Descend Into the 6DoF Mining Colonies of Overload

The problem with Descent is that, in the absence of gravity, you can’t actually descend. You can move around any way you’d like, but “descent” requires a fixed orientation to descend against.  It is, however, very easy to get overloaded, keeping an eye every direction at once as enemies attack from any angle while you try to maintain a 3D map in your head for efficient maneuvering.  Overload is the spiritual successor to Descent, which was one of the great FPSes of its time, and as of today the game has emerged from Early Access into full release.

In the beginning there was Wolfenstein, which was by no means the first FPS ever but certainly the one that grabbed the public’s attention.  The flat floors and ninety-degree angles laid out on a grid gave way to Doom’s free-form designs, now with faked height but still only 2D in the computer’s head.  Descent, however, was true polygonal 3D two years before Quake landed, and it squeezed every ounce of potential from its tech.  The maps were designed to go every which way, and “down” in one room was the wall in another.  Keeping it straight was a challenge, but not a major one once you got used to it.  Descent had a sequel that was everything one could hope for in the form of Descent II, Descent 3 was a let-down, Forsaken was ok-ish, and then the six-degrees-of-freedom FPS mostly disappeared.  In recent years it’s been rediscovered in games like Sublevel Zero and Neon XSZ, and while both are very good in their own right they were different enough from Descent to feel “influenced by…” rather than act as a replacement.  Overload, however, is the true Descent spiritual sequel made by many of the same developers as the original, and it feels right deep in its bones.

Overload at its core is pretty simple-  fly, shoot, search out secrets.  The enemy robots are big and beefy but explode into a nice display of fireworks when you punch them with enough lasers and missiles, and I found a secret within the first ten seconds of play.  The Xbox One/360 controller almost has enough buttons to make the whole thing work without a second thought, but I do miss my old combo from the 90s of 4-button-with-hat Thrustmaster and keyboard.  This isn’t a review (I backed the Kickstarter and have only played 1.75 levels so far) but it occurs to me if I stop here and dump a trailer below this paragraph I can get right back to playing.  It’s possible there could be a better recommendation that that but it’s hard to say what that might be.