Overland Review – Nintendo Switch

Developed By: Finji

Published By: Finji

Reviewed By: Rachel Ingersoll

Thank you so much to Finji for providing a review code! 

Story / Introduction

Overland is a procedurally generated turn-based strategy game. You begin each playthrough with a car to help you travel through seven different regions during your long trek across North America. After getting to the end of a region you can start your playthrough from that area, without having to go through each of the ones before it. Without holding your hand, the game throws you into this apocalyptic world without any story or introduction, leaving you to find your own way through this new alien ridden world. 

Gameplay

With no tutorial, Overland sends you straight into an abandoned world ravaged by creatures, and it’s up to you to discover the game’s mechanics and how to survive in this new world. Although it was interesting trying to navigate this world on my own, a little instruction would have been helpful. 

Each new playthrough of Overland starts you off with a new character. The first character you start out with always has a backpack, meaning they have two inventory slots. All other characters you meet will likely only have one inventory slot unless you’re lucky enough to find someone with two. This increased the difficulty immensely since these characters could help scavenge for supplies like fuel to take back to the car, but they could not defend themselves against the creatures that attacked them along the way. Not only can you find human characters, but you can also find dogs to enlist into your “squad”. 

Every character has their own traits that differentiate themselves from the rest. These traits can be positive like using less fuel when they drive or they can be negative like making more noise when scavenging. These traits make it easier to prioritize some characters during a playthrough and help with choosing which characters should be sacrificed so the others can escape. 

Overland focuses on finding supplies and fuel for your vehicle so that you survive. Weapons like knives and sticks can be found to defend yourself against the creatures if they get to close. You can also use glass bottles and throw them at a creature to harm or kill them from afar. Overland’s combat is interesting because I found myself usually running away from the creatures than trying to pick a fight with them. Although most creatures can be killed in one hit, when they die they let out a scream which spawns multiple monsters in the area, meaning that if you kill one of these you better be ready to run or fight.

The different environments and events in Overland keep things interesting. While traveling across the map I was excited to see what each new area would look like and what new and creepy creatures would come with each. While travelling across the map, the levels would be affected by the time of day, with nighttime being the most dangerous. During night time you can only see a few spaces around you, leaving the rest of the area completely black. This almost guaranteed your death if you came into this area ill-prepared. 

Along with the unique environments comes unique events. At random, different events occur while playing through an area. These events included cars falling from the sky and a loud screeching sound coming from off-screen which scared all the creatures out of the area. These events help to create a more mysterious and eerie feeling when playing Overland, as though anything can happen in this apocalyptic world. 

Unfortunately, Overland’s controls leave a lot to be desired. The controls make it very easy to misclick and move somewhere you didn’t intend to, sometimes putting your character in harm’s way. On numerous occasions I would accidentally move my character and not the car they were driving, resulting in a creature swiftly killing my character and ending my run. The game can be a little forgiving with the undo button but it can sometimes be unreliable. The undo mechanic doesn’t seem to follow a specific pattern on when you can use it or not. The controls mixed with an unreliable undo button got very annoying after time and caused the death of a number of my characters.

Overlands levels are procedurally generated, which can be really fun when executed well, unfortunately, this isn’t always the case with Overland. I found myself surrounded by dozens of creatures on multiple levels. Although this makes Overland a very challenging game, I couldn’t help but feel as though some levels were almost impossible to complete with the number of creatures that spawned. 

Overland has an achievement system that can feel rewarding at times (like completing an area with a whole dog squad). These achievements are fun to unlock and some provide a good challenge to complete. Overland also comes with a countdown option which sets a time limit on your turn for an added challenge and a level restart option which came in handy if you wanted to have another try at a run. 

I’m in danger!

Presentation

Overland has a simple art style throughout the various places you visit. I enjoyed the deteriorating landscapes that highlighted how abandoned the world has now become. I especially enjoyed how as you progressed through the game the environments became increasingly creepier.

Each new environment also comes with new enemies. Although the designs of the creatures are simplistic, they’re creepy as hell. The creatures “cry” is especially chilling with the lack of music in the game. The choice to include very minimalistic music in the game was a great inclusion as it highlighted the frightening noises the monsters made as they moved closer towards you. The lack of music emphasized every sound you made, like moving through the area and searching for supplies or a vehicle This made every movement and noise feel important and dangerous since the noises attract the bloodthirsty creatures closer to you.

Technical Issues

Throughout my time with Overland, I experienced no technical issues in docked or handheld mode. 

Summary

Overland is a fun and challenging strategy game. Although the procedural generation can at some points be unfair, I mostly enjoyed the challenge of stepping into a new area full of creepy creatures. The lack of story and clunky controls did, however hurt the overall experience, but the inclusion of achievements, time limits and the option to restart a level were nice additions to add even more challenge or take some away. It’s not for everyone, but Overland appeals to a group of players that are looking for a real challenge.

6/10

Pros

  • Challenging Gameplay
  • Beautiful and Frightening Atmosphere
  • Lots of Achievements to Earn

Cons

  • At Times The Procedural Generation is Unfair
  • Clunky Controls
  • Unreliable Undo Button
  • Limited Inventory Space

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