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Oblivion Override Review

Hack and smash hit

Do you love, or maybe hate, robots? Either way, Oblivion Override could very well be the game for you. Taking control of a rogue AI inhabiting various mech suits, you’ll tear through beautifully depressing sci-fi landscapes, turning robots into whatever the mechanical equivalent of pulp is.

A rogue-like developed by Humble Mill, the game offers super tight hack and slash (as well as wok and roll) combat, presenting players with over 26 creative weapons to cause havoc with. Using conventional arms like swords, axes and hammers, and some less conventional options like lollipop chainsaws, woks, and a rage-posting keyboard, you’ll battle your way through a 2D side-scrolling, dystopian civilisation.

The backdrops are often A+

The obvious comparison for Oblivion Override is Dead Cells, and you can see why the two are mentioned in the same breath so often. On the surface, they share a lot of the same DNA. Both feature Metroidvania approaches to the rogue-like genre, where exploration rewards (or punishes) players’ curiosity. That being said, Humble Mill has done more than enough to position Oblivion Override as its own entity, and the differences quickly become more noticeable than the similarities.

Oblivion Override’s style and setting feel unique despite the well-trodden territory it inhabits. Mech-piloting/cyberpunk/dystopian settings have been done to death, respawned, and then had another run towards death. But they do offer rich playgrounds for storytelling. For every aspect that feels familiar in Oblivion Override, there’s a fun tip of the hat from the developers that makes its inclusion feel tongue-in-cheek.

The core loop is anchored by a story of an underground resistance group fighting against an oppressing force after the fall of humanity. The nature of consciousness and artificial intelligence being transplanted into new shells goes some way towards explaining the resets after a failed run. In fact, there are animations for each loop or level-up, showing your new body coming to life and growing in strength. Death, rebirth and trying again all feel natural in the world.

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As with so many entries in the rogue-like genre, after defeat, you awake at a base filled with various (often quirky) allies. You can upgrade said base to unlock new items and modifiers to keep each run interesting. Your allies are, for the most part, pretty cool. The weapon vendor talks about salvaging items from junk and turning them into deadly tools, which adds to the post-apocalyptic vibe of the game, and other allies provide nice tidbits to the lore of Dulce Base (the main set-piece of the game). Overall, Oblivion Override handles base building and companions well. It doesn’t feel ground-breaking or innovative in the way it all functions, but it ticks a box, and the writing props everything up nicely.

Whoever included the Plant Park logo is a clever girl

Before heading out on a run, you’ll have the option to select different mechs, which are mostly unlocked through side quests. The mechs all have different base evolutions, which are skills and passives that will aid you on your mission. I found myself gravitating towards the same mech over and over again, as it worked for me and just clicked. But toying with others did offer some creativity in play style and emphasised how unique certain build and weapon combos can be. Even though the mech designs fit into well-worn tropes (horned helmet guy hits hard, femme fatale is a sneaky assassin), I enjoyed how they were written or the paths you take to unlock them and recruit new bodies into the resistance.

On top of mech customisation, there are a lot of skills that you upgrade on a run. These aren’t permanent upgrades, so you can experiment before reaching your demise and get a feel for the various power-ups. There’s a lot on offer, and at times, it can feel frivolous to try for certain builds when RNG locks you out of finishing touches, like a certain weapon or upgrade showing up. That said, I had a great time when the stars aligned, and I created a crit-dealing, HP vampire tank with a regenerative shield.

Dotted along the runs are a ton of enemy types, with a lot of variety across the biomes. From robot dogs to archers and chode mushroom dudes, you’ll get a good feel of how to rip them into spare parts as you go. There are also mini-boss that sometimes spawn within combat areas (locked down sections that force you to beat waves of enemies before progressing). Depending on how many level-ups you’ve scored before encountering them, they can be a real challenge.

One of the few character models that felt more like a DoA kinda thing, but each to their own

The boss fights at the end of each biome are another one of the spots where Oblivion Override shines. The fights are brutal, feature epic boss-battle music, and offer insights into the lore behind the game through flashbacks and gorgeous set-pieces. Given the game’s rogue-like nature, the boss fights lost a bit of sting as I unlocked more and more meta progressions, but in the first few encounters, they usually wiped the floor with me.

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Across the biomes, you’ll occasionally get to choose your boss, which is a nice feature and offers you a chance to strategise on who will cause you the least pain with the build you have.

All in all, there are four biomes to work through, and Humble Mill has done a fantastic job with each one. They feel unique and shift the traversal methods to emphasise different ways of playing the game. Whether that’s wall-running or encouraging dashes, you need to think about how to use your skills in each area rather than just bashing your way to success.

The only thing that detracts from the mostly stellar experience in Oblivion Override is the flat difficulty curve and repetitive feel of running the same areas. After a certain time, I felt the loop had become quite stale, and I’d have liked more content. Early challenges, like boss fights, felt too easy once my meta-unlocks had reached a certain point. Post-game, alarm levels (like heat levels) crank up the difficulty, which helped alleviate this, but when running through the main story, the ease of completing the first few biomes harshed my buzz at times.

Fkn hated this guy for a good week

The Metriodvania style exploration didn’t offer as much curiosity as others in the genre, and the drops and skills I had at my disposal didn’t inspire me to keep playing in the same way that games like Hades or Enter the Gungeon did. I was still having a blast playing Oblivion Override, but I didn’t have the “one more run” bug keeping me awake at night like with other games.

The optimist in me wants the team to get enough interest in the game to keep adding updates. Looking through their update logs from early access to now, they’ve done an excellent job at polishing and adding material – so here’s hoping we get some longevity.

Final Thoughts

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Oblivion Override is an easy recommend to fans of rogue-likes, robots and smashing the shit out of stuff. It might not have the staying power of some of the genre’s heavy-weights, but what’s on offer is top-notch, fun to play, and a great first showing from the studio.

Reviewed on PC // Steam Deck. Review code supplied by publisher

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Oblivion Override Review
I Wanna Wok and Roll All Night
Oblivion Override is a tight roguelike with Metroidvania elements and an awesome range of weapons to choose from that has plenty on offer to delight fans of the genre, all wrapped up in a pretty robot killing package.
The Good
Tight gameplay
Awesome selection of weapons
Art style is superb
Solid sound design and music
Some laugh-out-loud wit in the writing
Creative and engaging addition to a densely-packed genre
The Bad
The loop feels stale after a while
Metroidvania aspects like exploration are quite light-on
Meta-progression makes early challenges feel like a breeze until you reach post-game
8
Get Around It
  • Humble Mill
  • Paleo
  • Switch / PC
  • January 25, 2024

Oblivion Override Review
I Wanna Wok and Roll All Night
Oblivion Override is a tight roguelike with Metroidvania elements and an awesome range of weapons to choose from that has plenty on offer to delight fans of the genre, all wrapped up in a pretty robot killing package.
The Good
Tight gameplay
Awesome selection of weapons
Art style is superb
Solid sound design and music
Some laugh-out-loud wit in the writing
Creative and engaging addition to a densely-packed genre
The Bad
The loop feels stale after a while
Metroidvania aspects like exploration are quite light-on
Meta-progression makes early challenges feel like a breeze until you reach post-game
8
Get Around It
Written By Charlie Braithwaite

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