Overgrowth’s sixth and final beta adds the story mode

Overgrowth

It’s hard to write about Overgrowth [official site] without feeling a little old – this is early access before that was even a thing. According to my email archives, I was first informed of Wolfire Games’ ninja rabbit simulator entering development in 2008, and I put down a preorder on it back in 2009. It feels very strange to say this, but as of October 4th, 2017, Overgrowth is now feature-complete and the latest version – Beta 6 – will be the last step before launching in a few weeks, with only minor tweaks, tuning and bug-fixing planned before version 1.0.

For those who haven’t been keeping an eagle eye on this for nearly a decade, Overgrowth is the sequel to 2005’s Lugaru: The Rabbit’s Foot. An experimental little stealth-action game with a unique focus on ultra-mobile animal characters and context-sensitive melee combat based on real martial arts. The current version of Overgrowth includes a complete remake of the original Lugaru campaign, for those who want to catch up on Turner the Rabbit’s story of bloody revenge before hopping into his next adventure.

In Overgrowth, Turner returns after avenging the loss of his village in the first game to face down a new threat to Lugaru island, a clan of foreign slavers. I’ve played through the first seven missions so far, and have enjoyed it a good deal. Missions are longer than in Lugaru, with higher enemy counts and occasional checkpoints to help alleviate frustration, although stealth is now easier than ever. The overall design seems to have settled on something roughly equivalent to a minimalist samurai-era Metal Gear, albeit with actual animal-people instead of gruff military sorts with animal nicknames.

The two things that set Overgrowth aside from other modern stealthy-stabby games are largely the same as they were in Lugaru. Playing as an anthropomorphic rabbit means that you run fast and jump absurdly good. With a run-up, you can easily clear fifty feet horizontally, and twelve vertically, making traversal of the surprisingly large maps a breeze, especially combined with easy climbing and wall-running. The game has full Steam Workshop support, and there are no shortage of platforming-focused levels already available.

The other defining feature is the melee combat, which is now entirely physics and AI-driven and shockingly brutal. It has a steep learning curve, but landing a roundhouse kick to a rabbit bandit’s neck and hearing the crunch of snapping bone is… Well, it doesn’t feel good, but you definitely feel like you hit him. Bladed weapons are almost horrifying to use, with even shallow cuts visibly bleeding out and eventually darkening as the blood begins to dry. It’s a level of realism not often seen in games, and possibly for good reason.

It’s been a long, strange journey watching Overgrowth’s development. Educational, too, as up until entering Beta, Wolfire posted near-weekly development updates – hundreds in total – to their YouTube channel, detailing everything from small tweaks to the engine to the finer points of graphics optimisation. It’s hard to believe it’s almost over, but I’d like to congratulate everyone involved for their nine years of hard work.

Overgrowth is available on Steam and the Humble Store for £23/€28/$30, with minimal changes planned between now and launch. While no firm release date is set, the final launch shouldn’t be more than a few weeks off. It boasts full Steam Workshop support, an active mod community, and an excellent level editor.

21 Comments

  1. smeaa mario says:

    Gotta admit it looks pretty neat though. It doesn’t invoke the feeling of an ancient dusty relic like one would expect after such a long period of development.

  2. Jakkar says:

    “… and possibly for good reason.”

    This is the mad thing about our reaction to violence in games… The idea that it’s somehow ‘naughty’ to witness violence. And so we soften it, sugarcoat it, avoid it, all without thinking “Wait, what if by censoring and subduing the effects of violence, we’re actually making it seem more acceptable and less devastating than it really is?”…

    Really, how could it be a bad thing for a game about topics like slavery and child-murder to depict the real *nastiness* of violence?

    Having experienced and inflicted violence in the real world, I would much rather feel disturbed by my own actions in a game than unmoved and careless.

    Or, in specific to myself, irritated at the absence of realism or respect for the horrors of the real-world violence.

    It’s nice to see a game – especially a game in a very non-Earth, fictional setting – actually putting the effort in to depict the real nature/consequences of combat.

    • TychoCelchuuu says:

      “Really, how could it be a bad thing for a game about topics like slavery and child-murder to depict the real *nastiness* of violence?”

      Maybe because those games would be huge bummers. I’m not saying all games should be fun and happy – I actually think the exact opposite – but I think this game is supposed to be a fun stealth beat-em-up, not Schindler’s List with Rabbits.

      • TheRaptorFence says:

        Why can’t it be both? Do games have to be either/or in balancing realistic violence and fun? I think of games like Red Orchestra 2/Rising Storm, which vividly portrays war violence to a point of hovering on uncomfortability (the joke being that it plays like a “PTSD simulator”), yet at the same time having solid shooting mechanics and generally fun to play. In my class when we talk about WWII and entertainment I point to it as an example of violence in video games serving a purpose beyond just fun.

    • zulnam says:

      From the way you defend it, seems to me violence is pretty important for you.

    • brucethemoose says:

      Money?

      -Such features take development time that could be used elsewhere.
      -They put the game 1+ notches up on the maturity rating, narrowing the potential market (as absurd as that is).
      -They suck some joy out of the game. Depending on how much the appeal of grim realism offsets it, it could lower the rating or turn away potential buyers.
      -They potentially draw the gaze of media watchdogs.

      I agree with you, but I can also see why devs leave such features out.

    • Premium User Badge

      Ninja Dodo says:

      I think it’s less “naughty” and more “uncomfortable and disturbing”, which you could argue is the point. At one point someone (I think a dev) responded to a concerned critic with: “If you don’t want to see an anthropomorphic rabbit bleeding out maybe you should not go around stabbing them with a knife.”

      There’s definitely a case to be made for telling the truth about violence. People in the real world in positions of power might be less inclined to violence if it were not so consistently presented in media as ‘clean’ and good/justified. That said, it really depends on what story you’re trying to tell. If you add realistic violence to Looney Tunes it becomes a different show. Personally I strongly dislike graphic violence, and, especially when ostensibly there for no purpose other than shock value, it will make me considerably less interested in watching or playing a thing, though I understand sometimes it may be appropriate to the setting. The Witcher without excessive violence wouldn’t have the same tone and bleak oppressive atmosphere, while that same level of violence would not be suitable for say Star Wars or Indiana Jones.

      • Premium User Badge

        Ninja Dodo says:

        Honestly, I’m not sure where I land on this. I definitely DON’T want ALL action films and games to have graphic realistic violence, but I’m also not sure the clean ‘wholesome’ violence of PG13 entertainment is always the best idea. An alternative is to avoid violence altogether (which can be refreshing), but conflict makes for interesting stories and the real world being the way it is it would be dishonest to pretend violence does not exist. Maybe having both types is the best middle ground.

      • wwarnick says:

        Agreed.

    • Urthman says:

      Because no matter how “nasty” you make it, you can never actually make it as horrifying as the real thing. The more “realistic” you are, the more likely the player/viewer is to fool themselves into thinking “I’ve faced the true horrors of violence and war” (and they aren’t THAT bad)

      I saw countless reviews of Zero Dark Thirty that praised it because Americans needed to “face up to the real horrors of using torture” as if you could do that by watching a movie.

      • Urthman says:

        The proverb that it’s impossible to make an anti-war film (because it’s impossible not to glorify something at some level by making a film about it) has got to be 10x more true for video games.

        • ThornEel says:

          I don’t know, Verdun is an interesting game, if frustrating at times (the joy of spawning on a live grenade), but I doubt anyone still want to actually fight such a war after playing it. Particularly if played at max gore level: hearing those dying cries, whatever side they were, is its own nightmare fuel.
          I’m not sure if it is intentional, but some of its frustrating points are also helping driving the point home. Taking a bullet from nowhere, getting hit by random artillery rounds…

  3. ANeM says:

    It seems very strange to me that a game with such a drawn out, iterative and open development would push out such a major feature and think they can nail it down in just one patch and a couple weeks of open testing.

    • kavika says:

      The new Overgrowth story has been available publicly in semi-stealth mode for 6 months or so (since I think Beta 3?). Beta 5 was the first that put it into the “mods” system, instead of having to use the File menu. Beta 6 is just the first where it shows up front and center, and the first where the story was feature complete.

      Many people are seeing it for the first time now, but the core community (those who tend to play the game once a week or more) have been testing it and giving feedback for several months. We have also been doing a lot of internal gameplay testing to get more detailed feedback.

      • bill says:

        That’s good (ish) to hear, because Lugaru’s single player was very cursory and felt like it had been added at the last minute and hadn’t been tested very much.

        I get that a lot of the core market will be more interested in the multiplayer, and that maybe story, cinematics and vice acting aren’t a major priority, but I hope they made something a bit more substantial this time.

  4. zulnam says:

    Look at the cute lil bunn-OH MY GOD OH HIS HEAD OH ME OH MERCY!

    Kind of looks like a skyrim mod. Fun, though.

  5. Premium User Badge

    Ninja Dodo says:

    I’ve really enjoyed watching this game develop (the video devlogs even inspired me to make my own: link to youtube.com). Cool to see it finally reach the finish line.

  6. Bramlett says:

    Good grief! Overgrowth and Absolver are not the same game.

  7. ThornEel says:

    Fifteen feet horizontal? I’m no expert on those old dusty units, but I thought feet were actually smaller than metres…

  8. Shaileen says:

    I remember placing it on my watch list half a century ago because I wanted to take another look when it gets out of early access… this is crazy.

Comment on this story

XHTML: Allowed code: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>