Overfall Early Access Review
Overfall is a game with a lot of good things going for it. There is the distinct art style, an excellent modular story engine, some interesting tactical combat, and a very dynamic setting. It's a game that promises a staggering amount of depth, especially when one gets into it. It's a big, expansive game with a big expansive map and big expansive ideas.
Unfortunately, this is where things fall a little flat. For a big, expansive game world with an easy to use storyline editor and a lot of cool stuff going for it, the game doesn't exactly deliver on the bountiful promises that it set out to make. It's that failure to deliver that makes everything that much more difficult. What should be an awesome game is only an okay one.
And this is the issue with Overfall. But as always, more below.
Overfall is a tactical roleplaying game with procedurally generated elements. In it, you guide a team of adventurers around a series of islands, stopping off at each one for a different story fragment or adventure. The object is to build enough of a reputation to find the lost king who can reunite the world against a group of terrifying barbarian invaders streaming out through a portal. Your heroes solve various problems through a mixture of diplomacy and turn-based hex-based tactical combat, gaining reputation points that slowly build a rapport with various races. This in turn means the races are more likely to help you against the barbarians, and so on and so forth.
Time is also kept by way of a clock in the corner of the screen, as the invaders set up bases and begin to siege the various islands throughout the vast archipelago. The game becomes more difficult as you go, with new challenges and different ships. Overfall makes an effort to make sure the player feels like there's a world, with various factions, ships, fights, and various other factors. You can actually watch wars going on as you sail from village to village and the Vorn become a bigger threat, and that's really cool.
When you die (and your characters will die), the game plops you back at the portal with more options unlocked: different party members, new trinkets, various abilities, and other things like that. Thus, the game becomes easier and also gains depth as you go on, with new abilities unlocking and old ones shifting, as the player goes along. The player also gains new classes and characters to unlock as the game goes along, and as your ship becomes more renowned, you can hire new characters for your party to make battles a little easier. You also unlock new weapons, relics, and a ton of other things.
Unfortunately, while there is a lot of depth and the game is fun enough, it's very slow. All your unlocks are tied to in-game progress, which is based on the quests you get. As the quests are completely random, it's difficult to make much headway in the plot. You can get completely screwed over just as easily as you can run through a series of all-important reputation missions that allow you access to a faction's homeland. One run may see you getting inconsequential quest after inconsequential quest, others may see you racking up rewards faster than you can spit, and that luck kind of causes the game to bounce off it's players.
Which is a shame, because if you can set up a rhythm, the game is really good. When it's firing on all cylinders and lets you see its depth, it's something amazing. As a shallow time-killer, it can also be pretty cool. But when all you're doing is finding the quests that mean you get minimal rewards and there's no sense of progression, it's really annoying. The game becomes an exercise in gambling and tedium, neither of which really make for a good roleplaying game, as anyone who's played Chinese MMOs can tell you.
And then there's the story editor. The crown jewel of Overfall's engine, the story editor is a crown jewel in the game. A Twine-like interface, it allows you to craft your own miniature narrative and add it to the possible random generation in the game. Furthermore, it allows you to download community adventures, play them, and rate them as you see fit. It's the kind of democratized storytelling that more games should have. It's simple to use, has a lot of applications, and can be used to tell any number of awesome mini-stories.
But between the luck-based content, the tactical battle system that takes a lot to get used to (seriously, some kind of manual would be a godsend), and the just weird nature of the game, Overfall just seems like kind of a mess. In the end, I'd wait for a sale or see how much it's going to be before going out and buying it. It's a good game, but it lacks the vital spark needed to make it a truly amazing one, and I can't fully recommend it based on that.
Final score: 3/5
Full disclosure: The reviewer received a pre-release early access copy for review.