Operencia: The Stolen Sun (Xbox One) Review

By Gabriel Jones 25.05.2019

Review for Operencia: The Stolen Sun on Xbox One

In a world bathed in eternal twilight, there lived an ordinary farmer. Her name was Gizella, and there really wasn't much else to say about her. After a long day of tilling fields, she laid her head down to rest. However, her dreams were invaded by visions of a glorious reindeer. This magnificent hooved creature led her to a decrepit castle under a lake, and then disappeared. Every night thereafter, she had the same dream, until finally she decided to act on it. With little more than the clothes on her back, and a rusty sword, she set out on an enchanted journey. Did she rescue the Sun King Napkiraly, and slayed all who opposed her? Find out in Operencia: The Stolen Sun.

Since the days of Wizardry, the grid-based, dungeon-crawler has shown a remarkable tenacity. It's a genre that not only refuses to die, but is also content in ignoring the relentless chase for open-world innovations. Perhaps there is a rare quality in these grid-based endeavours that modern titles just can't seem to possess. This critic, in particular, can't get enough of exploring dungeons one step at a time, while engaging in turn-based battles. Zen Studios, famous for their exploits in the world of digital pinball, has seen fit to grace the gaming world with Operencia: The Stolen Sun.

Before the player's story can begin, they must first take on the role of King Attila. Accompanied by his wife Reka, the duo declares war on the almighty Thaid. This is the prologue, which is designed entirely around easing newbies into various aspects, such as puzzle-solving and fighting. The heroes in this thirty-minute tale are considerably overpowered, and will make short work of anything that opposes them, including Thaid. Don't expect this feeling of invulnerability to last for very long. Anyway, this is a handy tutorial that explains all of the essentials in a convenient fashion.

With Thaid crushed and the kingdom saved, all is well, isn't it? Actually, this is where the real game begins. Before creating their avatar and delving into 20 or so hours of adventure, one must first decide on the difficulty parameters. Players who are inexperienced with dungeon-crawlers should probably leave these options alone. Some features, such the mini-map and auto-saves, can be disabled entirely. One or two people out there might also wish to do an "Ironman" play-through. That means all progress is lost when the party is wiped out. It's definitely not recommended for first-timers, but that's what makes it all the more thrilling.

Screenshot for Operencia: The Stolen Sun on Xbox One

If the idea of playing as a Warrior named Gizella doesn't sound all that great, feel free to be a Hunter named Craig, or even Max the Mage. Each of the three character classes has their own talents as well as appropriately distributed stats. As always, Warriors have the best odds of survival, squishy Mages cast powerful spells, and Hunters fall somewhere in-between. Choose the class that best suits you, and be ready to commit to that decision, for there is no way to change it once the journey begins. Also, be sure to come up with a pleasant and original name for your avatar, don't settle for something embarrassing like Gizella.

Once everything is in order, it's time to jump into twelve labyrinths of steadily-increasing difficulty. Each level is packed to the brim with monsters, puzzles, and treasure. In a rather unique twist, monsters don't ambush the party at random. Instead they wander the halls in search of human flesh. Bumping into these "wanderers" will initiate combat, though it's better to ambush them from behind, in order to guarantee the first strike.

Winning battles is not just a matter of having the right equipment. Players must also properly manage their special talents. All skills have a charge time, and will only replenish after the requisite number of turns have passed. Thus casting a healing spell at the wrong time can turn out to be disastrous. Alongside the wasted MP, the spell won't be available when it's really needed. Conversely, arranging buffs and attack techniques to use at the right moment can devastate enemy parties.

Screenshot for Operencia: The Stolen Sun on Xbox One

All told, the battle system is well-executed. It disincentives repeated use of basic attacks through a carefully constructed series of sub-systems. As long as the player carefully minds their turn order and exploits weaknesses, they'll be rewarding with smooth and efficient wins. Making full use of potions is also a good way to cover for any potential problems. If every attack option is exhausted, it might be time to throw an explosive at the enemy party. In order to ensure survival, resources have to be managed. This extends to rest and recovery. Resting is a fine way to recover HP and MP, but it requires firewood and a campfire. Try not to burn up all of the precious wood, just to recover from a few minor scratches.

If the wandering foes didn't give it away, dungeon exploration is handled in real-time. This affects everything from movement to traps, so one should be mindful of where they step. Pay attention to details when exploring! This can't be stressed enough. Some clues are obvious, many aren't. If something looks odd or out of place, it's probably a switch to interact with, or a key item that needs collecting. Keep in mind that it's not possible to obtain everything in one trip. As the story progresses, various magical artefacts will be acquired. These can be taken to previous levels to uncover previously unreachable treasure, which is pretty cool. Party members are also prone to chiming in if it seems like the player is stuck at a puzzle.

Ah yes, it's hard to imagine a dungeon crawler without a party of heroes. Well, calling a couple of these sad sacks "heroes" is probably the biggest insult to the word imaginable. Nevertheless, they're more than capable of handling themselves in battle, provided that they're well-equipped and led by a competent avatar. Since only three of the six recruits can participate in battle, it's a good idea to keep their strengths and weaknesses in mind. Don't be afraid to swap allies around if one is better suited for an upcoming fight. When it comes to experience points, nobody is ever left behind.

Screenshot for Operencia: The Stolen Sun on Xbox One

While exp-share is a convenient feature, it's also extremely important. Unlike most dungeon-crawlers, opportunities to "grind" experience or "farm" gold are impossible to come by. When a wanderer is defeated, it never returns. The same holds true for bosses. While this is a boon for explorers who wish to remain uninterrupted, it can be troublesome for those out there who aren't properly outfitting their party. This is all the more reason to thoroughly explore each level. Completing objectives and discovering secrets will result in additional experience. Thankfully, the standard level of difficulty leans towards the forgiving side. Perfectionists will undoubtedly have an easier time in battle, but even suboptimal builds can survive Operencia.

Some enemies are a real nuisance to deal with. In one of the dungeons, there are packs of rat shamans who summon frequent allies to protect them. Gryphons hiding in the treetops are capable of the same. Summons also have a habit of acting just as soon as they appear. This can be especially aggravating in the (very rare) situations where they're capable of healing spells, because they'll have no qualms about restoring their master to full health. Copper Soldiers also tend to be serious jerks - after losing about half of their HP, they'll fire off an AOE attack that drains the party's MP. Due to the rather low enemy variety, it's not uncommon to face several of the same foes repeatedly, adding to the annoyance.

Yours truly is of two minds when it comes to the graphics. Operencia: The Stolen Sun is a superb-looking game. Each locale is wondrous to explore. It's also pretty awesome how much life is breathed into monsters, when they're fully animated. When a dragonkin breathes fire on the party, it's like the entire screen is being set ablaze, which makes for a great visual. However, since the player has to wait for everyone to act, the pacing of battles can get a little slow and repetitive. It's especially noticeable to anyone who has been spoiled by dungeon-crawlers that include fast-forward options.

Screenshot for Operencia: The Stolen Sun on Xbox One

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Operencia: The Stolen Sun is an extremely solid dungeon-crawler. Each labyrinth runs the gamut of ferocious monsters and confounding puzzles that fans of the genre crave. Fights tend to be repetitious and suffer from rough pacing, but the battle system is clearly thought-out and enjoyable to master. The array of options, from party-building to difficulty customization, allows for someone to carve out their own identity. It's also nice that the cast is quirky and endearing. Even the avatar will commentate on the situation, rather than stew in silence like so many other blank slates. This makes for an adventure that's amusing in every respect.

Developer

Zen Studios

Publisher

Zen Studios

Genre

Turn Based RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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