Gamersledge Overload Review – PC
Remember the days before video games had dozens of micromechanics, relatable characters, and a deep philosophical, existential, moral, or ethical message? Back when the only motivator was “That person is bad, go stomp them?” Back before thousands and thousands of lines of dialogue, masterfully executed CGI cutscenes, and the unholy rise of the heretical lootbox? No? Me either, that’s why today’s review is going to be a massive, and wholly welcome, kick in the nostalgia.
In the 90’s, back before Uber was creating flying taxi-drones and we were sending somewhat-manned automobiles into space, six degrees of freedom (6DoF) was represented by Parallax Software and Interplay Productions title Descent, a game that simply said “Go here, get lost and turned upside down, shoot the thing, run like hell.” There was a basic story to follow, there were multiple locations and, overall, Descent as a series forged its own destiny, living in the hearts and minds of those who loved it for years to come.
And then, the drought came. Descent 3 scratched the scrap-em-if-you-see-em itch one final time before the series disappeared into the night, seemingly never to be heard from again. The advent of games such as Forsaken, Everspace, Sublevel Zero, and Miner Wars 2081 tried, but failed in the eyes of many, to bring back the nostalgic crunch of six-degrees-of-freedom scrap metal production that the original Descent managed to so lovingly craft, leaving players starry-eyed and thirsty for more.
THE ORIGINAL GOLD STANDARD
Today’s industry is a veritable cornucopia of new games, new ideas, and generally, a sense of emptiness in a lot of cases. Games come and go, functioning more as limited buffets of options rather than complete packages. Even the most wildly popular games today seem to fall just short of “perfect” in a lot of gamers eyes, whatwith a lack of custom options, a lack of in-game functions, DLC’s to really unlock a game’s “potential” or other such industry sins that never seem to quite hit the mark.
So, then, what is Overload? Brought to you by the same development legends that created the original Descent series, my first foray into Overload was a blast from the past, flooding my head with memories of old control schemes, multi-platform expansion attempts, co-op shenanigans, and countless other moments from long-forgotten gaming days. Even with a game like Overload, there’s no shortage of ways to make the game feel exactly how you want it to.
So many games today have a demand to provide myriad mission types. Diplomacy, trade, rescue, hostage, bomb defusal, or whatever else seems to be the top trend on any given day in gaming.
Overload does not feel like one of these games. But, ultimately, that isn’t a bad thing. The number of times I, personally, as a gamer, have gone “What the hell am I supposed to do here” is untold. Then again, being the gamer that I am, confusion can often reign supreme. Overload gently ushers my plebeian style of gameplay with a simple mission.
“Blow that up.”
Okay, Overload, let’s do it! On top of keeping things simple, there is a holo-guide function that allows you to see where exactly you’re supposed to be flying instead of roaming aimlessly, often like I do after overloading a reactor, leading to a tragic, hilarious death in which I am left thinking “I was supposed to get BACK out of there in 60 seconds?!”
It’s not that it’s impossible. It’s just that I’m terrible.
My dive into multiplayer during review was brief as matchmaking was a bit limited the times I attempted to get in, but it was an enjoyable experience that made me want to try over and over again. The maps are expansive in a way that keeps zipping through tunnels, hallways, and narrow corridors a Millenium-Falcon-in-the-Death-Star pleasure to experience, and the combat was an explosive game of cat and mouse, either facing enemies head on in franticly acrobatic exchanges of multi-colored explosives, or flanking attempts of one player keeping attention on them, while another shooter snuck through side-corridors, emerging with both guns blazing, leading to some amazing engagements that were both thrilling and satisfying, no matter win or lose.
There are three initial multiplayer modes, those being Head to Head, Anarchy, and Team Anarchy. Head to head is exactly as it sounds, with two players facing off for a winner-takes-all duel to decompression. Anarchy is three to six players in a free-for-all that provides pure chaos with so much gunfire in the air, and finally Team Anarchy, where I attempted to spend the majority of my time in multiplayer. Up to eight players divided into teams attempt to leave the other in smoldering piles of wreckage. In all, my only complaint here is that with current trends in gaming providing hundreds of people on battlefields across the industry, eight players seems more a drop in the bucket than an exploration in what could have been huge firefights with dozens of players on either team.
OPTIONS? LET’S TALK OPTIONS!
Overload takes it that extra mile that some games today forsake in favor of “what makes money.” There is a properly sized single player campaign from the writer of Freespace 2 for those who want to dive in and blow things up alone, along with 8-man online competitive multiplayer for those who can’t get enough of spacing their friends. The never-dull combat features an expansive roster of enemies, RPG elements featuring upgrade systems for both ships and their weapons, and a challenge mode that allows for high replayability. But most importantly, there is a general feeling that this game is something that many AAA titles in the industry today are not…
Gameplay-wise, Overload is exactly what Descent always was, and more: a slick, acrobatic, 6DoF shooter that keeps the action tense and the momentum moving forward. Automapping, easy controls, no matter your choice of input, as currently, the game supports stick, gamepad, and mouse/keyboard options (checkout some good gaming stuff like white mechanical keyboard by Gaming Rig) as well as extensive remapping, and multiple difficulty settings to afford veterans the challenge they deserve, and newcomers the opportunity to see how the old school did things.
Weapons fire and impact with satisfying force, explosions are graphically appealing but not overdone, audio is compelling and holds the interest, and the environments are a perfect marriage of yesterday’s simplicity combined with today’s resolutions. As with newer titles like Dead Cells, a wonderfully done SoulsBorne style game in the vein of Metroid and Castlevania, which captures old school graphics with RPG elements, superb challenge, and modern points of interest in the industry, Overload takes the best of Descent’s origins, and gives it the shot in the arm it needs to compete with current demands in games. With varying difficulty options, easy upgrades and more, Overload answers today’s demands with simple but enjoyable solutions.
As much as Early Access makes me itch most of the time, with the specific devs on this project, the already glowing polish on a game that is reaching the end of its development cycle, and a general feel-good vibe from the community thus far, I see Overload as the rise-from-the-ashes jolt Descent always deserved. Hats off to Revival Productions for reminding a new generation that some of the best games in the industry are not in shiny steelbooks, with pre-orders full of empty promises, but the blood, sweat, and tears of yesterday, when games were made with passion, fire, and dedication, instead of simply snatching for whatever money they can before players feel the sting in their wallet.
In closing, Overload shows us that old ideas are not bad ideas, and with a little love, conviction, and committment, can continue to influence the gaming industry in positive ways, no matter which generation of gamers were their original die-hards.
Overload is a solid 9 scrapped enemies out of 10
and releases 31 May 2018 on PC, with a following release for PS4 and Xbox 1 later this year.
P.S. – They dropped the launch price last night just before release of this review from $34.99 to $29.99. Find the demo on Steam here.
P.S.P.S. – The devs provided us with a review copy of this game, but have in no way financially compensated us for our review; this is our own opinion.
by James Shank