Omensight Review — Witnessing the Omens of the Past
Spearhead Games' action title Omensight, a spiritual sequel to Stories: Path of Destinies, is ripe with ambition and style but falters in a few aspects.
Coming from developer Spearhead Games, Omensight blends action and mystery in the style of a dark, fantasy fairy tale, though not in the ways that players might initially expect. While the visuals call to mind an epic hero’s journey and the cast of colorful talking animals suggests lighthearted storytelling, in reality Omensight is way closer to a fantasy detective story.
As the sole agent investigating the causes of a worldwide disaster, Omensight is an experience with a lot of moving parts, and while not all click into place in a coherent way, it provides a unique combination of genres that make it an engaging action RPG.
Omensight is a 3D action game (with a few light RPG elements) that puts players into the middle of the conflicted world of Urralia. After being torn apart through war between two opposing factions — the imperialistic Pygarians and the rebellious Rodentians — Urralia’s high priestess Vera succumbs to the plot of murder, which soon after plunges the world into turmoil. That turmoil comes to fruition through Voden, a giant purple snake-like god that ends up destroying Urralia in the process each time it appears.
Those catastrophic events are where the player steps in as The Harbinger, a mystical being that is equal parts intermediary, badass warrior, and psychic detective. Aside from a luminescent sword and a whole range of fighting abilities, The Harbinger’s most powerful ability allows her to utilize “omensight,” where she can envision events from the past and thereby influence the direction of the future. This crucial power comes into play throughout the core gameplay loop of Omensight, where players are tasked as The Harbinger with bringing the world of Urralia back on track before the moments that saw its destruction.
Notably, Omensight acts as a sort of “spiritual sequel” to developer Spearhead Games’ previous release, Stories: Path of Destinies, an excellent (if generic-sounding) action game that released two years ago. Aside from landing on a more unique-sounding name, Omensight takes some aspects of its predecessor to heart (such as its combat elements and maneuvers) alongside a shared universe and loose story connections, making it feel connected in a lot of ways. But by and large, Omensight can be enjoyed just as well by players unfamiliar with Stories regardless.
Omensight plays out over a number of “days” where The Harbinger must choose to accompany one of four characters that were pivotal in the events leading up to the end of the world. Essentially, the game is a unique mix of character action, time travel, and murder mystery, where each run through a level brings players new clues and bits of information that are aiding in their “investigation” to the ultimate mystery behind Urralia’s destruction and uncovering hidden elements behind these characters’ stories.
Specifically, certain events in the levels present The Harbinger with critical decisions that can influence the direction of a level and what narrative path the player will take on. Most of these paths are relatively binary and straightforward, such as deciding whether to kill a boss and advance with the character you are accompanying or utilizing omensight to gain new information from that boss itself.
Both routes will have equal importance in your investigation and give you new evidence to uncover, but how and when you decide to take on these specific branches of the story is up to you, and that all leans into what makes up Omensight‘s most compelling qualities: its storytelling and how it subverts its genre.
As I’m sure some players of games like The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask might imagine, Omensight‘s core loop of “rewinding” time and revisiting past locations and characters might be intimidating at first glance. While that may lead to thinking that the gameplay loop will involve lots of backtracking or stalled progress, Omensight is a reasonably linear experience that most players shouldn’t have too much difficulty in navigating, even with so much emphasis on time travel involved.
Instead, Omensight uses its time travel angle in a way almost like a Metroidvania title, where uncovering new pieces of evidence or information can lead you into hidden areas that will help drive your investigation. This can range from gaining keys or items to unlock new areas or doors, to increasing access to areas that only specific characters will be able to bring the Harbinger to after certain narrative paths have been taken.
The way that Spearhead Games utilizes elements of time travel and repetition in Omensight is pretty admirable in most parts, and some of the repetition is mitigated by the fact that players can “fast-forward” through the levels at the beginning to cut straight to a game-changing decision or point of interest.
However, there’s no escaping the fact that Omensight does eventually get repetitive as players come back to most of the game’s locations numerous times, with even many of the enemy spawns and locations being the exact same. While thematically this fits with the idea of The Harbinger having to go back in time to discover new aspects of the world and locations, I just wish there was a more tangible effect that The Harbinger’s actions were having on the world itself, which (similarly) could have provided a bit more variety in the core gameplay loop.
Aside from the investigation and exploration element of Omensight, the game also relies heavily on combat to string the player between the different locations and areas you’ll be exploring. As players will be taking on various enemies and forces from throughout Urralia, the combat itself will feel pretty familiar to any players that have played titles like the Batman: Arkham series or Shadow of Mordor. With just a few simple button presses, The Harbinger can string together attacks between enemies, while more elaborate powers and abilities are gradually unlocked by the player through their journey.
Overall, the combat in Omensight works quite well, though it sometimes it can feel a bit too easy at points. The Harbinger tends to fling to enemies pretty quickly after defeating them, and the choice of a fixed camera during combat can lead to some frustrating situations of being attacked by enemies off-screen. That said, Omensight mixes things up with some neat abilities that allow players some flexibility, such as the hookshot-like ability that The Harbinger can wield to bring her closer to enemies across distances (and a nice callback to Stories similar ability).
The most significant feeling that I got throughout my time with Omensight was that the game has several interesting elements at play that are sure to hit home with a lot of different players: an action RPG with mystery elements certainly sounds appealing on the box. However, I never quite felt that the game’s distinct components came together in a seamless, streamlined way.
Omensight has plenty of action and platforming at play, but those are undone slightly by some stiff-feeling controls and a lack of any true difficulty curve or ceiling for players to push past. The game’s lush visuals are evocative, and the levels are striking to explore, but the tone and atmosphere of the game can be a bit all over the place by melding cutesy animals in one moment, and then brutal murder and death in the next. Likewise, the murder mystery angle of the plot is easily one of the highlights of the game, though its focus on repetition and returning to past events is both its biggest strength and greatest weakness.
Omensight‘s time travel plot brushes against greatness plenty of times, but eventually revisiting these locations with little to no change between them does get a bit grating, even when the game itself is not on the long side at all, with playtime ranging between 8-12 hours, according to the studio.
Much like Stories: Path of Destinies before it, Omensight is a title worth admiring for its bold storytelling approach and unique take on the action RPG genre. Spearhead Games had a lot of ambition in bringing together a tale of mystery and suspense and combining it with investigation elements, though much like The Harbinger’s time travel abilities, there might have been some aspects of the gameplay and structure in Omensight worth rewriting.