Omikron: The Nomad Soul

Review by Old Rooster
January 2002

First: A Personal Word, If I May

I'm pleased and proud to be associated with the Chicks and this fine group of adventure gamers. As a PC player, my tastes range from pure adventures, with stories and puzzles, to RPGs, action, and strategy games. My review emphasis for FFC will primarily be on hybrid kind of games—those emphasizing story, locale, and perhaps also a bit of action (even killing). I'll be looking at such older titles as Omikron, Nocturne, and American McGee's Alice and newer efforts, including Project Eden, Gothic, and Evil Twin. Please always feel free to write or comment in the Henhouse. Impressions of games are subjective, after all is said and done, and I do hope we have fun together, which is really what this gaming thing is all about! And now on to Omikron.

For the Price of a #1 Value Meal...

...You can experience Sham Steak and Quanta Cola at the Tahira St. Grill in the city of Omikron. Stores have this two-year-old title for as low as $5, giving you an inexpensive opportunity to visit a virtual world and experience a complex story that may have you missing a meal or two, as well as a little sleep!

The French Do Have a Flair

Omikron is an involved, intricate, even mysterious adventure game, with strong action components, as well as the likeness and music of David Bowie. Like Outcast, it can puzzle and frustrate the gamer, while also consistently entertaining him. Over the course of 40+ hours of play, needing to resort to advice and a walkthrough at times, I've had some mixed feelings, but I have concluded that this game is creative, imaginative, innovative, and worthy of your consideration, especially for as low as $5.

French developers seem to have a way or style that lends itself to colorful (both figuratively and literally) game presentations. From the Twinsen series to Rayman 2 and the recently released Evil Twin, we typically find beautiful, huge, complex, layered game worlds.

Even my game-cynic wife was impressed by the invitation of Kay'l, a policeman from a parallel universe, to "cross the breach" into his world to set some things right—you're not sure what, with the unraveling being a large part of the fun. Much like the wonderful Outcast, the gamer is thrust into a strange, even bizarre situation. The world of Omikron is amazingly realized, with a Blade Runner sort of atmosphere. One can traverse and view the city in a complete and nonlinear way. NPC interactions are plentiful; a map can be consulted; and even a taxi hailed. Additionally, you may play (necessarily at times) 40 other potential characters.

How Is the Game Set up and Managed?

Omikron needs a PII 233 with 32 MB RAM, a 4 MB video card, and 350 MB HD space. On my PIII 450, it ran without a hitch or a crash. The 39-page manual does a fine job of introducing you to the techniques you'll need to navigate through the city of Omikron. Your backpack ("Sneak") holds 18 items, quite necessary for the amount of exploring you'll need to do, with larger lockers also accessible at frequent points in your journey. "Save Rings" need to be found in order to activate a console-type save system, although one not nearly as onerous as, for example, the recent Jekyll & Hyde.

Fighting and shooting form a significant part of gameplay, with the up-to-50-move, hand-to-hand combat my least favorite part of the game. These skills can be enhanced with practice against virtual "bots" and visits to a shooting range. The developers apparently intended some mix of genres (fighting, shooting, adventure); but the game remains primarily an adventure—with some of these other components either "frosting on the cake" or "off-putting," depending on your point of view.

How Does it Look and Sound?

From the overview and detailing of structures and rooms to the wonderful facial expressions, Omikron's graphic engine is most impressive, even by today's vaunted standards. As to sound and music, Omikron has four hours of spoken dialogue, believable voice acting, and convincing environmental ambience. Background musical tracks are by Bowie and Gabrels, and Bowie virtual concerts are available. The contributions of David Bowie to the game are real and impressive.

How Does the Game Play?

From the compelling initial invitation ("come, help us in our World") to the suspenseful detective-like exploration of a strange land, Omikron will have you thinking and wondering, not only while at your PC, but while driving, eating, sleeping.

Who Will You Be After You Die?

Perhaps the most innovative aspect of Omikron is "reincarnation." If you fatally lose a fight (and I did, a lot!), you possess the body and "soul" of a nearby character, with all their peculiar attributes. Sometimes this is pushed on you (there is a degree of linearity in the game), and at other times it's voluntary. But, in either case, the 40 or so characters you can play add a highly entertaining and involved component of Omikron. Although keeping most of your inventory, including the critical Save Rings, during the "changeover," fighting and shooting skills do need to be relearned. The specific "bodies/souls" may have their own attributes, as well. Iman (yes, Bowie's virtual friend) has a 60 rated speed skill, 850 seteks (currency), and a 70 attack level; while Fodo has a 100 energy and 110 attack rating, and the multitude of others have similar variations. Pick and choose your souls carefully in your nomadic quest!

Your initial incarnation, Kay'l, has no memory and only an apartment key to begin. He does have a wife, and there are other clues/items in his flat to get you started. From there you can explore, interact with NPCs (some highly significant), engage in missions. All of this can be done in an open-ended manner, although there is a degree of linearity to the game in order to allow a progression and some sense of closure. You'll need to accumulate money, find important objects, secure nourishment (Kloops beer is my favorite), acquire healthcare, and visit bookstores and the library for background information.

Who Needs Viagra?

Omikron has a teen-plus rating, which should be taken seriously. This is not a full-family gaming experience. Not only is the general atmosphere of this world of "opulent decadence" adult, but there are situations and comments not for the kids—like the supermarket loudspeaker ad proclaiming the virtues of a "biomechanical penis implant," guaranteed "replaceable in 48 hours if defective"! That one brought my wife in for a look (at the game).

Is the Game Fun and Recommended?

Clearly, in spite of some warts and minor annoyances, I find Omikron to be one of the most memorable games I've played in the last few years. There's a lot I'm leaving unsaid, in order not to spoil the joy of exploration and discovery you'll experience—a lot more fun than can be had from the $5 you might spend on that #1 value meal. It's a tough and long game but also atmospheric and immersive (hate those words, but they really apply here), even haunting. So, if you can tolerate (or even enjoy) the 20% action/fighting in order to appreciate the 80% adventure and mystery-solving, Omikron is highly recommended as a unique and very underappreciated gaming experience.

What I Liked the Most

There's a huge city to explore; the story is engrossing and long; reincarnation is a neat twist on playing roles and using different skills.

What I Liked the Least

The game is often tough and ambiguous; fighting can be difficult; you can't walk out of the Bowie concerts! The End

The Verdict

The Lowdown

Developer: Quantic Dream
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Release Date: 1999

Available for: Dreamcast Windows

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System Requirements

PII 233 (PII 300 recommended)
4 MB video card (8 MB recommended)
350 MB free HD space (1.2 GB recommended)

Where to Find It

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