Saturday, 30 August 2014

The Nomad Soul (PC) - Part 2

Click to jump back to Omikron: The Nomad Soul part one.

Well I fucked that fight up entirely, but fortunately I got away with it.

I woke up on the tiles to find myself being healed back to health by a doctor armed with a Star Trek regeneration beam, feeling like I just wasted a 1 up somehow. At least now I'm free to put all this supermarket crap behind me and get back to finding other ways to fuck up Kay'l's life.


Funny how every bar in this town has these poles and posters in it.

I've been completing the other police jobs logged in Kay'l's arm computer, but after I stop this Sneak smuggling ring I'm going to have to finally do something about these confidential case files. The thing is, I have no idea what!

I need to get inside the sealed archive room at the precinct, but there's a robot standing in the way and no one's willing to give me clearance to get through. In a regular adventure game I'd walk around the five or six screens available to me, grab everything I could see, then talk to people for clues, but in this I've got a bloody city to walk through, a limited inventory I've already filled with shite, and 99% of the people in this game flat out ignore me.

Oh shit; I've figured it out! It's so obvious now. I'm going to... check a walkthrough. 

Huh, there was sleeping pill prescription in Kay'l's apartment all along? Shame I missed this the first time around, as it could've been a big clue. Well a sleeping pill prescription is great and all, but an actual bottle of pills will likely be more useful to me, so I'm going to have to find a pharmacy now.

First though I should hit the save rings. I already saved on the way in, but I might as well play it safe in case the next supermarket shootout is less forgiving.

Hang on, I've just noticed that my magic rings have gone down. I'm sure I didn't use any to stop time in that gunfight... oh shit; it's costing me rings to save the game! These are just like Resident Evil's ink ribbons after all, and I've been burning through them at every save point in town! Well... fuck.

Omikron Nomad Soul Anekbah map
Would it have been so much trouble to add shops I've visited before onto the map? I'd just take a taxi slider there, but the pharmacy isn't in my destination list either.

So I guess now I've got to go running around the city on foot, looking for street signs. It sure is an impressively sized place for 1999, with all the traffic driving around and everything, but Deus Ex or GTA it ain't. There's nothing to do in the city besides travel to the next location.


Whoa, I've found someone out here who will talk to me, it's a miracle! Adventure games usually love conversation and RPGs usually give each NPCs a unique line or two, but this is a cold, anti-social world drenched in misery and fluorescent lighting, so I'm lucky if I can even find someone who'll spare the time to tell me to piss off. Though for some reason it'll only let me ask where the armoury is. I'm not looking for a gun, I'm looking for medicine!

To be fair we're actually standing right outside the pharmacy here. It was harder to find someone who'd give me any directions at all than it was to find the building I was looking for.

Okay now that I've got the pills, my next step is to get some coffee from this vending machine. You see, the trick to getting into archives is to drug Kay'l's boss into unconsciousness and then steal her id. I'm kind of glad I wasn't able to figure this plan out myself to be honest. His boss is pretty much the nicest person I've met so far and I was kind of trying to find a solution that won't inevitably end with Kay'l getting arrested.

Oh come on; just walk around the chair already! Perhaps if I back up a bit first... oh, oh, maybe I'll try side-stepping! Man, this is why I don't play many third person console games from the 90s: these controls are a pain in the ass.

With Kay'l's boss successfully drugged and her police badge in my virtual pocket, I stepped in the elevator to travel to the archives... and got wedged in the door as it closed. Nope, he won't budge, I'm going to have to load a save game.

But I haven't been saving the game lately, since that'd waste magic rings. In fact I haven't saved since before grabbing the prescription, so now I've got to make another trip to the pharmacy. No idea why they thought that a limited save system would improve gameplay, beyond the fact that Resident Evil did it.


I've gotten into the confidential case files at last! Now I just need to find a witness they mention before anyone notices that Kay'l's boss has been drugged. I'm pretty sure there's no time limit though, the game ain't that cruel.

It's cruel enough to give me the woman's address but not mark it on my map though. I've just entered a new part of the city through a gate, so this place is all new to me, and it seems I'm going to have to search every bloody sex shop and nightclub here until I find her.


Man, I'm feeling a lot of sympathy for Rick Deckard right now. Hunting people down in a cyberpunk shithole metropolis ain't as fun as you'd think it'd be. Especially when Kay'l's response when I talk to people is usually something like "I don't understand," "There's no reason to do that," or "Nothing special".

But I've found her employer now, and as a police officer I can use my knowledge of alcohol licences to pressure him into letting me speak to her! Except I'm not actually Kay'l am I, I'm just remote controlling his body around, so where am I pulling all this knowledge from?

Crap, the witness is being attacked by something waiting inside her changing room and I can't get inside to help her!

This is the kind of puzzle I really hate. The kind that spells out the solution on screen (break the door open), but then laughs at you when you realise there's no button to do that. I can't leave this area either, so I must have all the tools on me to open the bolted door already, but nothing I try works. Fine, I'm checking the walkthrough. I hate doing this, but I'm complete stuck here and this puzzle's just not worth stressing over.

Oh of course! I have to shoot the grey box to the right of the door, because that always opens bolted doors. Well, except in Star Wars, where it locks them shut. So trying to break the door down was actually the wrong move... dumb voice in my head!

Anyway the poor dancer was dead by the time I got inside, and the murderer slipped out of the room as I entered... somehow. I asked around inside the club to see if anyone witnessed my witness's murderer passing through in a hurry, but I couldn't get anything out of them. People in this game are just room decorations with less interactivity than a GTA pedestrian.

So I took all her stuff, went into a sex shop to buy an erotic poster, and then went back home to my section of the city.

Oh, I didn't buy the poster for me. You see I remembered seeing the art on display in this guy's room last time I was in the precinct, and the game was dropping less than subtle hints that I should buy him a gift. When I saw the poster for sale it finally clicked in my head what I needed to get for him.

I'm almost scared to see what Boog's going to offer me in return. What gift is he going to pull out of his desk draw?

The Security HQ Master Key?

Boog, you shouldn't have! I mean seriously, you shouldn't have done that. In some places this could get you fired, but on this planet I think it's more likely to get you killed.

You can't have it back though, sorry. I've already drugged my boss into unconsciousness and broken into the confidential archives, so you can imagine the shit I'm going to get up to with this.

Oh shit, are you okay Telis? Do you want me to call an ambulance? I'm at the precinct right now, should I bring some backup with me?

Nope, I've got to come alone, there's no time to explain. No one in this city ever has time to explain! Guess I'm calling a slider then.


Okay I know I've been revealing all kinds of plot developments so far, as it's an adventure game and I kind of have to show how it plays, but after this point I may revealing more than you want to know. I'll be going through some (relatively) shocking events and serious plot twists before I'm through. So if you've been looking for an excuse to skip the rest of the screenshots and jump to the end, there you go.

Spoiler: Kay'l's girlfriend Telis had been tortured to death shortly before the demon possessing her body gave me that video call, so by coming back to his apartment I walked right into a trap. Except the demon was actually waiting up on the roof, so I was able to put a few minutes into the holographic combat simulator to improve my skills before coming up here. How d'you like my levelled up kick you body snatching demon asshole!

I still don't know what I'm doing, but button mashing got me through in the end. Here's some free advice to any ambitious game developers reading this: don't put a technical fighting game with special moves to learn and combos to practice as an occasional minigame that appears every half-hour or so inside your action-adventure. Games like Arkham City and Sleeping Dogs get away with switching gameplay because they have bloody good combat and the fighting is core to the experience, not bolted onto the side with its own set of buttons to learn. I mean c'mon, this is only my second real fight of the game!

Oh, here's another piece of advice: if the player is reliant on rare magic rings to save the game and you're going to drop them after boss fights... make the bloody things stand out! I only know that Demon Telis left a pile of rings up here because I read about it in a walkthrough, I never would have noticed them otherwise.

(They're over to my right.)

Suddenly a mysterious cloaked stranger appears on the roof with some answers for me and things take a turn for the David Cage...

It turns out that Kay'l's been missing for four days because he was killed just like his partner Den. The guy who jumped out of a portal at the start and asked for my help was actually another demon possessing his body. That's why his call for help was so vague and weird, why he didn't give me a quest, and why a demon was waiting to get me the second I appeared here. The whole portal thing was just a demon scheme to harvest fresh souls from gullible video game players in another dimension!

So now my next job is confront Commandant Gandhar, demonic police chief and lieutenant of Astaroth (the Prince of Darkness), and then use a Power Rod to destroy the dimensional Gate he guards and save the gamers of Earth from having their souls stolen by a video game scam.

Hey, saving people from bad games is 90% of what I do! I've been training for this for three years.


Right, I've gotten a map from Den's house by...
  1. Playing with the morgue's corpse filing system until his broken Sneak fell out.
  2. Taking the Sneak to a repair shop to get his police badge out of it.
  3. Using the police badge as a key to open his office at the precinct.
  4. Looking through his office to find his apartment key.
  5. Going to his apartment and pushing the secret tiger to open the safe (don't ask).
Which is basically a long-winded way of saying 'using the walkthrough'. I only had it open at first to get myself past a puzzle I was really stuck on, but I soon caught myself following it step by step through every puzzle and came to the realisation that I was enjoying the game much more this way. Plus with limited save rings and demons suddenly lining up to get into fist fights with me, I'm scared to do anything now without written permission.

Oh damn, Den left a tape, so we finally get to see what the guy looked like properly. Seems that everything was going well for the two cops until they discovered Something Awful; a tragic but all too common story.

The message doesn't say anything I don't already know, except that they went to Gandhar's office once before to find proof to expose the demons, and that's what got them killed. I'm going to use Den's map to go back down there and this time I'm going to put a cap in Gandhar's demonic ass. 


Aha, I've found the ventilation system marked in Den's map, located deep inside the police station. Actually it's probably more accurate to say that the police station is located within this ventilation system, judging by the size of it. Each of those fans down there is like two stories in diameter.

Ah fuck, I messed the jump up! Or, to be more precise, I fell off while trying to line myself up correctly. I dropped right down into the nasty vent water below so now I'll have to swim back to the exit, and then walk upstairs again to give it another go.

Then when I finally got back up again I went and screwed the jump up a second time. Splash.

AHA, MADE IT THIS TIME! No, wait; don't... slip off the side all the way back into the water. No...


What kind of monster would look at Resident Evil and decide that what the game needs is a jump button and narrow walkways?

Well that explains the giant vents: there's a river of lava in the precinct's basement!

This is another shooty bit; a little better than the supermarket as I can see all the enemies in the room from the start, though this time they're basically just shambling targets in the distance who pose zero threat to me.

Haha, Commandant Gandhar has just transformed into a giant lava monster and he's spitting fireballs at me while I try to find his weak point and chip away his life bar! This is the best and worst thing, I don't know whether to keep laughing or start crying.

There's a million ways a game about a dimension travelling soul in a dystopian metropolis who takes over their host's lives and works through their mysteries could've gone, but Quantic Dream decided to have it lead to this. This isn't the end of the game mind you, not even close (I'm trying to give a taste of it here, not a Let's Play), but I'd say that the cat is firmly out of the bag at this point.


Anyway I shot the boss until he was dead, and now I have the pass I need to move the next part of the city and go harass some more demons elsewhere!

I walked up to the security robot and triggered a cutscene where Kay'l presents the pass and is immediately executed on the spot for the crimes of drugging his boss, breaking into confidential files, and murdering several (demon) policemen, including the Commandant of the precinct.

Fuck you cutscene robot!

Fortunately as a nomad soul I'm able to eventually jump bodies to the first person who touches Kay'l's lifeless corpse! Apparently the people who dragged him to the morgue used gloves, but thankfully this nurse got to him before he was cremated.

So now I'm playing as this bald nurse then. Honestly the way the game's been going I'm surprised I wasn't found by a pole dancer. I seem to have kept my items, but my fighting skills have all gone, so I'm back to square one with my stats.

Now I have to wrestle with the morality of dragging this innocent woman into my fight to save the world and retrieve my soul. Well seeing as in my entire time playing I've found exactly one other person I can body swap into it doesn't seem like I have a whole lot of choice. Plus it turns out that switching bodies makes my former shell fade away, so that doesn't seem like something I want to be doing all that often. It's taken all the joy out of the mechanic really.

Okay I've fought a boss, seen all the gameplay modes, solved Kay'l's mystery and swapped bodies for the first time, that's got to be far enough to turn it off right?

OH SHIT, I forgot to look for David Bowie!

Found him! Man that was a pain; I had to follow directions from a flyer all around the mazelike streets of this new part of the city and ended up circling the place twice over before I finally found his secret gig.

But there he is, David Bowie playing the face and singing voice of the nameless lead singer of The Dreamers, looking a whole lot like he's off the front of a 3dfx Voodoo 3 video card box. Here, I'll let you watch his entire dance in all its mo-capped glory: youtube link, while I get busy turning this game off.


The premise of The Nomad Soul is that you're trying to retrieve your soul from the world represented by the video game, but when you load up a save it says "Soul Transfer...", as if it has to put it back into the game world before you can continue. So basically you can win by quitting, and that says it all really.

It's split up into three very separate sections: adventure, fighting and first person shooting, and each of these seem to be seriously flawed. Fighting games aren't something I've ever had a talent for so I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt there, but the first person shooting is just ass. I could go into detail but I'd just be repeating myself; basically it's missing everything that makes shooters fun beyond simply aiming at targets. Super 3D Noah's Ark on the SNES is more entertaining; trust me I've done the research on this.

The vast majority of Nomad Soul seems like it's going to be spent in adventure mode though, and on the surface this seems like it's got solid gameplay marred by dated controls. But the deeper I got into it, the less I felt like I knew what I was doing. Sure you can spend save game rings on hints (and then load up the last save again to get them back), but without them I felt I was doing way too much wandering around without guidance, trying to find the one NPC with something to say to me. Instead of solving puzzles logically I was stumbling across solutions by going everywhere, trying everything and looking behind all the toilets for keys. Plus this world of fast food restaurants, night clubs, and mindless NPC props just hasn't been all that interesting to explore. My most memorable discovery was when I was screwing around in the inventory, glanced down at the clock, and noticed that Omikron's world has something like 33 seconds to the minute and 15 minutes to an hour. Finally something that made me feel like I'd stepped into another world entirely instead of a miserable dystopian future Earth!

It's an ambitious concept for a developer's first game and I did find the mystery appealing at first, but like in Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy the reveal of what's really going on kind of takes a lot of the charm out of it. Though at least for this game David Cage resisted the urge to add a sex scene featuring a reanimated dead guy. Well... except for this one that is (spoilers).

Thank you for looking through all/some of my words about The Nomad Soul, but now we have at last arrived at the part where you can start writing and I get to sit back and do the reading. The comment box below is ready to contain your thoughts and opinions about the game, my writing, my website, and other relevant things.


  1. The original Command & Conquer started with a series of fake futuristic TV ads. I'll never forget that supercool rollerblading kid drinking a popular energy beverage out of a bottle shaped like a car oil container.

  2. I must say, this game seems to have all of the essential Quantic Dream game characteristics: an excellent idea full of originality and ambition, ruined by crappy gameplay and a dumb plot twist.

    I mean, the idea of a videogame that acknowledges is a videogame, whose characters tell you that they know they look like a videogame to you but they're real... it's trippy, and it's absolutely intriguing! But suddenly... it was demons from some old school rpg all along.

    I mean, the idea of mixing all kinds of gameplay, from first person shooter to fighting game to adventure game.... but then, none of them works.

    I'm getting the idea there were lots of good ideas here but it all went lost in the actual process. Kinda like how modern Quantic Dream videogames are absolutely beautiful with a very compelling and original story (I loved Heavy Rain most of all), but the gameplay is weak.

    1. Yeah, for sure. Someone that isn't Quantic Dream should develop a HD remake of it, one which takes the basic premise and setting but then makes an entirely different game out of it. In HD! They could give it a full Silent Hill: Shattered Memories style reimagining, with all-new plot twists and more interesting uses of the body swapping mechanic (plus they could maybe stick some gameplay in there too while they're at it.)

      And while this imaginary developer is busy with that, Quantic Dream can go make something down to earth and sensible, about people dealing with issues, making choices, having emotions and all those other things they like. I haven't played the game myself, but it seems like they were really on to something with Heavy Rain, and if they could go further in that direction (while holding back on the QTEs), they may eventually come up with something worthy of those amazing visuals.

  3. Oh my poor poor Dreamcast keyboard, used for two games of Quake III and then stored away ever since. Don't worry old friend, I'll find a purpose for you some day.

    Okay, now you have to write about Typing of the Dead.

    1. Well I would... but my Dreamcast screenshots always come out looking terrible. Plus the game wasn't even released in my country, so I'm taking myself off the hook! Sorry folks.

    2. Plus if you think about it, Typing of the Dead is really just QTE sequences from start to finish!

    3. Typing of the Dead: Overkill is on Steam, complete with DLC for Shakespeare and dirty words...of course that kinda defeats the original purpose of finding a use for the Dreamcast keyboard...

    4. I could get a Dreamcast -> USB PC connector and play the PC game using the Dreamcast keyboard! Actually I do want to play Overkill, the game's caught my interest, but it's not the kind of thing I'm in any hurry to get around to. I can hang on until it's genuinely retro... or until I see it in a bundle, whatever happens first.

  4. Really good review thank you for sharing. I was always curious about this title. It's not my cup of tea but the write up you did is fantastic and really conveys and carries with it a lot of the strange territory explored in these games released on the cusp of Y2K. This seems to capture that feeling, and it's a unique feeling, with a lot of style and themes (maybe fledgling 'metas' that are distinct to the pre-youtube world?) that you see in interactive media that piques my curiousity.


Semi-Random Game Box