I love atmospheric narrative experiences with some exploration in them that also play in space. This sounds oddly specific but in the end, it’s basically right up my alley and I love it when I get to play stuff like Outer Wilds or In Other Waters and get immersed in wonderful tales and stories. For today’s review, I took my first steps into the OPUS franchise by SIGONO Inc. but even if Echo of Starsong is a standalone game with its own story, I kind of am sad that I didn’t play the other two OPUS games first. Either way, today’s review is on OPUS: Echo of Starsong, a lovely little narrative puzzle adventure game!
Developer: SIGONO, Inc. Publisher: SIGONO, Inc. Genre: Space, Adventure, Puzzle, Indie, Sci-Fi Release Date: September 1st, 2021 Reviewed on: PC Available on: PC Copy was provided by the publisher.
OPUS: Echo of Starsong begins with the old noble Jun who reminisces of his younger days and tells his story through his memories. In his younger days, Jun was exiled and traveled across space with Kay, his guardian, and protector, as well as Eda, a young witch that can detect so-called “star songs”, melodies that asteroids with so-called lumen caves emit. Jun’s objective back then was to conquer these lumen caves, to find a rather precious mineral named lumen so that he can redeem himself and return to his home. As you solve some light puzzles and manage your resources, you uncover more of an ancient civilization’s secrets and learn more about the characters’ pasts, which is something I personally dig quite a lot.
What really intrigued me was this core gameplay loop of exploration, resource management, crafting, and narrative design and how it all mixes together. OPUS combines these different aspects but doesn’t venture too far from its narrative Adventure roots, which works quite well in its favour. Yes, there are puzzles and other mechanics involved throughout the story but the developers kept the gameplay relatively simple to provide an accessible experience where you can enjoy the story at your own pace. The core gameplay loop makes you explore the different locations of the asteroids belt, always looking for new caves, locations, and loot. Sometimes you may find parts that you can use to upgrade your ship, loot to sell off for money, resources that you need for your travels such as fuel or armor plates, and you may even see an event or two during your travels. For example, I encountered these space pirates here that are after our heads and we either had the option of running… or we could send a signal where we pose as a civilian ship to sneak our way through it. These encounters have a difficulty ranking and based on your ship’s signal strength, you basically get a chance of success. After our first upgrade, for instance, it rolled between 2 and 12 instead of 0 and 10, resulting in a higher chance of evading the space pirates with their threat level of 5.
As you explore the story and follow along several chapters, you have to find caves and signals using Eda’s ability. To do so, you need to align the stars to match the frequency of the song. What sounds complicated is in fact a simple puzzle of aligning stuff until it sounds similar… but it works nice in the form of immersion and once you did it once, you get the hang of it quickly. Meanwhile, Jun has to do the job of a “Runner”, exploring caves, solving puzzles, and utilizing starsong samples to activate doors and find the precious lumen. In between exploration, crafting, and singing, there are also little events that happen with the crew members as well as messages that you can check out and all in all, it gave me Cowboy Bebop vibes with how the crew interacts with each other. There’s the stubborn but kind Eda, for starters, who had a rough childhood but is doing her best to help all the people that need help. Remi may be a bit hard to deal with but she has her reasons and she’s not that bad. Jun is quite stubborn as well but mostly because of his exile and his wish of restoring his clan’s honour. And Kay is a gem of a guardian who’s doing his best to protect and educate his master, Jun. All of these characters have their own characteristics that make them unique and loveable. Three hours into the game, I got goosebumps during certain events that I won’t get into and five hours into the game, I absolutely fell in love with the crew and couldn’t wait to write this review.
As you may be able to tell, I’m in love with this game. It’s cute, unique, and interesting, and to top it all off, the atmosphere is amazing. The star map is incredibly pretty while the art style during the text-based cutscenes and the 2.5D cave runs impresses you with bright and beautiful colours as well as interesting concepts throughout each lumen cave. There are temples that remind you that these caves were once utilized by an ancient civilization and yet, you see these pipes and machines that show you how advanced said civilization was, and it kind of mixes this mystical atmosphere with a little bit of steampunk and a little bit of science-fiction, which works incredibly well. similarly, the soundtrack is great and adds to the immersion, although I’ll have to say that I’d love it more if you could hear it more often through the exploration. Just a little bit more at least, although I understand that the world also needs its quiet moments.
But at last, I had a tiny little issue with the save file and stuff… I’d love it if the game would let me save at any time in case I need to leave prematurely. It’s a bit annoying when you leave in the middle of a play session and it ends up not saving. The game warns you that unsaved progress will be lost but why can’t you save manually? Or why can’t the game tell you when the last time was that it saved? Stuff like that kind of ticks me off… and the other thing that bothered me is that you cannot bulk-sell items. It’s a bit annoying overall, but probably could be fixed with a small update.
Overall, I can highly recommend OPUS: Echo of Starsong. As far as I know, all three OPUS games are standalone experiences that play in the same universe but thousands of years apart, so you may enter with the first or second game and later come back to this but even if you don’t do that (like me), I’d like to say that this game with its presentation, core gameplay loop, and the world’s lore… is amazing. This game is great for fans of narrative experiences. If you’re looking for a challenge, this title may not be for you but anyone looking for a nice story with some light puzzles and a little bit of exploration will be happy with OPUS: Echo of Starsong! This could quite possible be one of the best releases from this year!