OPUS: Rocket of Whispers Review
While this game has beautiful graphics and music, it takes “Find and Use” to a whole new level. If you don’t mind constant traveling and searching, it is a unique adventure with an emotional story.
SIGONO (previously known as Team Signal) is a small indie game studio known for mobile arcade games. In 2015, they decided to change direction and created OPUS: The Day We Found Earth. The game, which was an adventure with heart, was positively received by players when it was released in 2016. Continuing with their goal of “making games that move and inspire,” SIGONO has recently released OPUS: Rocket of Whispers.
In case you are wondering, the term “OPUS” refers to an artistic work of art. In terms of artwork, music, and story, OPUS: Rocket of Whispers lives up to this part of its name. The game features an original soundtrack with 42 songs composed by Triodust. With no voice-overs to distract the listener, the music is outstanding and can be purchased as a DLC add-on to the game.
Rocket of Whispers take place on a future version of Earth after an apocalyptic epidemic. Almost all the world’s population has been wiped out. In this landscape of “aloneness,” two individuals find each other and join forces to survive. John is the son of a rocket engineer who lived through the epidemic by staying close to home. Fei is a “46th generation witch” who has come out of cryogenic sleep to find a very different world than she expected.
Their goal is to build a rocket to launch as a “space burial” that will send wandering ghosts on their way towards “the great beyond.” In the absence of this ritual, earth’s restless ghosts are everywhere. Fei sees them as lost souls and views them with kindness. In contrast, John is annoyed and haunted by their presence.
The game consists of traveling from their home base at the rocket factory into the surrounding wasteland. The purpose of each excursion is to gather specific supplies needed to build the rocket, create survival equipment (snow gear, camping equipment, maps, etc.), and restore artifacts. Although the primary objective is the rocket, many of the ghosts have unfinished business and enlist John’s help in the form of sub-quests.
Rocket of Whispers is segmented into 24-hour increments, with an auto-save at the start of each day. The clock starts at 08:00 and all tasks for the day must be completed by 20:00 when it gets dark and John must return to the rocket factory or make camp. Upon awakening, John reviews his task list and selects an objective for the new day. Each objective requires certain components and gives a description of where these can be found.
John then sets out into the surrounding countryside, with his travel directed from an aerial view. He is a small spot that is moved through obstacles, roads, cities, trails, and abandoned structures. There is no “zoom out” feature so you never have a true point of reference as to where you are in relation to the rest of the map. For this part of the game, I found that my controller worked much better than using the WASD keys to navigate. No path is straight and you often need to take “the long way” to detour around blocked paths or locked gates. While you are told where to find items (for example, “The checkpoint at the Outer City” or “The dormitory at the old school”), it is still difficult to find specific buildings in the ruined landscape. I used whole days of travel time searching, without success, for target locations. At times, my frustration with the geography mirrored John’s constant complaints about his many errands!
John provides commentary about structures of interest and his progress through open buildings is viewed from above through transparent roofs. Icons appear when he finds something that can be taken or if a task is needed (such as cutting a fence, reducing metal to scrap, digging through snow, etc.). Each action he takes uses up time on the clock.
Ultimately, he finds scraps to assemble three maps which eliminate navigating to three areas. While this simplifies travel for you, the player, it does not save any time in the game world. By clicking on the map, John moves to the desired location without “the long walk” but his travel time reduces the number of daylight hours available for scavenging.
Your travel is often interrupted by events such as ghostly encounters (some benign, some aggressive), hungry wolves, falling trees, etc. These slow John’s progress and use up valuable time. When you’ve had a long and unsuccessful day, Fei may communicate by radio and ask the ghosts to guide you in the form of a floating light that can be followed.
If you gather the materials needed to build camping gear, you can stay “on the road” for an extra night instead of returning to base. However, your gear is only good for one night so extended time in the wasteland is not possible.
When John returns to the rocket factory, you have the option of putting either him or Fei to work using the supplies that have been gathered. Fei builds the rockets and John creates survival gear and restores artifacts that he has found in his travels. Most artifacts are tied to sub-quests which are completed after you restore the item and return it to the ghostly requestor.
Once you have used all supplies, it is time to sleep. Both John and Fei relive their history through dreams. Further backstory events are revealed as each character daydreams while working or traveling. All dream sequences are presented in still pictures, with on-screen narrative.
As it turns out, building a rocket is more complicated than Fei thought and the two have been through multiple iterations. Each failure is met by John’s despair and frustration while Fei remains optimistic and solution-oriented. As a result, much of the initial dialog between the two characters is contentious. Over time, they come to realize how much neither wants to be alone and John and Fei begin to form a tenuous bond. There is a lot of dialog to click through in this game and all appears on-screen, without voiceovers.
Rocket of Whispers is a story-rich adventure with excellent character development and a great deal of traveling. Your freedom in structuring John’ and Fei’s use of time makes this a game that can be played more than once with a different game experience each time.
The game ends with a “bang” (literally) and the ending leaves room for quite a bit of player interpretation. I spent 13 hours in the world of Rocket of Whispers and, although I completed the main story, I left many sub-quests and achievements unfinished. My guess is that there may be an alternate ending to the story of John and Fei but I am not inclined to invest a dozen more hours to see if another rocket is in their future. Like John, my travels have made me weary.
(find out more about our grading system)
+ A compelling story with in-depth character development
+ Original music makes quality headphones a must for the full game experience
– Gameplay can be summarized as “find stuff,” “build stuff,” “find more stuff,” “build more stuff”
– A high percentage of your time will be spent directing travel “from above” and watching the clock
Processor: 1.4 GHz Dual Core or Greater
Processor: 1.4 GHz Dual Core or Greater