2017 has been a real hit-or-miss year for visual novels. We’ve had some incredible hits like the long awaited release of Dies Irae, Pyre, and Ghosts of Miami. On the other hand, there have been some abysmal misses like Dream Daddy and Pink Rage Otome. Despite all these lovely releases though, alas, another miss from 2017 has brought itself to my attention: A miss by the name of Omega Pattern.
In terms of sheer number of releases, 2017 has been a remarkable year for English visual novels (EVNs). It would seem to me that slowly but surely, visual novels are finally starting to find a slight foothold in English-speaking countries. Something I, for one, welcome with open arms: I’ve been nothing but vocal about my love of visual novels and my hope that we’ll someday see more than 1-3 titles a year getting official localizations and maybe, if we’re really lucky, physical releases. With marketing and everything. The works. I mention this because a common complaint I hear in the critiquing of visual novels tends to stem from players who don’t like the gameplay (or lack thereof) that most of them have. Plainly put, I’m not in this category since I love me some choice making. Which, in the beginning, had me fired up to give Omega Pattern a shot. Unfortunately, my excitement wouldn’t last long.
So let’s talk about Omega Pattern. You play as a boy named Shaiel who was out on a mission with his guardian, Dab (no, I’m not kidding–his name is Dabir but everyone calls him Dab), and next thing he knew he was waking up from a coma he’s told he was in for 2 years. And did I mention that he has some kind of psychic powers? Supposedly, he does.
Omega Pattern is incredibly vague, unnecessarily cryptic, gets lost in its own lore, and in a phrase, it’s just overly-complex.
I’m sorry if that description seems really vague, but the first and foremost issue with Omega Pattern is its writing. It’s incredibly vague, unnecessarily cryptic, gets lost in its own lore, and in a phrase, it’s just overly-complex. To the point where, despite have replayed it twice, I still don’t feel like I understand what happened. I understand that Shaiel’s parents aren’t around (not that I’m sure why of course), I understand Dab took him in (not sure why though), Dab was some kind of anarchist, terrorist, or CIA agent or something–a secretive figure with a dangerous, hidden agenda (but of course, we’re not exactly sure what he was or what his motivations were)–and he tried to get Shaiel to follow in his footsteps and it ended up causing Dab’s death and Shaiel’s coma. There’s a Vash the Stampede lookalike who everyone calls The Crow, and although it’s never specified, context clues tells me he’s some kind of godfather, I think. All I can really tell is that he’s a really important guy and he and Shaiel’s doctor are trying to exploit and/or amplify his powers somehow by making him addicted to a drug called Ambrosia which he may or may not need to live? Anyways, so Shaiel has a few flashbacks and leaves the hospital and the game ends and tells you to check out their website for more. (Spoiler alert: There’s no more on the website).
There’s absolutely no reason or excuse why anyone should be able to play through your visual novel 3 times and still have a loose understanding of the story at best. There are visual novels I’ve spent less time on–ones that I haven’t even beaten yet–that I feel like I could describe their plots better than this one for a visual novel I’ve played not once, not twice, but three whole times to see the different routes. Yet as you just saw, my understanding on it is still shaky at best. I don’t mind visual novels–or pieces of fiction in general–having a lot of lore or leaving you with questions (especially like, in the case of Omega Pattern, more content will be added later), but there is such a thing as too much. Unfortunately, Omega Pattern just loses itself in its lore to the point where it hardly explains anything. The story of Omega Pattern has the potential to be really interesting but unless it slows itself down and explains itself better, no player would know that the story might be great–because it gets too wrapped up in itself.
Something you have to keep in mind about Omega Pattern whilst playing it is that despite Steam calling this game finished, according to the game’s website, this is only meant to be the first part of Omega Pattern, hence its abrupt ending which only furthers the confusion brought by its writing. I’m hoping this is also indicative of why so many things are left unexplained–which it very well could be. But if the writing in the next few parts end up being anything like it is in the first (overly-complex and never explaining itself) then I don’t have high hopes for future parts of this game. When a game is released episodically or in parts like this, the first part leaving questions unanswered isn’t just fine, it’s expected. The problem with Omega Pattern is that it leaves too much answered–so much that I can’t confidently dictate what happened in this part because the writing was so confusing. It doesn’t clearly communicate basic information necessary for understanding the story–an absolute sin when your game relies almost entirely on writing. Writing is tantamount in a visual novel–one of the hallmarks of the genre is a general lack of gameplay, so if not gameplay, you have nothing else to lean on. All of your player’s attention will focus on the writing. Sadly, Omega Pattern misses that mark.
But speaking of gameplay, I do want to mention something cool Omega Pattern does: And that’s the way you form Shaiel’s personality. As he’s in the hospital, he has a series of flashbacks. In these flashbacks, you’ll be given several options for how to solve problems of varying importance. How you decided to solve the problem will affect Shaiel’s personality when he’s out of the flashback. For example, if you decided to be rude in the flashbacks, then Shaiel will be rude to the doctor and the nurse at the hospital when he wakes up. I not only think this is brilliant, but wonderfully done since the changes in his personality are incredibly visible. There aren’t too many visual novels that will let you dictate the protagonist’s personality as much as Omega Pattern–if only the game were complete and we could perhaps see it come to more fruition than its current state, this could be an incredible mechanic. As a matter of fact, the control you have over Shaiel’s character is the best part of the game, if you were to ask me.
There aren’t too many visual novels that will let you dictate the protagonist’s personality as much as Omega Pattern–if only the game were complete and we could perhaps see it come to more fruition than its current state, this could be an incredible mechanic.
While I’m talking about Omega Pattern’s good side (which, despite my prior negativity, it does have) the soundtrack, though not spectacular, is fine and the background art is sublime. Now, I say background art for a reason. And it’s not that the sprite art is bad, necessarily, it’s just wildly inconsistent: The girls all look like the same moe anime girl with a different haircut (except Shaiel’s mother who, in the same vain The Crow looks like a knockoff Vash the Stampede, looks like Tsukihime’s Arcueid Brunestud. For bonus points, did I mention that she looks visibly more detailed later in the game? As though the artist made a second round of sprites for her) and the men all look as though they’re drawn in a totally different style–a style which, frankly, compared to the women (which, despite having same face, are very well drawn/colored) looks unfinished and, of course, inconsistent. The worst is when they’re next to each other and you can see the contrast, and plainly put, it’s laughable.
Omega Pattern is clearly a game that some effort was put into, but sadly, it simply wasn’t enough. Corners feel cut, details get lost. If I had to summarize Omega Pattern in a word, it’s unfinished. I’m fully aware that it’s only the first part in what should be at least 3, but even as just the first part of a game it feels unfinished. If this was just the taste test of the game, I don’t think I want the full meal unless improvements are made–which I hope they are because so often Omega Pattern expresses a glimmer of potential that’s shut down by a general feeling of being rushed and only half-done, even as just a first part.
Omega Pattern is clearly a game that some effort was put into, but sadly, it simply wasn’t enough. Corners feel cut, details get lost.
My biggest critique for this game is by far the writing. I can excuse poor or mismatching art in a visual novel (case in point: the When They Cry visual novels are 2 of my all-time favorite series; they probably have some of the worst art I’ve seen in gaming period) but the writing is what drives a visual novel–and as I’ve already expressed, the writing in Omega Pattern needs to be fleshed out better. It’s fine to want to make a visual novel with lots of heavy, unique lore (EX: Fate, Muv-Luv, Tsukihime), but Omega Pattern either needs to make a fine line in the sand where it says too much is too much and start trimming the fat, or it needs to better explain concepts and what’s presently going on. As I mentioned earlier, I played this game a total of 3 times and I still only have a loose understanding of the Omega Pattern universe. There’s no reason I should feel that way about any game I play 3 times. Even if these are concepts that are going to be explained as the game progresses, I still shouldn’t feel this confused so early on.
When releasing a multi-part game like Omega Pattern, an enticing first part will make or break the development of the game. It’s fine, nay encouraged, for a first part to leave the player with questions, but Omega Pattern left me with too many of the wrong kind. It’s wonderful if the devs think the second or third parts will be fantastic, but it doesn’t do them much good if the incompleteness and inconsistency of part 1 already made people uninterested in the game, and that’s exactly what Omega Pattern did for me (and judging by its reviews on Steam, I’m far from the only one). It felt like a rough draft of what it could’ve been–and it could’ve been a pretty good sci-fi adventure visual novel if it would only flesh itself out more and sit in the metaphoric oven a little longer.
Currently, this first part of Omega Pattern is only $5 on Steam. Despite advertising 6+ hours, it’s only that long if you play through every single route (something I think should be mentioned explicitly in its Steam page, as it sounds very misleading in its current state). If you only go through one route, it’s only about 2 hours–and even one route feels like a trudge. Omega Pattern isn’t totally awful–as I mentioned, it has a certain degree of potential. The art is halfway there, the forming of Shaiel’s personality is great. It’s not one of those “so bad it’s good” visual novels, if that’s what you’re wondering. It’s just not enjoyable–even as a first part, it’s just not done. So is it worth the $5? In my opinion, not really. It’s not much to ask for, and if you really want some complex sci-fi then this might scratch your itch, but it feels silly to pay $5 for what feels like a demo when the actual demo is free. Moreover, there are better indie visual novels for cheaper (EX: The entirety of Asagao Academy is free). Even to the most enthusiastic of visual novel fans, don’t feel upset if you miss out on Omega Pattern. Unless it receives some much needed improvements to the writing, Omega Pattern isn’t a game I’ll be keeping tabs on.