The first game from Istanbul-based Pera Games, Overfall is an RPG-style Rogue-like with FTL elements and… Oh my God, no! Another one? Come on, how many of these games does the universe need to have? I’m not writing about this. I refuse. I… Fine. Y’know what? FINE. But this is the last one, I swear. (Shhhh… I really like FTL.)
As I was saying, Overfall was released on May 17, 2016. It has many of the FTL elements we’ve come to expect from just about every new procedurally-generated game these days. This means eXploration, character progression, and a constant-encroaching evil in a universe full of punishing foes.
But despite my protestations, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I love this game. Love it. Overfall may not be the most unique experience in gaming, but it is fun as all get out and, honestly, it’s one of the best games I’ve played this year.
Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip…
Overfall begins with a somewhat meandering tale of a couple of adventurers off to discover the holy MacGuffin on another plane of existence and returning to their home universe only to discover… Honestly, the plot is more than a little convoluted. Here’s what you need to know: the world is split into an almost infinite number of islands, each one featuring a different encounter. As you progress, you may uncover some facts about your world that may or may not make sense to you. There may even be an endgame. Y’know what? Who cares.
This is where Overfall really begins. Two characters, standing in a cave. You start with the fighter dude and the healer chick, but more character options can be discovered (wizards, knights, etc.) as you travel the world map. Even within each character class, there are a ton of options, all of which must be uncovered in the overworld before you can select them at the outset.
For instance, equipping a different weapon will give a character different attacks in combat. There are also skills and trinkets, all of which significantly change the overall experience. But that’s only the beginning. You can also meet other support characters on your journey with their own unique abilities. Eventually your party can be made up of as many as four characters, including your two initial choices.
Further, each character can gain a bunch of buffs and weaknesses in your adventures throughout the world. Much like the recently released Darkest Dungeon, your adventurers will change based on their actual experiences – fight too many men and your character will become a misandrist, getting a bonus for beating on the boys. Take a few too many hits and a character may be permanently slowed or take damage every time they attack or gain an outsized fear of elves. Y’know, just like in real life! Sorta…
These in-game quirks aren’t carried over with each individual playthrough, but some ability boosts may be and certainly any skills or weapons you find will be with you on the next game. There’s a lot, is what I’m saying. And we haven’t even talked about the game proper, yet.
…That started from this tropic port aboard this tiny ship…
So you’ve selected your characters. Now you set out on your little sailboat and explore the seas! What could possibly go wrong? How about everything?
You move your boat with the mouse, clicking in a direction and watching it sail that way. The ocean is almost overfull with ships and islands, all of which lead to some sort of encounter when your boat bumps into it. There are all kinds of events – bazaars and inns where you can trade, quests, moral quandaries, and, of course, battles.
The joy of Overfall comes from the exploration. I’ve had some pretty fun adventures. Some short, some silly. Some legitimately engaging and even heartbreaking. Some adventures consist of literally, one dialogue choice. Others will only open up with certain party members. Still others will go across multiple islands, battles, decisions, becoming their own little game-within-a-game. It’s not perfect. You’ll run into some quests again and again. Although, in a cool twist, a lot of the quests will actually have completely different results after multiple plays – a la everyone’s golden girl, Thea. Overfall is like that treasured collection of children’s tales mixed with a choose your own adventure book. So many worlds to discover, just one choice away.
Each island is populated by a different race – elves, humans, trolls, goblins, dwarves, furries, etc. The game tracks your relationships with each group, and you get certain bonuses for having better relations. Also, a lot of the phat lewt comes from having a great relationship with one group or another. So Dwarf-lover though you may be, if you want that killer axe, you may want to cozy up with the Gobbos one go-round. The interspecies relations are reset to zero with each play, so there’s plenty of chances to try new things.
Actually, that’s another fun thing to do in Overfall. Just try stuff. See what happens when you do something dumb or counterintuitive. Maybe set a goal of getting really friendly with the Orcs this time. The game will almost always reward you for making odd choices and following where it takes you. This game wants you to mess around.
This is important, too, because, like FTL, there is a constantly growing threat, that will become more and more dangerous as time passes. In this case, it’s a group of Viking-types who will hunt you down with their own ships and beat the ever-living hell out of you, even at high levels. Unlike, FTL, however, Overall actually expects you to spend some time on the overmap. The guillotine of time hangs over you, no doubt, but it isn’t so quick to drop. Or it’s not as sharp? I dunno, this metaphor is kinda tortured.
Here’s the thing, when you play FTL, you only explore the starscape to the extent that it is necessary. You stop because you have to, but really you’re trying to move across the map as quickly as possible, lest the baddies catch up and end your adventure. In Overfall, exploring the map is kinda the point. Racing through to reach the end game isn’t just a mistake, it’s working counter to your enjoyment. You should take your time sailing the procedurally generated seas, go to every island, see what you find. That’s where the joy is – in uncovering the little treasures the developers have scattered around for you. If FTL is a forced march, then Overfall is an Easter Egg hunt. How you get there and what you find along the way is far more important than the actual end.
I will warn you, however, Overfall is absolutely a Roguelike, which is just a euphemism for cruel. These are not easy waters, my friend, and they will swallow you whole without so much as a warning wave. Not every adventure ends in disaster, though a lot do, and even the good results are rarely good enough to sustain you for long. Overfall is a game of endings, mistakes – getting absolutely trashed by digital assailants then going after them again and again. Suddenly, the screen looks blurry, it’s 3 am and your wife has reported you dead and remarried.
…The weather started getting rough, the tiny ship was tossed…
The other outstanding portion of Overfall, and the part that will kill you dead, is the combat. Fighting in Overfall is kind of a “greatest hits” of the last few years of gaming. Fighting is turn-based, with characters moving in order of initiative. Your fighter will very likely be going early in the round, your healer toward the end (sort of like Darkest Dungeon).
Each turn, you get three sets of options. One is movement or some sort of movement power. The fighter, for example, can jump towards enemies and damage them. The healer pulls friendlies back to her for a quick HP boost.
Second, you choose one of three skills. Most skills will either buff your own character, remove debuffs from your character, or give a debuff to an opponent. They are mostly “clean up” actions – repairing unwanted statuses incurred in previous rounds or helping to weaken an enemy who’s gotten too puffed up. However, some will do damage or can combo with a later move.
Finally, you’ll choose an attack. Again, you’ll usually have three options and each will offer a different strategic benefit (a bit like Renowned Explorers). Some attacks only work at distance, others do crowd control. Some work better on someone with a low health bar or cause other status effects like blindness or bleeding that will last multiple rounds.
And that’s it. The next time your turn rolls around, you’ll go through the three same steps, though the powers you just used will be on cooldown. And, of course, your enemies also have attacks, buffs, and powers that you must contend with (which reminds me of my old friend, BEDLAM!).
Of the three stages in combat, I found skills to be the hardest decision point. The other two usually presented fairly obvious choices, but the skills were often much the same. They definitely offer different benefits, but figuring out which is best for the situation is not always easy or, for that matter, clear.
Combat works really well in most cases and though I’m making it sound sort of derivative, the truth is it all comes together to form its own, unique experience. There are lots of strategic considerations, and while it’s never overwhelming, you always feel like you’re making choices that will impact the battle. Characters feel strong, but not overpowered. It’s the right balance of cool spells and attacks without making every fight into a runaway. Or, for that matter, that every fight should start with you running away.
The AI is competent as well. It’s not perfect, but the AI generally knows how to position its attackers and will do what it can to hand out the most damage. Most of the time, it’s a good challenge without resorting to cheating. There was one instance where the AI made an egregious choice (firing arrows at an empty space rather than my crew), and instances when I’ve seen some doltish decisions, but they do not occur often. Even now, when I feel like I’ve got the system down, the AI can still outmaneuver me and end a playthrough if I’m not paying attention.
…Gwydion runs out of appropriate Gilligan’s Island lyrics.
So, is Overfall perfect? Nah. Most of my play time came in Early Access and this baby was bug city. I ran into all kinds of issues, including multiple black screen, end-the-game-types right in the middle of a quest which is just… I’m not allowed to type those words. But I’m thinking them, and now you’re thinking them too, so we’re good. That said, the developers have clearly been squashing bugs right up until launch, so most of the problems I encountered have since been eradicated.
There are also some mechanical issues. The collision box on your boat is a little overeager – many times I’ve found myself landing on islands I had no intention of exploring, or even just gotten my ship hooked on the geography. I found I really missed having a larger world map as well. I understand that part of the feel the developers are going for is that you’re wandering, lost, through the world, but there were times I needed to see where I’d been/hadn’t been and having a larger map would have helped with that.
There are a lot of quests, but for a game about uncovering new things, there isn’t enough to find right now. Too often have I made fire for a caveman or “rescued” a captured child. I don’t need an infinite number of monkeys and an infinite number of tales, but it does need to feel as if that were the case. Right now it’s more like there were only five monkeys and one took a vacation halfway through so… That’s what we’ve got. To be fair, Pera is adding new content all the time. Also, the game offers a story creation mode that lets modders create their own adventures within the game world. So there’s going to be plenty to do, in the long run. I just want more. That’s a compliment, Pera Games. Trust me.
For all the great writing, the game is poorly written. That is, the stories are fun and interesting but holy heck is the text riddled with typos, malaprops, and just poor prose overall. Most of this can be explained by translation issues, as I mentioned above the team is based in Turkey. But that’s an excuse, not a solution.
Finally, I feel like the pacing is a bit off. The real fun for me was discovering new characters and new toys to use with those characters, but the drip of new content was too slow for my liking. I’m not saying things should just pinata-burst over my screen every five minutes – it should definitely feel earned – but I do wish goodies came out a little more quickly than they do now.
It sounds like a lot of work, but it’s not like the game needs a complete overhaul and I’m not at all concerned. Pera Games did a good job in Early Access evolving Overfall and there’s no doubt in my mind that they will continue to add and adjust now that the game has been released. I don’t expect the developers to drop the game the moment they see something shiny. Even more importantly, Overfall is a game that plays well right now – it has “good bones” as they’d say about a ship. It is fun at this moment, I don’t have to hope it will be fun at some point in the unforeseeable future.
Overfall is currently $14.99 on Steam. I think you should give it a shot. I think you’ll enjoy it. Now, indie developers, go out there and make a different kind of game, OK? Wait, not another MoO remake! Noooooooo!
TL;DR: Overfall is an FTL-style Roguelike with RPG elements and entire world of islands to explore. Players will travel across an (essentially) endless ocean, encountering quests of all kinds and turn-based, tactical battles. They will acquire sweet loot, new characters, and eventually, perhaps, uncover the mystery of this shattered world. Only to start all over again with a new set of heroes and experiences.
You Might Like This Game If:
- You love the idea of exploring a creative and mysterious new world
- You like turn-based battles with multiple strategic decision points
- You enjoy meeting new characters with lots of different abilities and skills
- You love you some Northern European mythology
You Might Not Like This Game If:
- You’re sick of all this FTL BS
- You think it’s silly to be so…silly
- You like controlling characters who have backstories, motivations, and the potential for personal growth
- You want a set narrative in your game – a straight story from beginning, to middle, to end
Joshua has played for 10+ hours on a custom-built Maingear X-Cube with an AMD Phenom II X4 processor, 8 GB DDR3 RAM and a Radeon HD 5800.
Disclosure: Joshua was given a product key at no cost by the developer for the purposes of this article.