Review – Operencia: The Stolen Sun
I’ll admit that I was not expecting much when I first started up Operencia, but the more I played the more I fell in love with the experience, despite some glaring issues. There’s just something that draws you into Zen Studio’s captivating world of Operencia.
After the Sun Prince is been kidnapped by an unknown threat, the world of Operencia is been thrust into an eternal darkness. You play as an unknown hero who must build up their party to rescue the Sun Prince and return light to the world.
Whilst the main plotline is fairly generic and predictable, it’s also well written with a fun and diverse cast of characters that you’ll meet throughout the course of the game. They have their own fascinating stories to tell and motives for joining you on your journey, that only get more interesting as the game goes on. The writing and character development are top notch, even if the main plot is weak.
Visually, Operencia is a treat, with varied world design that makes great use of colours and various effects. Each of the game’s levels has its own distinctive look and feel ranging from ruins, to a dark forest, to the side of a giant tree. It’s an enthralling fantasy world that drew me in immediately. However, there are issues here that bring down the presentation. Cutscenes appear to be pre-rendered at a lower resolution on PC leading to a somewhat jarring shift when moving from cutscene to gameplay. Also, the animation work isn’t too great, especially in combat when sword swings don’t have the weight that they should have and effects such as fire just look underwhelming.
Sound design is interesting. Whilst the music and ambient sound of the world are great and serve their purpose well, the voice acting doesn’t hold up. Some characters do a decent enough job and I quite liked the narrator, but elsewhere we have some downright bad voice acting and some low quality mics.
Much of the gameplay is split into combat, exploration, and puzzle solving. You move through the world in a unique tile based system. At first I thought this was a bit of an odd choice and didn’t feel it did the world design much justice, but the more I played the more I didn’t mind it and eventually came to like this move. It can be a nuisance when objects of interest are placed awkwardly between tiles though.
When you run into an enemy whilst exploring the world, you will enter combat. Once engaged in combat, you get transported into a room where the enemies are split into 3 lanes; close, middle, and far. The further away the enemies are, the more susceptible to ranged attacks they are and the less efficient melee is. You and your party have a suite of abilities and attacks to destroy the enemies. Your abilities range from your standard physical damage abilities, elemental attacks, status effects, and more. The game is an exercise in good resource management; once you finish a fight you don’t get your health and other resources back. Going into another fight with low resources could mean a game over screen. So you occasionally need to rest at a campfire to ensure you save your progress and replenish your stores as necessary.
Unfortunately, combat does fail occasionally with some slightly unbalanced fights and incredibly dull encounters. The opening two to three hours are far too easy, to the point of it being a chore to play. Conversely, fights later on in the game just drag on for too long, especially when spawner enemy types get involved. It’s not like these fights get overly difficult, but they do take way too long with tanky, bullet sponge type enemies. The combat is good enough for the most part, but it’s not always enjoyable.
Operencia is also an RPG, so you will be leveling up your character through their stats as well as the skills they will be using. The RPG elements are basic, but also serviceable, especially since you can upgrade your party members as well. You can upgrade individual stats and select character specific abilities to create a diverse party set-up with plenty of experimentation and synergy between them. Disappointingly, the abilities that your main character has is less interesting than your party members, but this is balanced out by having full control over their upgrade path as well.
The highlight of Operencia is in exploring the world and uncovering its secrets. Each of the game’s twelve areas are packed with puzzles and optional secrets for you to discover. With metroidvania style elements, upgrades that you pick up in later levels can help you uncover secrets in previous levels, rewarding backtracking. There’s a surprising amount of variety in the puzzle designs as well; solving riddles, logic puzzles, and searching the environments for clues, make for a worthwhile experience.
A lot of the time Operencia doesn’t hold your hand in the puzzle department; it really lets you have a go at them before giving you hints. For the most part this works, but sometimes puzzles can be a little too vague and the game could have been presented clearer, but these moments don’t come often and certainly don’t hurt the experience enough. I never felt lost for too long.
Operencia: The Stolen Sun might be the most surprising game that I’ve played in a while. It boasts a rich story in a well detailed world, packed with tons of secrets to find, and a fun combat system. The experience does occasionally stumble, but it just picks itself back up and continues on its entertaining way.
Beautifully crafted world with a great art style and splendid use of colours.
There are a few flaws, but Operencia is nicely varied in its overall gameplay style.
Great soundtrack with some unfortunately poor voice acting.
Exploring the world of Operencia was an unexpected treat.
Final Verdict: 8.0
Operencia: The Stolen Sun is available now on PC and Xbox One.
Reviewed on PC and Xbox One.
A copy of Operencia: The Stolen Sun was provided by the publisher.