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#88600 - 08/03/03 11:08 PM The Omega Stone
gatorlaw Offline
Adept Boomer

Registered: 11/01/99
Posts: 10312
The Omega Stone

At the end of Riddle of The Sphinx, the find of the centuries has been uncovered. Time to rest on our laurels. Or is it? Although we have revealed an ancient artifact and deciphered a cryptic scroll in the process, it appears that the mystery has really only deepened. In fact, there were not one - but two scrolls. We learn at the beginning of The Omega Stone, that our friend Gil has translated this second scroll. The translation reveals more than a record of ancient ways and times. It is more than the typical curse on the heads of wanton tomb raiders. This is much more ominous. A prophetic vision, of the future.. our future.. It details a cataclysmic event due to occur to our world. Not in the future, but perhaps in a few days time. After hearing this story from our friend Gil, We find ourselves alone in Giza with little more than some ID cards issued for various locales and his somber words resonating in our mind. Time to scour the earth, solve ancient riddles and uncover devices and items hidden from human eyes for thousands of years. Our failure may mean nothing less than the end of the world.

The great adventure is on..

Interface

The Omega Stone is mouse driven with a smart cursor. You have an option within the game main menu to designate your cursor as "fixed" or "free" focused. For those who like the view to move with the mouse - choose the fixed view. I prefer the screen remain stationary until the mouse hits the edge of the screen. I like to scan each view carefully and sometimes lead with my mouse - so it is better that the screen not jump every time my mouse does. It is great to see this option present within the game. There is also an option to have your character addressed in mail and such as either female or male. Maybe not essential - but it is another nice touch that was built into the game. The screen transitions for the most part are very smooth. The inventory screen is part of the view area and you can conceal it or have it pop up with your right mouse button. Clicking on an item selects it, drop it back in your knapsack to replace it in inventory. One thing I really liked was that moving your mouse over any item, picture or saved game brings the item in your view area in close up. You can also delete any unwanted picture files or saves easily as you play without having to exit the game. The interface was for the most part one of the best around. My one complaint was with the active cursor - sometimes it reacted to areas of interest - sometimes it didn’t. But I think that people will find the interface to be a quick learn, almost automatic and not in the way or a hassle during the game.

The Story

I like the idea that one of the distinguishing features of adventure games is the dedication to and focus on plot driven gameplay. Some games lay it right out in a narrative others dribble it out in bits and pieces- others leave you guessing, even after it’s all over. The Toblers do a vast amount of research as a predicate and ongoing development tool with their game construction. I was impressed with the attention to researched detail in ROTS. The location of items and the whys were left somewhat unsettled at the end. For good reason - a sequel was planned and in the works. Those loose ends were to me resolved in Omega. Like any good tale - some new mysteries were hinted at in the end. In this game I would say the plot was advanced in a seamless and realistic manner. Much as you would expect if this these were real events. Some of the story is revealed in sub-plots you uncover in your searches. Some is told outright by characters you encounter. Some is easy to fill in through what you see and hear. What is actually a vast array of theories and hypothesis was neatly joined in this story. I really can’t go into more detail than that - why ruin all the fun for you. But I do think that the plot was more richly defined in this game. I believe I felt involved in ROTS, primarily due to my activities and the challenges. In Omega, it was the also the story and it’s telling that added to my engagement level. If perhaps you have missed a fact or two - all loose ends are tied up in a re-cap by our patron and friend Gil at the end. A nice touch to a well thought out game..

The Big Picture

Omega is one vast game. Although, I realize not everyone reading this review has played Riddle of the Sphinx, and I don’t think it is essential to have done so to thoroughly enjoy Omega Stone, the way I approached the game is similar and useful to describe the overall quality of Omega Stone. When I saw the official site for ROTS, I was extremely impressed and became a dedicated visitor over the next several years that passed before ROTS actually released.

Similarly, Omni International once again put together a masterful presentation and pre-saged Omega with detailed accuracy. When I started ROTS - initially I was somewhat disappointed. I am afraid that I am not as sensible as I would like to be about unwarranted expectations. Among those, is this unfortunate human need for instant gratification. We tend to want to be wowed right away or we lose interest. Though I like to pat myself on the back and tell myself I am more patient with games - I too can succumb to my own fondness for the instant hook. The graphics were a bit grainy and no story leapt out to greet me. No people either. Just an isolated camp. Now I am ashamed to admit that after about a day of playing, I walked away from ROTS. Shortly thereafter - I read some ongoing threads and grudgingly picked the game back up where I had left it. I never looked back and never regretted it. As I got deeper into the complexities of the environments and the quest itself - I became totally engrossed. Then I became obsessed with ferreting out everything. At the conclusion - I felt exhilarated. The game interaction, story and detail was so engaging, that I really felt as if I had been to these amazing places. That I had been on an archeological expedition of epic proportions.

So what about ROTS and what does all this have to do with a review of The Omega Stone? I mention my reaction and experience with ROTS because at the start of Omega Stone, I felt the same way. I was a little disappointed in the graphics at the beginning. I was expecting lush environments and details. This time, my engagement with the game took significantly less time. First there is character interaction not present in the first game. Not a large number of characters, Omega is a solitary exploration for the most part. But there was Hump the person who gets us everywhere - as well as three other characters including Gil himself. There was also the constant "sense" of people. By that I mean diary entries, letters and correspondence involving a much larger group than those you meet. I think that the device of creating the "presence of people" by allowing the gamer to visually eavesdrop on their imprints and discards is a great one in a game. You have the focus of a first person exploration and the individual feelings of pride in a successful solve or game advance. But you also avoid the isolation and loneliness that can creep into gameplay that bothers some gamers (myself included) by a desolated game environment devoid of people and characters. I think that Omega Stone did a great job of balancing these concerns. In fact, I got a real kick out of bugging these few characters to get the full range of their scripted responses. There is no doubt that in Omega, the dialogue that exists definitely added to the game experience and was not a waste of anyone’s efforts.

The Game Look

Now I did say earlier that I was initially disappointed in what I saw? That lasted all of the 30 steps or so it took me to re-enter the Sphinx. The game locales are extremely varied. Some are crisp and so real you will jump at a noise heard off to the side. Others are appropriately dark, moody and somewhat fanciful. The diversity of locales was wonderful. Within the game itself I truly felt like I wasn’t only going to a new locale - at times it felt like a whole new game. I believe the Toblers to be some of the most meticulous developers in the business. Not just the story line and back ground research but the nuances of each screen is done so attentively. Little items that you may not even notice the first time around are there. The sun reflects off of things in perfect symmetry. Look back at the transport vehicle and you will see the driver fidget. Perspective changes realistically as you move through tunnels, pathways and rooms. Flawlessly done. I believe these little details can make or break a gamers mood and level of involvement. In this case - I always felt rooted to where I was. Too much so at times. I had to take breaks and go above ground at times in one particular location. Odd choice of words isn’t it? If the game had not involved me so much - I think I would have thought "walk away from the screen or leave your office" But this game has a way of taking over your thoughts and imagination. Great games do that.

This discussion of the details and powerful presentation would not be complete without a thumbs up on the sounds. All of these visuals were supported and enhanced at all times by the sound effects used. If someone is upstairs - you hear pacing and sounds. It was hard, hmmm no make that almost impossible, for me to leave one spot in the game. I kept hearing these scraping sounds, crashes, footsteps. It didn’t matter that I was really done with that part - I wanted to know what they heck they were doing up there. Omega grabs your curiosity in so many levels - way past the immediate tasks at hand. It is just another piece of the complex fabric of this game. It is this clever and adroit weaving of sounds, graphics and story line with a keen appreciation for all the little things that not only hooked, but ultimately wowed me.

Enigmas

I am starting to prefer the term "enigmas" rather than puzzles for in game challenges. Particularly with newer games where the old paradigm of here’s a wheel with numbers - make the sounds match is no longer the norm in adventure games. Have to thank Frogwares for that turn of phrase. In Omega Stone there are devices to interact with as we are looking for items meant to be protectively concealed from humans - so that they will be there when the prophecy is realized. SO, we do have a certain number of traditional looking devices and mechanisms to solve - unlock - or activate. However a greater number of the enigmas are practically related to the game plot and environment. We have to learn and recreate a alchemy ritual, chart our way through a vast underground world and leave no stone uncovered as we search out items. There may be left over inventory - but there are no red herrings. In fact as with ROTS - there are abundant clues to most of the challenges if you dig deep enough or look closely enough. There is a maze - and you just have to work through this one. A map is available later - kind of cheeky doing that. Heh-heh. Myself, I always go with the go to the right always and you will work your way through most any maze -but for those who go crazy at even the mere thought of a maze - you’ve been warned. You will have to dive, climb, scale, swim and dig. Read charts, maps and sift through messages. This game has a wide variety of puzzles. Some are unique and great fun for being different. Variety with the puzzles - as with the locations is one of the great things about this game. I think most if not all who play this game will find challenges that make them slightly crazy but also plenty more that they will enjoy on many different levels.

The Drawbacks

The drawback I encountered was the user manual contents or really the lack thereof. It is in itself an odd issue. I have never before discussed the user manual and supporting docs in a game review. Heck I rarely give a second thought to the things. But if you have to troubleshoot or have technical issues, this is where I always look first. I had some difficulty getting Omega to load at first and was surprised at the lack of technical facts available in the manual. For the benefit of those who are about to play Omega Stone here’s my user manual updates.

The game prefers software rendered graphics. This is now noted at the tech support page at DC -and it may not have been known at the time of release. You have an option at the load screen for software Vs hardware rendered graphics. Unless you have a real advanced graphics card - I would stick with the software render choice.

If you do the full install ( which I recommend to avoid the ever tedious "disc swapping"). Make sure you have plenty of additional space available after the install. Though the game features unlimited save spots and picture taking - this is illusory if you don’t allow for the space requirements the additional pic files will consume. Primarily, my game locked up and I had to manually delete any pic files and saved games that I longer needed, so that the game would continue running. I would add that I believe a 2gig figure is mentioned as the space requirement for a full install of the game. It is actually 2.68 gig plus extra space for the pics and added files.

Now all this being said - none of this would make me give Omega Stone anything but high marks all around. . Once you know about these quirks - the game runs well and is a joy to experience. So I thought I would fore-warn and fore-prepare the gamers out there. No reason for all of us to have these issues arise.

Final Thoughts

Despite my side issue quibbles at the end of the review - that is really just noise in terms of whether a particular game is worth your hard earned money or not. In truth, The Omega Stone is one of those games that is destined to be a classic. My final thoughts are these: at the end of this game I was thrilled, happy and disappointed. Thrilled to have discovered Omega’s mysteries, happy to have seen all of it’s delights and disappointed that it was all over and done with. For at the end of it all - it is how reluctant we are to see that final end screen that matters the most.

Grade: A
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#88601 - 08/04/03 06:40 PM Re: The Omega Stone
KathyO Offline
Shy Boomer

Registered: 05/31/03
Posts: 98
Loc: michigan
Beautiful, intelligently written review, Laura. I thoroughly enjoyed this game, too. Loved that we weren't stuck in one locale, that was such a nice surprise, the "human" characters and feeling of human presence you mentioned, graphics, and complex story. Couldn't agree more about the manual, too, couldn't figure out what resolution to use! You don't see that missing in too many manuals, either.
The Omega Stone was an engrossing game. Thought the ending puzzle was a big mistake and that it should have been better thought out (the measuring spoons/skull thing)- I finally figured out I must have not done something or I had missed some inventory (ick! really didn't want to retrace all my steps in this game)- want to know what it was?
Didn't see the Stonehenge pamphlet next to the model. Was extremely irritated to find such a small thing, interrupting the otherwise nice flow of the game. Clicked on it too fast maybe, anyhow, it didn't open. Once I went back and did that, was able to do the skull puzzle. Extremely annoying. Still don't know if that's what it took, had done the puzzle 30+ times, but almost gave up here. From the posts I read, I think others would like this puzzle patched.
Anyhow, enjoyed your review, like how you didn't give too much away, and explicit help for those attempting to play this long game.
Good job, Laura!
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Kathy O

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#88602 - 08/04/03 07:18 PM Re: The Omega Stone
gatorlaw Offline
Adept Boomer

Registered: 11/01/99
Posts: 10312
I had an interesting comment in an interview recently - The person said "We work on Macs and play games on PC's"

That is a major problem with games - particularly in terms of in game gamma levels and such. The big problem with Omega Stone was the darkness inside the caverns and a few other places. I have it on good authoroty - that the game looked perfect on their MACs during the build ups and beta/aplpha runs. Unfortunately when played on Windows based PC's the light levels dropped out.

I knew this and didn;t thinkl of it as a game flaw - but a weird sych problem. After reflection and a lot of web comment - I now think that developers should test their games on common user machines. One of the advantages to a "field beta test - rather than in-house is that OS peculiar problems get uncovered real fast and can be addressed with a patch and/or a user specific FAQ in the manual and game site.

This was different from ROTS - which was a good thing for some - not a good thing for others. I was a little surprised that the game wasn't better received in some quarters - but there again after reading some of the more articulate comments - I understood it better.

Laura
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