Our demo with Spearhead Games’ engaging new murder mystery narrative Omensight at PAX East 2018 left us excited for more.
I am a sucker for narrative-driven adventure games, no matter how much your choices ultimately end up mattering. So when I got an email about the murder-mystery, time altering narrative-action game Omensight just a few days before PAX East kicked off, I couldn’t resist checking it out, especially since I’ve had some wonderful experiences with similar games at PAX East in the past. After playing a twenty-minute demo of Omensight on the convention floor, I quickly realized that squeezing this preview into my schedule was one of the best decisions I made that weekend.
I sat down with Malik Boukhira, co-founder of the small, Montreal-based indie studio Spearhead Games, to chat about Omensight and play a short 15-20 minute demo. Malik explained that players take on the role of both a warrior and judge, The Harbinger, tasked with saving the world from impending doom. The world of Urralia is in the midst of war, but that’s the least of The Harbinger’s problems. With the universe on the verge of the apocalypse, you relive the same day over and over as you work to uncover the mystery behind a murder that sparks it all.
Omensight mixes narrative storytelling with fluid, fast-paced combat in a way I haven’t seen in any other “narrative-driven” adventure. Players can choose from a diverse set of companions to accompany you each day which have different abilities in combat as well as new information and perspectives to share with you about the mysterious murder you are working to solve. Everyone is a suspect, and it’s up to the player to make decisions both in conversations and in combat to help unlock different narrative branches to uncover characters’ true motives.
At the end of each day, the world ends, and you gain experience points to use at your hub, the Tree of Life, to modify your character. You can see all of the new information you’ve learned that day and make decisions on which branching narrative paths you want to explore next. Then players rinse and repeat until the murder mystery is solved and the world is saved. Malik mentioned you can also set the game’s difficulty level to hide this in-game tracking for those hardcore players that want to rely solely on memory or their own notes.
At PAX East 2018, I played through a short 15-20 minute “level” of the game, which was a real day playable within the final game. I was accompanied by the humanoid rat-like Ratika as we platformed our way to the Emporer Indrik, killing guards along the way. The game’s combat is similar to the fast-paced, Arkham style of fighting where you glide between enemies building up combos. The Harbinger can use his time-warping abilities to change the flow of combat and unleash powerful attacks against unsuspecting enemies.
However, I learned you can’t just mash attack buttons either. During the demo, a single remaining enemy in one encounter actually surrendered but not before I accidentally killed him. Malik explained that if I hadn’t killed him, he would have shared some noteworthy information that would have been useful in our investigation. In Omensight, combat is a means to an end, not the sole focus of the game.
Upon reaching the Emporer Indrik, who was about to evolve into a fiery bird god, I was given the option of following the urges of Ratika and fighting Indrik. Or I could also use my Omensight power to show Indrik what I had previously uncovered about the murder and impending apocalypse. This then forms an alliance between The Harbinger and Indrik and breaks off our current alliance with Ratika. This is just one example of how everyone in the game has a different motive, and the alliances or enemies you choose can vastly change how you progress through the narrative.
Malik emphasized that they wanted to tell a story in a way that no other medium can. From the short demo I played, I would say that Omensight has succeeded on that front. The combination of combat, time alteration, and narrative decision making is an interesting and enjoyable take on storytelling. It helps that the game’s art style is stunningly beautiful and features a colorful cast of personable characters. The voice-acting at times felt a little lackluster, but I only had the chance to hear two of the many characters present in the game.
It’s worth noting how passionate Malik felt about this game. Talking with developers and public relations teams all weekend, it stands out when you chat with someone that really poured their heart and soul into their game. As someone who has invested countless hours into narrative focused video games, I can say with confidence that Spearhead Games’ Omensight is definitely one worth checking out.
Omensight is set to release on both PC via Steam and PlayStation 4 during the spring/summer of this year.