Some of Horror’s Classic Icons go toe to claw in mortal combat, but don’t pack much of a punch. Find out why in our Omen of Sorrow review.
These past few years have seen fighting game thrust back into the spotlight with most of the genre’s heavy hitters turning up for the current console generation. From Street Fighter and Tekken to Soulcalibur, Mortal Kombat, and even The King of Fighters, some have thrived while others have struggled to gain a foothold among impressive newcomers such as Dragon Ball FighterZ.
It’s an exciting time for fighting game fans though one that’s also pretty scary for a game like Omen of Sorrow. For a fledgling developer like Chilean studio AOne Games to go up against the giants that have continued to mould this genre for more than two decades must be daunting to say the least, especially when launching at full retail price.
Omen of Sorrow styles itself traditionally, sporting a familiar 2D movement system and an attack button for each limb that can chain together for devastating combos or, when paired with a specific input, unleash character-specific special moves.
What sets Omen of Sorrow apart is its choice of setting. Although fighting games are ultimately judged in terms of balance and mechanics, having a strong theme and a unique visual identity can go a long way, especially if you don’t have a popular media license or a lineage of iconic characters to fall back on.
Quite cleverly, AOne has been able to assemble a legendary roster without needing to be a film, comic, or television tie-in. We use the term “legendary” very literally here as Omen of Sorrow lets you throwdown against characters Quasimodo, Dr. Hyde, and Frankenstein’s monster, pulling from a patchwork of gothic lore and mythos. There are a couple of more exotic inclusions too, such as everybody’s favour Egyptian high priest, Imhotep. Sadly, Brendan Fraser is nowhere to be seen.
The way AOne attempts to bring these characters together isn’t quite as interesting. This isn’t the early 90s and, as such, we’ve become accustomed to every fighting game having its own story mode instead of just the basic handful of game modes and the akward cutscene here and there. This shift was championed by NetherRealm and, in truth, no developer has been able to match its knack for weaving a solid story into a fighting game, whether its Mortal Kombat’s bizarre fantasy/sci-fi mashups or the superhero showdowns of Injustice.
Although it has a dedicated story mode, the narrative thread that pulls Omen’s various myths and legends together is simply uninteresting. A series of battles bookended by dry and overly serious exchanges between its 12 playable characters, presented in drab text. It’s a weak mode and one that feels like filler, the game lacking enough content for AOne to stretch it into a convincing, enjoyable story-driven experience.
Arcade mode fares much better and at least gives you time to learn the ins and outs of a chosen character instead of constantly shifting focus. There’s nothing unique or inventive here, just a solid ladder-style lineup of battles that gradually increase in difficulty before facing a final boss.
The core fighting is pretty solid and clearly inspired by earlier 2D fighting games, feeling most akin to Street Fighter with its combination attacks, throws, and specials, as well as their accompanying inputs. Each character is defined by their moveset, some preferring a higher mobility, getting up close, or even laying down traps for their enemies to walk over. For example, the harpy-like Radegonda’s flight ability makes her the most versatile aerial character while Dr. Hyde can inject himself with various toxins. Meanwhile Imhotep can summon zombie-like thralls as well as split himself at the waist, extending his height and reach considerably.
Not all characters are quite as exciting and you’ll have to conduct your own training experiments with each of them to work out their nuances and see which best suit your own personal playstyle. While there is a practice mode on hand, Omen of Sorrow lacks any in-depth tutorials to succinctly demonstrate its finer, more advanced systems.
It carries a premise that will be of interest to classical horror fans but comes up short on content for a full price title, especially when going up against the current crop of fighting games also duking it out against one another. It’s fighting is solid and there’s an intriguing lineup of legends to choose from. However, once you’ve given its arcade and story modes a fair shake, there’s little else to draw you back in unless you’re looking to throw down against friends locally. Sadly, just days after launch, we’ve struggled to find a single match online.
Omen of Sorrow is a budget fighting game with AAA ambitions. AOne’s attempts to stretch it into something bigger don’t pay off and while there’s some enjoyment to be had, there are so many better, more polished alternatives that offer way more value for your money.
Omen of Sorrow review code on PS4 provided by the publisher.
Omen of Sorrow is out now on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.