App Reviewed on: iPhone 4S
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In the depths of a silent museum, an ancient evil stirs. An unknowing world teeters on the brink of destruction. Can a ragtag team of investigators brave the hidden mysteries of these strange, sinister halls, risking both life and sanity in a race against time to seal the path before the dreaded Azathoth lays waste to the Earth?
Earlier this year, Fantasy Flight Games released the Elder Sign tabletop game. Based in the universe of horror icon H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos, it was a faster paced alternative to their flagship board game Arkham Horror. By streamlining many of Arkham’s mechanics and focusing on solving encounters with the use of special glyph-generating dice, games of Elder Sign only lasted an hour or two, rather than upwards of 3-5 hours like its big brother. Now Fantasy Flight has retooled this already sleek game even further and ported it to iOS in the form of Elder Sign: Omens.
Players begin by assembling a team of four investigators from a pool of 16, each with their own unique abilities. These range from restoring lost sanity or stamina, to gaining extra equipment, to changing the type of glyphs generated on the game’s virtual dice. Each investigator takes turns exploring the museum, attempting to overcome one of the many encounters therein.
Encounters are resolved by “conjuring” a series of glyph icons (investigation, lore, peril and terror) by rolling the dice, then matching the icons rolled to the results required to pass each section of an encounter. Extra dice can be gained by the use of equipment or special abilities. If the investigator succeeds, they gain rewards: clue tokens, equipment and sometimes the rare Elder Signs needed to seal the gateway. If they fail to generate the needed icons, they can try again after sacrificing a die, leading to a spiral of desperate diminishing returns. When all dice are gone (or if they chose to fail the encounter) penalties are suffered. This is usually stamina or sanity damage, but sometimes failure also accelerates the Doom Track, which indicates how much time is left before Azathoth awakens and the investigators lose.
The only negative thing that I can really say about this game is that it could use more extensive documentation. The tutorial videos are nice, but they feel lacking and I can see newcomers being easily confused and overwhelmed. Veterans, on the other hand, will feel right at home here. Also, it would be nice to have other Old Ones to fight against besides Azathoth, but that would necessitate adding even more layers of complexity. Still, don’t let these relatively minor issues put you off. Elder Sign: Omens is a fantastic, atmospheric game with absolutely gorgeous visuals and tremendous replay value. You’d have to be insane to pass this up, although you may end up that way, regardless.