Overload is a “Six Degrees of Freedom” space combat simulator. Save or Quit? Hop in the co-pilot’s chair as we make our descent in VR to find out.
Type: Single-player, Multi-Player
Genre: 6DOF Shooter, Space Combat,
Developer: Revival Productions, LLC
Publisher: Revival Productions, LLC
Release date: May 31, 2018
Intro – “Someone wake up Hicks!”
Matt Toschlog & Mike Kulas are back! That’s right, the original founders of Parallax Software and creators of Descent managed to survive the infinity gauntlet massacre.
With so many heroes gone, the responsibility of saving the universe from horrendous descent clones has once again fallen on their shoulders, reuniting them once again!
Will they be able to do it? Can they revive Descent, er, OVERLOAD?
Well, that’s what you and I are about to find out. Grab your fight suit and jump right in, Co-Pilot!
Visuals & Framerate – “Space is boundless. It squashes a man’s ego.”
Revival Productions art and design team consists of Chris Claflin, Victor Duarte, Dan Wentz, & Luke Schneider. I name them by name because, well, they freaking deserve a very angry clap from the likes of Shai Labeouf.
A four man team managed to deliver an elegantly designed and laid out game-world with gritty textures and beautiful lighting. Honestly, they did better than plenty of other game projects with much larger work forces. I am genuinely impressed with the results. The level design is top notch; Throughout my playthrough I ran into increasingly complicated maze like levels, cramped and claustrophobic winding tunnels, even fiery hot lava pits. Some rooms were filled tons of enemies, and others with secrets and Easter eggs.
Particular lighting and graphical effects were stand out stars; Passing a light source and seeing my ships shadow cast against the industrial-feeling surfaces of the game-world or seeing the walls of a pitch black tunnel light up ever so softly from incoming laser fire was fantastic, as was the glow of lava or the blur effect from the reactor explosions. The developers really took their time and got the look and feel perfect.
Game-play is silky smooth, no drops or hiccups whatsoever for me. This was a big deal, as I had purchased a copy of Descent Underground, to play in VR, as I did Overload. Descent Underground was a choppy, jerky, hot mess, which made me VR sick and caused me to refund the title on steam. I can confidently say this game will not give you VR sickness, at least not from frame-rate drops and lag spikes. Flipping around at 100 miles an hour might, but hey, that’s kinda the point…
The cockpit style alleviates most of the VR sickness I would get otherwise get. I played in VR for 4 hours one night with only the slightest bit of discomfort. It feels natural and unobtrusive. Its one of the better designs I have seen in a VR supported (not exclusive) game.
- VR is spot on. The cockpit creates a comfortable experience
- Lighting & Special Effects are done fantastically
- Framerate is rock solid
- World Design is fantastic
The Rusty bits:
- There is a lot of repeat textures and environmental types
- Most locations are always tight and claustrophobic
Sound & Music – “Where we’re going, we won’t need eyes to see.”
I have been very pleased and surprised with the quality of the music in games lately, and once again I think the music and sound effects in Overload are fantastic. Allister Brimble, Jerry Berlongieri, & Dan Wentz should be awarded for their efforts, again the entire team for Overload was ten people, TEN!
The gaming community used to cut game devs slack when they had a small development team. We let small things slide in terms of quality, most of the time this lead to soundtracks that were… forgettable, or simply passable and went unnoticed. A prime example was No Mans Sky, I cannot recall the in-game music at all. I think the backlash from poorly polished games has changed what developers think is acceptable in terms of quality upon release, and in the eyes of consumers as well.
The entire game is very well made, but when it comes to the audio department, Revival Productions really got things right, I am not quite gushing, but almost. I love the games music its hard and fast, motivates you, drive you forward… I would love to see the trend of high quality soundtracks continue to bless more titles.
In fact, I was reviewing my list of “favorite games of all time” and I had a small epiphany; Atmospheric and memorable music is at the top of the qualities of those titles. I think this game falls just shy of perfection, but man it got really close.
The cut scenes, voice acting, and the audio recording of the Cryostasis chambers are both just passable. The dialog is moderately interesting, but the delivery is monotone and flat.
- Fantastic audio support (Unity 5 Engine)
- Fantastic Soundtrack
- Weapon & Enemy sounds are reused a lot.
- Voice Acting delivery is monotone and flat
Gameplay – “Perfectly balanced, as all things should be.”
- Story campaign has 15+ atmospheric levels
- Upgradeable player ship, 16 weapons with multiple upgrade paths
- 20+ enemy types and 3 massive bosses
- 12+ Challenge Mode levels with Infinite and Countdown variants
- Story by the writer of FREESPACE 2
The story of the single player campaign is not one of the strengths here. While it does explain the premise of why you are flying around inside rocky caverns, honestly it feels like they spent very little time on the story. They used mediocre voice acting, ugly pre-rendered videos, and audio recordings of “people frozen in cryostasis tubes” that look like regular items. I never once was motivated to really pay attention to the story, and never put any stock into the characters. By in large, this is the biggest failure point of the game.
With the Story out of the way, there are a large variety of enemies, ever increasing in numbers, looming in the nooks and around corners in the sometimes aphotic levels. The well placed hidden sections of the levels let the enemies sneak up on you, or an empty room will suddenly fill with foes. This gives the player an opportunity to really show off the benefits of 6DOF.
Flying at high speeds and wiping around tight spaces with ease and accuracy makes the combat super fun. This is where another small crack in the game design does bleed through… The difficulty settings. Below the highest difficulty enemies feel inconvenient and brain-dead. You really need to crank it up if you want to be posed with a challenge.
The single-Player level design was at first, difficult to navigate, even with the mini-map. However, once you get used to the level design and overall feel of the layout it does get easier over time. I think the Devs knew this because they even threw in a little holographic guide bot to follow if you get desperately lost, complete with its own command tree. BRAVO guys!
- Multiplayer supports up to 8 players
- You can customize your ship with modifiers, loadouts, and visual enhancements
- There are 10 multiplayer maps allowing for a range of match sizes
- Ranked and private matches with a variety of rules and options
- supports LAN matches (requires one PC as a dedicated server)
I generally do not seek out multiplayer shooters, unless they are co-op. That being said, I think the fans of the multiplayer in the old Descent games are getting more than what they bargained for. The different maps and match sizes accommodate all different styles of combat. There is plenty of replay-ability in the multiplayer part of the game. Further valuing the reasonable asking price for the title.
I initially had reservations going into Multiplayer and during my Lets Play video creation with JimDeadLock, RGK, and Zorder Jim & I both remarked on how we generally do not enjoy or seek out First Person Shooters in multiplayer. They tend to be a bit too competitive and for me, are generally more stress than I tend to enjoy in a game. We both however felt Overload‘s multiplayer was pretty amazing. So much so, Its what changed my overall review score to AUTO.
My hesitation in doing so comes from the fact that while a really great time, there are some maps and some weapons that need balancing, desperately. The Time bomb is a one-shot death sentence, the mines follow people and stay on the map a long time. While the guns themselves are fairly well balanced, the ones that require rapid trigger pulls are useless for non-mouse users. and their are a few that are too weak to be of any use and are cycled past.
Its the map design that really makes the multiplayer a blast to play. they are all well built, but some are just amazing. There is a lot of verticality and branching paths to sneak up on opponents. Some are circular with no where to hide, and others really cramped (in a good way), Forcing players to rethink their play-style and adapt to the new conditions.
The multiplayer in this title makes me rethink my position on multiplayer FPS games. While the single player campaign is really well made, the multiplayer is where the real experience can be had. the multiplayer alone is worth the investment.
Controls – “Do… or do not. There is no try.”
Configurations and support:
- Highly customizable and remappable controls
- Supports all major input types: Mouse and KB, Gamepad, or Joystick and KB
Controls are one of the most quintessential things in any game that have to be done well, or it ruins the experience of the game. Luckily I think that Revival Productions gets that. I played with an XBOX One controller, mouse and keyboard, and my favorite HOTAS, the X-56 Rhino. All of them felt great and had their own benefits.
I used to be a mouse and keyboard gamer, so much so that picking up a controller felt… unplayable. I actually recall telling a friend of mine that he was foolish for using a Gamepad, I was wrong. While Keyboard and mouse offer a precision that is unmatched for twitch games, games that allow for a little over-correction are best played with a controller.
The Xbox One controller was as pickup and play as you can get. I loved the layout of the buttons and what they accomplished. The x button rotates your ship to help you get the floor under you again, the left shoulder bumper and trigger serve as vertical thrusters, and the y and x buttons cycled the weapons (main gun and missiles).
The X-56 Rhino was not plug and play, at all, and required a good deal of work to get the button mappings correct. However, this is the best way t play the game in my humble opinion.
The ability to really outmaneuver your opponents makes the HOTAS solution the best option.
Verdict – “By grabthars hammer.. what a savings”
- Visuals & Art Direction.
- Sound Track & Audio Effects.
- VR Support is done very well.
- Controls are Amazing.
- Solid Framerate
- Difficulty ramps up just right
- Awesome Minimap & Holographic Drone if you get lost
- Fan Service is in full force (fans of Descent will love this game)
- Cut scenes in VR are projected flat scenes, which are kind of boring in the first place.
- The claustrophobic conditions do get a little old as the game progresses.
- Difficulty Option defaults to an inferior experience
- Fan Service is in full force (people not looking for a 1-to-1 descent analog might not enjoy the closed in feeling).
- Pre-Rendered scenes are uninspiring and are the only thing that feels cheap
In all honesty, my first two hours with Overload had me giving it a Pause or Save for Later rating, as I remarked to my wife that I was reviewing a game that was getting “overwhelmingly positive” reviews on steam, and I didn’t get it, it wasn’t that great… then at about hour 3, that’s when It all clicked, it wasn’t the game, it was my perception of it that was the problem. I was over-analyzing it, and unfairly comparing it against other titles, genres even, not to mention, against my nostalgia for the old Descent titles through rose colored lenses. Once I let my focus adjust and just played the damn game, the truly remarkable parts shined through.
This is a great example of a fan base getting something they wanted because of Kickstarter. Unlike Mighty No.9 or Ossic headphones, the team set goals and delivered on all the major wants, then took the time to add what they felt would propel the game further and finally applyed a deep shiny polish. The game is beautiful in its own way, has a distinct feel and strong visual appeal, The soundtrack is wonderful and motivational, The gameplay is fun, and the controls are tight with a wide variety of supported peripherals, all while remaining its own game… not some knock off or clone. Really can you ask for more than that from any developer? Especially a 10 man crew trying to please a very picky fan base… I think not!
To further my point about the quality of the game, I usually have a dedicated section to bugs and glitches. Quality Assurance for this game has done a great job, because I can’t list a single one. Not one! Every time I died, got lost, got stuck, or had something to complain about, it was my fault. This game is deserving of your time and the time it takes to shake your predilections and prejudices. I gave it an AutoSave, because its fantastic, fun, and a beloved and carefully crafted piece of art.
I think this game at the asking price is a MUST have, nuff said. SAVE!
Here is another gameplay video (2 hours of multiplayer, many sessions:
Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed the review.
Did you know all the space themed movie titles for the quotes referenced in the headers?
- Intro – Aliens (1986)
- Visuals & Framerate – Planet of the Apes (1968)
- Sound & Music – Event Horizon (1997)
- Gameplay – Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
- Controls – Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
- Verdict – Galaxy Quest (1999)