Oure was somewhat of a surprising title upon it’s launch. It was revealed out of nowhere at the Paris Games Week event as part of Sony’s presentation, and just like that, the game was available almost instantly for purchase. The brief glimpse we got showed something akin to games like Journey, Abzu, and even mildly Shadows of the Colossus. Once you delve deep into the experience, it’s hard not to see where it’s inspirations come from. Despite this, Oure does have some glaring flaws that don’t make it quite as a memorable journey as it’s mentioned inspirations.
In Oure, you play as a young girl who seemingly has the power to transform into a dragon. The story is shrouded in quite a bit of mystery, as you never truly know what’s going on. The game starts as the girl describes a dream world up in the clouds. She talks about how her parents told her stories about the Titans who once protected the world, and that she might be the one to bring them back. It’s unclear if this world is real, or something the girl has perceived in her dreams, as it’s described as stories told to her by her parents from her story books.
The girl talks about how her parents took her took her to a strange doorway of light. They ushered her through assuring her everything would be okay. As she steps through, she leaves her grieving parents behind an enters a strange new world. Here, you quickly discover you can transform into a dragon, and the game quickly takes you through a brief tutorial of the games controls and mechanics.
As you exit the games tutorial section, you are the placed into a lush, beautiful cloud filled world. At this point, the world is your play ground, and you are left to discover your next objectives and what you can do exactly. The game does very minimal hand holding and occasional gives you reminders on how to execute certain abilities.
What becomes apparent right away is this game is a collect-a-thon. You are given an ability which makes your dragon move in a circular motion, and emits a wide spread aura that reveals the locations of items across the entire world. There are orbs you need to collect, which in turn are spent within the game to upgrade abilities and power on towers that lead to Titan encounters.
What ends up being a bit disappointing is the cloud world essentially doesn’t have much else to do besides collecting orbs and upgrades, and taking on the Titans. The sense of exploration seems diminished because of this, and I was never in awe when discovering nooks and crannies hidden within the world. Sure, the more you collect, the more you can expand your abilities, but they are not really needed for beating the game. Asides from that, the only added benefit are 12 pictures to unlock in the gallery, which given the sheer number of orbs to find, isn’t worth it in my opinion.
Where the appeal and fun of the game can be found however is in it’s Titan encounters. As you explore the world, you’ll come upon some towers that need to be powered on. By following a wire connected to the tower, you’ll eventually come upon a platform that you board in your human form, and allow you to spend a small amount of orbs to send power back to the tower. Once this is done, you can return to the tower, climb to the top which leads to a cinematic sequence of a Titan emerging from the distance which leads to what is effectively Oure’s boss battles.
The Titan encounters are easily the highlight of Oure. Here, the game presents you with very epic and grand sequences that have you solve mini puzzles. Some are more basic than others, but as you progress through the game, the solution to defeating the Titans ends up being a bit more involved, and in some case, are pretty cleverly thought out I found. The encounters also depict an immense scale to the experience as the Titans are absolutely huge, and often take place in areas that appear to be far off from the main world.
As you drift around the Titan, your character will note that they are in pain. In order to cure the Titan, you will need to locate shards along it’s surface, and as you approach the shard, you need to grab onto them by pressing square. Once latched on, you’ll engage in a mini puzzle sequence, and once it is solved, the shard will break and you move onto the next until all shards have been broken.
The Titans can be quite enjoyable, and I was pleased to take on a decent variation of puzzles. Some puzzles have you run several rounds of pattern matching which worked out quite brilliantly. Others have you traverse through trenches located on the backside of a Titan as you avoid being thrown of when the Titan banks and turns. You’re constantly shifting from patiently using your mind to overcome a challenge, to tense situations as you read the movements of the Titan and perform some very loose platforming.
The process of breaking shards and defeating the Titans can be enjoyable, but is also hit and miss depending what Titan you take on. Although some provided some clever puzzles with solutions that felt natural, others proved to be pretty frustrating. While some Titans relied on puzzles that work your mind, others relied on things like high speed chases, which given the controls of the game, don’t work out well in practice. Having to constantly fail these segments and keep trying again and again got old pretty fast.
What Oure fails miserably on is conveying how you defeating a Titan. When you are latched onto a shard for example, you are presented with a screen containing a sequence of connected shapes. This is the puzzle you are to solve in order to break the shard. Problem is the game does nothing to explain how this works. To help those who may take these on, the basic concept is you need to map a path through the shapes to reach the empty diamond at the end. Above the starting diamond, there are a number of small circles followed by a diamond shape. Using the left analog stick, you select a direction to move on the path, and press square to make a selection. Each move uses up one circle, and the goal is to use up all the circles before you reach the end diamond. Failing to use up all the circles, or taking too many turns results in failure and having to restart the puzzle.
It may sound crazy and is a pretty tough thing to explain, but once you learn it, it’s easy to execute. The problem is Oure doesn’t explain how this works, and this lead me to initially abandon my first Titan encounter because I couldn’t figure what the hell to do. When I came back to it later, I by chance found out how to proceed, however I hadn’t quite connected all the pieces from my explanation above. It was only in my third or fourth encounter where all the mechanics made perfect sense. A puzzle mechanic that is the key to your progression shouldn’t take that long to grasp and could lead to people abandoning the game altogether.
Another aspect that burdens the experience in Oure is it’s controls and camera. This became apparent even in the basic tutorial. Controlling the girl in your human form didn’t pose much problem, however using the dragon was another story. Steering and shifting the height of your dragon proved to be quite cumbersome. You use the left analog stick to control the direction the dragon moves. The tricky bit is the dragon moves something like a character would move in a regular third person adventure game. This proves to be difficult because the dragon is constantly moving and never comes to a stop. This was tricky because I constantly kept thinking left meant the dragon would turn to it’s left, not the left side of the screen.
You control your dragons height using the L2 and R2 triggers. Pressing R2, your dragon ascends upwards and pressing L2 you descend. By pressing and holding X, you dragon speeds up depleting your stamina, which can be recharged by either waiting, or touching nearby clouds. Speeding up is essential to reaching higher places, however, I found the stamina to usually run out pretty quickly. Due to stamina limitations, exploring higher to reach places in the world usually was an after thought as I’d always feel I’d never quite reach it, and plummet down while fighting with the poor controls and camera.
Furthermore, you control the camera using the right analog stick. This sounds simple in practice, however the camera on it’s own decides to move in and out depending what’s happening on screen. What I found annoying is when ascending, the camera seemed to zoom in, yet seem to point upwards to where you think your dragon would be, but in reality, your dragon is struggling at the bottom of the screen. When this happens, keep track of your stamina meter becomes tough and usually I would fall to back down and have to wait for it to replenish. Other times, the camera would get stuck under platforms or Titans and start jerking in a frantic manner.
I wish everything regarding the controls and camera was a bit more polished, as it severely took away the enjoyment of exploring the cloud world. In some Titan encounters, this was also a problem as they sometimes demanded precise control while engaging in high speed chases with Titans and quickly latching onto shards. It isn’t an uncommon sight to see your dragon almost appear to get tangled up and force you to stop trying to move just to get your bearings down.
One of Oure’s strong points however are it’s excellent visuals. From the opening moments, the cloud world is absolutely stunning. It appears vast and it’s absolutely huge with all sorts of tunnels and high placed clouds to reach and explore. The game is also quite vibrant and uses colours very well. Everything has a very bright and clean look to them. The clouds themselves are rendered very nicely as they appear very soft and fluffy, whether you are looking at them from a distance, or right up close to them. Lighting effects also enhance the scene in places where you are going through tunnels and orbs light the way ahead. Seeing clouds glow from the light given off by orbs is always very pleasant to see.
Although you only effectively explore a cloud like world, there is some variety given to things as you progress through the game. After defeating each Titan, the time of day changes. You start off in a brightly sunlit cloud world, to later a night sky teeming with stars, and a sunset that magnificently colours the world with orange. As minimal as these changes are, they are much appreciated and I never found that from a visual stand point, Oure was lacking at all and there always felt like something new to see.
One area where the visuals don’t live up are the animations. For the most part, animations outside of your dragon can appear pretty stiff. When running around in your human form, your character movements appear awkward, much like a robot. There are some segments that have you jump between platforms which appear odd as you float to your destination. Some other areas appear sloppy, like when Titans emerge before your encounter. It seemed that almost everyone one of them would clip the tower but simply move through it like nothing happened. This was always seen in plain sight and it didn’t seem like the animators did much to hide this.
In the audio department, Oure delivers. Sound effects suit the mood of the game, as they all sound light and crisp, as if to lend to the idea that you are floating in the clouds. Voices are overall done well, except for when the little girl provides some narration during the opening moments. She occasionally does some awkward pauses when speaking that stick out, and bring down the quality of the voice acting. There are some voices used for the Titan that are undistinguishable, but effective in making them sound like grand, ancient beings.
The soundtrack to Oure is fantastic. There’s a theme to suit almost everything that happens in the game. Whether it’s the opening moments, or you’re casually exploring the night sky, or getting into and intense Titan encounter, there’s much variation to hear. I overall loved the soundtrack, especially some of the calmer compositions used throughout. They implore a sense of child like curiousity when needed, and when taking on the Titans, the music sounds very grand and makes you feel heroic. Below are a couple of links to take a listen to.
Oure is not an overly difficult game, as you cannot die no matter how hard you fail. Due to this, I think there’s much to be desired in it’s lasting appeal. As I said earlier, given the games collect-a-thon like structure that seems almost entirely optional, the game can easily be beaten in a few meager hours. For a game at this price point, it’s a very tough sell, as you’ll really only play it once. There isn’t much reason to come back to Oure after you’ve finished the game, especially because the ending didn’t do a good job of tying things together and leaving me ultimately satisfied with the adventure I had just embarked on.
I felt the story could have been Oure’s saving grace in making this experience more worthwhile, whether you were playing it for the first time or wanting to jump back into it. The game really failed to get me emotionally invested in the journey, which is a shame, given the obvious inspirations it hails from. This also becomes a problem because of the games mysterious nature that never really reveals too much about what’s happening at the given moment, or even later on. Also, the fact that there isn’t much to do besides collect orbs and partake in the Titan encounters, it leaves for a pretty disjointed experience with no journey or growth between the moments of climax.
Oure is a game that could have benefited from more polish and overall things to do. The game on one end features beautiful visuals, a great sound track, and some pretty satisfying boss battles. On the other hand, it suffers from very poor controls and camera movements and a lack of conveying how the game works. The structure of the world being built around the task of collecting things also brings the experience down, as your time with Oure ends up feeling disjointed since there really is nothing to do between the Titan encounters. You literally move on from one boss battle to the other and can probably do it in only couple of hours, if not less. Most of your time may be spent struggling with the controls, or just trying to figure out how the game mechanics work, which are central to progressing altogether. The underwhelming story, lack of emotional investment and unsatisfying ending also make this a one time experience for those who decide to stick with it. Although there are things to collect and unlock, they really add no benefit to the overall experience. For a game of this price point, I think it’s not worth the price of investment given how short the main experience is and that there is effectively no reason to jump back in for another go.
Disclaimer: This review was done using a Playstation 4 copy of Oure provided by the games publisher/developer, Heavy Spectrum Limited. Please be assured that this did not affect my opinion of the game, and that my criticisms are an honest and true representation of my thoughts on the game.