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It was only a few years ago that I started playing indie games. For so many years of my life I had overlooked them to my detriment. Now, I’ve played many of these small and creative games, and I tend to enjoy them more than ever. And often, more than bigger titles and AAA releases. These bite size experiences are so regularly memorable and joyful.
They can often slip past us though, with limited marketing in the cacophony of game releases from behemoth publishers. But thanks to Game Pass, they can be front and centre on Xbox, and can really grab my attention. This is how I learned about Omno. A low-poly, one-man-developed indie game, five years in the making and successfully crowd-funded. Its simplistic aesthetic, exploratory storytelling, breathtaking vistas, wonderfully uplifting soundtrack, and a pure sense of wonder make this game truly special.
There’s not much to explain about the premise for Omno. You are…well, I don’t actually know. You’re an inhabitant of this mysterious world. A staffbearer. A small, bipedal being, humanoid I guess, who wakes up in a swamp and sets out into the world. The player learns as the character learns. But there’s no dialogue. No exposition. You kind of just have to start venturing and see where the journey takes you.
And what a journey.
From the swamp lands in the opening of the game, through icy tundras and deserts, gorgeous bamboo forests, and mountains floating high above the planet below, the landscapes of Omno are truly beautiful. Each level is quite simply an open area for you to explore, complete simple tasks and puzzles, and collect enough light to open the way to the next area.
There are adorable and fantastical creatures to find in each area as well, which add to the world building. Like the three-legged, deer-like stalixis who playfully stomp at you, dropping light from their antlers. To the uctulus, who bask in the sunshine wrapped in their squid-like tentacles. The caloobs who follow you around happily. Or the adorable scipuins who slide on their bellies with you, as you staff-surf across their territory. Each creature has their own personality and a the game provides a brief codex entry that gives a little bit of insight into this mysterious world.
There are some collectibles you can find around the open areas too. Writings left from a previous staffbearer who explored these areas in search of the light that you now follow. Although Omno has some similarities to 3D platformers, it’s definitely not a collectathon. In saying that, I was so eager to explore these areas and gobble up every possible bit of this game that I managed to 100% the game in one play through and get all the achievements as well.
Although the game is relatively straightforward, there is some sense of traversal-based progression. In each chapter you are introduced to a new ability. Whether that’s a quick air dash, the ability to surf on your staff, long distance warping or floating through the air. These abilities help give a sense of progression but also make the areas more interesting, and the puzzles more complex, as the game moves forward.
But the traversal isn’t really the star of the show. That award goes to the game’s world design and sense of awe. As you’re exploring the world, huge mythical beasts fly overhead. The animals that you come across are all weird and wonderful. And there’s even some massive Legendary Animals that take you from one area another in sequences that are truly marvelous.
The way the music builds with such beauty, coupled with picturesque views bathed in sunlight from above, it all comes together in such an incredible and awe-inspiring way. The soundtrack is a constant joy. Composed by Benedict Nichols, who recently composed for The Falconeer (whose music I praised immensely in my review), the soundtrack fits perfectly with the game’s visual design. The score is filled with gorgeously crisp strings and choirs, and reverb-heavy pianos that beautifully complement the visual experience.
The sound design in general is excellent too. And with no dialogue, it’s the music and sound design that embeds you within the world of Omno. When the game wants you to know that something important is happening, the music subtly alerts you and crescendos sublimely. Especially when transitioning from one area to the next. The music is a journey of its own. It’s the kind of score that sends chills down your spine, and is reminiscent of Gareth Coker’s work on the Ori series. I offer very high praise for a very good soundtrack.
Omno is a game that I, quite obviously, highly recommend. At only 3-4 hours to complete, it’s a game that you can finish in an afternoon and remember for a lifetime. It’s the special kind of indie game of exploration and simplicity, that I hope gets praise akin to Journey or Abzu. I think it’s the kind of game I’ll go back to every now and then. Just for the joy of it.
It doesn’t try and push a complex story, but it has you asking questions about the fate of the world around you. The gameplay mechanics are basic, but simple progression keeps areas interesting as the game advances. The ending is sweet yet simple. But it doesn’t need to be more than that. The sense of wonder it instills is enough to enjoy every moment of Omno, and its unforgettable journey.
Final Verdict : 8
Fun factor: 8.5
Technical prowess: 5
Time investment: 3-4 hours
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