I like the idea that one of the distinguishing features of adventure games is the dedication to and focus on plot driven gameplay. Some games lay it right out in a narrative others dribble it out in bits and pieces- others leave you guessing, even after it’s all over. The Toblers do a vast amount of research as a predicate and ongoing development tool with their game construction. I was impressed with the attention to researched detail in ROTS. The location of items and the whys were left somewhat unsettled at the end. For good reason – a sequel was planned and in the works. Those loose ends were to me resolved in Omega. Like any good tale – some new mysteries were hinted at in the end. In this game I would say the plot was advanced in a seamless and realistic manner. Much as you would expect if this these were real events. Some of the story is revealed in sub-plots you uncover in your searches. Some is told outright by characters you encounter. Some is easy to fill in through what you see and hear. What is actually a vast array of theories and hypothesis was neatly joined in this story. I really can’t go into more detail than that – why ruin all the fun for you. But I do think that the plot was more richly defined in this game. I believe I felt involved in ROTS, primarily due to my activities and the challenges. In Omega, it was the also the story and it’s telling that added to my engagement level. If perhaps you have missed a fact or two – all loose ends are tied up in a re-cap by our patron and friend Gil at the end. A nice touch to a well thought out game..
Omega is one vast game. Although, I realize not everyone reading this review has played Riddle of the Sphinx, and I don’t think it is essential to have done so to thoroughly enjoy Omega Stone, the way I approached the game is similar and useful to describe the overall quality of Omega Stone. When I saw the official site for ROTS, I was extremely impressed and became a dedicated visitor over the next several years that passed before ROTS actually released.
Similarly, Omni International once again put together a masterful presentation and pre-saged Omega with detailed accuracy. When I started ROTS – initially I was somewhat disappointed. I am afraid that I am not as sensible as I would like to be about unwarranted expectations. Among those, is this unfortunate human need for instant gratification. We tend to want to be wowed right away or we lose interest. Though I like to pat myself on the back and tell myself I am more patient with games – I too can succumb to my own fondness for the instant hook. The graphics were a bit grainy and no story leapt out to greet me. No people either. Just an isolated camp. Now I am ashamed to admit that after about a day of playing, I walked away from ROTS. Shortly thereafter – I read some ongoing threads and grudgingly picked the game back up where I had left it. I never looked back and never regretted it. As I got deeper into the complexities of the environments and the quest itself – I became totally engrossed. Then I became obsessed with ferreting out everything. At the conclusion – I felt exhilarated. The game interaction, story and detail was so engaging, that I really felt as if I had been to these amazing places. That I had been on an archeological expedition of epic proportions.
So what about ROTS and what does all this have to do with a review of The Omega Stone? I mention my reaction and experience with ROTS because at the start of Omega Stone, I felt the same way. I was a little disappointed in the graphics at the beginning. I was expecting lush environments and details. This time, my engagement with the game took significantly less time. First there is character interaction not present in the first game. Not a large number of characters, Omega is a solitary exploration for the most part. But there was Hump the person who gets us everywhere – as well as three other characters including Gil himself. There was also the constant “sense” of people. By that I mean diary entries, letters and correspondence involving a much larger group than those you meet. I think that the device of creating the “presence of people” by allowing the gamer to visually eavesdrop on their imprints and discards is a great one in a game. You have the focus of a first person exploration and the individual feelings of pride in a successful solve or game advance. But you also avoid the isolation and loneliness that can creep into gameplay that bothers some gamers (myself included) by a desolated game environment devoid of people and characters. I think that Omega Stone did a great job of balancing these concerns. In fact, I got a real kick out of bugging these few characters to get the full range of their scripted responses. There is no doubt that in Omega, the dialogue that exists definitely added to the game experience and was not a waste of anyone’s efforts.
Now I did say earlier that I was initially disappointed in what I saw? That lasted all of the 30 steps or so it took me to re-enter the Sphinx. The game locales are extremely varied. Some are crisp and so real you will jump at a noise heard off to the side. Others are appropriately dark, moody and somewhat fanciful. The diversity of locales was wonderful. Within the game itself I truly felt like I wasn’t only going to a new locale – at times it felt like a whole new game. I believe the Toblers to be some of the most meticulous developers in the business. Not just the story line and back ground research but the nuances of each screen is done so attentively. Little items that you may not even notice the first time around are there. The sun reflects off of things in perfect symmetry. Look back at the transport vehicle and you will see the driver fidget. Perspective changes realistically as you move through tunnels, pathways and rooms. Flawlessly done. I believe these little details can make or break a gamers mood and level of involvement. In this case – I always felt rooted to where I was. Too much so at times. I had to take breaks and go above ground at times in one particular location. Odd choice of words isn’t it? If the game had not involved me so much – I think I would have thought “walk away from the screen or leave your office” But this game has a way of taking over your thoughts and imagination. Great games do that.
This discussion of the details and powerful presentation would not be complete without a thumbs up on the sounds. All of these visuals were supported and enhanced at all times by the sound effects used. If someone is upstairs – you hear pacing and sounds. It was hard, hmmm no make that almost impossible, for me to leave one spot in the game. I kept hearing these scraping sounds, crashes, footsteps. It didn’t matter that I was really done with that part – I wanted to know what they heck they were doing up there. Omega grabs your curiosity in so many levels – way past the immediate tasks at hand. It is just another piece of the complex fabric of this game. It is this clever and adroit weaving of sounds, graphics and story line with a keen appreciation for all the little things that not only hooked, but ultimately wowed me.
In truth, The Omega Stone is one of those games that is destined to be a classic. My final thoughts are these: at the end of this game I was thrilled, happy and disappointed. Thrilled to have discovered Omega’s mysteries, happy to have seen all of it’s delights and disappointed that it was all over and done with. For at the end of it all – it is how reluctant we are to see that final end screen that matters the most.