Indie developers, Spearhead Games, came onto the scene with its first title Tiny Brains–a cooperative action puzzler–in 2013. Five years later, the studio has released its third game Omensight, a spiritual successor to the team’s 2016 release, Stories: The Path of Destinies. The artistic influence from Stories is undeniable, but more than that, it seems Spearhead has found themselves a niche with the art style. Continue on to find my thoughts on Omensight.
Omensight takes place on Urralia, a planet inhabited by anthropomorphic animals including bears, rats, cats, and birds. When the Godless Priestess is murdered, and the land bereft of her power, the ruthless snake Voden returns to devour the world. It’s up to the voiceless Harbinger to uncover the mystery surrounding the priestess’s untimely end and save Urralia by manipulating time and identifying key players, hopefully revealing information to defeat Voden.
The game opens to the madness of strife. Urralia’s own citizens are warring against each other in the inevitable end-of-days, and The Harbinger is called upon to settle the world’s debts. Much like Stories, the world of Urralia takes a page from Spearhead’s art director, Yan Mongrain, for inspiration. Mongrain–also a published graphic novelist–has a penchant for a sort of surrealism that can’t go unseen in the studios’ latest title. Both Omensight and Stories are hand drawn by Yan, and one can see the vast similarities.
The similarities serve a higher purpose than just Mongrain’s personal style; Spearhead has confirmed both games–like the Marvel Cinematic Universe–share the same expansive space. More than narrative and environment design, even Omensight’s combat claims connectivity to its wider universe. Of course, one could say that it’s just a developer thing, but I am inclined to believe it’s deeper than that. Both games boast a light/heavy base attack mechanic, with abilities and powers mapped to either holding the face buttons, or the bumpers and triggers. Beyond a programming perspective, this could convey an established swordsmanship etiquette and possibly an overarching system of magic. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. I haven’t finished Omensight yet and can’t really confirm this theory.
At any rate, the combat is frenetic, fast, and fluid. Visceral combos may be interrupted by a stylistic dodge and/or magic attacks. Experimenting with the system hosts a party for the eyes, and executing a perfect battle lends itself to intrinsic motivation of self confidence, and of course, a boost of XP. The accompanying score and special effects are a perfect companion to combat, vamping in tandem with the clashing of swords and whooshing of fanciful dodges and spells. The Harbinger is a pleasure to command on the battlefield, much like Stories’ Reynado. They are aficionados in their field of kickassery, especially after a few upgrades to swordsmanship and magic.
Environments serve their purpose; hand-drawn and rendered, again, by Mongrain, levels are linear, with a few locked doors and puzzles to piece for extra rewards and collectible Memories of the Harbinger’s companions. As with its spiritual predecessor, Omensight’s maps are Mongrain’s graphic novels given life; the details of each part of Urralia, from the white birds seen in the above screenshot, to the little bits of orange grass in the courtyard below, make the world more than just a setting for action.
In all its splendor however, the game has a couple faults. The biggest one is ability activation; on PS4, abilities are mapped to holding the face buttons and bumpers and triggers. One ability, mapped to R1, and another to holding triangle both frequently fail to execute upon depress and in a tough fight sequence, failing one of those may mean having to start the level over again. Beyond that, the frame rate drops when more than five assets are on screen. Frame rate isn’t as detrimental as ability execution, but since Stories had no issue keeping a steady rate, there shouldn’t be much reason for Omensight to suffer.
The game has definitely kept me hooked though, despite its flaws. Each of the Harbinger’s companions have secrets regarding their place in the narrative, especially concerning the Godless Priestess, Vera. All of them have some kind of stake, and when one secret is revealed, it can be used against the others in order to reveal more information about what happened. It is a chess game of secrets, if you will. If you use a secret with the wrong companion, you may lose their trust and affect the narrative. Each companion has their own motives and place in the war and their skills prove quite useful in battle as well.
In what seems to be a narrative niche for Spearhead, Omensight is a delight to play as its narrative is unearthed, yet still mysterious the deeper I travel. While it is held back by some technical and mechanical flaws that could be addressed in patch, the game succeeds in its genre with near perfection. I give it a