. As the game progresses, these upgrades will go a long way, as there are no other weapons save the Harbinger's sword, and the only other item pickups are apples for health, which are often few and far between in between fights.   Image courtesy Spearhead Games Omensight offsets its melancholy story with a high fantasy setting starring cartoony looking anthropomorphic animal characters. It’s rather impressive to see the level of attention and polish given to creating epic battlefields, abandoned crypts, and haunted other-worlds. Though much of the design prizes visuals over a unique level structure, there are a few special moments, such as riding a giant bulldozing war machine into battle. Enemies are also designed with their own strengths and weaknesses, such as the Pygarians favoring shielded shoulders and fire-throwing mages, and Rodentians swarming you with enemies supported by distant bomb throwers. Oftentimes, no matter who you'll pick, you'll also fight the sea monster-looking minions of Voden, which boast the largest enemies alongside spell-slinging squids to slow you down. Additionally, there are boss fights in Omensight, and those bosses comprise of the partners you didn't choose. Pick Ludomir, and you may find yourself at odds with Indrik; choose to run with Draga, and you may be forced to to face Ratika. And boss fights in Omensight are tough, because while they all have unique attack patterns you can memorize, they're relentless and aggressive, even early on in your adventure, so don't be surprised if you die more than once fighting these guys. Unfortunately, using all the bells and whistles on the Unreal Engine, especially if you turn up all the graphics to maximum, can get in the way during the chaotic fight sections, as the explosions of color, the occasional bit of scenery obstructing your view, and multitude of leaping enemies can obfuscate the action, resulting in damage from an unseen source. While the camera is pulled out to show the entire battlefield, like classic God of War, it often makes it difficult to keep a bead on the Harbinger when she's getting attacked in several directions. Otherwise, even on the highest settings on my modest computer rig, there are little to no slow downs during regular gameplay, even at its craziest moments. Omensight also has a phenomenal voice cast. Throughout the Harbinger’s investigation, and the revelations she brings to her different partners, their emotions go through from resolute to uncertain, flippant to dour, and from wrathful to regretful. There are some serious acting chops with Patricia Summersett (The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild) as Draga, Julian Casey as Emperor Indrik, Lateef Martin as Ludomier, and Leda Davies as Ratika, who embody their character's different states of mind. This voice cast more than hits it home in terms of performance. Image courtesy Spearhead Games Omensight succeeds in what it sets out to do: create an action-adventure romp with an slowly unfurling story where the lines of good and evil shift, blur, and refocus. Its short length serves it well, as the title has little in the way of filler and concentrates on a powerful, punchy, story-driven experience. Omensight is short and to the point--but that's not bad as it leaves you with satisfactory, lasting moments. A copy of this game was provided to us for review purposes. Omensight is available on PlayStation 4 and Steam.  
Picture of the author
David Lanzafame