My review and thoughts on Overfall, a turn-based indie RPG

Overfall is a charming turn-based RPG with numerous roguelike elements and plenty of tongue-in-cheek humor that will task you with traveling across the high seas in search of worthy allies to stand with you against the tides of darkness that are fast approaching, by which I mean hordes of extremely pissed off alien vikings.

It launched in Early Access back in March, and after two months of hard work the developers have managed to improve Overfall on nearly all fronts. Everything from gameplay balance, to sound design, to the way you interact with and new unlock characters has been updated, and changed for the better. So now that all of the important work on Overfall has been completed, there remains only one question, is it any good?

 

Video version of this review (10 minutes)

The answer is thankfully a resounding yes as Overfall manages to be a compelling and fun adventure through a bizarre land, while still retaining a more than adequate level of challenge that will have you worried about your life from the moment you start, to the very moment you finish. It isn't unfair however, and with three difficulty settings to chose from you will be able to arrange exactly the type of adventure you're looking for, but don't think Overfall will ever go easy on you as that's a surefire way to end up meeting the rather polite grim reaper. 

Most of the difficulty comes from two things, the first one being your constantly dwindling supply of resources and healing items, and the second the completely ruthless turn-based combat that will teach you how to properly utilize all of the classes at your disposal... or simply kill you in the process. As far as the supplies are concerned you will be using them to purchase upgrades for your equipment, enhancements for your abilities, new followers to replace the ones that kicked the bucket, and most importantly, healing your heroes after particularly difficult engagements. You will get plenty of loot after each battle, so it might seem on first glance that you're never in any real danger, but in reality its surprisingly easy to burn through your entire supply in a short amount of time, and then find yourself one poorly-judged step away from death.

Overfall features some difficult battles

'Tis only a flesh wound!

The combat on the other hand can't be explained so easily, even though the cartoony visuals and clean art style might suggest otherwise, so its best we start from the very beginning. Each hero has 8 spells and abilities at their disposal, two of them movement related, three dedicated to buffing and debuffing, and three reserved for smacking or exploding anyone foolish enough to stand in your way. The way combat works is that each unit, both friend or foe, goes through all three of the aforementioned phases during their turn. To give a simple example, a warrior can use the first part of his turn to cast Heroic Leap and get up close and personal with the enemies, spend the second part of his turn disarming or debuffing the opposition before finally greeting them with the pointy side of his massive axe.

My favorite part of the combat system is the fact that almost none of the spells are boring "do X damage" type of affairs. They all either apply some sort of positive or negative effect, have synergies with the rest of your characters or even with your other abilities, and most importantly, all feel and sound incredibly satisfying to use. This last part is especially commendable since the early version of Overfall had fairly generic spells that barely resulted in more than a muted *thump* and some sparkles, so to see them now in their full gruesome glory is satisfying in a whole variety of ways.

Overfall's fireballs are indeed fiery

Now THAT is a good looking fireball spell

Battles aren't difficult just because there's a whole bunch of spells and effects to account for, however. That honor falls to the enemy AI that I still can't decide whether its brilliant, or some sort of an idiot savant. The reason I say this is because even on my best run I've had plenty of my characters die once the AI figured out attacking the people in dresses is probably a better idea than hitting the grizzled veteran up front, but also because I've won battles I shouldn't have due to the AI deciding my healer on 1 HP is probably a safe target to leave alive for the next couple of turns.

Those outliers aside, the fights are genuinely tough since the enemies have access to almost all of the same spells and effects as you do, with the same buffing and debuffing capabilities that can be used to almost completely strip the defenses away from your characters before introducing them to Mr. Smashey, the friendly mace. Don't take that as me being whiny though, as the challenging combat and mutually fair (or rather unfair) mechanics are the main reasons I've spent this many hours with Overfall. There is nothing quite like having each and every battle a puzzle with no clear solutions and no easy answers, but always plenty of ways to improve your strategy and work out an even better combination of heroes and spells that will result in you losing as little health as possible.

The only time I've ever found the difficulty to be unfair is when the random encounter system delivers you a massively one-sided battle minutes after starting, which while completely beatable is such a devastating handicap on your resources that you might as well just restart instantly. This doesn't occur very often, and thank alien Odin for that, but it really shouldn't be occurring at all since the built-in story-creator clearly shows the game is capable of restricting content based on the player's current abilities.

Overfall can pit you against the odds sometimes

This seems fair...

While the battles are indeed a key element of Overfall its worth noting that they should always be your last resort simply due to the fact that healing after combat is an expensive activity that is best avoided at all costs, especially if you plan on doing such silly things as surviving to the very end of the game. Instead of having your axe or spectral daggers do the talking its probably a better idea to at least attempt a diplomatic solution as solving a problem without getting your hands bloody will result in the same reward, or potentially an ever better one as living people tend to be a lot more grateful than the recently deceased.

It is exactly through the dialogue system that Overfall initially won me over as each and every hero in your party has some sort of specialty, or useful skill they can employ during conversations. In your first playthrough you might encounter missions that seem like they have no peaceful solution, only to revisit the same event later on with a completely different party and realize that through a bit of sorcery you could've not only avoided the entire mess, but also spawned a whole new series of quests!

Some of these quests can offer you massive amounts of treasure, others new spells and items you can use in your subsequent playthroughs, and the rarest of them all can result in entirely new characters for you to toy around with. The unlocking process for the majority of these new heroes is fairly simple and will only require you to help them out of a scrap, but there are some that require both a bit of luck, and a herculean effort on your part in order to even get a chance at acquiring them. No matter how lucky or unlucky you end up being its very rare to finish a session of Overfall without unlocking at least something new to play around with, be that a spell, a weapon, or even a unique hero, and that is a feature I greatly appreciate as it keeps the game fresh over a long period of time.

The Monk class from Overfall

The Monk hero you can unlock looks surprisingly similar to the Diablo 3 one

Before I go on, there is one very important thing you should know about the dialogue before you jump into Overfall, and that is the fact that its heavily influenced by pop culture and that it features a myriad of references to video games, music, movies, and even memes. I personally have no issue with this, especially since the dialogue is cleverly written and intentionally made to be as cheesy as possible in places, but its well worth mentioning given how many people seem to despite low-brow comedy. 

While the references and tongue-in-cheek humor might not be your cup of tea, the one thing I believe everyone will appreciate is that none of the races belongs to your generic fantasy stereotype, even though they all look the part. The Dwarves act as if they were taken straight out of Tolkien's work, but while their love for riches and ale leads to some hilarious moments, they are also shockingly racist and have at one point enslaved numerous other races and kept them in check through magically-induced addiction.

The Goblins seem on first glance to be your generic bad guys as they are barely capable of forming coherent sentences (much like me) and love nothing more than raiding their rich Dwarven neighbors (again, much like me), but once you get down to it you will realize that they were a failed creation of the Dwarves and that they have only recently managed to gain independence, despite constantly struggling with the side-effects of their addiction to the mind-addling Dust, a magic powder the Dwarves used to create and control them.

Overfall goblin backstory

Huh, Goblins have an actual backstory and aren't just punching bags? Color me impressed

Its some seriously dark stuff, and its so well hidden behind Overfall's otherwise cheerful veneer that I'm actually both shocked and impressed the developers went with this kind of a lore.  But no matter how deep and interesting the world is, or how difficult the battles are, you'll eventually reach a point where you've done it all, and where there is absolutely nothing to look forward to. Thankfully there is a solution to this, I'm not just being a downer for no reason, and that solution comes in the form of the Story Builder.

The Story Builder, while simple in concept, is an incredibly powerful tool that allows you to personally create or customize every single aspect of an encounter, from the enemies you can potentially fight, to the dialogue tree you can navigate, to the rewards you can receive, to the locations you can visit, and so forth. Best of all, its now fully integrated with the Steam Workshop, so even if you don't feel like personally creating new stories and encounters to toy around with, you can always download the best ones the community made and enrich your game that way.

Given that longevity is one of the main problems with roguelike games I cannot stress how important this feature really is, especially when you consider that its surprisingly easy to work with since it operates purely through a graphical interface that clearly states everything you need to know.

Overfall's story builder or map editor

Complex on first glance, but actually surprisingly simple

Verdict

I greatly enjoyed Overfall when it first launched in Early Access, and now that I've tried it again two months later I am happy to say that the release version is bigger, better, and even more fun than what I've experienced the first time around.

If you're a fan of turn-based combat, or roguelike games in general, consider giving Overfall a look, its one of the most polished indie games I've played in recent years.

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