[Review] Operencia: The Stolen Sun – Nintendo Switch

Written by Thomas Haroldsen
  • Developer: Zen Studios
  • Publisher: Zen Studios
  • Release Date: 31/03/2020
  • Price: £26.99 / $29.99
  • Review code provided by Zen Studios

Introducing: Operencia Switch Review

I’m always thrilled when I see new first-person dungeon-crawlers come to the Nintendo Switch. Even when combining the Japanese and Western output, there’s only a handful of titles in this genre on the system. Operencia: The Stolen Sun falls under the latter and evoked feelings of nostalgia for my bygone times with the Wizardry series. Journey along with me as I dive headlong into this dungeon delver and see if Operencia gets lost in a maze of ancient gameplay mechanics or follows the map to modern success.

The Three Worlds

Operencia: The Stolen Sun may be wrapped and billed as a dungeon-crawler, but the narrative is the garish bow perfectly tying the whole package together. Its beautiful trappings beg to be pulled as the mystery unravels around the band of unlikely heroes. Before embarking on your quest to find the missing sun, you fill the shoes of a legendary King and Queen who’s history echoes through the ages. You learn of their past success, how they defeated a beastly dragon and prevented the spread of underworld beings. Upon the dragon’s defeat, it vows to return once again when the time is right.

Now that significant time has passed, you take control of a single hero who searches for clarity from cryptic dreams. These mystifying dreams spur your customized hero into action down an unknown path. Throughout the journey you’ll encounter odd travellers who join you for one reason or another.

I was a bit let down that I didn’t get to create my entire party. There’s good reason for this as the characters you encounter who join your rag-tag team are remarkably written and acted. The banter between comrades during each step of the journey was crafted in a captivating way. Simple sentences set the mood of mirth or danger and were always enjoyable to hear. Even my wife, who overheard much of the dialogue, was drawn into the world of Operencia and the narrative surrounding these digital strangers. The written and spoken lore is some of the best I have ever seen in this sub-genre of RPG and set a new bar in active storytelling.

Sunken Castles

I rarely get lost in riveting stories when it comes to first-person dungeon-crawlers. These games typically draw me in with creative character customization and a wealth of labyrinths to explore. Though the former is lacking, the latter is not. Exploration of the digital dungeons in Operencia continued to impress me with each new area. The combat is turn-based and offers plenty of depth without getting too complex. Enemies are visible on the map and in limited supply. Grinding to higher levels wasn’t an option and not entirely necessary as most battles are scaled to fit your current strength. Despite having plenty of areas to explore, this gave the game a rather linear feeling and took more control away than I would have liked.

Speaking of control, character movement was a bit different in Operencia. You still move in grid-based fashion on set tiles. In a unique twist, there’s freedom in your movements which allow you to look around during each step. This made the journey feel more fluid and was a nice design choice when so many games of this similitude come off as blocky by comparison. This level of exploration of course translates to seeking out hidden passages and secrets.

Operencia doesn’t disappoint with plenty of hidden goodies if you don’t mind overturning every stone and carefully inspecting every nook and cranny. In addition to the secrets are constant puzzles and riddles. The puzzles in Operencia were well thought out and quizzically implemented. It was nice to experience fresh enigmas as many first-person dungeon-crawlers rely on traditional approaches.

Trees Eternal

The beautiful art style and mesmerizing mazes left me in awe every several steps. My capture button started to wear out with overuse. That’s not to say each twist and turn was perfectly rendered. My biggest complaint was every time I turned, the fading walls would glimmer with unrendered gaps. This became problematic when scouring for hidden buttons and tiny items such as keys which occasionally glow. More often than I care to admit, I would turn down a new corridor to see a flash out of the corner of my eye and think I missed some hidden gimmick. After retracing my steps to no avail, I continued my desperate search, cursing the defective programming. To say the least, it quickly dispelled any illusion of immersion.

The music, like much of the art, was masterfully composed. The soundtrack meshed well during the narration, exploration and combat. It was always pleasant to listen to and helped prop up the fantastical fairytale. Likewise, the voice actors did a tremendous job bringing the characters to life and left a lasting impression.

Cursed Chains

From a technical perspective, Operencia ran well enough. As I mentioned above, poorly rendered backgrounds detracted from exploration and added unnecessary time when combing over corners. Combat would, at times, get a bit choppy when several enemies assailed your squad. These dips in framerate were quite noticeable but only happened sparingly. Both of these issues presented themselves in docked and handheld mode, so your playstyle will see them regardless. None of them ruined the game, but they did distract from immersion.

Final Wrap

Operencia: The Stole Sun took chances on movement and combat, both of which paid off in insightful and engaging ways. The story is a perfect concoction of fairytale, humor and humanity. The voice actors did a tremendous job and left me with several memorable moments, even at the risk of reducing my customization freedom with my party. Operencia is a great value and despite its flaws, gave me some of my most exciting times in gorgeous labyrinths filled with mystery.

Pros

  • Memorable Characters
  • Gorgeous Environments
  • Engaging Exploration

Cons

  • Limited Combat
  • Technical Chops and Drops

Verdict
Operencia: The Stolen Sun will will steal your time and captivate your attention with gorgeous worlds and enchanting tales of adventure.
4/5

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