Operencia: The Stolen Sun Review
Operencia: The Stolen Sun is an old school dungeon crawler that evokes real feelings of nostalgia, but might be a bit more difficult to adapt to for those used to the comforts of more modern games. These challenging retro-style games have seen a bit of a comeback recently, most notably with surprise hit Darkest Dungeon. Operencia operates in a bit more straightforward way than DD though, with a static cast of characters, and no fatigue or other usage concerns to worry about. You’re free to use the same party for the entirety of the game if you’d like.
The cast of characters tops out at seven, with four in your party at a given time. The protagonist you create can be one of four classes, and while my character turned into a powerhouse over the course of the game, I was a bit disappointed that I went with the warrior class, as it felt like there was quite a bit of ability and style overlap with my other characters for a good chunk of the game. The consensus choice for variety seems to be the mage, as you don’t add a mage to your party until about halfway through the game.
The variety is nice because the meat and potatoes of the game is combat. Sure, there are puzzles to solve, secrets to uncover, and areas to explore, but you’re doing those things to reach the next combat encounter.
Combat consists of tried and true turn-based role-playing. For the most part this means an enemy turn and a player turn, although the order of execution starts to vary as agility stats separate. Luckily, there’s an indicator on the left side of the screen showing you which characters act next and when a new turn has started.
Fans of older RPGs will feel right at home with the battle mechanics. Buffs, debuffs, area of effect attacks, damage ranges, and hit percentages all come into play as RNG determines the outcome of your actions. It’s easy to get into a groove for a particular dungeon when you have a strategy that works, which doesn’t encourage too much experimentation with your party, particularly on the normal difficulty.
The amount of challenge is often largely up to the player. Save points offer the option to rest using a firewood item to restore health and ability points. While there are a few stretches where you’ll run into several fights in a row, for the most part you’ll always have the option to run back to a save point and heal up. It was a bit of an odd feeling having this escape valve that would allow me to spam my best attacks and not focus on healing, but it felt like I was only hurting myself if I took advantage of it, turning the game into more of something that plays itself than asks for my skill.
It’s worth noting that there are a finite number of enemies in each dungeon so there’s no real push for you to grind for experience. The grind appears a bit due to the fact that as you move through each dungeon, there will be clearly inaccessible areas. These spots, whether they be broken bridges or mysterious seeds, can be accessed once a corresponding ability is unlocked in a later dungeon. This means you’re encouraged to go back to already cleared areas with your new ability to find that one spot you couldn’t get to, for which you might be rewarded with another battle and a treasure chest. Unfortunately, it feels more like a chore to head back and mop up these areas for an incremental weapon or armor upgrade, and that it was unnecessary busywork in an already 20+ hour long game.
That being said, the other busywork the game throws at you like simple puzzles were more enjoyable than I expected. This wasn’t because of any great design as they’re all relatively simple, but because the rest of your party comments along with your progress. This not only makes for a handy reminder of clues, but the character banter was actually quite enjoyable! Operencia toes a fine line between diving into some lore and keeping the dialogue funny without really wading into cheeseball territory.
Overall, it’s a well-made game and it feels right at home on the Switch, but don’t expect it to do anything revolutionary. There was a nice feeling of nostalgia while playing the game, but you could have told me that I was playing a remake of an older game and I wouldn’t have batted an eye. It certainly didn’t make the game feel bad, but even the grid-based movement system felt unnecessarily old school. Given that you still need to look for items on 360 degrees, using the grid felt like going to the past for its own sake.
Operencia is worth playing if you’re into its genre, but probably won’t be enough to convert someone who isn’t interested. It’s a good game to play on the go and will be a trip down memory lane for some gamers. While it’s probably not going to stick with you over time, it’s still a fun ride.