Time travel can either be a very easy or very difficult thing to pull off well in videogames. For puzzle games, it’s simply a matter of using time manipulation in clever ways. For games that use it as a narrative device more than a mechanical one, it’s a little trickier. Reliving past events and retreading old ground are typical and expected of time travel stories, but can give way to repetition and tedium if not handled correctly. Thankfully in the case of Omensight, the latest from developer Spearhead Games, it uses its time travel hooks to great effect.
Omensight places you in the role of the Harbinger, a supernatural being whose presence heralds the end of the world. Her job isn’t to cause it. however, but to prevent it. Only, the circumstances that brought her forth this time are a bit… complicated. The world of Urralia is currently embroiled in war. Two nations — the Pygarians to the west and the Rodentians to the east — have been fighting for some time. A figure known as the Godless-Priestess, a neutral party who essentially maintains balance in the world, has been murdered amid her attempts to broker peace, more or less destroying any chance at a peaceful resolution. Thus the stage is set for Voden — a massive serpent from the Void — to make his return and tear the world apart. Your job is to stop that from happening. But first, you have to solve a murder.
You do this by reliving the same day over and over through the eyes of four different characters. Their perspectives put you on both sides of the conflict, allowing you access to different areas and granting unique insights. Every trip into the past you take is done with the goal of obtaining additional information to piece together the timeline of events and deduce who was responsible for the murder. Sometimes that information isn’t much more than discovering a locked door that may have an additional lead, other times you find something big enough to make a breakthrough, such as a vision of past events to share with your companions.
Reliving the same day means retreading the same ground, given the limited number of locales to visit, but Omensight keeps each visit fresh by presenting new events or ushering you down different paths on each trip. Things can play out wildly different depending on who you follow when, which makes seeing all the possible outcomes worthwhile, particularly so to see how the characters react along each stage of the investigation. Even if that doesn’t always lead to learning anything new, being able to spend more time around them and learn a bit more about them was reward enough.
Every new piece of info goes into the detective board, which collates everything you’ve learned about all the major players and a timeline of events. It solely acts as reference material should you need an idea of how to proceed, which is helpful, though the game also does a fair amount of legwork to make sure you’re never at a loss. Every time I returned to the hub, I was always greeted with a quick summary of what I just learned and a push toward the next step of the investigation.
I almost wish the actual mystery involved a bit more detective work on my part, as I didn’t feel like I had much of a role in the process of solving the murder. The Harbinger’s role feels more like that of passive observer than an active participant, with everyone around you seemingly doing most of the deductions, which is fine, as watching the mystery unfold still is entertaining. But given that the game talks about making you take your own notes on higher difficulties (which really just means you don’t have access to the detective board), it’s a touch disappointing it doesn’t play up the detective aspect a bit more.
Due to that, most of the game is spent fighting through hordes of enemies. Luckily, the combat is good; very good. Omensight is fast, chaotic, and stylish. Almost every battle involves multiple combatants, whether that’s simply the armies of the two warring countries fighting against one another, one army fighting against monsters known as ciphers, or some combination thereof to create a two-way brawl. It’s in those sorts of encounters that Omensight is at its best, as they demonstrate the thrill and grace of combat perfectly.
You fight off foes using a combination of light and heavy attacks, which can be chained together in various ways for maximum impact. The more attacks you land, the faster your magic builds up, which lets you unleash powerful strikes ranging from projectiles to instant kills. As the game is viewed from fixed camera angles, you’re always given a good view of the field to help you avoid any incoming attacks, which are marked by exclamation points appearing above your opponent’s head. Dodge at the right moment, and time slows down, allowing you to perform a counterattack before refocusing on your previous target. You can also call on your companion to assist you as well.
The mechanics are basic on paper, but in execution, they come together brilliantly. Leaping back and forth between foes as they attempt to strike is incredibly satisfying to pull off because of how easy it is to chain attacks and dodges together. And it only gets better as you unlock the rest of the Harbinger’s abilities. You can dodge an attack, counter them, and then grab them to toss at your ally so they can dispatch them for you. You can finish off one foe and then immediately fire a blast of energy toward a bomb and take out a whole group of targets or, if you have enough energy, charge your blade and cut down multiple foes in one fell swoop. The sheer amount of options available is surprising given how simple the Harbinger’s skill set is.
Though you can get by with just using your basic attacks and dodging when needed — which looks cool and is enjoyable all on its own — Omensight encourages you to make the most of your arsenal and rewards you for doing so. Chaining combos nets you additional experience points and currency you can use to buy upgrades for you health, armor, and so on, in addition to building energy faster so you can pull off more powerful attacks sooner. It can be difficult to pull off the more stylish actions sometimes due to how chaotic the battlefield can be (one careless mistake is all it takes to put you in bad spot), particularly in late-game skirmishes, but the combat remains enjoyable throughout thanks to how satisfying the basics are.
The best thing I can say about Omensight is that I keep wanting to play through it again. When I started up another playthrough to get some additional screenshots, I ended up playing through most it over the course of a few hours. Something about Omensight just clicks with me. It’s a fantastic game. Eager to see what Spearhead does next.