How Overland Made Me Feel Small – PAX East 2018 Preview
In between appointments at PAX East, I ran to Finji’s booth as quickly as I possibly could with one thing on my mind: Overland. Let me tell you all about what may be my favorite game of the show.
If you will, picture recent mech strategy game Into the Breach. Imagine its small isometric play space which is constantly under barrage by streams of alien enemies, and then put yourself in the shoes of the most under-powered creature in the world who has to fight against those odds. That’s what Overland is.
Set within a cross country trip across post-apocalyptic America, Overland stars survivors who have to form alliances in order to survive – and survival is the name of the game. More than any strategy game I’ve ever played, Overland feels tactical because of its use of a smaller, more intimate scale. This layout helps to paint a picture of human fragility and really encompasses the feeling of making on-the-spot decisions that are the difference between life and death.
While combat maintains a hold on the proceedings of Overland, the game is never afraid to hurt the player for wasting a good thing. As you work your way through any play area, there will be foes and there will also be supplies. These supplies can range from simple weaponry like sticks to more complex processes like siphoning gas from disheveled and abandoned cars in order to power your own vehicle. The first instance of wastefulness usually occurs before you even get to explore an environment.
Every stop along the way to their destination, players will have to pick between alternate paths. One direction may be risky in terms of gas usage, but will assure players a new team member so long as they can get to them, which dramatically affects the potential of salvaging supplies or increasing damage output. However, the better choice may be to follow the route in which the player’s car could be used as battering ram. What you end up with is a major quandary at every turn. Is it necessary to use this car as a weapon? Should I forfeit an attack or even a character’s life in order to ensure storage space for these supplies? Ellie never made it out of the car-turned-battering-ram, and though her sacrifice was a noble one, I’ve never felt weaker in a game. Losing a unit, a resource, and a weapon in one go is the absolute shittiest position to find yourself in, and it excited me that Overland was willing to place me in such a position.
Overland’s emphasis on protecting and preserving rather than attacking and conquering may be exactly what I needed in a strategy game, as this philosophy adds stakes that I can get behind without feeling at least slightly gross.