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Overland review for Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One


Platform: Nintendo Switch
Also on: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Publisher: Finji
Developer: Finji
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: E10+

It’s kind of weird playing Overland in the current climate. Obviously, when it was developed and released a few months ago, the developers had no way of knowing they were just months away from a global pandemic that would feel quasi-apocalyptic, but…well, here we are, and, thankfully, things haven’t devolved quite this much. Mind you, Overland’s apocalypse seems to involve spiky monsters, and we don’t have quite the same thing to worry abo — wait, what? Aww, nuts.

Anyway, getting back on track: Overland’s creepy atmosphere loses some of its impact for reasons completely beyond its control. But I wouldn’t say it loses it entirely. On top of those spiky monsters crawling around every map, you also have to face obstructed views, limited resources, and a sparse score that amps up the tension. Couple that with turn-based gameplay that puts strict limits on what you can do during any move, and this game definitely succeeds at creating a feeling of suffocating tension.

The thing is, the way Overland is designed, there’s a very thin line between tense and frustrating, and more often than not, it falls on the wrong side of that line. It’s similar to isometric puzzle games like Hitman Go or Vandals, where you and your enemies take turns moving around a grid-based board, with your character trying to reach supplies and other survivors as the enemies try to catch you. It doesn’t really tell you any of this, though, beyond the barest details, and because every new map is procedurally-generated, you’re constantly trying to find your bearings. There’s also very little margin for error, which means that, more often than not, you’ll wind up dead before you come anywhere close to achieving your objectives.

What’s more, because it tells you so little, there’s a lot of trial and error here. Controls aren’t immediately obvious, and with such limited movements within each turn, you’re a) mostly figuring it out as you go along, and b) dying a lot.

For many people, of course, the difficulty is the point, especially when we’re talking about survival horror — which, its isometric puzzle trappings notwithstanding, Overland definitely is. It doesn’t hold your hand (which, for some — i.e. me — may be a drawback), so if you’re tired of the current apocalypse and in the mood for one that’s a little different, it might just do the trick.

Finji provided us with an Overland Switch code for review purposes.

Grade: B