Xbox Game Pass is a wonderful thing. I don’t want to spend too much time highlighting the pros of such a remarkable service, but, when it affords players the ability to play gems such as Operencia: The Stolen Sun (at launch no less) for no additional cost outside of the subscription, it simply needs praising. Now, with that being said, Operencia is a very particular game that’s likely only going to appeal to a very particular crowd, but if that’s you, you’re in for a treat. It’s by no means perfect, mind, but it does hit that old-school RPG spot.
The game is served as an action RPG that blends together mythology, history, and fantasy. The story’s backdrop tells of a plot that sees the Sun King Napkiraly abducted, leaving the world of Operencia in a state of darkness. With doom looming as a consequence, the world’s fate is left in the air, and that’s where you come in. You’ll take on the role of a team of colorful characters, and must work through a band of fantastical locations in an attempt to rectify these alarmingly pressing matters. It’s a basic yet effective setup to say the least.
Some may argue that it’s quite tropey, but in truth, I found the safe backdrop to be rather refreshing. It’s not too in your face, and it’s not too outlandish. It’s just there, and it lingers well through each and every location that you move through. This is all backed up by it’s decent pacing and delivery, ensuring that you’re always treated to a revelation or twist of some sort. Nevertheless, and with that in mind, fans of the genre are unlikely to be disappointed with its narrative. Now, how does the rest of the experience hold up exactly?
Operencia does a wonderful job at feeding you into the basics of play. There’s a short prologue to work through, which doubles up as a tutorial of sorts. Here, you’ll learn how to move, how to interact with objects, how to fight, and how to generally progress through each area. It’s all well struck and kept fairly simple, without sacrificing much of its challenge. That said, this is where the game’s few issues come to light, and sadly, they’re with you throughout the entirety of the adventure; long loading times, and poor voice acting.
Seriously, I don’t know who is in charge of the game’s optimization, but they seriously need a wake up call. The game’s loading times are horrendously long, and it doesn’t help matters that they’re pretty frequent too. The voice acting, on the other hand, is well over the top. It’s as though these actors have accidentally stumbled into corn-ville, putting forward spoken dialogue that’s either ridiculously delivered, or, too attention grabbing. These annoyances never let up, so if you cant overlook them to begin with, you may as well put down the pad.
If you can forgive the game for its try-hard voice work, you’ll find quite a likable cast of characters here. They all banter with one another throughout the entire experience, which does well to uphold the game’s already appealing foundation. I rather enjoyed observing these varying personalities, especially when they clash; specific characters having different outlooks, belief systems, and response patterns in comparison to others. It’s a great cast. I’ll say that much. I only wish that they were better realized by their respective voice talents.
Starting out, you’re free to create your own avatar. I say this loosely because you’re really only afforded the option to choose between four males, and four females. They’re all pre-set, and the only things you’re free to tweak are the classes, a few stats, your background info, and so on. Collectively, this will mold your character into a semi-unique build, so be sure to select your character wisely. There’s three classes to select from; archer, mage, and swordsman. Simple and to the point. Furthermore, you cant change later once you start.
That doesn’t really matter too much, because as stated, you’ll gain new party members along the way that tend to allow you to toy around with varying builds and outputs. Pressing on. Operencia takes some getting used to as far as movement is concerned. The game’s traversal is grid-based, meaning that you can only move in four directions. The game’s world is open, and plays out from a first person perspective. Naturally, you’ll always feel inclined to run to a point of interest in a straight line, but you cant do this due to the movement grid.
Instead, you’ll need to approach points of interest through moving forward, backward, left, or right. This wont be an issue for those of you that aren’t new to this style of concept, but for me, it took a while to gel with. Oftentimes I would see something of importance far in the distance, and try bolting for it, only to be reminded that I was confined to the game’s strict grid. Whatever the case, ladies and gents, and as alluded to above, it can be quite jarring for newcomers, but bear with it, because Operencia is well worth persevering for.
The crux of play has you moving through each distinctly designed area, typically following a linear path as you work to complete your objectives. You’ll usually have quite a few tasks at once, and will need to maneuver around the environment to seek out needed wares. There’s no shortage of puzzles present, with heaps of secrets to uncover and a shed-load of enemies to battle. There’s even a few puzzles within that you cant possibly work through until you’ve obtained needed items later on in the game, throwing in a degree of perplexity as a result.
You can indeed fast travel (unlocked later in the game) to make use of travelling to and from areas, removing needless travel filler that games like this tend to house. Puzzle complexity and variety will vary based on your selected difficulty, but even on the base setting, Operencia provides quite a kick. I was quite shocked to see the how deep the puzzles really are, with some even requiring that I make use of key items whilst interacting with environmental set pieces. It never gets old, and it does a good job of keeping you sat up.
That being said, the majority of the simpler puzzles tend to rely on the likes of activation panels, key combinations, and so forth. It would have been nice to see a bit more structure present as far as these puzzles go, or some more depth to the puzzles that are mandatory for progression. Instead, the easier tasks are typically the most tedious, and come across quite needless. Still, that’s a minor complaint. Whatever the case, Once you’ve overcome a puzzle or a tricky section, you’ll usually be amply rewarded for your time and your effort.
This can range from the likes of more uncovered secrets, bags of gold, and more importantly, loot. Now, as with any given RPG, loot is life. You’ll never get far without it. Operencia doesn’t attempt to buck the trend in any way shape or form. Whether you’re earning new weaponry and gear to improve your combat capabilities and resilience, or, set pieces that will aid you with the game’s puzzle elements, you’ll always feel adequately rewarded. That now leads us onto the game’s combat, the EXP, and the level-up system that’s in place.
Combat is a turn-based affair. It’s your straightforward run-of-the-mill setup. Each of your party members will house their own unique skill trees, which you can draw attacks from for use in combat. The attack variety is truly special, and certainly one of the game’s greatest aspects. There’s no shortage of attacks that you can take to, varying close range, mid range, long range, magical, and special. You’ll trade blows with your enemies until one of you falls, with all the usual-RPG customary items in place to keep you grounded and on-par.
During combat, range plays a key role. This is made apparent by the lanes of distance that are present during each confrontation, with enemy placement specific to each lane. The effectiveness of your ranged attacks will vary based on class. Archers have excellent range, meaning attacks from a distance will yield greater results. Swordsman, on the other hand, are much better up close, and will hand out some brutal damage output against foes that are in your face. They’re also handy for guarding your entire party from incoming attacks.
That’s where a lot of the game’s strategy comes into view. You’re given a host of tools to make use of, and a heap of enemies to use them against. You’ll need to carefully suss out what works best against specific enemies, identify a weak point, and then exploit said weakness for maximum efficiency. This holds especially true when you have a group of foes to defeat, or a towering boss. You’ll need always be mindful of the cool downs for your greater attacks too, some of which can last several rounds of attacks before replenishing.
Defeating an enemy will earn you EXP, and in doing so, will gradually level up individual party members. When that happens, they’ll gain a point to be spent in their respective skill trees, further opening benefits and advantages for use in and out of combat. Outside of that, you’ll also gain three ability points to enhance resilience and output; strength, wisdom, agility, and so on and so forth. When all is said and done, there’s more than enough depth here, but it finds a comfortable ground so that it doesn’t ever feel all that overwhelming.
It’s important to focus your points intelligently. Combat here, although easy to understand, is based on elemental strength and weakness. If you start plugging one character too much towards a specific aspect, and then come up against a tough foe that’s resilient to said aspect, you’ll be a fish out of water. Ensuring that you have a diverse output is certainly one useful tactic, but you’re never forced into playing the game that way. That said, if you’re smart and cover all your bases, you’ll tend to have an easier time later on in the adventure.
The game’s systems are well laid out and perfectly explained, making it an ideal title for newcomers to sink into on this front. Whilst the combat variation is on point, it would have been nice to see more flashy animation during command execution, but as it stands, that’s a small gripe. Each level houses a set amount of enemies, which is a smart way to ensure that the difficulty scales at a fair pace. I found that for the majority of play, I was (ever so slightly) under powered, making each encounter feel that more nerve wracking and more tense.
Most of the enemies cannot be dodged, which falls inline with the game’s grid based movement. They’ll often stumble upon you sooner than you on them, meaning that any sighted enemy tends to be one that you need to tackle. Enemies will constantly patrol their set routes, and their perceptional awareness is pretty decent. Further to that, the variation of enemies is wholly commendable. Operencia is packed with all sorts of interesting and diverse beasts to take on, many of which are unlike anything you’ll have seen before.
I can extend the same level of appreciation to the game’s visual presentation. Yes, the grid based movement system takes some getting used to, but this sits within a host of atmospheric, gorgeously rendered locations, all of which are distinct and stand out in their own way. The level of detail is respectable, which no shortage of stunning textures and wonderful lighting to soak up on your journey. Whether you’re in royal hidden tombs and cursed castles, or, enchanted forests and smokey bogs, you’ll find plenty to be immersed by.
Perhaps one of its greatest achievement is how it manages to keep things feeling fresh. The game’s mythological backdrop, together with its historic and fantastical concept, truly makes for some cleverly designed locales. It’s a good thing, really, because you’ll spend quite a lot of time traversing these environments. Simply due to its constant splendor, it never feels like a chore. This is all upheld by a wonderful score that absolutely suits the experience at hand, with epic fluctuations in place depending on where you are.
The game packs a considerable amount of playtime. You’ll find heaps of things to do, hordes of foes to battle, and a generous portion of side content to take to in the meantime. This all rests on an already lengthy, and quite frankly vastly interesting story that keeps you gripped and wanting for more. Rounding that off is a difficulty curve that feels challenging yet fair. Operencia boasts diversity across all aspects of play; from its intelligent framework, right up to its core pathway. That’s not to mention the amount of replay value that’s on display.
Replay value can be found through max completion, and by checking out the game’s varying difficulty modes. There’s also a decent amount of freedom to take to here as well; with options that allow you to limit saves, switch on perma-death, and even the disabling of auto-mapping. Safe to say that there’s more than enough content to work through. I’ll be returning for a double dip in the future, that’s for sure. If you, like me, have always been curious as to what this sort of experience offers, I cant recommend Operencia enough.
Despite a few issues with its long loading times and its poor voice work, Operencia offers a robust and diverse dungeon crawler that should not be overlooked. The game makes great use of its intelligently mashed-up framework, with a fine balance in place to ensure that the gameplay remains constantly fresh and rewarding throughout. Whether you seek engaging combat, deep progression, or, thrilling puzzles, Operencia has it all, and much more besides.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.