Retrospective: Omikron: The Nomad Soul • Page 3

One for the dreamers.

As you wander the early stages of the game you'll find flyers for The Dreamers' illegal gig - if you choose to, you can find the right bar and watch a performance of the wonderful Survive. And it's well worth it. Bowie, emerging from his (fantastic) dalliance with drum 'n' bass, had rediscovered a more classic sound, and there's never a bad time to hear it. Although try to avoid noticing that his clunky avatar is wearing nothing below the waist but for the most revolting black thong.

So much ambition. Such poor execution. And while the Dreamcast controller is partly to blame, the PC version was not much better. David Cage's ideas are wonderful, but here the technology cannot allow them to be coherent.

As a third-person 3D adventure game (which makes up most of the time) it's ghastly to control. Your character staggers about like a piston-powered shop mannequin, bumping into scenery and waddling off ledges. This is frustrating enough when trying to walk into a lift, but becomes enraging when the game somehow gets the impression that it's capable of platform action. It really, really is not.

Occasionally it switches to first-person shooter, which the engine is even less capable of achieving. Here you're splurged across a muddle of strafing and turning, aiming and walking. You can hit enemies despite firing about three feet above their heads, and they can hit you despite your hiding behind giant walls of rock. It's farcically bad.

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Darling... we need to talk.

Thirdly there's the third-person beat-'em-up sections. Street Fighter it is not. Here you do button-mashing battle with various demonic foes, in a fighting system so deranged it has no button for block. Yet you can block. I'm still not sure how, but I would sometimes do it. In fact, to fight you have to train, because this is of course also an RPG. Train up and you'll be more successful in these battles. But mostly just mash the buttons in the hope of stumbling on the special moves, and you should get through.

The RPG exists in the form of improving various skills through either training or the consumption of potions. Later on you get access to magic, which requires mana. This is quite heavily scripted into the game, but of course adds another dimension to how it's played. This is all seen using your SNEAK, a computer implanted in your arm, which also acts as the inventory, quest screen and map. All loading agonisingly slowly, and designed as unhelpfully as could be imagined. Seeing your current health should not be seven button presses away.

I'm absolutely certain that there will be people infuriated by me at this point. Omikron will be many people's favourite game, and it absolutely should be. It's utterly incredible. Not necessary good, but certainly beyond credible. It's so densely packed with ideas, so brilliantly original, so boldly unaware of its own limitations. It's a tremendously exciting game to talk about, think on, remember. But sadly it's not a great deal of fun to be playing at the time. The writing (and this will sound familiar with the discussions of Heavy Rain) is not stunning prose, nor indeed necessarily coherent in any useful fashion, but it's again just bursting with madly (and mad) original thinking.

Give me Fahrenheit and I'll argue with you why the stupid combat, DDR sex, giant green killer insects, and fighting the internet is all absolutely acceptable. It's the one that clicked for me, and I forgive its foibles. I'll even be so ridiculous as to call them only "foibles". But despite the concept, the character death, the remarkable freedom and dammit, even Bowie, I can't get past the mistakes to love Omikron. If you can, you're the winner here.

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