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Overpower Early Access Review

About a week ago, I almost did something truly unspeakable: I almost (Cthulhu forgive me) missed a pretty epic gaming session.

See, it went down a’like this: I was set to get on an exclusive match of new indie competitive shooter Overpower with a few of the OPNoobs crew and the kind devs who were to show us around their new title, and I, supposed adult that I am, forgot that there is such a thing as time zones and missed the first half of what ended up being a very fun and unique session of gaming.

I tell you friends; it was almost a sad day, featuring far fewer delicious triple kills and flying magic bolty thingies than it might have. But, praise the great tentacled one, I got lucky and, thinking I was responsibly updated prior to our session, I managed to notice the team online about 20 minutes into said session and snuck in for a good bit of gameplay.

I’m quite glad I made it to the live-play test, because what I got out of Overpower with devs and our trusty OPNoobs staff of hooligans was something I really love, and, perhaps more importantly, something I didn’t get when playing Overpower with its bots. That thing I got, oh readers, is that invaluable feeling of finding a pretty damn fun online game that does something old in a new way. Overpower is just that: a good time with friends waiting to be had, and one that feels like a unique take on tired genres, if an imperfect one that is in need of polishing.

Overpower is an Online Shooter, But With Magic ‘n Swords

But what is it exactly? This is how I’d explain Overpower to a potential player: It’s like if Team Fortress 2 and WoW mixed, but it’s faster and, admittedly, much rougher than either of those two. The idea is that Overpower takes the TF2-exemplified concept of a fast, map-based shooter (and also TF2’s lack of a grounding in reality, which is a good thing) and exchanges the guns and grenades for a traditional fantasy setting, including MMO-like classes, spells, buffs and debuffs. Players dropping into a round of Overpower (and rounds are always what you’ll partake in, as this is a match-focused title meant to be played online) will find themselves in some heavy class-based team combat with mostly traditional modes. There’s Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Last Team Standing, Catch the Critter (sort-of like capture the flag) and a traditional Command Points mode, all of which will be immediately familiar to players of online shooters.

There, however, is where Overpower deviates from your standard online shooter with such modes, as Overpower takes a nontraditional, fantasy-based, MMORPG influenced route with its classes and loadouts. Instead of variations on soldiers, in Overpower you can choose from a Warrior, Mage, Assassin (rogue) and Ranger (archer). Each of these can choose two of five powers (called “gems,” and which map to the “Q” and “E” keys automatically) and one of four weapons, each of which is unique in what it does. You’ve also got a nice little class movement ability, which is usually a speed boost of some sort that takes the place of sprinting. The classes, loadouts and weapons here are very MMOesque, with an impressive and even daunting variety of attack styles, buffs, debuffs and more. It’s unquestionably one of Overpower’s strong points that there is ton of variety here. You’ll probably find yourself playing against a LOT of different combos, as there are so many possible ways to mix the various mechanics together.

Overpower Is REALLLLY Fast, Which Isn’t Always Good

The classes are, however, a segment of Overpower that I did have problems with. It’s clear that this is definitely an indie title, by which I mean that Overpower just isn’t as polished as its predecessors like TF2, or its influences like WoW. While I do dig it, and, as you’ll see, believe it is worth a shot for shooter fans, I don't believe Overpower is anything close to a perfect title.

Those classes are one big reason I can’t give Overpower a higher score, but not because the classes themselves are bad. I actually don’t really know whether they are or not, and that’s the problem. Over a decent amount of playtime, including our live match and a handful of bot rounds, I never felt like I really learned much about the loadouts.

Thing is, Overpower is FAST.

You die quite quickly even when you’re playing well, as there’s a lot of combat going on. Respawn time is almost nonexistent, so you (and everyone you’ve killed) are back out there on these fairly small maps almost immediately, unless you’re playing Last Team Standing. This leads to very little in the way of downtime, so you don’t really have any time to get familiar with the selections. The loadout options also are exclusively described by prose text (no easy damage stats or graphical representations to scan), and because there’s no tutorial, no training ground, and no real single-player mode or anything in that vein, you don’t have a lot of spaces in which to really get familiar with any one loadout other than playing it exclusively for a while in live matches.

I found that this was a frustration for me: switching loadouts frequently was hard to do when I had to get back into the fight quickly (or worse, was respawned before I could finish reading the options). I really only felt like I got to know a combo if I played it for at least a whole match or more, and that put a dimmer on my excitement over the number of loadout combos that were available. Because there are so many of these combos, I figured out that I’d have to play quite a damn few matches before I fully discovered what I liked about a class and its possible selections, and as that would be just one of four classes, it became hard to envision how long it’d take to understand everything available in Overpower.

Of course, this is something that would get better over time if I kept playing, and the inevitable meta that should arise for Overpower will likely figure out some, ahem, OP combos that will become ubiquitous. It doesn’t make for an easy or enticing introduction to the title’s possibilities. I did end up finding a combo I did pretty well with on the Archer in our little staff romp, but it felt like a big waste to ignore all the other possibilities by sticking with just the one combo. I ended up switching for a while, but then got confused about how my new combos worked, and so I switched back to the one I knew just to stay competitive. It’s not the most user-friendly way to present the biggest draw the title has, and that has continued to be a bummer as I’ve played additional matches with bots.

That confusion I felt switching combos is related to another drawback that I’ve found with Overpower, which is that it doesn’t really make you aware of what exactly is happening at any point other than only knowing that “I am in combat,” and it isn’t all that apparent what strategy would have worked better in any situation than the one you used. Buffs and debuffs, for instance, are heavily featured in the various combos and even on the weapons, but it isn’t very easy to read how they affect the battle around you. Mostly it seems like people die because they hit or miss with their regular attacks more than any other thing they do, and only obvious things like powers that slow or stun players are easy to read in the flow of battle. Every fight seemed to come down to who can aim the best and has the most health. It goes so fast, it doesn’t seem like knowing another player's certain buff or specialized loadout would have ever done me much good in any of my encounters. As I said, this game is chaotic as hell, which is both a blessing and a curse.

I feel this applies even more deeply to Overpower because, due to the way that most levels are laid out and the fact that dying happens quickly, you don’t often have set “battle lines” or choke points of contentious combat—there are few strategic points in the battle to navigate. Instead, you more get these very short instances of fast combat that usually only involve whoever happened to be in a certain part of the map in the 10-15 seconds it takes for someone to come out of the fray on top and run off, and those instances are strung together one after another. Perhaps this is me showing my near-30 age and it won’t matter to younger players used to the chaos of COD and the like, but I want more strategy and less running straight in and swinging away in shooters like this. I want to need to think about where I’m going and to be able to pick that out and have a team coordinate for an objective, using our powers in cohesion. Mostly, though, it has seemed like combat consists of running wherever you happen to see a player and spamming various attacks until you either kill them or die yourself.

Of Course, This Is Still an Indie Title

This lack of deep strategy feels mostly like an issue arising from the rough indie nature of Overpower, and the other complaints I have about it come from that unpolished aspect too. For instance, I don’t get why there’s no double jump; I asked about this, and the devs said that it’s because they felt it would let players get into too many weird places and be hard to kill. However, I often found myself unable to get to where I wanted to go, and where it seemed like it should be possible to go, and that’s something you just don’t find in more polished titles. Running up to a box or a ledge that looks jumpable and not being able to get onto it feels weird, and it really limits the ability to use the environment in the levels in a way that I don’t think helps it at all.

To give another example of the indie aspects of Overpower, the game crashes pretty often right now. I crashed three times in 40 minutes of play with the crew, and while I’ve made it work longer with bots, I also found a level and mode combo that crashed every time I tried to load it. I know at least one other OPNoobs staff member had a crash out as well, so it doesn’t look like it was just my machine. This feels like it was happening because it’s a title put together by a smaller indie developer who’s working out the kinks without a giant team, and it pulled me out of the experience for a while each time it happened, both literally and figuratively.

This roughness extends through a good bit of Overpower, including the interface. There are no (as far as I could tell) buff or debuff indicator icons, the kill tracker was often hard to notice (I didn’t always know if I even got a kill without checking the corner), there’s some missing text in the menus, the title features a very weird way to capture points and creatures that forces you to face directly at the thing in question and hold “F” (not really allowing movement or anything else during this time) and the scoreboard doesn’t track or reflect assists. I found this last particularly problematic personally, as it’s SUPER easy to vulture a kill in Overpower because it’s so chaotic, and not having tracked assists or any benefit to helping out on a kill other than helping a teammate (at least that Overpower makes apparent) is pretty frustrating.


All of this, however, is me just trying to be honest and open with you about this game, and in that vein, let me be honest again: You should play Overpower.

It is downright fun, and it’s the kind of title that can and will definitely be patched again and again as players test it live. It'll only get better with time. Pretty much every problem I’ve mentioned is totally fixable, and honestly a lot of it seems like it will inevitably be polished up. I mean, if this thing doesn’t have double jump or something like it sometime soon, I’ll be shitted.

The weird thing about video games, and really all art and entertainment, is that for all the flaws something might have in the end, all it really needs to be worth your time is to be fun. A title far more riddled with problems than this one could end up being your most played of all time if it has that certain something which makes it fun. After a session online with the OPNoobs crew, I know Overpower has that something. We all had fun playing—we mocked each other for deaths, we wanted to try different combos and modes, and we kept playing for a while even after our official stream of the session ended. While I haven’t asked to be certain, nobody in the session seemed bored or overly frustrated, and that is a very good sign.

While Overpower doesn’t have the polish or strategy of TF2, it absolutely does capture a lot of the fun of that title. Overpower’s attempt at putting its own personal flair on that style of competitive gaming is, I think, successful. Overpower looks great, for one, with lots of little visual details in the levels and pretty spells and weird characters that all looked different enough from each other (there are two genders for each class and loadouts change your look a bit, plus you can buy armor changes). And, while the play often devolves into chaos, I had that all-important drive to get more kills, enact revenge on my slayers, and generally get right back in the combat when I died in our test matches. I’d simply like to see more of the strategy of what is happening more easily (plus assists, please!). Again, just plain good signs there when it comes to this genre.

Fun: Ya Can’t Fake That Shit

In the end, you can’t fake fun, and I know Overpower is fun because you could clearly hear it in the voices of the OPNoobs staff when we played. That we dug it and were having a blast blasting each other was simply obvious. I’ll definitely be playing this from time to time when it comes out fully, and I could even see myself making it a regular thing if I got a few friends into it and the meta gets developed to the point where there’s more strategy. One play session was not enough for me, and that’s the final sign of a more than decent title in this genre: you want to play just one more round most every time one finishes.


The Verdict

Overpower has issues and at least a bit of work to be done still to be a stable, really great thing to play, but it is worth a go or five, and who knows what it will be in the future. I’m giving it the grade I am with the caveat that, with some tweaks, it could easily jump up another point. For now, if you’re into sword-swingin’ and arena-style murderin’, give this unique little project a try. We’re giving it the official OPNoobs staff Seal O’ Fun, and that’s somethin’ you can bet the car on.

Trevor Talley
Written by
Wednesday, 06 April 2016 00:00
Published in Action



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Trevor used to tell people that he writes anything 'they' pay him for and everything else. But, what he really wants to do is sit on his porch all day with a beer, listening to Berliner techno while pounding culture into his brain through a computer screen and then writing about it. Trevor subjects the internet to his musical tastes as editor of The Deli Austin and his credits include PC Gamer, the infamous Busted! Magazine and over a dozen books on Minecraft and sports (not together, though he thinks it could be done).

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