[Review] Overland – Nintendo Switch

Reviewed by Thomas

  • Developer: Finji
  • Publisher: Finji
  • Release Date: 19/09/2019
  • Price: $24.99 / £21.59
  • Review code provided by Finji

Intro

Earlier this year during the Spring edition of Nindies Showcase we saw the announcement trailer for Finji’s isometric turn-based strategy game, Overland. The brief presentation caught my attention and revealed a dreary world yearning to be explored. To be released in Fall, it seemed like such a long wait. Fortunately, the wait is over and Overland is already available on the eShop. Read my review below to see if it was worth the wait.

The Highwayman

Little is known about the world of Overland. Starting up a new game sort of throws you to the wolves. Or strange alien bug things? You begin somewhere on the East Coast as a randomly generated survivor. Your wounded traveling companion calls out to you and urges you to continue the journey without them. After taking a few steps you can only watch in horror as your friend is surrounded and devoured. You grab whatever you can and hop into a car and speed off.

Lonesome Valley

Overland is a turn-based strategy game and an unforgiving one at that. The slightest mistake can be deadly. Luckily there is an undo option which can help alleviate recent mishaps. Be warned, though, you can’t reverse problematic choices during nighttime. Each board is relatively small. Overland is designed to make you feel claustrophobic and act with a ‘get in and out as quickly as possible’ attitude. Linger too long and more enemies will surface. If you’re too quick you’ll miss key items and fuel for your survival and journey. If you’re not quick enough, your escape route will be blocked and you’ll find yourself overwhelmed.

Since the levels in Overland are procedurally generated, I found that often they would be nearly impossible to complete. As you progress from the East to the West you’ll unlock new sections. When you fail a game and lose all your survivors, you can either start all the way from the East or pick from one of the segments along the way. This is a bit of a tricky setup, however, since you’ll start in the middle of the United States where the game has stronger enemies but you’ll be given the same setup as the first level. In some senses, it was easier just to start the game from the beginning location.

America Remains

Combat in Overland felt rigged. You could fight but it would cost you. In most cases, more enemies are summoned. And least of all, you have limited actions to make it worth it. If you try to flee on foot you’ll only repeat the same level, just generated as a new layout. Escaping in your vehicle is the only way to progress on the map. With limited options and only a few people or animals to control, the gameplay starts to feel more like a chore. Overland is best enjoyed in spurts. As with the small boards, each game requires very little time to invest in it. The ability to unlock achievements is nice if you like trying to complete every aspect. In either case, you’ll play through multiple times, whether you make it to the end or not.

I Walk The Line

The polygonal graphics mesh well with the overall experience for Overland. It’s set up as a simple looking game with a basic premise. Characters lack details and are as ambiguous as their backstories. Each location is inspired by real life areas and there is plenty to see. As you cross the country you’ll get a nice look at the different landscapes. If you’re lucky, you’ll even find a peaceful overlook to spend a moment relaxing. The music is easy going as well. Once you finish one level and move onto the next you’ll leave the eerie music behind as you’re crew takes a break to look over the map to plan the next destination. The music changes to a peaceful melody which entices you to stay just a little longer.

One Way Rider

Despite the difficulty curve and challenging gameplay in Overland, there were no other bugs or issues I encountered. The game ran smoothly on my Nintendo Switch Lite and Classic Switch when docked. Other than playing on the television so my family could enjoy my troubled sojourn, I spent most of the time in handheld mode. Overland pulls you into each attempt at survival and having the Switch up close and personal felt like the natural way to experience the game.

Final Wrap

Overland is tough. Too tough if the randomly generated boards aren’t in your favor. Most of my time spent racing across the continent was enjoyable. It was those few times where the game felt stacked against me that left a sour taste in my mouth. The early journey is hard when you first start playing since there’s no tutorial. In that sense, Overland let’s you know from the start that it won’t hold your hand on this trip.

It would have been nice to have more control over your characters in terms of names or customization. Modifiers to make different starting points more unique would have been a great addition. Overland feels like a first game in an IP that is somewhat stripped down. I wouldn’t be surprised if a sequel follows with more options.

Pros

  • Challenging Strategy Title
  • Mood Setting Music
  • Simplistic Graphics

Cons

  • Unfair Level Generation
  • Limited Actions
  • Few Gameplay Options

Verdict
Overland offers a lot of charming sequences which can be dampened by a lack of depth in options, levels, and gameplay.
3.5/5

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