It can be hard to make a dent in the fighting game scene today. With so many high-caliber fighting games coming out every year, the potential player-base for an up-and-coming game just gets smaller and smaller. Indie games often don’t have the nostalgia or budget behind them to be able to grip audiences and provide the same breadth of content that triple-A fighters can provide. Despite that uphill battle, though, passionate developers are still trying to carve a space out for themselves in the fighting game community. The latest to try and do that is Omen of Sorrow, a horror-inspired 2D fighter that is… a truly horrific experience.
Omen of Sorrow features a cast of about a dozen fighters based on various myths and legends of the occult variety. From Bram Stroker’s Dracula to Frankenstein’s Monster, most of the classic beasts of horror fiction are depicted here in detailed 3D. While most of the character designs suffer from looking a little too generic or unoriginal, a couple of unlockable characters present truly interesting and cool designs that stand out from the rest of the cast. It’s a shame that the level of artistic expression in those two designs couldn’t make it to the rest of the game.
From the very first menu to the first round of battle, Omen of Sorrow drips with mediocrity. Menus and text boxes lack any kind of polished UI design, and the health bars and super meters displayed during fights equally mundane. The music in the game is at least fun and varied, and there’s a wealth of chunky guitar and mythical chanting that plays to my interests. Still, the idea of a fighting game themed around horror icons is mouth-watering, and has the potential to be a visual feast full of gothic imagery and beautifully decrepit visuals. Unfortunately, Omen of Sorrow just slaps dark reds and grungy browns on everything and calls it a day.
Obviously, it’s possible to forgive the artistic follies of a fighting game if the core gameplay is tight and enjoyable. Unfortunately, Omen of Sorrows fumbles in that area as well. The game tries to keep things simple by being a 4-button fighter – plus an EX button and a throw button. Omen of Sorrow has the weight and speed of something like the modern Mortal Kombat entries but maintains the basic fundamentals and footsies of fighting games like Street Fighter Third Strike. While the potential is strong in Omen of Sorrow, broken moves and sloppy animations keep it from being any kind of fun.
Almost every character has a handful of poorly designed moves that are either easily abusable or laughably unusable. Monster-hunter Gabriel has a full-screen beam projectile that is easily spammed, while Vladislav has an awkward standing kick that sees his leg rise up and fall back down in a speedy, broken animation that leaves you questioning if the move actually came out or not. While combo potential exists in the game, these combos are strung together with clunky and poorly animated attacks, only to often be negated by even clunkier and unbalanced attacks.
Omen of Sorrow shines every so briefly with it’s one unique fighting mechanic, which sees you being rewarded or punished depending on how aggressive your playstyle is. If you’re constantly on the offensive and closing the gap with your opponent, you’ll be gifted a temporary status boost that refills your health faster and helps you extend your combos. Play keep away and avoid throwing out attacks for too long, and you’ll be cursed with decreased defense and slower movement speed. It’s an interesting mechanic to keep track of in-battle, but isn’t enough to turn around the stale experience of fighting.
Omen of Sorrow lets you do battle in a variety of standard fighting game modes, from arcade to survival. If you want to take a peek into the lore of the game, you can dive into the 3-chapter story mode – I would advise against doing that, though.
The story mode is split into 3 separate campaigns focusing on different groups of characters, and each is an hour-long slog of poorly written dialogue and terribly designed encounters. Sometimes, the story is told through narrator monologues that mash together so many nonsensical, edgy phrases and Bible quotes that my eyes popped out of the sockets from being rolled so hard. Often, though, you’ll experience the story by seeing characters walk around and dialogue-box at each other inside the same stages you do battle in. These scenes all repurpose attack and movement animations in an attempt to have the character models naturally interact with each other, but the end result is just a series of janky and miserable cutscenes that had me laughing, then sighing, and then just groaning and wishing it was over.
I tried my best to pay attention to what was unfolding before my eyes, but I couldn’t make sense of any of it. Character motivations were all over the place, their actions seemed random and un-contextualized, and scenes seemed to happen just for the sake of happening rather than being naturally built up to. Worse yet were the fights that book-ended these story scenes. Sometimes I had to fight the same enemy 5 times in a row. Other times, the game would craft boss-fight scenarios where I simply did zero damage to the enemy and was forced to stand still and let the broken AI attempt to kill me in order to progress. Story mode, much like the rest of Omen of Sorrow, is an unpolished and lackluster experience.
You can ignore single-player offerings like story mode and take the fight online if you want, but good luck having any matches on there. Unsurprisingly, a $50 fighting game with no brand recognition and minimal advertising has barely any player-base to speak of, so I struggled to find anybody online to fight against during my time with the game. When I finally did find matches, I was plagued with network errors and aggravating lag. I shouldn’t be surprised that this game has shabby netcode, but I’m certainly disappointed.
I love fighting games a lot, and I understand that many other people do. I think the dedication and effort it takes to craft a capable fighting game worth forming a community around is daunting. Unfortunately, Omen of Sorrow feels like it’s taken a “quantity over quality” approach that results in a flaccid, broken experience. From the characters and art to the core act of fighting, nothing in Omen of Sorrow quite sticks the landing. There are a lot of incredible fighting games to check out this year, but Omen of Sorrow is not one of them.
Version Tested: PS4 – also available on Xbox One and PC