Hello all! Last week’s title was more of a movie than a game. I mean, when it was a game it was irritating, but it worked overall.
This week, I was going to cover Driver: San Francisco. But it seemed more appropriate to talk about a little known game from the developers of last week’s title, Heavy Rain.
I mean, he’s right there on the box.
Omikron: The Nomad Soul is an oldie from Quantic Dream; it’s their first commercial release, in fact, coming to the Sega Dreamcast in 2000 and PC a year before that. It’s best described as an adventure game, albeit one with fighting game and FPS elements. Set in a futuristic city called Omikron, you play as...well, you play as you, in a sense, inhabiting the body of a police officer named Kay’l 669 in order to investigate a series of murders. It quickly becomes apparent that you (you you) have been brought to Omikron (the city) by a demon who uses Omikron (the game) to lure human souls. So in a way, you’re kind of tricked into playing the game.
It’s a lot of weird, fourth-wall breaking stuff, and it’s kind of interesting; Omikron is, in a quirky way, a game about playing a game. Except the stakes are higher; I dislike spoiling too much in these articles, so I’ll just say Omikron tells a pretty solid tale that’s trippy as hell sometimes. We go from a simple sci-fi story to a battle between humans and demons over the span of this fairly meaty game.
It’s a bit tough to play today, though. As an adventure game, Omikron still works; point-and-click style games never really age. It’s when you need to fight that Omikron begins to fall apart. The shooting and fighting engines are beyond clunky; I remember this back in the day, when I rented the game from Blockbuster (that’s how old it is), but it’s even worse now when compared to today’s games. The fighting engine is kind of like a stiff Tekken, while the shooting is kinda just there. Still, it’s worth playing; Omikron can be seen as ahead of it’s time, especially with regards to how mature the story is. There’s a believable aspect to your interactions with the numerous NPC’s of Omikron, and the entire plot makes you think. I’d say it’s worth it for the story.
It’s graphically dated, but nearly unmatched artistically.
A cool feature is that, as a “Nomad Soul” (or, you), when you die in Omikron, you can reincarnate as a new character. Each character you take the body of has different stats and abilities, and it’s really cool to see how the world’s perception of you changes based on who you’re playing as. For example, playing as a known criminal and strolling into the police station is kind of a dumb idea. It’s a wild, unique idea that you don’t see today. As I’ve said, Omikron is ahead of it’s time; it’s one of those games that, even to this day, remains unmatched in it’s sheer ambition (side note: Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines is another one of these games. Just had to get that out there).
And despite how dated the game is graphically, I was expecting far worse when I bought this on GOG last year. It runs on my PC like a champ, and frankly, it doesn’t look as bad as I remember (we tend to remember old graphics as worse than they are). Omikron is wonderful from an artistic standpoint, though; rather than go with a drab, bleak, gray sci-fi landscape, Omikron is loud and vibrant and colorful. People walk down the street with crazy costumes and tattoos. Think The Fifth Element with like 1% Blade Runner, along with the occasional demon, and you’ve got a pretty good idea what Omikron looks like.
Oh, and the music is fantastic, and that’s also the reason I’m covering Omikron this week:
David Bowie, seen here without makeup and reciting a snippet of his real-life biography.
That’s Boz, leader of a religious movement what works with “The Awakened” who are more or less the Rebel Alliance of Omikron. He’s played by the sadly late David Bowie, who died just a couple of days ago as of this writing. What makes his presence in Omikron interesting, as far as celebrity cameos in games go, is that Bowie not only played a central role in the game, he also played the frontman of a band in the game (The Dreamers), as well as writing songs for Omikron:
And he had a hand in the story as well. At the time I first played Omikron, I didn’t really know who David Bowie was; I was in junior high at the time, and I didn’t really begin to explore music until around high school and later. At that age, you could’ve told me Boz was the dude from Labyrinth and I’d have been like, “oh, okay.” So it would be much later, during a more recent play of Omikron last year, that I’d fully appreciate Bowie’s presence in this game. It’s much, much more than a cameo; Omikron exists both as a great, ambitious game and a cool Bowie project that even most Bowie fans might not know about. (Bowie rewrote these songs with new lyrics for his Hours...album) And Omikron, with all it’s trippy-ness, fits right in with Bowie’s aesthetic. I can’t speak for the guy, but it’s probably what attracted the project to him in the first place. I like to think so.
And I also think it’s beyond cool that David Bowie, who I’m a fan of (who isn’t really?) managed to leave a mark, albeit obscure, on something I love so much—video games. There’s not a whole lot of artists outside of games who can say that. Musicians try sometimes, but the end result is usually unbearable. You could nearly expect the same with Bowie and Omikron, but not only did it work, it worked damn well. Jeez, the guy did everything, huh?
Omikron remains one of the most original games I’ve played. It’s a cool game with a neat story and it’s got David Bowie. Apart from some clunk, there’s not really a lot to hate here. Go download a copy. And farewell, Mr. Bowie. Thanks for all the everything.
Thanks for reading my stuff! Leave comments and suggest games to cover! Tweet at me! And find more of my stuff at Current Digital (including my Game of the Year pick!)
Next week, Driver: San Francisco!