Overland Review: In the Rearview
Kalvin Martinez / Nov 11th, 2019 No Comments
How well would you survive an apocalypse? It’s a question many people like to hypothesize about whether it be at a bar with friends or in the sleepless, anxiety driven hours before you go to work in the morning. Given how dire the world is becoming, it might be more relevant than fanciful to figure it out.
Overland gives players an opportunity to figure out the answer by asking them to lead a survivor or survivors of an apocalypse to salvation. Infrastructure is gone and awful creatures have began to take over the landscape of America in the game. All you have to help you are your wits and luck to get you to the west coast. How far can you go?
Rumors are the west coast is safe, and where you are ain’t. You decide to find some wheels and make the long, arduous journey from the east coast of the United States to the Pacific. However, the perils along the way will test every ounce of survival and cunning you have.
The quest to the coast begins with you thrown into the frying pan. Night is approaching, monsters are stirring, and the car you need has an empty tank. If you want any chance of making it out of here, you need to find some gas. You ain’t never going to make it anywhere on foot.
Getting your bearings is easier said than done. Panic settles in early as you fumble to find some gasoline. The creatures start closing in with every move you make. Your search becomes more frantic as you don’t have the vital gas or anything to defend yourself.
Every empty dumpster is another nail in your coffin as the need to escape intensifies. As you desperately search, you feel the creatures breath on the back of your neck. As luck would have it, you find some gas in the last place you look. However, it is false hope.
With salvation in hand, the creature pounces. Its sharp teeth slice through your skin like a hot knife. The first attack only wounds you. Maimed, you struggle toward the car. All doesn’t seem lost when you reach the gas tank. You can feel escape in your grasp as you fuddle with the lid of the gas can…
Overland in a nutshell is Groundhog’s Day except you’re not reliving the same day over and over, you’re reliving a grizzly and dangerous apocalypse scenario over and over. Sure the players and variables change, but the goal remains the same. If you don’t succeed (and die) than you have to do it all over again. It continues again, and again, and again, and again, and again…until you either manage to succeed or take up knitting or another hobby.
The “one more run” philosophy of game design in Overland is a lot more harrowing. Success is hard to measure and harder to come by. Many of your runs will be figuring out what you can and can’t do.
Stupidly, I assumed you couldn’t hurt the monsters my first few runs. You can, but you need a weapon, and it is tough to kill them. Avoiding the creatures is a smarter bet because your movement range can easily put you out of harm’s way. However, making sure you have something to defend yourself in the event they get close is a valuable lesson to learn.
In a move of generosity, the game gives you chapters or check points where you can start over from when you die. If you make it past the road blockage in the first leg of your cross-country trip, you can pick up from there in case you and your party gets wiped out.
There are benefits and drawbacks to choosing a checkpoint to start a run rather than going from the beginning. Obviously, the key benefit is being much closer to your end goal of the coast. The drawbacks largely stem from beginning your run without anyone in your party and less supplies.
We all like to think we could survive on our own in the event the world ended, but like Whodini, we need friends, or at least allies with a mutual sense of self preservation. During your travels you’ll find other survivors that you can invite to join your party.
Allies appear early on the leg of your trip, but the type of ally is random. Is it an older gent with a fear of the dark, or a good boy/girl who wants you to pet it and ride in your car? Overland’s greatest achievement is allowing you to befriend dogs as allies.
Dogs are super useful in terms of offense as they can easily destroy lesser creatures with only a stick in their mouth. The drawback of having dog pals is they don’t have thumbs and can’t put gas in a car. However, certain doom is easier to swallow with doggos by your side. Ending a run with some sweet pups is some consolation.
Not everyone you’ll meet in your journey will be friendly. There are often strangers you’ll encounter who are openly hostile or who simply are working counter to your goals by scavenging for valuable resources. How you choose to deal with these strangers is important, and killing another human is much more nerve wracking than any monster in the game.
Overland is built on tough decisions. Do you go for gas or supplies, try to recruit allies or find a better vehicle? Every decision matters, but the most difficult ones come when things look bleak. There are times in Overland when you’ll have to choose between trying to save your allies or your own self-preservation.
Do you cut and run to live another day or risk death by making sure you and your allies make it out, albeit injured? If you choose your own self-preservation no one could fault you. However, the presumption that your forsaken ally dies is one the game challenges at the least opportune time.
When you finally made it to the roadblock and you can feel yourself making it closer to being safe, a pickup truck speeds through a creature interrupting your triumph. BAH GAWD, it’s Jimmy Jams!
The ally you thought long gone returns for revenge. This isn’t a tearful reunion where a long survivor triumphed over adversity. No, this is someone with all the intention to kill you. It is powerful stuff, and major evidence of what makes Overland such a dynamic and engrossing experience.
Overland is an exciting blend of survival and strategy. It delivers a unique experience where every decision you make affects your chances of survival. Each run presents its own challenges and opportunities to reach salvation. In spite of the low chance of success, you keep coming back for one more run.
Overland was reviewed on a Nintendo Switch with a code provided by the publisher.
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