Omensight (PS4) review: Apocalypse Later

Though it’s not billed as such, Omensight is very much a sequel to Spearhead Games’ Stories: The Path of Destinies: it’s set in the same wartorn fantasy world, tells a similar time-hopping story, and shares the same action RPG mechanics and Groundhog Day-esque game structure. But Omensight takes those good ideas from Stories and refines them, mixing in an element of murder mystery along the way, and the result is a game that’s easy to get lost in for many an hour.

Omensight takes place on the final day before the apocalypse, the result of increasingly dire stakes in a war between the Pygarrian Empire and the people of Rodentia. Somewhere amid the conflict, the Godless-Priestess Vera was slain, unleashing an ancient, world-destroying evil called Voden. As the Harbinger, a mythical warrior who only appears in times of crisis, you’re called into this world—just in time to see it swallowed by Voden.

Fortunately, you have the power of time on your side: you’re able to return to the start of that final day, armed with any knowledge and skills gained from previous attempts. As you make different choices through each repeated last day, you’ll be able to piece together the mystery surrounding Vera’s death and find a way to stop Voden once and for all.

That sets up the basic structure of Omensight. At the start of each “new” day, you pick one of four key characters to accompany, letting you see the day from their perspective. As you do so, you gain new insights about the state of the world and the people within it, which in turn affect the choices available to you on subsequent days. In a sense, it’s like a Choose Your Own Adventure book, but where each new branch contributes to the bigger picture and helps lead you to the true ending.

Most of the information is just that—information, which serves as clues about whose path to choose next and what decisions might lead to a breakthrough in the investigation. But there are other, more crucial clues to find: Omensights. These are visions of the past that you can share with the other characters, in turn influencing how they approach their final day and the way things play out from there.

Here’s an example: Draga, general of the Pygarrian Empire, would normally spend her day fighting tooth and nail against the Rodentians; while there’s useful information to be found there, it will only get you so far. However, showing her an Omensight vision of what appears to be Emperor Indrik killing Vera prompts her to change her plans, instead seeking out Indrik to question him (and opening up new story branches as a result). As such, the Omensights serve as major breakthroughs, and each one moves the overarching story further along.

The other key to your investigation is the power to unlock magical seals. Dotted across each map are coloured seals; initially, you can’t open them, but with the right choices and the right sequence of events, you’ll gain a seal-unlocking power from one of the other characters. From then on, seals of that colour are yours for the taking. For the most part, they’re a means to treasures and collectibles, but they’re also vital to opening new story paths and, in turn, new information.

If you’ve played Stories: The Path of Destinies, this will all sound very familiar; that game used the same time-looping structure and information sharing between different timelines. However, where Stories was largely built around an open-ended story with a lot of different endings for each permutation of choices, Omensight‘s loops are all part of a more cohesive meta-narrative, and playing and re-playing those different routes is a means to that end.

I much Omensight‘s approach. I enjoyed Stories a lot, but to some extent, it felt like it had endings for endings’ sake. Every different combination of choices had its own unique outcome, but the tradeoff of having so many was that few felt particularly meaningful or noteworthy. Omensight retains all the investigative excitement that comes with Stories‘ structure, but uses that in service of a more cohesive and compelling central plot.

That said, I can’t help but dislike the Harbinger, at least compared with Stories‘ hero, Reynaldo. The wise-cracking fox was a source of a much of Stories‘ charm, and his antics took the edge off the repetitiveness that comes with playing through the same levels again and again to get to new branching points. By contrast, the Harbinger is a completely silent protagonist, and is far less interesting or relatable as a result. The supporting characters chime in with their own quips and comments, but they tend to be more annoying than charming—highlighting the inherent repetitiveness of a time loop story more than masking it.

Combat is largely unchanged from Stories, with a focus on fast combos and well-timed dodges to create a rhythmic back and forth. It has a similar feel to the Batman: Arkham games: dodge is always available, even when you’re in the midst of another action, so you end up spending most of your time hacking away at the enemy in front of you while scanning the surrounds for an incoming attack marker, always ready to dodge, counter, and continue your flurry.

That said, it’s a bit more rough around the edges than its obvious inspirations. It’s not unusual for enemies to attack from off-screen, leaving you with no way to respond unless you’re psychic. Foes also have a tendency to put up shields, and I haven’t found any reliable way of dealing with those; sometimes, breaking a chain and waiting for an enemy to drop its guard just seems inevitable. As the game stretches on, those little frustrations (alongside a lack of enemy variety) can make combat feel like a chore—you have to keep stopping to fight things when you just want to get on with the investigation.

That was never really an issue with Stories, but I think that’s simply because Omensight is so much more ambitious. There’s enough excitement to be found in the process of jumping through time to gather clues and piece them all together that the combat almost seems superfluous—but it’s worth fighting through some occasionally tedious battles to uncover the truth behind Vera’s death.

Omensight is developed and published by Spearhead Games. It’s available now for PlayStation 4 (reviewed) and PC.

A copy of the game was supplied by the publisher for this review.

Matthew Codd

Matthew is a writer based in Wellington. He loves all things pop culture, and is fascinated by its place in history and the wider social context.