It wasn’t too long ago that I saw the trailer for Overland by Finji, and it got my attention. Not much was said about the game, but there was enough to coax me into adding it to my watch list. In hindsight, I now realise that this game had been in development for some time. I wasn’t too sure what to expect with the game, so I got stuck in, and that’s precisely what happens with Overland; no tutorial, no explanations, just a small 3D landscape to navigate around, exploring and escaping. The game is built upon a square tile with various objects stacked upon it. That’s quite a clinical way of analysing the gaming environment, but I warmed to the design as everything is isolated to an actionable area.
I’m unsure if the very first section is the same for everyone as characters and locations are procedurally generated, but for my first playthrough, I played Audrey. Audrey was on one side of a barricade, and her assumed partner was on the other side, sandwiched between two alien/beast-like creatures. Over his cries of telling her to escape, I aimlessly wandered around, looking to interact with things. It’s a turn-based game, and you have limited moves. In my brief exploration, until her colleague was killed, I learned that you need to pick up fuel, fill up the car and get the hell out of Dodge.
Give Me Fuel, Give Me Fire…
That is one of the key aspects of Overland: fuel. To move around, you need to fill up your vehicle; otherwise, you aren’t going anywhere. Making matters worse, your vehicle can also be destroyed, but you can obtain others. Initially, the car you use is a little hatchback, but later on, you can swipe a camper van or off-road wheels, which makes things even more ‘The Walking Dead’. It was only a matter of time until I referenced that.
Like The Walking Dead, you travel from place to place, scavenging for items and fuel. You don’t eat in this game as people apparently don’t need food. You can collect first-aid kits to restore health, and you can also revive fallen comrades. Actually, just side-tracking, I was cornered on one level and kept getting a character killed. Thankfully, I had another one behind me with a first-aid kit and kept reviving them without losing the item. I killed the enemy, but as you will find out, more came, and I died.
Back on track, you explore a small area with an objective that can vary and is sometimes optional. You can hunt for fuel in fuel cans that you apply to your car, or you can siphon from other vehicles. In some cases, you will need to remove debris from the road by moving it or destroying it with a weapon or your car. The best part is you can pick up new companions, or you can kill them and steal their gear if you’re an arse.
Creatures of the Night
I wasn’t inundated with options for companions. While I didn’t directly kill them, I was responsible for the deaths by over-egging how quickly they could get from one side to the other, leading to them getting mauled on the way. Alternatively, they were too far away, so the remainder of my party left them behind. Bwah haha! I did feel guilty though.
The biggest threat to your mortality isn’t just the lack of fuel but these creatures. They remind me of Skags from Borderlands, only with blue crystal shards protruding from their mouth holes. They appear to be attracted to sounds, so the moment you arrive, they start moving towards you and attack. You can attack and kill them too, but the moment they are hit, they call for reinforcements, and you will find yourself overwhelmed pretty darn quickly.
One of my favourite types of companions were dogs. I won’t list their names as it’s a sensitive subject, and I miss them all, but they can move around the areas quickly and attack the beasts. Their only real flaws would be that they bark and cause a bit of a distraction; also, they can’t drive the vehicles. There were many times where my dog could have kept the engine running, but you know, opposable thumbs and all.
Into the Darkness
Said creatures are present during the day and night. In Overland, as you travel to the western side of North America, the days are broken down into various times of day. When it gets to night, your visibility drops, and you have fewer options. There are a few tricks to deal with this, such as lighting a flare or setting off a generator, but generally speaking, nighttime isn’t the most comfortable time to go on your road trip, although you don’t really have a choice. You always have to keep moving, but in between areas of exploration, you set up camp with your companions (if you have any), and the dialogue reflects what has happened so far. Something I have to stress is that each time you play, there is never one same result, the conversation included. Not sure on the dogs though as they could be barking the same thing. I can’t differentiate.
So you have to keep moving, there’s no debate there, but you do get a chance to explore different areas on your map. The goal is always west, and you can continue to go straight there (each place you go to uses up a set amount of fuel), or you can explore an area that might have some goodies to collect or a station to stock up on fuel. If you do run out of fuel, you’ll have to go into an enemy-infested territory to either siphon some or grab a jerry can.
A Long and Difficult Road
For me, Overland was tough on many levels. The fundamental one was the difficulty level being quite challenging. If you take your time and think about your next move, it’s completely doable, but if you go in gung-ho or start winging it, chances are you’ll die. I found that on my first attempts, I didn’t even get halfway through without losing everyone. The emphasis here is on strategy instead of action.
In a corny approach, this was difficult in terms of decision-making. All the characters you encounter have their own backstories, and the possibilities seem infinite at times. While there is a decent-sized pool of expendable characters, you kind of want to see them all make it to the end. In fact, you’ll have little info points indicating how long a character has been with you; keep your starting character until the end, and you’re the mutt’s nuts. For me, I ended up sacrificing a character or two for the greater good. They would never have made it back to the car anyway.
I was quite pleased to see that there were achievements to unlock along the way too. Unlike the PlayStation or Xbox, these are built into the game rather than the system. You can peer at the menu system to see how to unlock the next. Some of these achievements are simple, like completing the introductory section, while others go on to challenge you to achieve 1,000 miles in one journey.
Keep Overland in Your Party or Leave It Behind?
The gaming market has its fair share of post-apocalyptic titles out there that are larger and more frantic than Overland, but Overland is unique in that it appeals on so many levels. From creatures that respond to sound to other features, like being able to take a photo of where you are at any level, zoomed or not, this a decent title, more so because you really have to think in order to be successful. I don’t think you can be lucky and manage it all the way to the end purely by chance.
Visually, it’s brilliant. The art style reminds me a little of Donut County and also The Darkside Detective, though with it being very far from both thematically. The colour palette is excellent, and the controls and experience are all very tidy. My only real criticism would be the difficulty. As I mentioned before, it’s totally doable, but it’s certainly a challenge and can’t be dismissed as a quick mobile-type game that you will finish in an hour. I would have liked to have seen a bit more options, i.e., a normal and hardcore mode, and dare I say, even an easy one. The stories you can make in this game are worth experiencing, even if it means lowering the challenge a little.
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4, Xbox One
Release Date: 19th September 2019
Do you agree with our review of Overland? What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments below.