Operencia: The Stolen Sun (XB1) Review


I love dungeon crawlers. One of my favorite experiences in all of video games was playing the no longer available Wolfenstein and DOOM RPGs. The ability to move at my own pace while exploring every nook and cranny for secrets is both exhilarating and relaxing; an odd combination. While Operencia outwardly looks like another dungeon crawler, it is both unique and familiar at the same time.

The game starts off with an intro about King Attila slaying a dragon. What’s interesting is the tutorial for the game allows players to play as Attila in this battle. It is a short section that goes through the basics (while later portions of the game explain other mechanics). After this tutorial section and character creation however, the main character created by the player goes on a quest to return light to the world. There is a fairly large time jump, but the legend of Attila plays heavily into the main campaign. I simply don’t want to spoil too much because most lore and story is delivered through well voiced, well written dialog that is by far one of the most impressive things about Operencia from the start.

PRICE I’D PAY: $29.99

Operencia is a level based RPG (no open world) where the party moves on a grid based system through the environment. Despite being restricted to only four directions of movement, the camera can be freely moved to look in any direction, which is extremely important to find items, secrets, and solutions to puzzles. Unlike other dungeon crawler RPGs however the battle system is its own separate screen that removes map movement and plays more like a traditional JRPG battle system. Characters and enemies take turns attacking until defeated. What is interesting about the combat is that there are three different distances from the player enemies can be that reduce effectiveness of attacks. Melee fighters may do better with closer enemies but will be less likely to hit the furthest ones. It’s a pretty simple battle system, just not one I would expect to see attached to the dungeon crawler formula.

Now I need to back pedal and return to the character creation. I was surprised to see it be as detailed as it is. There are three classes (warrior, hunter, and mage) with their own style of combat (melee, ranged, and magic respectively). While this is pretty standard, the ability to choose the look of the character as well as their background (which adds additional bonuses to the stats of the player character) was a surprising touch. I went with an option that would give me an additional passive ability at a later level. These background options are similar to those found in Dungeons & Dragons but are rarely seen in video games, so I appreciated that there was some boon other than just choosing my class and receiving their standard stat loadout. I also got to allocate some points to my stats to further the fact that this is indeed my character and not a cookie cutter warrior.

Around the time of character creation I also got asked about the difficulty parameters which include mapping, combat, and permadeath. I chose the standard for review purposes (although the permadeath would never be something I would select). The permadeath in this game will wipe the player’s save if they fall in battle. Operencia is not messing around when it comes to difficulty if the player wants a challenge; otherwise it is by far one of the most accessible RPGs around that will guide newcomers to the genre every step of the way.

Experience is gathered through combat and exploration, and when enough points have been earned players can choose new abilities and bonuses as well as dictate stat increases. I wish I didn’t have to scroll from the ability trees to the stat screen each time I level up, but for the sake of not over complicating the screens I completely understand the decision made.

Leveling up can be done at any time, no need to rest. However resting at a bonfire will heal the party and refill their energy (the equivalent to mana, spell points, etc.) as well as allow the player to save. It is interesting though as resting at bonfires requires firewood and while that can be found easily in the world, non-observant people may find themselves without a place to rest. Nothing is for free really, and I appreciate that.

But what is all of this gameplay worth if the world isn’t worth exploring? Honestly, I wondered if the game would fall into the tropes most RPGs would fall into. I’m tired of starting in the woods, to get to a generic castle, to fight the standard RPG enemies like rats and skeletons. While the enemies appear I will say that right after the tutorial Operencia decided to go for broke and made the first real area of the game a castle that is magically submerged underwater. There areas of it that require quick movement as water has flooded that area and there’s only so much oxygen the party can hold in their lungs. Otherwise the water always seems to be right above the heads of the characters. This dungeon is also where the character I suppose I am playing as meets their first companion. The back and forth between characters (including later party members and NPCs) is just so natural, but still funny and very much define the personalities within the party. After the water castle we enter a weird, magical forest with caves and a talking tree. It’s all very special and I’m glad that Zen Studios chose to not wait to show me the more original content towards the end of the game like other RPGs seem to.

I enjoy just walking around in the world of Operencia. The game is extremely pretty, and with lots to find and do it all feels worthwhile. There were puzzles in the first stage I never solved (a certain statue will always remain headless), but I purposefully took my time before leaving. Later a shovel just increases the amount of time I spent exploring each area. A nice thing to note is that the game warns the player that they are about to complete the area just in case they want to do more exploration first. It seems like a minor thing to bring up, but I think most players will know the grief of unceremoniously being tossed out of a level without getting everything and not being able to return.

Later a crafting system introduced a set of logic puzzles in order to create items. Anyone who has read my reviews (particularly the one for Return of the Obra Dinn) will know my love for logic puzzles. It’s really interesting because it implies that the recipes found for items are written cryptically. I didn’t need to collect ingredients, just identify them and where they came from as well as their attribute (like whether an herb is medicinal or not) to create new items.

Operencia: The Stolen Sun shouldn’t be skipped. What is here is a wonderful RPG that is welcoming to veterans and newcomers alike. Because this is on Microsoft Game Pass there is absolutely no reason to not give this game a shot. There is absolutely something for everyone who enjoys RPGs.

Review copy of game provided by publisher.

  • Writing and performance
  • Graphics
  • Exploration and world design
  • Combat is simple to grasp and has a lot of variety
  • Lots to customize the experience
  • Game Pass on release day
  • No Steam release on PC (Epic store exclusive until 2020)
  • At times loot blends way too much into the environment
Written by
Anthony is the resident Canadian. He enjoys his chicken wings hot and drinks way too much Coca-Cola. His first game experience was on his father's Master System and he is a loyal SEGA fanboy at heart.