It’s the very beginning of Omensight: Definitive Edition. You’ve been playing for maybe ten minutes, just beginning to learn about a world populated with anthropomorphic animals arranged into tribes and nations at war with one another. You’re starting to get a picture of how each of the types of animal-people thinks, how they relate to one another, and why they’re clashing: dropped into the middle of their war as a seemingly neutral party, you’ve made your way through a few fights with imperial soldiers and learned about an evil emperor. And then the world ends…. Yeah, it’s a pretty strong start.
Here’s the deal: the world of Omensight is pretty much always on the edge of the apocalypse, by the sounds of it, with a world-eating serpent named Voden poised to pop out of the aether and just devour everything the moment someone with the fun-sounding title of ‘Godless Priestess’ loses her connection to the Tree of Life. There’s a decidedly Norse vibe to the backstory: you’ve got analogues to Yggdrasil the World Tree and Jormungandr/Midgarsormr the world-consuming snake culminating in a very Ragnarok-ish sort of situation.
Fortunately, there’s an intervention from… somewhere. As the Harbinger, the player takes the role of a strange creature who appears in times of great crisis: a glowy-blue warrior who belongs to none of the species of talking animal and thus has the power to unite, or destroy, all of them. The Harbinger’s journey in Omensight takes the form of a Groundhog Day-esque loop; you’ll go back and view the events of the day before the world ended from a few different perspectives, with a few different allies, in order to solve the mystery of just what went wrong and perhaps even work out how it might be prevented.
Omensight lives and dies on the strength of its plot and characters: although on the surface it looks like a hack-and-slash, albeit a very nice and rather satisfying one, I think it really wants the ‘murder mystery’ element to be its defining quality. Certainly that’s how Spearhead Games define it at every available opportunity, so I think that a lot of the love that went into making this game must have been because of a passion for the tale the team wanted to tell; I can certainly respect that, especially when all the other elements are nicely executed and polished – that said, let’s take a look at each of the components that goes into making the Omensight experience, starting with the all-important storytelling.
You’ll spend a lot of time with four of Omensight‘s characters in particular, silent Harbinger notwithstanding, spending time with each in order that the Harbinger and the player learn something new about the day the world ended from the perspective of a different key player in the events. Essentially, the structure of the bulk of Omensight revolves around you, as the Harbinger, repeatedly returning to the beginning of the last day of the world and joining a companion to uncover new parts of the mystery.
Each of the four companion characters is well-realised, with distinctive personalities and clearly defined motivations. I think that, as with much of Omensight, there’s been a lot of care put into the little details to make sure that each character feels consistent, that each new revelation about them is surprising but fits with what the player knows about them. Playing alongside each of them is much the same; you get one team-up attack per partner, but that’s about the only functional difference.
You’re presented with repeated choices as to which path to follow: you’ll go back to the start of the day with each of the four party members multiple times, reliving the events in the light of new knowledge. There are sections which can get a bit repetitive, as you’ll be replaying lengthy chunks of each journey more than once, but you always feel equipped to change the direction of the story.
Uncovering new information updates a handy compendium of all the clues you’ve gathered and helps you to assemble them into an overall timeline, a picture of how things unfolded.
Moving on to the gameplay of Omensight, I was pleasantly surprised by how smooth and polished the combat felt. You’ve got a fairly standard set of actions – light attack, heavy attack, dodge, jump – which feel really fluid to string together. There are little details in the animations that really add a lot of finesse, and I sometimes got the feeling that I was playing something like Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time thanks to the Harbinger’s acrobatic manoeuvring between opponents and the way that defeated enemies would sometimes seem to slow down as they fell back. It’s a really nice effect, and it feels great to play.
You also get a few more unusual abilities, which are just as satisfying to pull out in the middle of the action. Everything actually feels useful, which is nice; there are no superfluous abilities.
I do feel that the camera could use a bit of work: it seems to do whatever it wants a lot of the time, shifting from an over-the-shoulder view to a more isometric perspective and occasionally just wandering off somewhere into the middle distance. During one early boss fight, I found myself completely unable to see what was going on a lot of the time!
It is rather nice seeing what’s going on, too, as the visuals are also frequently very good. I suspect that there may be some difference between the Switch version I played and the version of Omensight that other consoles or PC players would experience, as textures were sometimes a little lower-resolution than they are in comparative screenshots. There are also some enormous framerate drops on the loading screens, for some reason, but fortunately they don’t often pop up during active gameplay.
One thing that’s hard to ignore about the visuals is that the backgrounds and environments are really nicely done – you can tell that a lot of love went into the art – and the characters are also pretty visually appealing, but the two sometimes feel like they’re from completely different games. Perhaps I’m just not a fan of anthropomorphic animals, but… I don’t know, I’m just not really sure why they’re animals. They don’t often exhibit stereotypical behaviours associated with the species they belong to; it’s just sort of a peculiar sidenote that nationalities in this world are divided up into rats, bears, cats, and so on.
Audio is of course another part of making the overall experience, and I really like a lot of Omensight‘s sound design. Its soundtrack is big and attention-catching when it needs to be, and fades into the background as just a fitting complement to the action when that’s what’s appropriate to the experience.
I’ve got to admit that I’m not so keen on the voice acting. Some of it’s not half bad, but there are a few characters who… seem to have accents, sometimes? I get the feeling that Fyodor the tavern owner’s voice actor was told to do a Peter Stormare impression and just sort of decided to give it up halfway through recording his lines. That kind of thing can take a player right out of the world, unfortunately – there are few culprits as bad as that, but the acting is fairly frequently… er, noticeable, in not the best way. It’s just a bit hammy quite a lot of the time. It’s a shame, because there’s a lot of subtlety and polish in the other elements of Omensight‘s design that make just slightly off VO stick out more than it otherwise would.
Still, I feel comfortable recommending Omensight to fans of action games, fantasy murder mysteries, and, um, talking bears. It’s genuinely enjoyable; even as replaying the same day begins to feel a little samey, the new discoveries and the fluidity of the combat will keep you engaged until all the mystery is laid bare.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Omensight: Definitive Edition Review
Gameplay - 7/10
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 5/10
Replay Value - 7/10
User Review( votes)
Omensight is a murder mystery fighting game that’ll keep you guessing as you beat up armies of animal people.