Spearhead Games are the people behind the unique and stylised time-bending action adventure Stories: The Path of Destinies. The game presented its narrative as an investigation timeline, for which you must play through various levels multiple times with different characters, unlocking new paths and information in order to find the ‘true’ path that will end the conflict going on in its fictional world. Omensight, set in the same universe as this game – inhabited by magical, warring anthropomorphic animals – takes the same idea and applies it to a murder mystery and impending apocalypse.

I must say, when I originally heard that the studio was carrying on with this idea I was a tad sceptical. Stories, while interesting in concept, was flawed in gameplay, and the implementation of this time travel mechanic led to things becoming quickly tedious in my opinion (despite being quite a short game). But with a continuation of this idea comes a second chance and therefore a chance to improve and expand on what was actually a very cool concept. And thankfully with Omensight, Spearhead have achieved noticeable improvements and evolutions, and as a result have created a very enjoyable and captivating title.

In Omensight you play as the Harbinger, a mute creature brought forth in times of great crises – in this instance, the impending apocalypse. For some reason, Voden, a dark force of world eating proportions has been summoned and destroys the world. Thankfully, however, as the Harbinger you are brought to a limbo of sorts by a witch, that allows you to go back in time over and over until you find a way to stop this cataclysm. Additionally, and mysteriously related, the murder and disappearance of a priestess coincides with the events that are happening, and so in order to stop Voden you decide that you need to solve the priestess’s case as well.

What this entails is tagging along with each of the four characters in order to see how their day proceeds before the fateful ending, when the world is destroyed. As you do this, you will learn new information about the priestess Vera, and gradually expand your tree of knowledge until you can figure out what happened to her and save the world. You can use new information, or the Omensights specifically (visions of pivotal moments that you can show to the characters), in order to influence their paths and explore new routes and areas. For example, the character Ludomir, an angry bear who is bent on killing the emperor Indrik, can be shown an Omensight that changes his original path of attacking Indrik at his palace, and to another area which will reveal some different information than what you would have learned originally.

This creates a dynamic where, just like Stories: The Path of Destinies, you must replay levels with each of the characters, unlocking slightly different paths each time you do. Where originally with Stories this mechanic resulted in the game quickly becoming tedious, Omensight does a better job of making each instance more interesting. Each path can lead you through a few different levels, and which each character, the way in which you play them will be different, meaning that, when you do play the same level again, it won’t necessarily be in the same fashion. For example, if you pursue the Rodentian leader Ratika’s base late in the day, you will be met with resistance and, playing with the Imperials Indrik or Draga, will have to use a machine to blast through, whereas if you are there earlier in the day then you can fight through on foot before their defences are ready.

A good balance of pace has been struck which allows you to explore each character and their version of events, while also progressing with the story and opening these new paths, which is the main reason for the game being more compelling in the long run than its predecessor. But what doesn’t hurt either in this regard is the improvements to the gameplay. Omensight isn’t complex on the gameplay front, but it does offer some smooth and satisfying combat and a few cool upgrades to invest in as you progress. Much like Stories, the combat is isometric hack and slash. It’s very jumpy and quick, with lots of dashes, rolls and leaps, and it’s also challenging.

You have basic combos with your sword such as light attacks and strong attacks, combining the two to good effect – for example, two light attacks followed by a heavy attack will stun an enemy. But you also have abilities and powers. You can fire a projectile at distant enemies, grab and throw those who get too close to you, dash through and away from danger, and even a lightning fast slash that kills instantly. All of these use up energy or are required to recharge before another use, and as you upgrade they become more powerful and offer stronger variations – such as the fast slash attack being able to be used to insta-kill three enemies when you gain enough energy. Energy is built up by engaging in combat, and will decrease when you lose health or go for a long enough time without hitting anything, encouraging you to get stuck in while also effectively defending yourself.

And defending yourself is in practice easier said than done. The combat, as mentioned, is fast paced, and that goes for your enemies as well. They don’t wait their turn to attack you, and so you need to keep a constant eye out for a sign of attack (shown by an exclamation point above their heads), dodging just in time to counter. Made more complicated by the various enemy types, including flying foes that you need to jump to hit, magical opponents that teleport and shoot projectiles at you, and shielded enemies that can block your light attacks, forcing you to mix things up. Fortunately, depending on which character you are partnered with, you can utilise their skills in combat, which comes with a unique special power. Ludomir, for example, leaps into the air and crashes down, throwing enemies into the air, while Draga will put down a fire trap dealing strong AOE damage. Along with an ability of your own to slow time, this can make the more hectic encounters easier to deal with. You can also use parts of the environment, such as collapsible columns to crush your foes, and explosive barrels that can be hit to set off, or even thrown. This all combines to provide surprisingly skilful combat that, while challenging, is enjoyable and, returning to a previous point, prevents the replaying of levels from becoming tedious.

In addition to the winding nature of the levels and story, each area also comes with collectables and locked rooms. The colour coding featured in Stories continues here, with locked rooms adhering to orange, green and purple. In order to unlock these you need to have the correct ‘key’, but once you do you can unlock them when you next return to that area. Inside you will find chests with experience points and amber shards, both used to unlock new abilities and upgrades, but you also may find snippets of lore. I really enjoyed these lore discoveries, as while generic in nature (they are basically fancy documents that you might find in other games) they were so well written and actually intriguing to read that trying to find all of them became a high priority. The world of Omensight is certainly an interesting one, and the characters all have their unique personalities and backstories.

Unfortunately however, with relevance to the characters, the dialogue and voice acting is a let-down for the game. While each has their own backstory and part to play in the overall narrative, which is interesting and well developed in its own right, a couple of the characters are voiced very poorly and things become a bit cringe worthy. It’s not the worst thing to happen to a game, but it doesn’t help with trying to get into a serious story, especially when you will have to listen to some of these lines multiple times when you replay levels.

On another note, sometimes the camera angle got in the way during platforming and combat. Generally speaking it behaves itself, but I did die a few times as a result of it (therefore losing the no death bonus you can get at the end of a level), once to a boss and twice to the same bit of platforming. One bug bear I had with the game as well was with the idea of not being able to see all of the paths I wanted to. Once you discover an Omensight, the next character you play with will have to be exposed to the vision, shaping their path permanently. It’s not really an objective problem, as this is just progressing the game as it should be doing, but the completionist in me was put off when I first realised this was the case – I had opted to take a different route to the main one in my first experience with the character Ludomir, then found an Omensight in another level, meaning I never got to see the original path Ludomir took to begin with.

But conversely this speaks to how compelling the game can be with its branching paths. It genuinely is quite interesting to see where the characters take themselves based on the new Omensights you get, and there are a few twists and turns to boot. The world itself is intriguing and well presented, with some excellent views and set pieces (though simple) – and the music is on point too, including a really nice piece you encounter when you first meet Ratika (and reach the credits). Spearhead had an interesting concept with Stories, but Omensight in my opinion does a much better job at realising it. It’s a worthy follow up (though not really a sequel) and I think if you enjoyed Stories then you will certainly enjoy Omensight, and even if you didn’t like Stories, then there’s enough different and improved about this that it might change your mind.



Author

John Little
John Little

I started gaming with the release of the PS1 - Crash Bandicoot and Ridge Racer Revolution being the first 'real' games I ever set eyes on - and have been enthralled with the medium ever since. I particularly love strategy and horror games, the sort offered by titles such as Total War and Silent Hill, though I also have a soft spot for a good RPG. I studied Journalism at university in the hopes of progressing into writing about games, but my 'real job' is as a postman. You'll most likely find me covering indie games as I'm always on the look out for interesting little titles, and generally I stick to the PC and PS4 platforms. I'm not interested in MMOs or really any kind of online game, and I have an unusual and frankly worryingly expensive obsession with collecting gaming guide books, but aside from that I like to think I'm a well rounded average gamer. Find me on twitter @JohnLittle29