Fighting like rabbits
[Want to know how an Early Access game is coming along? Check out our Early Access Reviews, which will be a series going forward with the intent of informing you whether or not a game is worth buying into at this time.]
I’ve always held Lugaru as one of the finest indie games out there, largely due to its combat system and difficulty curve. Beating things up in Lugaru is incredibly satisfying, so naturally I’m excited for its sequel, Overgrowth. After being in development for approximately ever, Overgrowth is now on Steam Early Access in a still-pretty-early state, but that doesn't mean that it isn't worth getting in on early.
Even in its current state, Overgrowth has proven to be one of the most intense fighting games I've ever played.
Overgrowth (Linux, Mac, PC)
Currently, there’s not all that much going on in Overgrowth. The Steam store page description does a pretty good job of summing it all up: “it is more like a sandbox of technology and martial arts, and less like a story-driven action-adventure.” There’s only a small hint of anything that might be seen as a “campaign,” but that somehow did not stop me and my friends from playing round after round of Overgrowth.
One of the biggest features in the current state of Overgrowth is being able to utilize its complex combat mechanics in its arena mode. This mode simply pits the player against one to three AI opponents, round after round, with the objective being not to die. Sometimes the round will be a 2v2, sometimes it’ll be a 1v1, and other times it’s a free-for-all. It is a perfect mode to highlight the most interesting thing about Overgrowth, the combat, and a wonderful place to refine the skills needed to comprehend what’s going on.
You’ll need to confront the wiki in order to understand the combat, but although it may seem daunting, the basics are easy enough to comprehend. Much of the combat mechanics are context sensitive. That is to say, when you press “attack,” various actions may happen depending on whether or not the character is moving, where the opponent is in relation to the player, and so on. Knowing these contexts is where the high skill ceiling comes into play in Overgrowth. There always seems to be room for improvement.
Death comes very quickly in Overgrowth, sometimes by your own actions. Weapons will kill someone with one successful strike, but they’re a little unwieldy. Things like force and inertia really do matter when fighting. I've jumped off of someone’s face, flipped away, landed on my neck, and died…only to see them get up a second later. It’s a fighting game that really puts caution and patience over anything else. That isn't to say, however, that a head-on charge towards someone won’t win every so often!
At the beginning of my time with Overgrowth, I was very defensive; waiting for an enemy to attack and trying to parry or counter-punch my way to victory. Now though, I go for much more flair. Running away towards a wall, jumping at the wall and bouncing off of it, only to use my momentum to spring-kick my enemy into the ground is easily one of my favorite moments from the arena.
Outside of the arena are some smaller concept levels, multiplayer, and a level editor. Multiplayer is currently limited to controllers and playing locally with friends, but it can still be an absolute blast. Since the editor and the game are the same thing right now, I managed to just plop an arena down on a regular map around the spawn point, allowing my girlfriend and I to fight in a more enclosed area. Since I hardly aimed this arena “plop,” the hilly ground was protruding through it, giving it a lot more variety than a simple straight floor. I should also mention that the first time I tried this, I put the arena somewhere in the sky. The editor isn’t the easiest thing to figure out on your own.
We then spent a good while dueling it out in this faux-arena. We’d come up with “house rules,” like only being able to use your weapon in combat, and only being able to throw it for a kill. This meant that once someone threw their weapon, they had to pick it up before attacking again if they missed. There were a lot of intense moments, and a lot of hiding in tiny nooks and crannies while totally not screen-looking. It truly felt reminiscent of “the good ole days” of Slappers-only Goldeneye or a knife fight in Counter-Strike. It’s amazing what people come up with when a limited toolset is presented to them.
The team at Wolfire have been tremendously communicative, with update videos published to their YouTube channel very frequently. It’s clear that they aren’t rushing Overgrowth out the door simply because people want it. This also means that new features are being added in at a much slower pace than you might expect, which is important to keep in mind when deciding if you want early access.
The biggest arguments in favor of purchasing Overgrowth at this time are to play the local multiplayer aspect of it, hone your combat skills, and of course to support a development team that clearly loves their craft. You can even import custom maps made by other players if you’d like, allowing for a fuller experience after a little effort. Also, pre-ordering comes with a free copy of Receiver, which is a great incentive in and of itself. If you’re mostly interested in experiencing the story, then hold out for the real deal.