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Wednesday 13 December 2017
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Oure Review

Oure Review

Sometimes it’s not clear what a game is trying to do, exactly, or what you were meant to get out of playing it. Sometimes a game just exists, and you finish it feeling neither richer nor poorer for having played. Oure is one such game; it’s pleasant in parts, but it lacks a clear vision and sense of purpose.

In Oure you play as a young boy or girl who, in the game’s opening moments, is pushed through a glowing door of light and finds themselves suddenly able to transform into a long and slender dragon, one obviously inspired by Chinese mythology. This type of dragon is a traditional sign of prosperity, and the game implies throughout that the actions you take may be repairing a broken world. Of course. There’s a personal cost–there usually is in this sort of narrative–but there’s not much in the way of pathos in this plot.

After a brief tutorial you’re unleashed into an open expanse of clouds and invited to fly around the game’s hub, following glowing markers to your next objective and collecting scattered blue orbs to progress. The dragon is simple to control, because there’s not actually a lot it can do–you can climb up or dive down while flying through the air, and speed up if your stamina has recharged. The dragon is pleasantly zippy, and snaking through the skies at fast speeds is inherently satisfying. Gliding through the air, dipping into clouds, chasing orbs, and simply existing peacefully as the dragon is the most enjoyable part of the game. Unfortunately, the appeal of flying around wanes fairly quickly–the sky holds few surprises, and there’s never a major change of pace or scenery. Wherever you go, it’s just clouds as far as the eye can see, and the few collectables and additional pieces of lore you can scavenge aren’t going to amount to anything significant beyond a few PlayStation Trophies. The novelty of flying around as a dragon wears thin because the game gives you little sense of purpose outside of your primary objective.

Your ultimate goal is to tame eight Titans, and to do so you need to collect the aforementioned orbs (although you can finish the game having collected less than a quarter of them) and activate pillars scattered around the map. Doing so is as simple as flying to them and finding their nearby activation point, at which point a Titan sequence will kick off. Most of these encounters are over within a few minutes, and combined they don’t add up to much. The Titans might be epic in scale but taking them down is either very simple or annoyingly fiddly, with the game never quite finding the right balance in between.

The relaxing tone of flying through the clouds is at odds with these Titan sequences, and it’s hard to identify a coherent link between the two parts of the game. The goal in each sequence is to grab every one of the glowing spires attached to a Titan, flying over them and figuring out the best way to approach the Titan’s weak points. Each one requires a different method, but there’s nothing here that feels particularly distinct–if you’ve played games with boss fights in them you’ll be familiar with many of the approaches. After you grab a spire you’ll have to solve a quick line-drawing puzzle, a la The Witness, to pull it out. Once all of them are pulled out the Titan will be tamed.

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Among these sections there are quite a few good ideas, like scouring a creature’s back for puzzle clues or one sequence that resembles a simplistic arcade shooter (albeit one where you don’t shoot back), but these sequences aren’t rich enough to elicit a strong response or make them memorable. I never felt a sense of achievement beating any of them, and by the time I’d defeated all eight I was surprised that the game had so little to offer. The difficulty curve is all over the place, too. The second Titan, which will occasionally knock you back with gusts of wind unless you grab onto pegs scattered along its enormous back, took me the longest to complete out of any of them. It was frustrating rather than feeling like a fair challenge–there’s no indication of when the big gust is about to hit, and losing all your progress along the beast’s back every time the wind came felt unfair. Only one Titan encounter felt particularly unique in how it was designed, forcing you to switch between dragon and child forms to progress (and even that one has some frustrating structural issues).

There just isn’t very much to Oure beyond aimless exploring, since the battles are unsatisfying and brief and the collectables feel arbitrary. Lazily soaring through the clouds collecting orbs and finding secrets can be momentarily relaxing, but there’s no compelling reason to keep exploring the clouds once you’ve wrapped up the Titan fights. The plot doesn’t go anywhere, and the main action sequences feel like a small batch of concept proofs. Oure is the gaming equivalent of a daydream–it’s pleasant and light, but it feels like a distraction rather than something worth latching on to.