The opening moments of PAX are always going to be daunting, for press and general attendees. It was during these stressful opening moments that a game caught my eye and drew me towards it. That game was Omensight. I got to sit down with Malik Boukhira of Spearhead Games as he walked me through a short segment of this mesmerizing title.
In the world of Omensight, two nations of stylized anthropomorphic animals have been at war with each other for forty years. Over that period of time, the world has slowly deteriorated more and more as the war begins to scar the land and its people. Finally, the murder of an influential priestess named Vera acts as a catalyst that pushes the world to the brink of destruction. It’s during these trying times that a mythical creature known as The Harbinger appears to right the wrongs and avert this crisis.
Unraveling the mystery surrounding the priestess’s murder is the key to avoiding this disaster and that is exactly what The Harbinger, and you the player controlling her, is tasked with doing. The catch, you only have until the end of the day to do so before the world ends. Fortunately, as The Harbinger you can repeat the events of the day over and over, allying yourself with different factions and individuals and pursuing different lines of investigation, until you have the necessary information to solve the mystery. It’s an interesting setup, and one that Malik promises will have numerous twists and turns throughout its numerous branching plot points.
That said, my demo didn’t show any of that detective work and instead dropped me right in the midst of a gameplay segment. For you see, Omensight is only half detective game; the other half is a fast-paced action game built around executing combinations of maneuvers.
For this gameplay segment, I was tasked with infiltrating a palace alongside the rat-like bard Ratika. She was a spunky one, firing off sarcastic quips here and there but she also held a palpable conviction to find the murderer of the priestess. Ratika would also react to my actions, such as when I accidentally cut down a guard who had surrendered and she got reasonably upset.
I was impressed by how dynamic such interactions were and apparently they used to be even more so in previous versions of the game, according to Malik. However, the dev team found that sometimes these interactions would actively interfere with the gameplay, a la The Last Guardian, and decided to scale them back for the sake of progression. It was an interesting little factoid, as you rarely hear of a game having to purposefully reduce its characters’ personal dynamics like that.
As palace guards rushed to attack, The Harbinger had numerous way to go about dispatching of them. Along with the standard light and heavy attacks familiar from other games, I could also charge an energy ball to hit enemies from afar along with two special abilities that I could use on a cooldown.
One such ability slowed down time for all enemies and objects around The Harbinger, allowing her breathing room to pummel them without remorse. The other was a force grab that could snatch enemies and objects from a distance and throw them in a direction of your choosing. These abilities are satisfying on their own, but it’s when you start combining them that things get really interesting.
In one encounter I opened up by activating my stasis field, trapping a group of guards in it. I then proceeded to fire off two energy bolts which also hung in the air inside my field. Then I finished off by force grabbing a nearby explosive barrel and chucking it into the mix. Once the stasis field expired, everything kicked off in one glorious blast. The spectacle wasn’t just immensely stylish, but gratifying as well as the game rewards the player for pulling off such combos with extra in-game currency that can be used to increase The Harbinger’s abilities, as well as learn new ones. The stasis field and force grab are only two of the skills that she can learn throughout the course of the game.
After fighting our way through the palace we eventually reached our target, the bird-like Indrik, who had just completed some sort of ritual. It was here that I was given a choice: fight and defeat Indrik as Ratika had planned, or use the Omensight that would avert the fight and possibly lead to new story insights. The Omensight is an ability unique to The Harbinger that presents an event from one timeline as indisputable evidence to an individual in another. In this case, The Harbinger knew from another timeline that Indrik had once grabbed the priestess by her throat.
Now while I was curious to see how using the titular mechanic would play out, I was also itching for a boss fight and so opted for attacking Indrik instead. The fight proved fairly difficult as the fowl boss shot fireballs and laser beams at me while putting up a force field that would negate my attacks, all while the platforms I stood on constantly rose and lowered into the lava below. I took advantage of Ratika’s companion ability here, Haste, which upped my movement speed and allowed me to more easily dodge Indrik’s onslaught while slipping in for a hit here and there. I managed to emerge victorious, but only with a sliver of my health remaining.
This essentially served as the end of my demo, with a short escape sequence afterward and a cutscene that showed the world ending to wrap things up. Malik told me that I could use the knowledge gained from this mission in order to progress further or in a different direction in another timeline, and it pained me that I wasn’t able to do so right that moment.
In my short time with Omensight I already felt invested in its world and with Ratika. To know that she is only one of a number of other companions that will join The Harbinger on her quest is both exciting and saddening. The thought of being Ratika’s enemy if I were to align myself with her opposition already stings my heart, and there are sure to be many such times with the other companions as well. It’s the promise of such moments and a sleek and rewarding combat system that made me walk away from my demo with Omensight ready to play more, and I cannot wait to get my hands on the full release.
Omensight is in development for Steam and PS4.