Omikron: The Nomad Soul Review

Eidos, the company who brought us Lara Croft, caused quit a stir when they released this hybrid action/adventure, Omikron: The Nomad Soul, and billed it to be true to both genres. The advertisements were enticing -- reincarnation, magic, fighting, as well as an engrossing adventure plot. I was eager to see if the ads were true or just another dose of hype.

The game's plot centers around soul-jumping from body to body to escape capture by evil demons. This reincarnation is an original concept and gives you the opportunity to become 30 different characters. You begin by jumping into the body of Kay'l, who pleads with you for help. As Kay'l, you are plunged into the immense, futuristic world that is Omikron.

Action and adventure gamers alike have expressed a "love/hate" relationship with Omikron. There is so very much to like about it -- and, at the same time, so many things that are completely exasperating. For instance, the in-game map is a wonderful feature, while the method for saving games is so ridiculously difficult. You must seek out permanent, pre-set "Save/Advice Points" to save your game, plus you must have a sufficient number of "Magic Rings" to do so. Inventory management is frustrating, too, forcing the player to choose only 18 items at one time out of hundreds of available items. The action scenes, while diverse and exciting, are way too hard, even with the difficulty level set to Easy.

So, you say, what is there to love about Omikron? The versatility of the many characters, the original music score, graphically intense cities, the adventure storyline, to name a few. The game is immersive, finding its way into your daily thoughts and invading your dreams at night. It may take months to complete, leaving you triumphant but completely drained.

Most actions are accomplished with a keyboard (or joystick), while your mouse is used for direction and looking around the 3D world. The 36-page manual, while covering the keyboard/joystick controls fairly well, deceives you about many of the other features. Keeping the manual handy while playing will familiarize you with the Interface, but some things were obviously changed after the manual was published.

Adventure gamers will be pleased to know that Omikron is not mostly action. Action and adventure elements are dispersed evenly throughout the game. The plot does not deteriorate as the game progresses, and it unfolds very gradually. The progression during the adventure portions is somewhat linear, but exploration can be done freely in between the required actions. There are puzzles of various types to be solved, inventory items to be secured and manipulated, and hundreds of characters for interaction. The puzzles range from easy to medium in difficulty and are well integrated into the story. I never felt that a puzzle was inserted without reason.

Action gamers will find many elements in this game to their liking -- the methods for improving character levels, visually exciting hand-to-hand combat combination moves, numerous and challenging gun battles with a variety of weapons and ammunition. Having a gamepad hooked your computer might help you maneuver your character through the jumping and swimming segments, since using the keyboard was awkward at times.

If you like rock music, especially if you are a David Bowie fan, you will love the totally original soundtrack, which Bowie created exclusively for Omikron. As a bonus within the game itself, attend "secret concerts" where he and the "Dreamers" perform. Pick up "tapes" of the songs and play them on a special machine. You have the chance to meet and talk with David Bowie, too, when he plays a character part in the game. For a sampling of the music, visit David Bowie's Eidos Web Site.

The 3D graphical world you explore is large and impressive. Futuristic in design, the graphics are somewhat boxy, as is true for many action games, but they are still nicely done. Each location is individual in its appearance, different yet consistent with the overall atmosphere. The designers were fairly successful in matching up facial expressions and lip-sync during conversations.

It took me over two months to finish Omikron. I'll admit I had to restart twice because of errors in judgment in the early portions of gameplay. There is minimal disk swapping between the game's 3 CD-ROMs, which are packaged in a sturdy cardboard case. My system experienced no technical problems worth reporting. I have heard that others have had various problems, many solved by choosing the "Full" installation rather than the "Standard," which I used.

In conclusion, I'd rate Omikron only 3 stars, even though it may be one of the best action/adventure games to be released in recent years. Designers of cross-genre games for the computer still have much to learn, as is obvious here. Forcing a player to save games only at pre-set locations, and not including enough of those locations, degrades the gaming experience. And, why limit the amount of inventory items we can carry? Most RPGs include better inventory management systems than what was provided in this game. On the plus side are the graphics and music, the numerous interactive non-player characters and inventory items, the length of gameplay, the good split of adventure and action, and the overall storyline. It was fun to play, even with its shortcomings, and I was sorry to see it end.

-- Jeanne Muse