If there’s one thing that the majority of video games have in common, whatever their genre, it’s the journey that each and every one of us undertake to get from A to B. That could be the epic tale of role-playing richness, or even the development of a character and just the plain simple solving of a particular puzzle. Whichever way you look at it, it all simply boils down to a journey and one that most, or even all, video games have to undertake; as well as all of us, as the player. It’s something that shows in the forefront of Finji’s latest game, as Overland embarks on a jaunt as it travels a release onto the Nintendo Switch.
The game takes place within the setting of a post-apocalyptic disaster that has struck the core of North America. Your task is to venture from the East coast to a hopeful sanctuary on the West coast. Along the the way, each phase of your journey is represented by a diorama-styled level, or grid, that is viewed from an isometric perspective. Each of these levels are procedurally-generated; meaning that no two journeys are ever the same. Within each of these levels, you’re faced with a series of random elements that forces you to think about your predicament; some may be barren and worthless, others may be rich in resources or house other survivors, whilst more still can be inhabited by an alien species, the cause of the apocalypse, who present a clear and ever-present danger.
The sole objective of the game is to survive and complete your journey; believe me, this is something that is no easy task. It works on a series of situations that forces you to ask, and answer, questions about yourself and the world around you. First and foremost, your own survival is the most important aspect of the game, so you constantly find yourself making decisions and asking questions about how the best way to proceed should be. What is the condition of your car and how much fuel does it have left? Where is the nearest source of fuel? Should you believe the rumours of a rich-source of vital items? Should I rescue this survivor and allow them to come on my journey with me? And more importantly, should you sacrifice others to save yourself?
There’s always a constant in the questions you ask. However, whatever decisions you make, they are always a calculated risk in what you are trying to achieve. Each area operates on a turn-based mechanic; often with you, or your party members making a move, which is followed by the movement of alien beings. These extra-terrestrial predators home in on whatever sounds they here; whether that be footsteps, a car engine or something that is deliberately thrown to create a distraction. It’s in this aspect that bringing fellow survivors along for the ride can be a good thing. However, not everyone is always your friend within this game and you can find yourself on the wrong side of someone stealing your car or valuable supplies.
It’s these sorts of mechanics that gives the game a truly random feel in the journey that you may come across. Sometimes the game works for you and, more often than not, it also works against you. The lure of further supplies can produce nothing, whilst other levels might be teeming with aliens and your only escape blocked; more often than not presenting quite an unfair challenge within a no-win situation. This is something that can frustrate within the game, especially when you may be an hour or so into your journey. Meeting your maker often forces to restart your journey with a new character; although some progression does allow you to restart further along the way.
One thing that the game portrays very effectively, is the urgency of your situation. Many of the levels present an escape by the skin of your teeth. Other factors, such as the constant hunt for fuel or the scavenge of a new vehicle add to this; as well as succumbing to an injury and not knowing how long you can last without medication, or even finding first aid, keeps you constantly on your toes and progressing forward, not knowing where the next turning may take you. The game also creates a good level of immersion with how you care for your character. Each random person who you play as comes with a two-sentenced description that offers enough to feel an empathy to their situation. Animal lovers will also find a connection with stranded dogs that can be helped along the way. However, these also play on your emotions too, as losing a valuable ally, or pet, can feel a little heartbreaking at times.
Quite often though, the whole world within this game can feel a little too hostile. This is by no means an easy game to get through; in fact, its difficulty level is quite unforgiving. You’re going to die in this game and you’re going to die a lot, there’s no getting away from it. This is largely due to the game’s random nature that can stack the odds against you and the very strict limit of characters only being able to carry one or two items at the most. This makes it vital that you take only what is needed or necessary; although should you, or an ally die, you lose everything that you built along the way. However, this is a game that is about learning, much like the infamous Dark Souls. Within each journey, you learn what is right and what is wrong, where mistakes are made and how to avoid them. This constant learning provides the tools necessary for survival and creates a better chance of succeeding with each journey undertaken.
Between each level, you, along with any party members, gather within the safety of a parking lot, as you all huddle around the warmth of a fire and talk about your current situation, any rumours you may have heard and what available paths are open to explore next. From here, you are presented with a map of sorts that highlights how much fuel is needed to get to your next chosen destination and, more importantly, what could be lying in wait for you. The bigger the potential prize, the higher the potential risk, making it important to find a balance in what is needed and what is the best journey to undertake. Again, adding to the constant need of questioning, reasoning and finding the best course of action; something that would be very much a part of such a similar journey if it was needed to be taken in real-life. Its elements of gameplay are further bolstered by an impressive art-style that is pleasing to look at, as well as a technical performance that runs smoothly. Whether you play docked or in hand-held, the game looks and runs beautifully.
Overall, Overland takes you an interesting journey that constantly forces you to ask questions on survival and morality. It offers a difficult challenge, in fact, quite a gruelling one, but also one that you can learn from and offers a satisfying experience when you escape from certain scenarios. Unfortunately, its random nature of level designs and content within can work against you, sometimes presenting you with no-win situations that can be frustrating, but overall, the journey you undertake is a fun experience and quite exciting to play. It looks gorgeous and plays fantastically, but I do feel that this may be more of a game that you’ll either love or you’ll hate. However, at the end of the day, this is still a game that contains a journey that is well worth undertaking.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Gameplay - 7/10
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 7/10
Replay Value - 7/10
User Review( votes)
Overland asks you to survive a gruelling challenge, but offers a journey that well worth undertaking.