UGO

Game Reviews
Odium
by Metropolis Software House/Monolith Productions


In the year 2008, genetic experiments in Russia go very, very wrong. So wrong, in fact, that the military base called Gorky 17 has been purposely destroyed and quarantined without explanation to the rest of the world. Area residents tell the tales of unexplained creatures and occurrences nearby. A NATO operation is sent in to investigate but never return. You command the second group, sent in to find out what happened to the first group and offer an explanation of what happened...

Odium is a very action-oriented role-playing game based in the near future in a science fiction setting. While not as apocalyptic in scope as the Fallout games, Odium is a lot of fun to play, featuring light adventuring and heavy turn-based combat while telling a very entertaining story.

The graphics are very striking, highly detailed bitmap backgrounds over which your polygon-modeled characters travel and fight. The detail is incredible; debris is everywhere and the interaction between the backgrounds and polygonal characters is nearly seamless. The game runs in an 800x600 resolution and is fairly colorful. The graphics are easily the best thing about the game.

Sound effects are good, and the music is excellent. It's moody, eerie, and sets the tone for the dramatic aspects of the game very well. The voice acting, however, is terrible. Some of it borders on passable, but most of it is overacted, stiff, and never sounds realistic. The tone changes from sentence to sentence and is rarely delivered well.

When you begin playing, your initial three characters are placed in the town while you control them from a third-person isometric viewpoint. This first mode allows you to move them around, exploring the area and uncovering items and story elements. At triggered locations, conversations take place that will help give you more and more information. Walking over particular hotspots will place you into a close-up mode where fighting action takes place. Combat is turn-based, very detailed, and easy to learn. In this mode, you may manipulate inventory, perform an action, and move. Swapping inventory items doesn't cost you any movement points, so you may swap weapons with healing implements or tools at any time. Fighting is as simple as lining up a shot and taking it, but as in any turn-based game, it's the strategy that ends up winning the battle. Certain enemies are immune to certain attacks, while others have particular weaknesses that you can exploit.

The role-playing elements within the game are also fairly seamless. Skills go up with use, and abilities may be altered as character levels increase. Once enough experience is gained, points become available to be distributed on a character's persona. Attributes like strength, luck, etc., are all sculpted by the player as the game progresses. This is a very simple model and very easy to learn and use.

While combat is simple, there are a couple of implicit problems. Battle areas are arranged in a grid. For some unknown reason, you must be perfectly lined up with your target or you can't hit it. For instance, handguns must be fired in a perfectly straight line. If your target is diagonally opposed to you, you can't hit it. Rifles may be fired diagonally, but if your enemy is even one square off of perfect diagonal, you can't hit it. There is no way to fire over small objects to hit bigger ones - any tiny object might as well be a wall. While I enjoy a simple combat model, this one becomes just a little bit annoying when you need to do something that should reasonably be accomplished.

The game interface is quite elegant, especially to anyone that has played a turn-based combat game before. While exploring the bigger map, you simply select a character (who becomes outlined), then left-clicking where you want him to walk. Interactive objects, of which there are few, are clearly defined as such and may be manipulated by a right-click. The rules are simple - find something, pick it up - there will be a use for it later. Combat is almost as simple, clicking on the backpack opens inventory which is arranged into categories - weapons and ammo, health items, and adventure items. Placing objects into your hands is a typical drag and drop procedure. Once you have the proper implement in your hands, you select the character, then left click where you would like him to move or right click where you want him to use the item in his hands, be it a weapon, bandages, etc. Both enemy and friendly health is easily monitored, so you can tell when healing is necessary, or when an enemy is about to drop. This is especially handy since ammunition is scarce, and you may wish to finish off a fight with a hand weapon rather than waste precious ammo. Strategies become obvious, like using a flamethrower early in a battle because it will continue to burn for a few rounds, delivering constant damage. Gather enough experience for a particular character and a "level up" box appears showing the number of attribute points you have available to spend. These may be used immediately, so that you can take advantage of the increase right away.

Odium is a lot of fun. The story is very good, and the game is easy to learn. There aren't really any puzzles to solve, it's mostly a matter of walking around the bigger map collecting items while waiting to stumble onto the square that will trigger the next combat sequence. However, the action comes quick and is fairly well thought-out. Odium doesn't require a lot of heavy thinking, but is a lot of fun regardless.

Graphics
Sounds
Gameplay
Interface
Overall Impression

Bottom Line: Good story, great graphics, lots of fun. Combat is turn-based and features a simple to use fighting model that is just as easy to learn. Horrible voice acting. Line of sight in battles is unrealistic.

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