The first bit of Overland isn’t interested in telling you what’s happened to the world. It’s more interested in you figuring that out for yourself as you progress across the ruins of the United States — and battle the critters that are seemingly everywhere.
Overland is a video game slated to release for Windows, Mac and Linux later this year that, as the developers at Finji described it to me on the PAX South show floor in San Antonio, combines the tactical elements of XCOM with the theme of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Basically, the world’s gone to hell, and the player’s tasked with survival on a post-apocalyptic road trip.
The game itself is essentially a series of randomly-generated vignettes filled with obstacles, items, friends and foes. The player can carry a single item per character — which they start with just the one and (in my demo at least) a friendly dog, though more can be invited to join if found stranded somewhere.
That’s basically how the game plays out — with only the mouse being used to control everything. During my demo, I found an armored van, beat several monsters of varying sizes into submission and recruited several folks to my side in the meantime. I also almost got my dog killed and was nearly trapped due to a couple of dumpsters sitting in front of my vehicle on the final level of one section before moving to the next part of the map.
The biggest concern? Making sure I had enough gas in the car to continue on my way after visiting a location off the beaten path. Every single stop on the way to my destination had a cost associated with it in terms of gas, and finding more fuel wasn’t always a guarantee. So, do I pick up an extra person to fill up my armored van? More people means more actions in a turn. Or do I play safe and grab more fuel? The answer’s not always clear.
That is part of the game’s appeal. There’s no definitive solution to a problem, but there’s any number of ways to fail. Going and grabbing a backpack — which extends a character’s inventory — costs gas, and it could also lead to getting hurt if the area’s dangerous. Being hurt means those characters have fewer actions, making them overall less useful to the player even if they’ve gained extra skills thanks to being in the group for some length of time.
Adding to all this is an arguably simplistic art style that emphasizes the sparseness of the world the player explores. The tactical survival seen in both the scavenging levels and the larger decisions made about where to go next take focus, making the somewhat polygonal, shaded art abstract in importance. It’s an easy way to make clear that survival is the priority.
Overland is set to release later this year, but the developers tell me that they’ll be rolling out access to the game sooner rather than later. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the game on sale within four months, and as it currently stands, I will likely be at the front of the line to buy a copy.