Insurmountable is much more engaging and in-depth than at first glance with a good balance between challenge and the excitement of exploration.
Insurmountable is an adventure roguelike with permadeath, developed by ByteRockers Games and released on Steam on April 29, 2021. You are tasked with climbing huge mountain peaks with tile-based movement as you monitor your climber’s vitals and resources. Decisions matter too in terms of the routes you take, how much you explore, which resources you choose to keep or discard, and dealing with night/day and random events in your quest to reach the summit. As I found out the hard way though, reaching the summit is only half the journey.
At it’s core, Insurmountable is a non-combat survival game and each run up one of the three mountain peaks take anywhere from about 40-80 minutes depending on how much you explore. My first attempt too about 80 minutes, but I tried to explore as much as I could and read every bit of text I came across. Your first decision, however, is to choose from three climber archetypes – Adventurer, Scientist and Journalist, each with different starting bonuses/items. You are climbing on your own with limited carrying capacity and you need to monitor your oxygen, body temperature, energy and sanity statistics. At the base of the mountain, traversing terrain isn’t too arduous. However as you climb further up the mountain, the terrain becomes more treacherous and it takes more energy to climb higher and cross different types of terrain.
As you explore and gain experience, you’ll level up and be able to specialise in passive and active skills that will enhance your climber. Scattered around the mountain are event tiles which can be beneficial or a threat to your climber but sometimes risks pay off. Events range from caves that can be used as shelter to rest, to finding abandoned tents where you have a choice to search through them. Searching takes time and it exposes you to the elements so again it’s a risk if you’re willing to take it.
As you climb higher up the mountain in Insurmountable, the temperature and energy requirements become harder to manage. Resting will replenish your energy, but it’s cold so your warmth is affected. You can unlock active skill like meditate and another to expend energy to regain warmth. It takes more energy to climb larger cliff faces and traverse snowy/icy tiles, so it’s a juggling act in places, particularly as you near the summit. The day/night cycle progresses quickly, and you can specialise in night climbing to lessen the impact on warmth and energy, but eventually you do need to rest often.
You can rest in your sleeping bag to save using your tent, but at a larger cost to warmth, however tents only have three uses each. In my first run I found a second tent which was a lifesaver, but even with those two tents, I burned through those before even getting to the death zone which is where oxygen starts to deplete. I thought the aim of the game was just to get to the big shiny green summit, so I was basing my decisions on what resources I had left in my inventory and how best to manage my stats. As I got closer to the summit, I had to really think hard about my path choices as I was getting low on all supplies and stats.
I eventually did make it to the summit, barely, as I had no tent, no spare oxygen cylinders and all stats were in the red, but I made it! I realised though that climbing a mountain doesn’t stop at the top, you have to climb down again. Of course this is true to life, but the big shiny green top tile of the summit looked like that was the end goal – I was totally wrong. I could see a quicker way down the other side of the mountain, as the story indicated where I had to go, however I succumbed to the elements and subsequently died. A lot of lessons learned for my next adventures.
You get a summary at the end of each expedition in Insurmountable and I’m excited to try more attempts and this was only on normal difficulty. Successfully completing a climb on normal will unlock hard mode, and then completing hard mode will unlock insurmountable mode. Considering the challenges I faced in my first normal run, insurmountable mode sounds intense!
My only gripes with the game are the camera angles and identifying the death zone. Sometimes it was difficult to select tiles that were high above me or around a precipice. I could always click where I wanted to go but sometimes I had to fiddle with the camera angle to be able to click the correct tile. It would also be good to have some sort of visual indicator showing where the death zone starts/finishes, perhaps in the form of a level of cloud cover, some fog or perhaps a shaded area as you approach it. When I was on my last legs trying to go down the mountain, if reckon I could have survived had I know how to get quickly below the death zone. I understand that technically, altitude affects everyone differently so the death zone is a fluid thing, and whilst this isn’t a 100% accurate climbing simulator, it’s pretty bloody good considering.
Overall, Insurmountable is much more engaging and in-depth than at first glance with a good balance between challenge and the excitement of exploration. The tile-based terrain navigation gives you various options as you climb higher, and the allure of the next event challenges your thought process. Do you venture just that little but further to potentially find something beneficial, or do you conserve your energy and push for higher ground. The goal is to reach the summit, but that’s only half the journey as what goes up, must come down. I am looking forward to doing more runs with each of the three mountaineer classes and with runs only taking about an hour or so, it’s a game that can be played in short bursts and still feel like you’ve achieved something.
This review utilised a key provided by the developers and Insurmountable is available now on Steam.