From the get go Overland wants you to know that no one is safe, the first character you get to control has to abandon their friend, leaving them to die in the hands of the strange creatures rising from the ground. Loss is a theme throughout this game, and it’s incredibly easy to lose people.
Overland is a turn-based strategy game, set in the US. You, as a one of last remaining survivors must work your way to the west coast in the hope of safety, a journey which is going to be harsh and unforgiving. Each zone in the game, as with each character you meet is procedurally generated. No two play-throughs will be the same. Locations will vary from decrepit city streets, gas stations, desert areas and more. All of which are filled with loot to scavenge such as fuel, weapons and even items like books that you can trade with other survivors given the chance.
Mistakes are costly, direct your survivors into a dangerous area and that could spell doom for all. You lose someone and that’s it, they are gone forever. If you lose all of you party, that’s the journey over. You start over bearing the guilt of getting your survivors killed.
After each small area, you very briefly rest at an abandoned presumably safe gas station, yet you won’t have much downtime. You must pick your next destination, fuel depending you have the choice between two locations. If you are well equipped, you may wish to scavenge an area with lots of fuel. Or you can play it safe, which may lead you to picking up a new member of your party. It may be a small choice, but it could lead to something good or the alternative of barely making out of an area alive.
Despite the minimal dialogue you do feel the emotions of your survivors, especially if you had a bad time in a certain location. In one run I had three members of my party, I left two in the car whilst I controlled another to grab some fuel. Unfortunately the monsters from below had sneakily surrounded the vehicle, attacking it. This led to my car exploding, which also held some supplies. I had lost both people in the car and leaving my remaining character to be surrounded by the creatures that were stirred by the sounds.
Other than the small little tidbits on each characters inventory screen, story is essentially none existent. While I was disappointed with only a tease of a story, it did enable me to put my own spin on it all, which added to the guilt I felt watching my survivors be burnt or eaten.
I was consistently learning from each mistake I made along my survivors journey, I began being cleverer with my movement, often having one character distract the creatures while others either looted or protected the car. Each new run was better, ultimately leading me closer to the end of the game. Despite many hours with the game, I’m yet to reach the West Coast. I find myself wanting to have another go, with the ultimate goal of hopefully having a safer life.
Hitting certain triggers will issue you Badges these are the in-game achievements. From escaping areas without losing anyone, to escaping on foot without a vehicle. All will grant you an accolade you can view in the main menu. I didn’t unlock them all and some were hidden, but the ones I did achieve were a nice token to the effort I put into the game.
The world may be bleak in Overland, but the art-style gives it a clean-fresh look which I can’t help but admire. It runs rather well on the Switch, a few long loading screens at times but nothing serious or that takes you out of the immersion.
Overland is also available on the newly released Apple Arcade, I have also had a few hours with that version as well. I did notice loading times were quicker, which I assume is part of the optimisation of having it run on iOS devices. You can use touch-screen controls not seen in the switch version, which can make choosing your characters path slightly easier.
The games core survival and strategy elements make for an extremely challenging experience, and while Overland can border on being too harsh at times, I couldn’t bring myself to come away from it all. Once you learn how the game works, you can really have some fun with it.
The journey to the West Coast may be fraught with multiple failures, but it’s a journey you shouldn’t miss out on.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*