My detailed review and critique of Overfall

[Update]: I have posted a review for the final release version, so I'd suggest you head over there to get an idea of Overfall's current state.

Overfall is a stylish, turn based RPG with many roguelike elements and plenty of tongue-in-cheek humor that will task you with traveling across the high seas in search of your lost king and dealing with various factions and outlaws either through diplomacy, violence or trickery.

It is currently in Early Access and as such some features might be unfinished, though in my dozen hours of playtime I've not encountered even a single broken quest, or even a bug so I'd imagine the beta phase is purely for polish.

 

The story premise is simple but effective. After witnessing a great war ravage the land the immortal Everking decided to never let such atrocities happen again. To ensure peace he sent two of his most legendary heroes on a perilous journey in to another world with the sole purpose of retrieving an artifact of great power. What the Everking failed to foresee, or simply didn't care about, is that the native population of that world might not appreciate two "heroes" stealing their artifact.

But steal it they did and in doing so they angered an entire world filled with Vikings, in hindsight a bad idea if your goal is world peace. With a bloodthirsty army in pursuit, the two noble heroes returned through the portal to their own world only to find that the trip has warped both space and time dumping them 300 years after the start of their quest, in to an era where the Everking has long since gone missing. Your job, as the player, is to find the Everking and put a stop to the invasion before things get out of hand and everything plunges back in to war.

To do so you will first need to create your two main characters by choosing from a list of starting classes, abilities and items, each of which brings their own advantages and naturally, disadvantages. On your very first playthrough you will have to stick with the default warrior & cleric combination until you can find and unlock more by doing either hard or rare quests. What this means is that even if you end up on the wrong side of an Orc's blade you will at least have a few new unlocks to spice up your future sessions with.

Out of all the classes I've manage to play around with I haven't found one that is clearly overpowered, or much stronger than the rest, so when it comes to character creation its all about your choosing your favorites and building up a team from there. The only issue I have with the unlock system is that some of the requirements are downright silly as they require good timing, skill and annoyingly luck. But that's only for a couple of unlocks out of the many, many available ones so it could be considered an end game goal rather than an annoyance to overcome.

Overfall allows you to unlock new heroes as you progress

You may die but your legacy (and loot) will live on!

With your characters ready you will be given free reign to explore a procedurally generated world with numerous quests to mess up, factions to anger and potential recruits to squander. Since the majority of the world is covered in water you, along with everyone else, will have to use boats as your main means of transportation between the various inhabited islands. The sailing portions of Overfall serve as a brief respite from combat and as a way to lick your wounds though as time progresses and the angry Vikings arrive in ever increasing numbers even that safe heaven will slowly disappear so enjoy the scenery while you can early on.

Your small team, no matter how mighty, has no chance to stop the invaders on their own so you will have to turn towards the numerous warring factions in Overfall in order to win their favor and hopefully an army to go along with it. If you're expecting some deep and convoluted story about each faction I'm afraid I'll have to disappoint you because this is where Overfall's tongue-in-cheek humor shows its face the most. The Elves are all narcissistic tree-loving hippies, Orcs are brutish thugs that only value strength, Dwarves are incapable of loving anything but a keg of ale and so forth. The only faction that is even remotely realistic are the humans, which are assholes.

Don't take this as a complaint from me though, the combination of self-aware humor and charming, well-stylized visuals works heavily in Overfall's favor as it makes the world and the characters a lot more memorable than if they were your standard fantasy cutouts. This is especially important when you consider the fact that quests and random encounters have to tell you everything about a character and their story in only a minute or two given that Overfall is a roguelike and as such has a large number of short events, each with their own self contained story.

Overfall has actual Team Rocket impersonators

There's even a quest where you fight Team Rocket!

These events, along with the combat system, represent the majority of the gameplay in Overfall and from everything I've seen so far they are nicely written, full of branching choices and most importantly numerous enough that they don't constantly repeat even after multiple playthroughs. In true roguelike fashion they can be anything from free loot to almost certain doom though Overfall does sometimes extend you an olive branch by allowing you to say "NOPE!" and just sail away when you land on a zombie-infested island.

It is these sort of choices with actual consequences that I love the most about Overfall. Almost every mission and event I've run across has had multiple branching paths which either lead towards loot, reputation with certain factions or even further quests or unlocks. Usually, with each event you chain together your risk of dying goes up given that you don't have the time to heal but so does the reward which is a fair and welcome compromise, especially if you receive something cool like a new item or potential recruit at the end of it.

Since food is often expensive, and heals for very little, it is imperative that you try to avoid needless combat and instead rely on diplomacy or character specific skills to help you out in tough spots. For example the warrior is an expert tracker so if you have any quests that involve locating the enemy you can skip potential intermediary fights and go for the heart of the problem; the riftwalker class is capable of using hypnosis so if you're ever dealing with unreasonable, or even slightly insane people then you can calm them down and have an actual conversation, something no other class can do thus creating a unique experience for your playthrough.

Overfall allows you plenty of decision making

No matter what you do in Overfall there will be plenty of ways to do it

However, no matter how well spoken of a diplomat you are you're eventually going to run up against enemies that simply can't be reasoned with through speech, which is where you continue the conversation with axes and fireballs. Much like the random encounter system, the combat in Overfall is a well done, visually pleasing turn based strategy affair.

Each character's turn is separated in to three phases: the movement phase, the buff/debuff phase and the attack phase. During the movement phase you are only able to move or use movement based abilities such as teleporting, during the buffing/debuffing phase you're only able to use non-damaging spells and abilities and finally, in the combat phase you get to capitalize on all the prep work you've done by smashing your enemies in to a pulp with satisfying *TWHAK* sounds. This might sound overwhelming but each character only has 2 movement, 3 buff/debuff and 3 attack abilities so the number of spells you need to manage is not that large but is definitely complex enough to allow for deep, strategic play.

With around 50 available player characters, hundreds of decently challenging enemies to fight, plenty of skills to employ and some great audio/visual feedback I have to say that the combat in Overfall is a genuinely fun experience that continued to be so even after many hours of continuous play.

The only complaints I have is that characters can sometimes stack up on each other making targeting a bit fiddly if you're aiming for the guys in the background as well as the difficulty which can plummet heavily during the middle to late game when you've blinged out your heroes with new equipment and spell upgrades resulting in enemies keeling over before they could do much.

Overfall Justicar hero in battle

The Justicar (center left) wearing the coolest armor I've seen in years!

But if you're like me and play roguelikes for long periods of time you will start seeing repeat content in Overfall because even though the missions are randomly spawning their outcomes and branching paths are not. Luckily, the developers were aware of this issue as Overfall comes with a fully featured and easy to understand quest creator/editor as well as Steam Workshop integration so even if you're just as lazy as I am you can get your hands on some new missions. I've only toyed around with it for a short period of time as the editor is a bit laggy on large maps but from what I've experienced its incredibly easy to use even without prior knowledge and testing can be done through a single click of a button ensuring the development process stays interesting.

I have to give credit where credit is due, the inclusion of a level editor is the single most important feature Overfall could have launched with as it alleviates the majority of the complaints I tend to have with roguelikes, i.e. the fact that they become extremely predictable and easy if you play them for long periods of time. With the level editor present you could simply add a bunch of new missions that only spawn at later stages in the game thus ensuring you will get whatever level of challenge you want from Overfall. A simple solution to a complex problem!

Verdict

I have a feeling the developers behind Overfall knew exactly what sort of game they wanted to make so they spent the majority of their time polishing what they had rather than just bolting on new features. It might not be the most complex game ever made but Overfall is an extremely solid blend between turn based strategy and roguelikes that kept me engaged and pushing for more even after hours and hours of play.

If you are interested in some stylish turn based combat, slightly cheesy humor and numerous roguelike elements then I fully recommend you give Overfall a try, it has managed to accomplish everything it set out to. But most importantly, its really fun.

Finally, if you're up for some straight up gameplay footage I've recorded a 10 minute long showcase, have a look:

 

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