Ominous Horizons: A Paladin's Calling
|a game by||N'Lightning Software|
|Editor Rating:||6/10, based on 1 review|
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Hail, adventurer! You are a Paladin -- literally a warrior in God's service. Armed with a holy sword and spiritual armor, your quest is to recover parts of the Bible stolen by the forces of evil and hidden in different locations throughout the world. Your faith must sustain you, for you shall be sorely tested indeed. But do not fear, for as a Paladin you may rest assured that the forces of Good will watch over and protect you.
Ominous Horizons, the second game title produced by Oregon-based N'Lightning Software, is a first-person shooter with a twist. The game is, for lack of a better description, an interpretive Christian adventure wherein you take the role of a lone paladin. The storyline is as follows: you travel to Muntz, Germany by request of the Church, where you find that Johannes Gutenberg's printing press has been destroyed and the only printed copy of the Bible has been stolen. Without the printed Bible, Western civilization as we know it would not come to be. Your quest is to travel to locations across the globe such as Scotland, Egypt, Mesa Verde and others in search of the Nemesis and to recover the lost Bible. Your quest will also take you to the depths of the Underworld itself.
Does this sound intriguing? Perhaps -- but in this case, poor graphics, a slew of bugs and gameplay reminiscent of the early '90s make Ominous Horizons a game to avoid.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
First, let's discuss the game in general. The concept is different from most FPS games out there in that your character loses faith points instead of health. Finding scriptural texts or other items while playing can restore faith. Lose your faith completely, and you have to start over from where you last saved.
Your character has three types of weapons and several pieces of armor to collect, as well as charges for some of the weapons and the aforementioned scripture scrolls. However, weapon effects and animation leave a lot to be desired. Your main weapon is a sword, but rather than swinging it, you direct blasts of power through it to defeat your enemies. There is also a crossbow and staff which have different power-ups, but make more sense than the sword in that they look more like something should be shot from them. The sword pointing forward as you run, shooting small bolts of power, just seems sort of silly.
You will encounter a total of ten different enemy types in this game, as well as three distinct weapons and a full set of armor in your battle against evil. This is a very small amount of enemies and items, and there are relatively few power-ups distributed throughout the game. The rendering of enemies ranges from mediocre to outright poor, and their AI for the most part is also fairly poor. This is a bloodless game by design; attacking your enemies leads to unclean spirits being cast out of hosts. However, defeating enemies in this fashion has led the designers to make some odd, confusing "death" shots. For example, a defeated Anubis looks remarkably close to the way it looks during a teleport attack, with the exception of a halo. Defeating Thunderbird, the 1st level boss, is very confusing; you're not sure if you beat it even when it's flying away.
The various levels contain linear, very easily solved "puzzles." Also, there seem to be several buggy places on each level where your character will become inexplicably and permanently stuck. Not to be too harsh, but I've seen mediocre Quake II mods with more replay value than the levels in Ominous Horizons.
As far as controls go, the game uses the standard keyboard and mouse configuration prevalent in most of today's FPS-style games. The configuration is easily modified inside the main configuration screen, and allows for alternate key selections to fit your specific style of play. The Heads-up display in game is minimal, and interaction with NPCs and the game field itself reflects this. The selection screens are easy to navigate and well designed, and include such detail as the specific version of scripture to be used for quotes (I used the King James Version in mine). Saving the game is automatic, but the option still exists to save at almost any point in the game; however, there were some bugs here as well. I could not specify my card type after installing the game, and trying to resize the gameboard from 640x480 was also unsuccessful. Perhaps it's my card; I can't say.
Mercifully, Ominous Horizons does not have multiplayer support.
Ominous Horizons was designed with Genesis 3-D, an open source three-dimensional game engine. To quote N'Lightning's own web page, the developers "have pushed the Genesis engine to max capacity" when creating Ominous Horizons. If this claim is true the Genesis engine might not be a good choice for future developers, as almost every aspect of the game looks amateurish at best. Character modeling is sloppy and slow-moving (though the skin quality isn't too bad); buildings are blocky, poorly textured and severely limited with item placement; and as previously mentioned, the overall quality of levels is very poor.
In-game sound and music are not especially memorable. There are some nature sound effects, different creature shrieks/cries, the occasional annoying townsperson or other NPC, and of course your weapons, but other than that there really isn't much to notice as far as audio effects are concerned.
Requires Win 9X/2000/ME (no NT), 64 MB RAM, P-266 processor or better, as well as 400MB HD space.
This game requires the use of Glide or Direct 3D compatible cards, so you must have a graphics accelerator to play it at all.
A quick note: Ominous Horizons has strongly Christian overtones and from page one in the documentation tells you its purpose is to teach others about Christian principles. While I personally have no problem with this message, I do have a problem with the external packaging failing to mention any of this. An uninformed person might buy this game expecting a Diablo experience, and find out only after the reading the documentation that it is indeed a Christian game. Some sort of information on the box would be more helpful, as I felt it to be somewhat misleading.
Even though the game takes a spiritual, low-violence angle in the first-person shooter category, it fails to be more than briefly entertaining. The graphics, while 3D-rendered, don't hold a candle to games designed five years ago without 3D effects. Add to this the linear maps, uninspired gameplay, poor AI and item placement, and a somewhat weak and boring plotline and you've pretty much summed up the Ominous Horizons experience. I cannot in good conscience recommend this game to anyone, even with the suggested price tag of $29.95. If you really want to play this game, try downloading the demo from their site; it'll give you a much better view of what I'm talking about without having to invest your hard-earned money.