Sunday, March 18

Review: OPUS - Rocket of Whispers [Nintendo Switch eShop]

As games have evolved as an artform, and as indie studios with more varied backgrounds and smaller budgets have emerged, the prime elements in games have been allowed to swing more out of balance. Where traditionally the story would more commonly serve the gameplay but not necessarily overtake it almost completely it now isn’t uncommon to see those same elements take a back seat to stronger narrative beats. OPUS - Rocket of Whispers is such a game, delving into a heartfelt story about survivors in a post-Apocalyptic world of sorts who have been given the heavy task of honoring those who’ve been lost.

Rather than try to explain too much about the story, first because that would serve to potentially ruin the ride and second because it involves sending ghosts of people in rockets into space, suffice it to say that the world has gone down very hard and things are bleak. As if being one of only two apparent survivors (though the world beyond the perhaps 30 - 40 square miles the games takes place in) of a terrible viral plague wasn’t bad enough the character you play as, John, is haunted by the ghosts of the people of his town. In order to help them move on past this world he must work with the world’s only remaining witch, Fei, to construct a rocket that will deliver them beyond and end both their suffering and his.

The gameplay, for the most part, consists of taking John through the surrounding areas, and eventually the outskirts of a city, to salvage the parts they’ll need to be successful. In order to progress you’ll need to find supplies that will help you craft gear like show shoes to walk through deep snow and a few other practical items. In your wandering you’ll also encounter a variety of personal keepsakes as well, typically in a roughed up condition. The stories associated with these help flesh out the entire picture of the events that took place towards the end, the chaos of it all, and the personal pain many people suffered through. You’ll start the day, explore, scavenge, try not to hurt yourself, discover parts and pieces, later, rinse, and repeat. Early on this all feels pretty linear but as the game opens up you have more options of where you can go, though ultimately you’ll end up roughly needing to go everywhere to find what you’ll need.

As I’d mentioned, in terms of raw gameplay things are a bit uneven bordering on wonky. Especially as you start out what you’re supposed to specifically be doing isn’t always clear and the cues for where to go and what to do next aren’t always as helpful as perhaps would be preferable. Nonetheless, the further in that I got the more I felt compelled to break through and see the story through to the end, to understand what happens and the full story behind the weight both John and Fei feel. While I saw more elaborate possibilities with where things could be going narratively the ending was still satisfying even if it is unclear what comes next.

Overall, if you’re down for a pretty touching story of people under stress but doing their best in an admittedly horrible situation it makes for a compelling handful of hours. Any expectations of the gameplay itself being satisfying should be checked at the door, for the most part it is just exploration with the job of helping advance the narrative. Despite that fact I still found the game’s story compelling enough to see me through to the end and appreciated everything it was trying to convey.

Score: 7.5

  • A compelling core story peppered with additional snippets of stories from others facing oblivion
  • Terrific artwork and music help convey the emotion of the narrative

  • The experience is very story-forward with the gameplay itself serving mostly to support it, not stand out in its own right significantly
  • If mushiness, emotions, and people under stress aren’t your bag you’ll very much want to stay away
  • Especially early on it’s not always clear what you’re supposed to do. When in doubt, just go to sleep...