Follow TV Tropes


Video Game / Overload

Go To

"Autonomous operators are hostile. Repeat: Auto-ops are hostile."

Overload is a 3D First-Person Shooter (alternatively, 6DOF shooter, for "six degrees of freedom"), and Spiritual Successor to the classic Descent games. In fact, the studio that developed it—Revival Productions—comprises many of the original developers of Descent, including Parallax Software founders Matt Toschlog and Mike Kulas.

It is 2118. Various outposts deep within The Moons of Saturn, built as part of Juno Offworld Automation's "Cronus Frontier" project, have sent out distress calls regarding worker robots, known as "autonomous operators" or "auto-ops", that have suddenly and mysteriously gone rogue, attacking and killing most personnel present. Juno Offworld dispatches the MPSV Iberia, containing a Kodachi gunship, with you as a combat-qualified Kodachi pilot, to the nearest outpost to the asteroid belt, Ymir, to eliminate all hostile operators and rescue any survivors. As the Iberia travels between the outposts and towards Titan, where the administrative center of Cronus Frontier is located, it is revealed that Gabriel Kantor, CEO of Juno Offworld and leader of the Cronus Frontier project, has gone rogue, attempting to break Cronus Frontier away from the mega-corp. In response, Juno Offworld cancels the Cronus Frontier project and orders the remaining outposts to be cleared of hostile operators by destroying the reactors in each one.

Overload was first released on May 31, 2018, on Steam; a DRM-free release followed on June 5, 2018, on Its website is here and its Steam and store pages can be found here and here, respectively.

New weapon! Picked up [Tropes]

  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Played with twice over:
    • The overall villains are three AI entities that have deemed the universe theirs to command and do so by destroying and assimilating every civilization and race they come across...with humanity being their next target.
    • Defied with Mara, the synthetic AI controlling the MPSV Iberia. Upon learning that she was essentially sharing the same space with the second sovereign, Mara immediately isolated it, preventing it from seizing control of the vessel.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: This game was made by the same development team behind the Descent series. While creating Overload, the developers worked in several clever features. Some try to address common complains and criticisms from the Descent fanbase, while others are original to Overload.
    • The Guidebot was intended to be an Anti-Frustration Feature in Descent 2 to help players navigate and find objectives in the game's increasingly complex and maze-like levels. Its Overload successor, the Hologuide, serves the same function, with a host of improvements to alleviate complaints fans have had with the Guidebot.
    • That little circular reticle you see when you open your Automap? That's not a reticle. That is a marker that you can place anywhere in the level that you've been to. When you close the Automap, you'll be able to see the marker through the walls, even from clear across the map. This gives you a waypoint to navigate toward, so you're not having to stop every ten meters to check your map.
    • Holding the "Fire Flare" button fires a Sticky Flare. Unlike the regular Flare, which bounces around and burns out after about a minute, the Sticky Flare sticks to any wall you fire it into and continues burning for two hours, giving you another handy way to mark a location.
    • You do not need to be perfectly aligned to an auto-op to use your Smash attack. If you are facing the general direction of an auto-op and it is within Smash range, your ship will auto-align to it when it executes the Smash. It will also do this against cloaked auto-ops.
    • Upgrade Point and Super Upgrade Point orbs will make a distinctive sound if they're nearby, giving the player a means of locating them.
  • Artificial Brilliance: The Descent robots were already praised in their day for their advanced AI behaviors, such as using cover, predicting player behavior, and using manipulation tactics against the player. The auto-ops in Overload use an updated version of the same AI, and so inherited these behaviors, with a few advancements of their own. For example, if an auto-op sees a nearby flare, it will move to investigate the direction that flare came from. An auto-op that spots a player through a grate may also camp the door to the area behind the grate to ambush the player when he comes out.
  • Artificial Stupidity: Of course, robot AI that's too smart would make the game unplayable, and so the auto-ops had to inherit some of their predecessors' stupidity as well. If an ambush of auto-ops sees a flare fly in through a door, they will all try to investigate where it came from, and end up funneling themselves one by one into the crosshairs of the player waiting on the other side of the door.
  • Apocalyptic Log: There are audio logs that can be found throughout the levels, acting as diaries for the human workers on the facility before the auto-ops turned hostile and attacked them. A great deal are from personnel who you can't find in the Cryopods.
  • Assimilation Plot: Towards the end, it turns out that Kantor's paranoia and desire to declare an empty frontier independent of his superiors was influence from a crashed alien AI. Once he went through the teleportation gate he's constructed, Kantor is subsumed bit by bit, until he becomes the AI itself - and the AI is part of three, who crush and absorb every race and civilization they come across; by the time they've found humanity, they claim the number is in the trillions. They try to drain the player's morale by claiming they've already assimilated the Solar System, but in reality, they've only gotten to Ymir, and can be stopped there.
  • Beam Spam: The alien auto-ops will make you dance in every directions with their rapidly-fired beams.
  • Big Damn Fire Exit: Much like Descent, most levels feature a reactor and the player must find and escape through an emergency exit.
  • Boss Warning Siren:
    • Before every single one of the bosses, accompanied by a not-at-all encouraging MASSIVE INCOMING THREAT! message.
    • Similarly, huge Zerg Rushes are announced the same way.
  • Bullet Hell: The auto-ops love to surround you and shower you with projectiles. Evading their fire is mandatory to survive.
  • Bullet Time: The game has the Time Bomb, a bomb that slows down time temporarily...except in multiplayer.
  • Bullfight Boss: One of the bosses is basically a giant buzzsaw with Drillers and Creeper launchers added to it. By that point, you've run into enough Shredders to know what to do when it periodically tries to charge at you.
  • Call-Back: The first and last level do not feature an explosion you need to outrun - the first time, you're teleported out, and the second, you have to leave before the instantaneous explosion.
  • Catastrophic Countdown: Destroying the reactor or the boss causes a countdown, as the map starts to shake violently and explosion sounds start to echo throughout the level.
  • Charged Attack: The Thunderbolt is a weapon that features charging as an essential mechanic.
  • Checkpoint Starvation: The game has no checkpoints on its own, but one can save most of the time. The game also automatically saves between levels, but if the player doesn't save manually, dying will take them back to the beginning of the level.
  • Critical Existence Failure: Downplayed. An additional "low armor" message will appear if the player ship's armor drops below 50, but it otherwise performs as per normal until all its armor is depleted, at which point, it spins out of control and explodes violently.
  • Distress Call: The plot begins with many of the bases on Saturn's moons sending out a distress signal as the auto-ops have turned hostile.
  • Equipment Upgrade: All of the weapons and the ship can be upgraded with upgrade points, mostly found inside the levels.
  • Every 20 or 25 Kills: Challenge Mode grants a weapon upgrade every 25 or 20 kills, depending on the mode (Infinite or Countdown respectively).
  • Exactly What I Aimed At: The Nova missile is basically the Smart Missile from Descent, releasing several homing plasma blobs when destroyed. Thus, it is a viable tactic to shoot the missile at a surface and let the homing blobs hit the target instead.
  • Exact Time to Failure: The countdown timer, upon reaching zero, instantly cuts you to the Game Over screen.
  • Flash of Pain: Auto-ops will flash red when they take damage, and their lights will blink and flicker in response. Reactors, power generators, and other destructible objects flash yellow when hit.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: The initial release tended to have doors that would get stuck, especially when saving or loading or when trying to make it to the exit of the level in level 11 (Tethys Lab), where the wide door in particular caused problems.
  • Game Mod: An official level editor is in the works.
  • Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels: Imported from Descent: Trainee, Rookie, Hotshot, Ace, and Insane, and a new difficulty level, Insane+.
  • Insane Troll Logic: The shield generators that unlock secret doors or open force fields when destroyed actually lock a secret door in level 11, more precisely the entrance to the fourth secret level, which is unlocked by default.
  • Invisible Monsters: Phantom, the (mostly) invisible version of the Scorpion that attacks you by clawing on your ship.
  • Late to the Tragedy: The facilities you visit have already been attacked by hostile auto-ops, who have killed the majority of the human workers.
  • Literal Metaphor: The Time Bomb is both an actual bomb and slows down time.
  • Load-Bearing Boss: The bosses cause a countdown much like the reactor. A rare justified example, as the Goliath (first boss) is said in the data logs to require so much power they just took the base's reactor and put it inside the boss. The Taurus (second boss) is probably the same deal. Subverted with the last boss. The level does self-destruct, but not because you killed the boss.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: Your Missile Pod can fire multiple small unguided missiles simultaneously. Upgrade them to give them tracking capability or fire even more missiles.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Kantor killed the construction crew and orchestrated the Enceladus incident to keep the discovery of an alien crash site secret.
  • Mascot Mook: The Shredder (formerly and still internally known as Blades) was more or less the poster auto-op prior to the game's release, appearing in most promotional art for the game. Post-release, the Scorpion seems to have succeeded the Shredder in this regard and plays this trope straight on a level equal to the Medium Lifter from Descent II.
  • More Dakka:
    • The Overdrive powerup increases the firing rate of all weapons as well as providing Bottomless Magazines for as long as it is active.
    • The Driller is the only primary weapon that has two upgrades that increase its fire rate, with the first one being a requirement to unlock the weapon's super upgrades. With both fire rate upgrades and an Overdrive powerup active, the Driller is the fastest-firing weapon in the game.
  • The Maze: Many of the levels have labyrinthine layouts.
  • Mecha-Mooks: All your enemies are robots - even the alien ones.
  • MegaCorp: Juno Offworld Automation. As a more modern example of the trope, Juno Offworld's board of directors, and the entire company by extension, serves as the game's Big Good. The problem lies with Kantor, who is their CEO.
  • Monster Closet: Carried over from Descent.
  • Mook Maker: The auto-op fabricators, which create an endless amount of additional auto-ops until destroyed...if they don't happen to be protected by a shield.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Kantor and some of the audio logs mention PTMC, the MegaCorp of Descent, by name.
    • Overload uses the exact same sound effects used in Descent to indicate the Invulnerability powerup being picked up and expiring.
    • The Descent series took its first game's Medium Lifter as its cover mascot, featuring it prominently on the covers of both Descent and Descent 2. Overload continues the tradition with the Medium Lifter's Expy, the Scorpion.
  • One-Hit Polykill: The Thunderbolt, when upgraded to Thunderbolt+, fires charged shots that can pass through several auto-ops.
  • Outrun the Fireball: The exit sequence features you flying away from an explosion that is dangerously approaching you.
  • Palette Swap: Super auto-ops, which have a red glow compared to the original variants and have more powerful weapons.
  • Pinball Projectile: The Reflex fires plasma orbs that can bounce off walls. Upgrades to it will cause the bolts to bounce back at enemies up to a certain angle away.
  • Punny Name: The game's sole Bullfight Boss is named Taurus.
  • Purple Is Powerful: The Thunderbolt and the Lancer have purple-colored bolts and beams. They are the two most powerful weapons in your arsenal. The alien auto-ops are also all purple and the most difficult opponents you'll face.
  • Ramming Always Works:
    • Your ship has a Smash attack that damages enemies by ramming them. It is even stronger when you are invincible.
    • The Shredder embodies this trope, smashing its two slicer hands together before charging you at high speed while emitting a distinctive screeching noise. If it hits you, it will hurt.
    • The various kamikaze drones also ram into the player and detonate their load, in increasingly nuclear ways.
  • Reactor Boss: On their own, the reactors are completely harmless, with their extremely high hitpoints being their only defense. However, most of the reactors are either protected by a forcefield, surrounded by auto-op fabricators, or flanked by indestructible turrets. The Goliath explicitly one-ups this by being a Load-Bearing Boss, as its power source is the reactor, and it is implied that the Taurus also functions on the same principle.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: When James Lynch, a formerly close colleague of Kantor, raised some concerns about safety, he was reassigned by Kantor to the outer moons on a much less prestigious job.
  • The Reveal: You are Alex Warden, the individual mentioned a few times in the audio logs. After passing through the wormhole and Kantor identifies you by name, as well as revealing what he had done, this causes you to be Suddenly Voiced for the pre-mission log that plays in the next level.
  • Scifi Writers Have No Sense Of Scale: Played with. It's outright stated in the opening cutscene that it takes two years to get to Saturn from the inner planets, and yet has you responding to a distress signal that was only sent a few days ago. This serves as the second clue that you weren't sent from the inner planets. Mostly averted everywhere else - even FTL teleportation across the universe and back takes 16 days.
    • Averted at one point when after you go through the alien portal, Kantor tells you that you are in a megastructure similar to a Dyson Sphere, which he claims harnesses the power output of a star, which he lists as "500 trillion trillion watts". Our sun has an output of about 380 trillion trillion (or septillion) watts, meaning such a figure is not at all unreasonable, as the sun is only about medium size as stars go.
  • Secret Level: Found via secret portals hidden somewhere in the level.
  • Self-Destruct Mechanism: In true Descent style, each outpost is wired to blow if its power reactor is sufficiently damaged - it's the only way to get rid of the insane auto-ops.
  • Send in the Search Team: The plot begins with you entering the Ymir base to figure out the cause of the distress signal you received. Depending on how many survivors you rescued throughout the facilities, the plot could also end with you being discovered by a search vessel deployed to explore the ruins of the last destroyed facility.
  • Shotguns Are Just Better: The Crusher fires a cluster of bullets into a small area in front of the ship, doing tremendous damage to anything that gets hit by the entire cluster. The bullets also have no damage falloff, making the Crusher perfectly serviceable as a Spread Shot at medium range. Its similarity to an actual shotgun is even noted in-universe, with one of its engineers calling it a "fancy shotgun" (although not as a compliment). The Crusher's base upgrade increases its firing rate, while its super upgrades turn it into one of the more powerful primary weapons in the game, with one upgrade increasing damage, and the other turning it into an automatic weapon.
  • Shout-Out: The initial release used the afterburner sound from Raptor: Call of the Shadows to indicate the Iberia approaching an outpost.
  • Sniper Rifle: The Driller is an unusual full-auto variant that fires highly accurate, nearly hitscan shots. Two of its upgrades mix in More Dakka without sacrificing accuracy.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Descent. Many of the people who worked on various installments of that series also worked on Overload.
  • Theme Naming: Most of the auto-op names revolve around High Fantasy, like goblin, ogre, harpy, goliath, and golem. Considering the origins of the sovereigns and the unnatural, almost arcane influence that they have on mechanical and organic beings, this is not a coincidence.
  • Suddenly Voiced: The Reveal causes your character to record a log into the Kodachi gunship you are flying, using his own voice. This is the only time in the entire game that your character speaks.
  • Unnecessarily Creepy Robot: Basically all of the enemies. Why do mining auto-ops have to look like this?
  • Violation of Common Sense: Using the Smash attack to damage or destroy enemies will give you a small armor boost.
  • Where It All Began: The first and last levels take place at Ymir Outpost, before and after an alien infestation.
  • Wake-Up Call Boss: The first boss has two phases, unlike the rest of the bosses that have just one, and even has Devastator missiles for weaponry, even if they're fired only rarely.
  • You Are Too Late: Kantor, and later, the AI sovereigns, tries to demoralize you by invoking this trope several times while you are exploring the alien megastructure.