Survival horror games are meant to be played on dark nights with headphones/surround sound, possibly with a friend. They should make the player scream like a child, muttering “Oh Jesus oh Buddha oh help me crapcrapcrapcrapCRAP!”
Maybe that’s just my own way of enjoying a horror game. The classics and modern greats all elicited the same reaction, and the poor examples of the genre left me unimpressed, underwear dry. Where Overcast: Walden and the Werewolf lies is somewhere in between, managing a few scares while failing to deliver a solid experience.
Overcast tells the story of Walden, a lone hunter living in an unnamed village seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Through subtitles and panning shots of wilderness, the tale of how Walden became a total badass is imparted to the player, and also how Walden became a loner living away from everyone else. Stage for B-rated horror: set.
When a sunset sky goes dark too early, Walden decides something’s up and, trusty gun in hand, wanders into the village. From there the usual assortment of corpses, burning crosses, shadowy figures, terrifying images, and mysteries ensue but the whole effect is tarnished by some unfortunate problems.
Right from the start, the graphics fall a bit short. From the screenshots it should be pretty clear that everything isn’t really sharp, crisp, or even stylized. This is due to the film grain that is overlaying the screen and impossible to turn off. While it may have been added for some intended “effect,” the Instagrammy feel detracts from the atmosphere of the game.
The horror itself, unfortunately, is too few a far between being genuinely terrifying and only surprising. Following the tactic of making “something scary” appear suddenly before the player accompanied by obnoxiously loud noises and screen effects, Overcast delivers a few cheap thrills this way but doesn’t hit the player hard often enough. It works the first few times and can get you pretty well the first few times, but by the third or fourth it stops being surprising and is simply weird.
To Overcast’s credit, having a gun is not a good thing. The rifle reloads slower than it would take my grandma to fumble a bullet into the chamber in real life, and there isn’t a lot of room for error when it comes time to pop a cap in a monster’s hide. Then again, hitting anything isn’t all that hard.
What you use the gun on are a small assortment of monsters. For some reason, the Big Bad (a werewolf, in case you missed the title) leaves Walden a note telling him to kill a monster in the forest. Then you play run-and-gun with the werewolf itself, then a load of spiders, and so forth and so on.
Which is a huge spoiler; setting aside the title, it isn’t really clear what ripped through Walden’s village ripping everything to shreds. That unknown could have been a fantastic element of terror, but it’s obvious from the beginning what Walden’s up against.
The narrative itself doesn’t offer any redeeming qualities either. After one fight, Walden ends up poisoned. He still, however, manages to trek through the mountains and finds a rare herb to cure himself with. Then, lo and behold, he stumbles upon the “Dungeon of Pain” (can’t even make it up) and hears a woman screaming. Naturally, he must save her!
It’s an easy game to make fun of, but it did bring out some redeeming qualities during its short duration, one of which was the music. And the music is good. As in too good. Rather than making things scarier, it makes the player feel like they’re the king of the night out to kill the bad guys. Not much on the fear side, but it fits the Western-horror vibe well.
And even though the overall fear factor was somewhat lacking, Overcast did still manage to get my heart racing, if only for a little while. The werewolf itself is suitably scary, and difficult to get a good look at before he rips your face off. More importantly, Overcast is ultimately fun.
Where Overcast truly lost its chance to shine were its little details. A narrative that doesn’t really matter, a few surprises here and there, and music with so much more mood potential only makes for a mediocre experience. In the world of survival horror, this comes across a lot worse than it actually is. Overcast will satisfy, for a short while, but what could have been a fantastically terrifying game delivers only a few screams of horror. If you’re looking for some werewolf western-themed yelps, you can check out Overcast here.