Review by bluesky
"An underrated game"
Before I got Omikron: The Nomad Soul, I read a lot of reviews about it. What I read was unfavorable -- that it was a second-rate game that could have been a lot better if it had a few more months of work put into it. And that's probably true. But it's actually pretty good.
The graphics aren't that great for a system as excellent as the Dreamcast. All the different areas of the huge city look different. Anekbah is dark and gives a sense of being small in a huge, futuristic city full of evil. But Qalisar gives more of a sense of being in a huge network of roadways with an impending danger of being run over. And Jaunpur is a bright city that looks like ancient Rome. All 30 characters look different and usually pretty good, as do the more important characters such as the members of the Awakened and the demons. The lip-synching (how characters' mouths move as they speak is pretty good too. However, with some of the animations, such as the character swimming underwater, the character looks kind of blocky, the legs in particular look like rectangular prisms. There are a lot of everyday characters you run into (storekeepers, people walking around, etcetera), and there aren't many different designs for them. But that really doesn't matter, because they aren't important. The Sliders (modern cars) and jetbikes all look the same, but that usually doesn't matter either. A little variation wouldn't be bad, though. Most objects are well drawn, but there are a few places where you can see obvious bad pixel work like something you would see in Duke Nukem 3d. The Omikron font is hard to read and pretty annoying, luckily most of what it says is unimportant and the rest is in a normal font.
The camera is probably the worst thing about the game. Although it usually follows you from behind, in various places (usually small rooms or elevators or certain areas of houses and shops) it stays in a fixed place. And sometimes that messes up. For example, in the room in the temple of Jaunpur where you access the Awakened's base, when you come out from behind the statue the camera usually sticks in the same place, viewing the statue, rather than following you. Luckily there aren't many such incidents.
Most of the sound effects are good, although the rifle clicking sound for opening and closing doors seems inappropriate and you can't really hear Sliders or jetbikes, not even an electric hum. There isn't much music, but it's all good stuff, especially the opening song by David Bowie (who also plays the virtual character Boz in the game) and Reeves Gabrels. All the speech by important characters or storekeepers in the game (although not the speech by everyday people) is accompanied by voices, and almost all of the voices are good and convincing.
The story is really good. You start out as a gamer who is convinced into taking possession of a person called Kay'l's body in a parallel universe, with no idea what in Omikron is going on here, but the storyline slowly progresses. At first you work for the Omikron Police, but as the storyline unfolds, and you learn that you have the ability to reincarnate into other people and that there are demons roaming about... I can't tell you any more without revealing the plot. Let me just say, the storyline is excellent.
The gameplay is fantastic. Since you can take the form of one of 30 people (any your current body will change throughout the game), you'll want to search around and find what characters you like most, and don't forget you'll have to train them in hand-to-hand fighting each time you get a new body (unfortunately you lose all your stats when you reincarnate). You can explore the gigantic city on foot (although you're bound to get lost eventually) or you can call your Slider, which will take to you certain places like Kay'l's Apartment or the Security HQ (the selection of places you can go to broadens as you advance in the game). There are a lot of different modes. You can adventure all around the massive areas of the city, fight with martial arts in 2d with 3d camera angles, and use projectile weapons (aka guns) to kill enemies. There are a few puzzles too. The game is full of items that you must pick up and use or give to people or something like that, and you'll find that you spend most of the game looking for certain items. But that gets to be a lot of fun. You'll almost always have lots of stuff to do, and you can even do lots of things not directly related to the storyline, such as read up on the history of Omikron or visit a concert by a group wanted by the Omikron Police. There are tons of things to do in the game, and you should keep a sharp eye peeled for Seteks (the Omikron currency) and Magic Rings (which you use to save the game). You can even sell non-essential items to the bank.
Level Design: 10/10
The levels are all immense, and very well built and often confusing. Each of the different areas of Omikron is built in a different way. Whereas Anekbah is mostly composed of streets and apartments, Jaunpur is a very confusing layout of buildings with practically no roads. The level design is rivalled only by Shenmue and games like Mafia: City of the Lost Heaven.
There are 4 control modes (adventure, swim, shoot, and fight), and in each of them you have different controls, all fully customizable in the Options. With the adventure controls you can run, jump, strafe, and all the normal stuff. At first it seems a little odd not to be using the d-pad to move rather than the analong control stick, but you get used to it. Swimming is easy, you can swim underwater (you've got to come up for air, though) or on the surface, and you can use two strokes, the jerky breastroke or the smooth crawl. The fighting controls can be a little unresponsive at times (the enemies are very good), but they're usually pretty easy and there are a lot of combos (for example, if you press Up + A at the same time you'll do a flip kick). The shooting mode takes place in first-person view. I heard from reviews that the shooting was very badly done and the crosshair doesn't mark where the projectile goes. Not true at all. Although when you're firing at a target far away you probably won't be able to hit the target correctly until you properly reajust your crosshair, most of the aiming is good.
There's no real reason to replay the game. You can see if you missed any certain events (like the Dreamers concert or the Sha'armet tournament) or spells (you can use sorcery), and you can reincarnate into any of the many characters. But the story remains the same.
Rent or Buy?
Definitely buy. If you rent the game you'll barely manage to scramble through the game and you'll miss all the fun stuff.
Omikron is a very underrated game. Although it's not at the top of the line like the similar game Shenmue, it's a very good game and I had a lot of fun playing it. I recommend it to anyone who wants a taste of adventure, fighting, first-person shooting, puzzles, and RPG all in one.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 10/17/03
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