E3: Omikron impressions

[05.15.99] » Set for any early winter release, Eidos' adventure title Omikron boats a variety of gameplay styles. Screens included.

   Eidos's commanding presence at E3 was, to be sure, partly because of Omikron. A work-in-progress that should ship for the PSX by Christmas, it smacks the hapless viewer with top-notch graphics and at least three (so far) completely different styles of gameplay. Starting out as a fluid adventure game with fighting elements, it transitions in various points to a high-speed driving game and even a first-person, lead-pumping shooter in the tradition of Quake. These are all smoothly integrated into an experience that incorporates exploration, a dramatic storyline, and old-school destruction.

   This title seems especially unique because of its unusual premise: you are a wandering soul that has been drawn into the world of Omikron, without a clue as to why you're there or what you're supposed to do. As you find almost immediately, the "object" of the game is not to rescue the princess or to destroy everything that moves, setting it apart from many other recent games. In fact, one of the major tasks is to discover what the "object" is.

   In order to do this, you can possess the inhabitants of Omikron, walking around in their bodies and seeing the futuristic, surreal world through their eyes. As you wander across the bizarre landscape, your "host" will gain experience, becoming stronger and acquiring skills as you go. There are projected to be around 40 of these playable characters, each with his own unique plot elements, and it will be necessary to play many of them to progress through the story. In addition, Omikron contains non-playable characters that walk about the city and add some life to the environment.

   A new feature that many traditional role-playing gamers may not recognize is the system of reincarnation: getting offed doesn't mean that the game is over. When you die, you get sucked into the first playable character that touches your corpse and progress from there. The impact of this system on the game is that you can't just go around killing everyone for fun if you expect to get anywhere in the game. According to Eidos, "The player must adapt to the characteristics of the new body, and develop them to his advantage. This results in the players' actions having real consequences; you simply cannot load an old game if you die, and you must continue the adventure within a new body."

   Omikron also promises to be a real aural treat. The game is completely voiced over, containing over 2 hours of voice acting, so we can cautiously expect this to add significantly to the immersive effect. In addition, David Bowie will be producing all the game's background music. The game's theme, a dark one with his trademark sound, lends a great deal to the game's futuristic, city-at-night tone. In addition, Bowie has been cast as one of the main characters and given a well-done digital makeover, transforming him seamlessly into one of the world's bizarre inhabitants. He has been actively involved behind the scenes with the Omikron design team to make his character a real reflection of his creative ideas.

   The basic thrust of the game, in keeping with the mechanics of gameplay and atmosphere, is a unique one. It's a truly cinematic title, almost like a digital novel. And, interestingly, the game player himself will somehow be involved: "the story's about you, as the player," noted Eidos representative Clayton Palma. Omikron, which has been two years in the making, looks to be a novel title in many aspects, and the GIA is looking forward to the finished product.

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