Insurmountable Review: I’ll give you summit to (perma)die about
Ahhh, the great outdoors! Nothing beats it. The air is crisp, the the snow is fresh, the mountains are calling, the time loop is pulling people in, the… wait, what? Oh, yeah, the time loop. Yeah so that’s a thing that happens on these mountains now, basically one curious step too far and suddenly you’re in a mysterious bunker with three other people, a handful of supplies, and some limited information on the anomaly. On the one hand, whew does that suck being trapped in an infinite loop with seemingly no way out; on the other hand, you do enjoy mountain climbing…
Those who feel like scaling mountains for all eternity doesn’t sound like a bad thing will probably very much enjoy Insurmountable, a procedurally generated mountaineering roguelike where permadeath in the permafrost is all but guaranteed. Developed by ByteRockers’ Games and published by Daedalic Entertainment, Insurmountable actually released last year, but its massive 2.0 update just dropped last month. Featuring a completely new narrative, more quests, updated victory conditions, and improved balancing, Insurmountable now leans heavily into its own chilling lore without leaving players out in the cold.
For those who have yet to try scaling this title, Insurmountable takes the standard roguelike experience and, instead of applying it to yet another dungeon, places players in front of a mountain and tells them to climb. Instead of WASD keys to maneuver, movement is handled by clicking around on different hextiles, with time progressing only during movement or actions. Each hextile has a different height, such as level with the current ground or several stacked on top of each other; additionally, they all have a different terrain, like snow, stone, or ice. Traversing across hextiles costs usually costs energy but may also reduce heat or oxygen depending on the temperature and elevation.
Of course, a trip to the summit isn’t a walk in the park — chances are, you’ll come across things along the way, like abandoned tents, mysterious cables, and even formerly type-A go-getters turned frozen human popsicles. Each time you discover a point of interest, there’s usually an option or two to choose from, which will tip your stats in one direction or another. For example, exploring a dark cave without a flashlight may lead to a cache of items, or it may lead to injury, while looking up at just the right time may yield a chance to behold the wonderous miracle of the Northern Lights, granting players a small burst of sanity.
Now, if you’re familiar with what it takes to summit Mt. Everest, you’ll know that you’ll probably make little progress for a long while as you slowly trudge up the mountain, and that goes doubly so for the Death Zone; unlike Mt. Everest, Insurmountable encourages plenty of detours along the way. In fact, you’ll need to take them, as you cannot hope to carry enough provisions for your vertical trip, nor do you have assistance in your strange new endeavor. By zig-zagging through the mountain, experiencing events, collecting items, and levelling up/acquiring skills that buff your energy, health, travel time, and more, you’ll find your ascent much more doable than if you were to tackle it headfirst.
Although I was immediately addicted to Insurmountable, I found the game a bit repetitive after awhile. There are only a few random events and even fewer items to collect, which wouldn’t be an issue if a path to victory wasn’t so predictable. Sure, there are harder modes that I could probably move onto, but I was hoping for some more item diversity in terms of stats, or in the very least the ability to flip items to better tetris their way into my backpack (instead of being forced to discard some shoes because I literally can’t rotate them 90 degrees). Still, this is a game that sucked me in for hours, and it’s one that I foresee myself playing for weeks to come.
Insurmountable’s 2.0 update brings all the missing content that the original release desperately needed; while the new stuff is anything but cozy, it is challenging, which is the exact kind of thing players who love survival games are looking for. Insurmountable revitalizes the tired roguelike genre with its new setting and careful, slow-going mechanics, but it can feel a bit stale after a summit or two so it’s best to play this one in short bursts. If you’re always searching for that something over the next mountaintop, Insurmountable is cooler than cool — it’s ice cold.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: PC (reviewed); Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment; Developer: ByteRockers’ Games; Players: 1; Released: April 29, 2021; MSRP: $24.99
Editor’s note: This review is based on a digital copy of Insurmountable provided by the publisher.