Reign­ing cats and dogs

XBox: The Official Magazine - - START - Alex Spencer

It’s a setup we’re all fa­mil­iar with by now: a king­dom di­vided, the clash of steel, a greater threat creep­ing up at the mar­gins. But Omen­sight throws in a cou­ple of fun ex­tra twists. The fan­tasy king­dom of Ur­ralia? Its in­hab­i­tants are all sword-wield­ing dogs, birds and rats. And that creep­ing threat, the ser­pent Vo­den? It de­stroys the world in the open­ing ten min­utes.

As the enigmatic Har­bin­ger, you re­play Ur­ralia’s fi­nal pre-apoc­a­lyp­tic hours over and over, at­tempt­ing to piece to­gether what hap­pened. We’d com­pare it to Ground­hog Day, but hon­estly the Har­bin­ger looks more like a mouse to us. On each go-round, you pick one of four char­ac­ters to spend the day with. There’s Ratika, the lute-pluck­ing bard turned rebel leader, or Lu­domir the bear with a patch over one eye and an ac­cent that strays from cock­ney to Aussie. Who­ever you choose, though, it al­ways ends the same way – with a gi­ant snake-god nom­ming down on all of ex­is­tence.

So you start again and pick a new an­i­mal pal to ride along with. You’ll of­ten wit­ness the same event from over­lap­ping per­spec­tives, but some­times you’ll be able to change how it plays out – sim­ply by your pres­ence, or us­ing an abil­ity or piece of in­for­ma­tion col­lected in another time­line. In­evitably, vis­it­ing the same lo­ca­tions over and over starts to get a lit­tle repet­i­tive, but these vari­a­tions help to keep things fresh.

Your ef­forts are framed around a mur­der mys­tery, but it’s not ex­actly a case of point­ing a mag­ni­fy­ing glass at clues. Omen­sight is first and fore­most a com­bat game, casting the Har­bin­ger more as Hack-and-slash Bandi­coot than Great Mouse De­tec­tive. Again, we’re not sure what kind of an­i­mal she ac­tu­ally is, but we’re not go­ing to let that get in the way of a good pun­ning op­por­tu­nity. Or a bad one.

Bat­tle for supremacy

In bat­tle, con­sis­tently out­num­bered, you bounce from en­emy to en­emy with all the fluid grace of the Prince Of Purrsia. Rather than long but­ton com­bos, vic­tory re­lies on per­fectly timed dodges and coun­ter­at­tacks, in a way that’s rem­i­nis­cent of Bat­man’s fight­ing style in Barkham Asy­lum.

At the end of each day, there’s a chance to trade in XP for up­grades, which grad­u­ally fills out the con­troller with new moves. By the end, you’ll be able to dash through en­e­mies, throw ex­plo­sive bar­rels with telekine­sis and even slow time. So even if you’re ap­proach­ing the ex­act same fight for the third or fourth time, you’ll al­ways have new ways to beat them.

Nar­ra­tively, though, these bat­tles can start to feel a lit­tle odd, be­cause you’re con­stantly jump­ing sides. Your four com­pan­ions are split be­tween the Py­gar­ian em­pire (birds, cats, dogs) and the Ro­den­tian re­bel­lion (mice, rats, for some rea­son bears), so you’ll find your­self killing the sol­diers you were fight­ing along­side yes­ter­day. This isn’t Star Paws, with the good re­bel­lion against the evil em­pire – Omen­sight’s story lives in the grey ar­eas.

This makes for a fas­ci­nat­ing con­trast with the cast of cud­dly an­i­mals. At first it’s novel – and funny – to hear cats and warthogs spout­ing the usual high-fan­tasy non­sense about prophe­cies and world-eat­ing ser­pents, es­pe­cially as some of the voice act­ing is a bit off. But as the hours go on that all fades away to leave a well-re­alised set­ting. Along with the cen­tral mys­tery, it all makes for a com­pelling tail. Sorry – tale. Okay, per­haps we haven’t quite for­got­ten this is an an­i­mal king­dom.

“Omen­sight is first and fore­most a com­bat game”

left Vis­ually, the game sits some­where be­tween pic­ture book and fan­tasy an­ime, with some truly beau­ti­ful vis­tas to drink in.

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