I Found Earth In OPUS: The Day We Found Earth

As always, you may click on images to view larger versions.

Except, I didn’t really. More on that later.

OPUS: The Day We Found Earth generated a lot of word of mouth, primarily because it’s a different prospect than most games avialable for iOS and Android (it’s since been ported to PC as well): a story-focused experience. While most mobile games fall into similar molds — puzzle games, word games, limited actions on timers with microtransactions, etc. — few emphasize a linear story. Conventional wisdom says that such a game could never succeed in the mobile marketplace, where the only way to make money is to ensure players keep playing as long as possible and keep wanting to pay for convenience or vanity. A game that players will purchase once, play through, and then never touch again could never make enough money to break even, especially since the price points for mobile games are so low (typically less than $5, often as low as $1 or $2). OPUS: The Day We Found Earth seems to disprove these ideas, and for that it deserves praise, even if the actual story it offers didn’t really grab me.

OPUS tells the story of a scientific mission in the far future. Humanity is suffering from a stagnating genetic pool. Two scientists embark on a mission to locate long-lost Earth to provide a fresh injection of diversity for the species. The mission isn’t going well. Players take the role of Emeth, a childlike robot built by one of the scientists, who steps up to continue the mission against what seem to be impossible odds.

Much of the time is spent on the space station OPUS, as Emeth and other characters converse about their situation. It’s also possible to poke around the station to uncover some background information. The rest of the time is spent operating the telescope, trying to find Earth. This aspect of the game is a little odd, in that it’s not really a search. It’s more of a puzzle. Each attempt to find Earth has a specific target in mind, and some clues about where to look. Early on, these are very simple, including giving the player specific coordinates up front and simply asking that they navigate there. This felt at odds with the game’s own fiction; if the OPUS system had already found an Earth candidate somewhere, what did it need my manual telescope for? Fortunately, later targets get less specific and ask a little more from the player. New twists such as navigating by stellar landmarks and employing optional filters make identifying potential Earths more interesting. But it’s always a matter of finding the specific location that the game has in mind, rather than a true hunt.

The ambiance is more successful. Searching the stars for Earth is a relaxing experience, with a high quality original soundtrack that evokes the timelessness of the galaxy. Sound effects are perfect as well, from the faint whirr of the telescope as it moves around, to the soft bleeps and bloops when scanning star systems. I also love the visual effects when scanning things, which have pitch-perfect sci-fi style. This made scanning feel satisfying, even if I was only following the clues the game fed to me.

The story, told between the telescope sessions, didn’t work as well for me. Emeth’s earnestness and blundering optimism is supposed to be endearing, but it felt overdone to me. The writers seemed to be trying too hard to get me to like him. The overarching story is straightforward too, so there weren’t any unexpected turns of events to pique my interest. I was hoping for a little more background to the tale. But, in fairness, it’s a smaller story than those typical on other game platforms, clocking in at roughly 90 minutes. And, while developers Sigono offer a variety of cosmetic items in exchange for small transactions (pitched as opportunities for players to donate to the team if they enjoy the game), the full story can be experienced at a very low price point, with the early sections available for free as a demo. One should not expect something of the same scale as a console or PC game.

Overall, I had a decent enough time, and was impressed with the production throughout. After initial confusion about the actual star searching, I came to view the game as a visual novel with a few puzzles in it. And while the story didn’t impress me that much, I applaud the effort to bring something new to the mobile games market, which can feel stagnant. It’s worth a try, especially since the opening stages can be sampled for free. I look forward to whatever Sigono does next.

I played the Android version of OPUS: The Day We Found Earth.

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