For those who backed the game initially, the wait will have been worth it. Judging by the end credits, there was plenty of backers who clearly backed the right horse. The praise will come thick and fast in this write-up, but I lack the talent to do it justice. Let’s just say it’s a GOTY contender.
I’ve already overthought the contents of this Omno review, considering what to cover to encourage you to seek it out, but as an indie title, it might not get the fanfare it deserves. If you’re reading this as you enjoyed the demo or it has piqued your interest, get it – it’s wonderful. For everyone else, some words…
You play a nameless staff bearer on their journey through the remnants of a lost civilisation, spanning some truly gorgeous biomes – from deserts to snow-capped mountains to an adventure in the sky. While some mysterious structures remain, activated by light, these vibrant locales have an abundance of prevalent wildlife. Most are cautious of an outsider, but as you progress, some will be a little forthcoming in approaching you, even following you like ice dolphins. That last bit will make sense when you play it.
For each new species encountered, a new entry will appear in your journal. There’s no Steam achievement for locating them all, but much like the whole ethos of the game, exploration is key, and this isn’t a game of achievement hunting, but the experience. Omno isn’t a challenging game in the slightest, and the Steam label of ‘casual’ is accurate, but take that as a very positive one. This isn’t about pushing you to your limits, but perhaps taking you away from whatever life you lead to something more tranquil. If you’re already living that life, good for you!
At the start of every new area, you’ll discover some ancient text, glyphs, which give an account of the staff bearers before. There’s a good deal of lore in the game, but there’s not a single moment where you’re bombarded or overwhelmed with remembering anything. It’s not necessary for progress but certainly is for the adventure. Scattered are optional items to collect that reveal more about the past, but the main objective is to collect these light orbs that light your path to the next area.
Once again, it’s not essential to collect all of the orbs, but just enough to unlock the gateway forward – usually a puzzle in itself. In the six hours it took me to finish Omno, I’d managed to collect all the achievements except one – riding on the second legendary beast. If you know how to do this, please drop me a line for completionist sake. Make note that I promptly started a new game after its conclusion, not solely to locate this missing achievement but because of how the game made me feel. It’s so beautiful. Oh, I’m not saying I’m beautiful, in case that isn’t clear.
There will be a spot to meditate, like ABZU, which will light up your map, indicating where the orbs are. I played 80% of the game on the keyboard – the respective key, ‘R’, will cast your staff in the air, illuminating the way with a radial map. While it doesn’t show where the glyphs are, it helps locate all the orbs if you’re trying to 100% the area. There isn’t a stationary HUD detailing where to go – you’re free to do as you will. Besides, there’s no need for a HUD as your skills are infinite, and there are no health gauges.
Sure, you can ‘die’. All this means is you respawn at a checkpoint, but there are no enemies in the game. Even the environmental hazards are an ‘occupational’ one as there will be plenty of platforming sections where you might fall to infinity below. Except for one Zelda guardian-like unit, there’s nothing to stop you from continuing other than your problem solving, interest, or if you’re being told to get off the computer as you’ve ‘been on it all day’. They just don’t understand, do they?
The skills in Omno unlock through area progression. There aren’t any XP points or skill trees; they’re just a fundamental part of the gameplay. Skip the rest of this paragraph to avoid mention of the skills if you deem it a spoiler. You’ll be able to dash, teleport one side to the other, surf, and float. Again, they’re all part of the game and unlock when you need them.
One thing to note with the controls is the standard action button is mapped with one of the skills. This means that you can be standing on one side of the map, interact with something and inadvertently appear on the other side. If you can’t get back in the same manner you arrived, it can be a little frustrating to have to walk back. I read on the Steam Community that a few users wanted a run option. This isn’t necessary – it’s not a speedrunning game, and having to walk back is only frustrating through being lazy.
And that’s another critical point about Omno: you’re a tourist in these lands. This isn’t about booking a holiday abroad to sit at a pool for the duration – you need to see the culture, interact and try new things. That’s what this is about: engaging with the gorgeous (and adorable) wildlife, sourcing light from the vegetation and gawping at the enchanting world that one developer has created.
Omno features some of the most awe-inspiring locations – it’s almost like a concept game, yet so playable. This isn’t about ray-tracing and other nerdy terms I don’t pretend to understand, but a title that captures your imagination, and dare I say, heart, as you dive deep into a utopia unspoilt by the modern traits we’re accustomed to. If you’re looking to get away this Summer, Omno is the retreat worth heading to, in the comfort of your own home, without having to wear a mask.