Gain momentum, or be doomed: An updated look at Omen of Sorrow from Evo Japan

Back in the summer, we ran a preview article on AOne Game’s upcoming horror fighter Omen of Sorrow, based on the then-current public build. Now, with a new build playable to the public at Evo Japan, we just couldn’t resist the chance to check out how the game is shaping up.

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We already covered the basics of the game in our original preview. However, here’s a quick recap of what it’s all about. Omen of Sorrow is a horror-themed fighter that focuses on fast paced, ground based combat, in the vein of The King of Fighters series, or Street Fighter Alpha 3, with a tiny smidge of Under Night In-Birth thrown in. As part of this, it features a unique “Blessed” gauge that fills up whenever the player commits to any forward motion or action.

The most prominent option given by the “Blessed” gauge is the ability to cancel any move into a special, called a “Bold Cancel,” by consuming two stocks. Other options include a “Retreat,” similar to backwards EX rolls in The King of Fighters, and a Blessed Mode that allows for full-on custom combos at the cost of all three stocks of the meter.

Losing all of your Blessed gauge, either from being too passive in defending, or simply overusing the options when there isn’t enough meter, results in a “Doomed” state. When “Doomed,” players lose access to all of a character’s throws and special moves. More importantly, it makes any incoming heavy attack break their guard.

In theory, this seems like the game would heavily encourage rushing down. And to a point, it does. It’s pretty easy to win just by staying in an opponent’s face and building Blessed gauge, while keeping them from building their own, especially with characters like the Fei Long-esque werewolf Caleb.

However, with the right character (and in the hands of the right player), zoning and distance-based play is still possible, and viable in the game. During my time at the AOne Games booth at Evo, I was matched up with Grapht’s Leah “Gllty” Hayes, a player known for favoring technical zoning characters. While she initially struggled while trying out characters like Zafkiel, she soon found her groove with Dr. Hyde, the game’s zoning-slash-grappler hybrid.

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Dr. Hyde’s main trick is that he can toss out vials which have various effects. One drains Blessed gauge, one knocks down, and another particularly nasty one slows his opponent down (even their jumps, which become extra-floaty). These vials can be either rolled on the ground, or thrown in an arc in the air. These are complimented by a command grab that can be ended in different ways depending on the button pressed. The command grab has significant range, making it a great way to punish people trying to get past the vials.

By using a combination of rolled and thrown vials, and then command grabbing me when I did make it past the pattern, Gllty was able to rack up a number of wins against my Caleb. The latter did have an arcing slash move that’s supposed to go over the rolled vials, but it kept getting clipped in the legs — something the developers said shouldn’t be happening. In the end, I was forced to switch to Gabriel and scoring knockdowns with his projectile to try to get in.

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There was also a counter zoner in the lineup at Evo, Vladislav III, who automatically teleports close when his projectiles hit — but I didn’t have the opportunity to test him out (mostly due to bull-headedness, trying to win with Gabriel!).

The thing to note is that Dr. Hyde isn’t even the “true” zoner in the game’s cast. The developers pointed out that they still had two true zoning characters in the works that weren’t ready for Evo Japan. This shows that, despite the game’s momentum-heavy rushdown focus, it’s still possible to play a zoning-based style in it. It seems then that AOne Games isn’t sacrificing playstyle variety in favor of puret rushdown.

This is also helped by the rather long stages. While this seems somewhat an odd choice that could possibly slow the game down, the long stages actually do seem to work. Once players have enough Blessed meter, they can easily pull off combos that cover a lot of ground. From what was on show at Evo, most bread-and-butter combos here would probably count as near-fullscreen corner-carry combos in other games.

If there was anything that could slow the game down, at least in the Evo Japan build, it was how having super meter regenerates life. Now in our earlier preview, super meter built quite slowly, so this wasn’t much of an issue. Super meter in this build, however, seemed to build much faster — and combined with the life regen mechanic, resulted in rounds that took longer than they should. From my own experience, this resulted in players simply sitting on multiple bars of meter to keep the health regen up — especially since Bold Cancel combos using the Blessed meter seemed to do decent damage without needing to use super meter for EX moves or supers.

Other than that though, the game itself felt pretty solid. The Blessed gauge is an interesting system to encourage more active play, doing more to urge players to be aggressive with Bold Cancels and custom combos, while still punishing those who play too passively. On top of that, the character design seems to promise some playstyle variety despite the focus on aggression — making sure those who prefer non-rushdown playstyles aren’t alienated.

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