OPUS: Echoes of Starsong is the third OPUS game but don’t let that put you off if you’ve not played one before. Each story is self contained and standalone. OPUS is more of a style of game you might enjoy if you love a visual novel that never feels like one. That’s because everything is broken up into a galactic road trip of short, sharp travels with some light puzzles and resource management to keep you engaged.
In OPUS: Echoes of Starsong you’ll be mostly playing as Jun. Jun has been exiled from his clan for losing the caves that they owned and mined Lumen from. Lumen is a bit like crystallised energy that’s been fused with souls and spirits of the dead. As this powers each of the planets, caves, outputs and space stations around the solar system, wars have been raged to take over or defend Lumen caves. However, with Lumen now in short supply, witches are used to sing and record voice tracks to resonant with Lumen and discover untapped mines of them. These witches are trained like military women. The story reminds me of fossil fuels on Earth and the parallels initially are interesting. Eda is the second character you play as and she is a witch travelling the solar system to discover Lumen. You’ll also have two other characters – Kay who is Jun’s guardian and Remi your pilot. Together the four of you will meet by chance and travel the stars in search of glory.
To say more of the story will start to spoil it. Whilst I’ve outlined the initial scope of the story, much of what you discover isn’t really related to that. Instead, you’ll be uncovering memories to fill out the world. OPUS’ best asset is its world building and with years of lore to uncover, the world feels lived in. The characters do have progression but are quite anime in their styles and tropes. Jun needs a slap a few times but largely grows into a more mature, less selfish human whilst Eda grows in confidence in herself. For me, it was less about the humans but more about the mystery of the world around you that made me so engaged with the game. Whomever wrote the scripting and dialogue places the lore into dialogue and dialect – its so well done.
It’s not all story though, there are two types of puzzles to complete. The first involves rotating light orbs around the screen to see if they can trigger a starsong to be recorded. The second then takes those starsongs and you have to fan out their light rays onto patterns of stone and align them. They are quite simple to do and occasionally a little picky about whether they are right or wrong. The other element of the game is light resource management as you travel across the stars. You’ll have to manage fuel, shields and exploration kits. The first lets you travel, the second is HP that can be taken from randomly generated events and the third lets you go mining for resources. Sell what you find and buy more fuel, shields and kits. You can also buy upgrades for your ship from resources or pendants in shops.
Conversations and travelling will constantly bring you event choices. This are randomly generated outcomes like a dice roll. You may have a dice that runs between 1 and 10 and you’ll need to roll a 4 or higher for example for the good result. Buying pendants and upgrading your shop boosts your highest score possible which means you’ll have more chance of something good happening. It’s a light extra but as a choice happens every few minutes, it’s quite involving.
All this, plus beautifully styled graphics, 2D caves to spelunk and some lovely music, means that you’ll be playing a visual novel that never feels like a visual novel. 95% of your time you’ll be reading or engrossed in something story related and yet it never feels dull or stagnant. The way OPUS: Echoes of Starsong just fans out its lore, story, characters and gameplay keeps you wanting to see what happens next without feeling like clickbait. My only mild gripe is that the save function for manual saves is hidden away in a weird menu you can only access between story beats. Sometimes story beats go on for up to 20 minutes and if you need to save, you can’t. That aside, this is one of the best visual novel styled games I’ve played in years.
Review copy provided by publisher.
OPUS: Echoes of Starsong
A fine story told in a fascinating way with a world that begs to be explored. One of the best examples of visual novels not feeling like a visual novel at all.
The world is full of lore for you to discover.
Both Jun and Eda get plenty of time in the sun to develop and evolve.
The resource management and puzzles are light enough to not take over but worthwhile enough to add something to the game.
Sometimes you want to shake Jun and say 'its not always about your clan mate'.
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