Omikron: The Nomad Soul Review

Omikron's purported innovation and originality amount to nothing more than the senseless combination of unrelated but very familiar play styles.

Omikron combines several types of gameplay with limited success. It's a 3D third-person adventure game with one-on-one fighting and shooting sequences, and because none of its three play elements are central, each seems shallow and serves only to provide a break from the other two at any given moment.

Although Omikron is a good-looking game by most standards, its attempt to convey a seamless alternate reality falls flat. Its colorful 3D graphics are fairly detailed, and its populace looks distinct, but Omikron's lofty vision warrants a much better treatment. Most of the city looks like your usual postindustrial science-fiction cityscape - it has nothing you haven't seen before in some other science-fiction game or movie. Omikron's just lots of big buildings, shiny cars, droning civilians, and flying ships, and all these things quickly start to look alike and do nothing more than reduce your frame rate to a crawl whenever you're outside. In addition, the character animation is mostly stilted and unrealistic, and the game's hand-to-hand combat sequences look silly, especially compared with the 3D fighting games Omikron attempts to emulate.

Fortunately, there isn't too much fighting in Omikron; more often, you'll be investigating the city and talking to its denizens. These conversation sequences, which cut from the game's standard third-person perspective to first-person close-up shots, feature detailed 3D characters that look really good. They emote realistically and actually seem to act their parts, while their unblinking eyes and shifting facial features lend an unusual puppetlike appearance that isn't unattractive.

Good voice acting also helps bring Omikron's key characters to life. However, the game's much-ballyhooed soundtrack provided by legendary musician David Bowie and collaborator Reeves Gabrels isn't as good as you might expect. It lacks variety and matches the city's nondescript futuristic appearance with similarly forgettable techno. A few new Bowie songs are also part of Omikron's score and are effective if extraneous as Bowie's in-game alter ego performs them in concert, in-game. Regrettably, Omikron doesn't sound good at all notwithstanding its high-profile soundtrack. Its sound effects are either over-sampled, as with the main character's too-loud footsteps, or far too subdued, as with the game's irritating first-person shooter sequences.Unfortunately, that they sound bad isn't the biggest problem with these obligatory action scenes. Omikron will occasionally switch to a first-person view and invite you to gun down dozens of weak but annoyingly precise enemies as you navigate some mazelike environment. While the game's graphics engine doesn't do a bad job of rendering the enemies, weapon effects, and architecture of these sequences, they nonetheless feel amateurish and utterly disjointed. They're tedious, too long, and generally anticlimactic. In addition, your character moves sluggishly, and it's hard to aim your weapons. As such, these shooter scenes seem much like the fighting sequences, in that they not only feel clumsy but are also entirely inappropriate within what's essentially a slow-paced adventure game.

Whether or not it's admirable for a game to combine several genres is beside the point; Omikron's implementation of three totally unrelated types of gameplay is ineffective and completely arbitrary. It's as if the designers combined these genres for no other reason than that someone up top happened to like all three. Consequently, Omikron is like three mediocre games rolled into one: The fighting and shooting sequences drew the designers' attention from the rest of the game, and as a result, even the primary adventure elements are lacking. Omikron tries to be different by restricting not only when but also the number of times you can save your game; it also demands that you get used to using an exotic inventory system that limits how much you can carry for no discernible reason. In addition, although you can select from several responses during conversations with the game's many characters, you'll find that these choices are almost always inconsequential. Even controlling your character is difficult, as simple maneuvers like turns and back steps are far too slow to let you effectively navigate the city's small rooms and narrow alleyways.

Omikron does have an interesting premise - while it's supposed to be a mystery, even the back of the box gives away your ability to incarnate many different characters within the city. But even this feature is never put to good use, as every single character you can control seems exactly the same no matter what he or she looks like. Furthermore, the puzzles in the game are trivial or tedious and involve pattern matching, simple arithmetic, boring errands, and some guesswork. The puzzles are never difficult, but your objectives are almost always vague, which is why you'll often end up running around the city with nothing to do. Omikron is a long game, but none of its play elements are satisfying, and instead they all feel like they've been implemented to provide relief from one another, as when Omikron's illusory dialogue gives way to wandering, and when the wandering escalates into shooting, and when the overlong gunfight finally boils down to a simple one-on-one brawl.

Although Omikron seamlessly transitions between its various play styles, these unrefined play mechanics are as varied as they are unenjoyable. If you like adventure games, first-person shooters, and fighting games, then you'll count dozens of examples within each genre that beat Omikron handily. And if you don't prefer these sorts of games, you'll find that Omikron's action sequences ruin the pacing of and heighten the frustration with what would have been better off as a more traditional adventure game. In either event, you'll notice that Omikron's purported innovation and originality amount to nothing more than the senseless combination of unrelated but very familiar play styles. Ultimately, Omikron's interesting plot and good graphics won't save you from its misguided design.

The Good

  • N/A

The Bad

About the Author