Dungeon crawling, turn-based, RPG with a grid system for movement and severely difficult puzzles. That’s Operencia: The Stolen Sun. This may sound great to some and a pain to others. You’re tasked with finding the Stolen Sun (kind of randomly) and get to create your own character to do so. Along the way you’ll find more friends and create a powerful team. There are several levels with a limited amount of enemies. You’ll be wandering around quite a bit, so it’s probably best you don’t have random encounters all the time. There are many secrets to find and you could drop hours looking for them. If you’ve ever played games like Myst, you’ll know how long you can spend trying to figure out a puzzle. Will you be sucked into a magical world of charm and find the Stolen Sun, or give up frustrated because you can’t figure out how to progress the story?
Here’s what I liked:
Design — The way each level was designed and meant to be replayed at a later time with new items gave Operencia an almost open world feel. You’re playing on a grid and while, at first, I was annoyed, it eventually made a lot of sense. Music and sound effects all seem to harmonize with the theme. Each new level felt different from the last, having unique monsters to fight. It has a lot of elements to it. Puzzles, battles, looting, and choice of attribute points. I liked what I saw from the opening sequence. There is also a bit of humor splashed throughout the narrative. The band of travelers always has something funny to say.
Exploration — Being in a grid-based environment somewhat limits you to walking around freely. You are constrained to the blocks of space. As you walk, you unveil more of the map. If you can’t progress then you know you must solve a puzzle or go back later. As you journey ahead you’ll get items that help you. If you couldn’t find all the secrets in an area, you can actually fast travel (thank goodness) back and try again with your new items. This is the only real way to go get more experience if you’re having a hard time beating enemies in the new places. If there’s one thing I love more than a map it’s the fast travel option. You always must remember that certain areas you can’t access are likely only available when you have the right item.
Puzzles and Potion Creating — What seems straight out Myst, the puzzles you’ll come across range from easy to “give up and Google”. There is usually some kind of hint and it often involves you looking at your surroundings. An example is a machine that has steam coming out of the pipes. You are given no hints, but the answer is in front of you. You just have to stop and think about it. Finding out the steam coming out of the pipes could be counted and using those counts to turn a dial to the specific numbers was the answer. There was a lot of creative cleverness involved. It was a nice break after defeating all of the enemies around. It felt like I was playing two different games at once set in the same world. The most fun I had was solving the potion recipes. You read a few lines and use the process of elimination to figure it out. It can dramatically lengthen the game if you have a difficult time figuring out what to do.
Here’s what I didn’t like:
Weapons and Gear — One of my favorite parts in an RPG is all the precious loot. Finding special equipment and putting it to work, seeing it do wonders inside the battlefield. Not once did I ever feel like my gear was becoming any more powerful. Using the same stuff for hours on end is not my definition of improving. I think I had the same gear for around 10 hours on my main character. Nothing I found really seemed to change my fights in the drastic way you’d imagine. As far as aesthetics go, all the gear looks bland and basic. Some have decent names and sound a lot cooler than they appear. There are spellbooks that give you bonuses for all of the elemental damages yet no one uses more than two. I just wasn’t feeling that “powerful” vibe when I found weapons. It just seemed like more junk to sort through in my inventory.
Ramped Up Difficulty — I chose not to use any of the difficulty options that make your adventure more difficult. Almost everything I play is on the most difficult setting, and this time I wanted to take it easy. For the first half, it was just that. Then suddenly came the Copper Forest. The new enemies were machines that seemed immune to almost everything. They also were fast enough to attack twice before I had the chance to. They would cut me with saws (that I think are an AoE power) then shoot a flamethrower at me. Why not go grind some levels you ask? Well, you can’t really do that. There are no random enemies. There is a hard set number of them each level and no more will spawn for you to grind out experience. You’re stuck making it out alive in critical condition. Hopefully, you’ve been saving up all that wood for resting because that is also limited. I don’t know why things suddenly became so chaotic. To me, the boss battles were easier than some of the normal enemy groups. Then suddenly it became easy again. Fights became fair and all was well. Well, besides the last boss, an encounter which was more confusing than difficult.
Attack Rows — There is a clever row-based fighting system that seemed awesome until I realized it didn’t seem to matter at all. Maybe it did and that’s why I struggled in some fights, but I could not tell. If my character was strength based, I could still hit back rows with a higher chance of success. Same with ranged and close up enemies. The only difference I saw was that instead of blocking, they would evade (the same thing pretty much right?). The rows are even lit up with fancy colors to indicate distance. None of the attacks did damage to a whole row which would have made a ton of sense. It would create a new dynamic of choosing which row to focus on. None of that here, just hit whatever needs to be dealt with first.
Leveling Up —With limited enemies, you have no use for late game skills you acquire. In fact, most of the passives are pretty useless. Measly percents reduced for energy cost that won’t be used at all because there are no more enemies to fight and you have high energy anyways. It just didn’t seem planned out well. I think it’s one of the weakest uses of passive skills I have ever seen in a game. Most of the characters are too much of a hybrid to specialize in anything. My main character was a rogue type. It was a huge mistake because it ended up being my most useless team member. You can’t sub them out for anyone else. With a glaring lack of options for skills, you’re forced to build your character around lackluster abilities. As you progress, you’ll also unlock special powers that anyone can use, but you must first build them up in battle by using powers associated with that element type. When I see 100% chance and it misses, it makes me pretty frustrated. All that building up the powers only to be flat out lied to by the statistics. Immune are they? Could have really used a warning there, especially because it feels every enemy I wanted to use these powers on were immune or I missed. What was even the point? The strongest power is reviving your team. Everything else was garbage. The scope of abilities and enemies just don’t match up well. There just really seems to be a lot of holes in the structure of powers and enemies.
A beautiful package of a game, Operencia is enchanting but clumsy. It misses as much as it hits the target of being a great role-playing adventure. There was one glitch that was alarming to me. On Atilla’s Tomb, there are sections that overheat my Xbox
Score: Reader’s Choice
Operencia: The Stolen Sun was published and developed by Zen Studios on Xbox One. It was released on March 29, 2019, for $29.99. A copy was obtained through the use of Game Pass.