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Olija’s Combat Demands Your Attention

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Olija is a game where combat takes center stage. There are other cool things about it, certainly. It has an interesting aesthetic. It encourages combos, but not button-mashing. It sort of feels like it borrows Final Fantasy XV’s Warp-Strike. You can collect hats that can offer Faraday, our hero, abilities. But what really makes it special is how it demands your attention. It wants you to watch, but not to be mean. Rather, it’s to encourage you to focus so you can be better.

Faraday is constantly fighting through Olija. More often than not, your opponents are the sorts of faceless, ordinary foes that aren’t of much consequence. But you will also face rivals and bosses. What ties them all together is how each one has these cues and patterns. This is a game where everyone is going to tell you what they’re going to do. If you fail, it’s because you didn’t keep an eye on someone you should have. Or, in some cases, some part of the environment that could very well trip you up or allow you to rappel to safety with the harpoon.

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I also love how all Olija’s tells make sense. To avoid spoilers, let’s talk about the first boss fight. The enemy is going to hover around the ceiling, occasionally dropping bombs, daggers, minions, and themselves down to attack Faraday. When it’s above you, it will dodge the harpoon, but could be hurt by arrows.

But before sending out a series of blades, you’ll see which side of the cape they’re coming from to give you an idea of when and what direction they’ll appear from. You always have time to dodge before danger drops from above, due to motions made before the fall. And even if you don’t have time, you can always check the environment for things to grapple onto with the harpoon to zip away. It isn’t like you’re watching for a cape to flap three times or eyes to flash. It feels so satisfyingly tactical.

Which is extraordinary, because Olija works with so little. This is a minimalistic game. Every pixel has to mean something. Yet with things being so small, you’d think it would be difficult to capture that nuance with small actions. But it does it. These diminutive sprites feel incredibly alive. And even though it does pursue that direction, the motions are exaggerated or obvious enough that you can catch them.

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There are some times when it is more difficult to pick up on these motions than others. When Faraday is in dilapidated dungeons or interior spaces that fall on the gloomy side of the spectrum, it can sometimes be more challenging to catch some subtle actions. But to be fair, I have been playing the Olija Switch version. So part of that could be attributed to handheld mode. Also, even when this does happen, there are still “tells” that help. For example, you might see a flash of steel or glint off of a very obvious weapon.

Olija is a game that requires you to focus. It’s designed in such a way where you have to prioritize what you’re doing. Enemies are going to “tell” you what they’re going to do. Elements of a stage might catch you off guard if you don’t look and expect the unexpected. Which is great, because it is giving you every chance to succeed. Even if it gets intimidating or a boss seems really hard, paying attention to characters and the environment will always offer you opportunities.

Olija is available for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

Jenni Lada
Jenni is Editor-in-Chief at Siliconera and has been playing games since getting access to her parents' Intellivision as a toddler. She continues to play on every possible platform and loves all of the systems she owns. (These include a PS4, Switch, Xbox One, WonderSwan Color and even a Vectrex!) You may have also seen her work at GamerTell, Cheat Code Central, Michibiku and PlayStation LifeStyle.