This title has been developed by Metropolis. It is being published in the UK by Topware as Gorky 17. It is also being published in the US by Monolith, under the title Odium. To make a long story short, Odium and Gorky 17 are interchangeable names for this particular title, so don't be confused by that. On with the review!
The intro movie, which shows some Russian choppers flying about a city and a creature suffering from several sight impairing ailments, seems to have almost nothing to do with how you begin the game. Without any sort of briefing or actual introduction to your mission, you start at a little harbor somewhere. It's dark, gathering from the fact that the menu looked a bit ghoulish. Your team consists of NATO soldiers armed with big guns and that aforementioned creature of the intro. You would be of the opinion that your objective is to wander around and shoot lots of bad guys; You would then be proved immediately right as the game enters it's "combat mode". Combat mode is much like that of Final Fantasy, however unlike Final Fantasy you are given no introduction to any of the options available in combat, which is fine, because there aren't many. After this brief action scene, the game begins to unfold. The one thing you will notice immediately is the background scenes, since they are gorgeous. The best artwork I have ever seen is displayed in every section you come across in the game, and every combat scene. This must have taken them quite a while as the level of detail in these pictures is just mind-boggling. Sometimes you just feel guilty passing through a screen so quickly because you know how long it must have taken artists to create such picturesque landscapes. The models are also nicely done, and can utilize 3D hardware to display your well rendered NATO soldier's and the hordes of deformed hybrid nasties with big pointy teeth and guns.
The turn-based combat quickly starts to deplete your ammo supply as you realize that most of the game is going to be a hunt for scarcely available ammo for your small collection of different guns. Hand-to-hand weapons are nicely done though, with baseball bats, axes and crowbars all leaving their impressions on the craniums of varying evil things. A gripe here though would be that the guns are all rather simplified, as you have your rifle, pistol, shotgun, Uzi and a small collection of specialized weapon. Every weapon is actually useful in a different situation, so you can never really try and get an "upgraded" or simply "better" weapon, and the only way to increase your hybrid killing speed is to use your favorite weapon as often as possible to increase your skill level with it. Your characters gain experience through battle, and stat upgrades are available at level ups, but its disappointingly simplified again with only a few traits, of which even less are actually *useful* options for upgrading.
Wandering around the lusciously realistic maps is sometimes a bit difficult as you cannot always see what areas are accessible, and which ones are cut off. This actual "adventuring" part of the game is also quite well done, with items you have to gain, and quite a few secret areas you can access if you know what you are doing. These however are not widely advertised and can be rather hard to find so it's quite an achievement when you do get to it. Its also rather important to find these secrets, as some guns (like the Napalm Launcher, which is in the first area) if not uncovered, will never be seen again and the stacks of napalm ammunition you find near the end of the game are wasted. The main focus of the game though, is on the battles, and every few battles you will come up against a bigger bad guy, nicely introduced by a beautifully rendered cut-scene. Now of course the story must all be a bit bullocks with all these evil hybrid things to shoot. Later on however, the story actually starts to become pretty interesting, and is, dare I say, almost gripping near the end (Though some of the concepts involved are a bit silly).
Hey this all sounds pretty good so far, but of course it doesn't come without its gripes, however minor some of them may be. You sometimes get more characters to join your party, and after outfitting them nicely, they bugger off at some undetermined point along with all your stuff. Irritating. Another thing which could have easily been there is that it would have been really nice to go *back* a section perhaps to pick up something you just realized how to gain. Now, comes the biggest flaw of all, the one that makes it fall from the reaches of stardom with a thud back to its reality. It's short. Yes ladies and gentlemen, "Odium (Gorky 17)" suffers from a severe case of being rather short. Now of course as a reviewer I play through these things perhaps a bit quicker than your average gamer, but its still gonna be short. The whole thing, the beautifully constructed backgrounds and all these nice big bad guys, the introductory cut-scenes and all feel so incredibly tightly compacted together as if they were trying to reach a limit of game playing hours and just had to crunch it all up as much as possible. It is understandable in my opinion, as all the artwork that has gone into the game must have taken ages to make already, the one thing stopping it from being longer is the artwork. But the whole thing feels a bit short-lived, the rather limited variation of guns (just your extremities), the small amount of statistics to upgrade and your limited combat system all give you the feeling of a rather short lived experience.
If you're one of those people who read the game title, scroll down to the bottom for the game rating, and then perhaps skim over the last paragraph to check its summary, you can just go right back up there and begin reading from the start just like everybody else. It's a gorgeous looking game all the way through, not with all the 3D lighting effects and bells and whistles, but the illustrious 2D backgrounds and also very well done cut-scenes along with some nice character modeling make almost everything in Odium (Gorky 17) look good. Then comes the bad point of basically every aspect of the game being rather simplified, lending the whole experience as being a rather "quick to finish" title. If you're a fan of turn-based combat with NATO soldiers wandering around for some adventuring, this one's for you.
The place? Poland. The time? The present. The mission? Discover why an entire Polish town fell silent. Secondary mission? Discover what happened to the first team that was sent in. Accomplish your mission or the town will be ground zero of a nuclear explosion. If you can't explain it ... destroy it.
Upon landing on the shore, your small team quickly encounters some thing blocking their path. The beast seems neither human nor animal, neither mechanical nor biological. It attacks, but falls under a barrage of bullets. You realize something horrible has happened. Even if you get out of this situation alive, these creatures will forever haunt your nightmares. The hatred you feel for these abominations is immense. You feel driven to find out who made these monsters, what became of the people of the city, and who the real enemy is.
Horror games seem to get more and more popular every year. With high profile console games like the Resident Evil series, it's little wonder. Monolith's Odium falls neatly into the horror setting and shows us why horror in computer games amounts to more than most horror movies (ie. it's not enough to just have a killer run around "knowing what you did last summer"). Besides having a good horror plot, Odium defies description with it's cross-genre style of gameplay. While this game might not have the marketing bang or the big money that other titles might have, it's an example of what a good, solid game should be.
Since the gameplay is the most unique part of the game, let's start there. Odium can best be described as an adventure/strategy/RPG. While many times a blending of genres can lead to problems, the fusing of gameplay in this instance just leads to a great game.
Adventure-wise, Odium is fairly standard. Find an item, use it somewhere else to solve a puzzle or to get another item . . . nothing really new here. You are in adventure mode for most of the time you play Odium. However, this all changes when you enter combat.
Once combat is initiated, the game becomes turn-based strategy, reminiscent of the X-Com series. Each of the characters you control can move a specified amount and initiate one action each turn (ie use medkit, attack the enemy, defend). Once your turn is completed, the enemy moves. Much like chess, you have to think out your moves ahead of time, so your characters don't get dismembered.
All the while, the RPG elements are in effect. Your characters gain experience and go up levels much like any RPG that you've played before. Also, the characters get better with the weapons they use the most. For example, your character might be level 3, but he might have a level 5 efficiency in rifles because you always have him use a rifle. On the other hand, he might have a level 1 efficiency in using a baseball bat. This setup allows for your characters to become highly specialized as the game progresses.
The progression of the game is another element that makes this game stand out. Though there is a definite plot line, it's remarkably non-linear. So, while you do encounter the door that requires a handprint identification to progress, you might find two or three other areas to go to instead. The game focuses more on exploration and story development rather than just going from point A to point B.
The graphics in Odium are decent, but they also don't require an uber-computer in order to run. All the backgrounds are flat images, not rendered, similar to the Resident Evil series. The characters themselves are polygonal, but they seem to interact with the surroundings very well. If you have a 3D card, it will allow you to zoom in on the action, other than that it'll look exactly the same.
All the instances of combat in Odium appear to be pre-scripted. Unlike many RPG games which feature random encounters, Odium has the creatures lay in wait, attacking you in force when you walk into their traps. When combat begins, you fight in a larger version of the exact same area that you were walking around in rather than a generic arena. While some gamers may be upset by the lack of constant action, pre-scripted battles allowed the designers to involve background interaction as a strategy in the game (ie blowing up gas barrels to kill enemies rather than shooting them directly). Also, this setup allowed the designers to fit plot progression into the battles, having many battles start or end with audio events.
The control is all mouse-driven, which is both good and bad. It's good because every action is just a few clicks away. It's bad if you have to repeat those few clicks a bunch of times in a row.
The complaints about Odium are fairly minor, but they're still noticeable. First off, the game is hard. From the first moment, you're confronted with a lot of beasties. Save often, because death can come quickly. Secondly, you can't skip audio events. While that's great because you can't skip an important event by mistake, if you die, going back through long audio events (with no pretty video) can get a bit lame.
My final gripe has to do with the plot. You control three commandos entering a quarantined city where the first team vanished. Don't you think that you'd bring more than 30 bullets per person? The US Army doesn't even let soldiers out on training missions without at least 100 rounds. They could've found a better way to balance the difficulty instead of making ammo scarce.
Though the name of the game is Odium (n. hatred coupled with disgust), it's really hard to hate this game. Novel gameplay and an engrossing plot make this game a joy to play. Fans of both RPG's and Strategy games are in for a treat. Now if only they could've thrown in a few zombies...
People who downloaded Gorky 17 (a.k.a. Odium) have also downloaded:
Heroes Chronicles, Homeworld 2, Ground Control, Etherlords 2, Hammer of The Gods, Heroes of Might and Magic 4, Ghost Master, Homeworld
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