OPINION | GAME ON: Interest drops off once you beat mountaineering adventure ‘Insurmountable’

Scene from the video game "Insurmountable" (Photo courtesy of ByteRockers' Games)
Scene from the video game "Insurmountable" (Photo courtesy of ByteRockers' Games)

There's something primal about climbing to new heights, whether it's a tree in the backyard, the corporate ladder or, for some people, the tallest peaks in the world.

For those who think the latter sounds great in theory but probably wouldn't be very fun in reality, "Insurmountable" might be your game.

Created by indie studio ByteRockers' Games, "Insurmountable" is a procedurally generated, rogue-like adventure game that involves conquering three mountain peaks on a mysterious island, with each mountain harder than the last.

The initial premise is simple. Climb to the top of the mountain via a snow, ice and stone hexagon grid, then climb back down. Along the way, you must manage your food, energy, sanity, the cold and your health. But like Hotel California, you can never leave. Somehow, you've become stuck in a time loop and must keep climbing mountains over and over again to learn about the anomaly that has trapped you, so you can eventually escape.

A lot of spooky-ish, supernatural kinds of things occur but aren't ever really explained.

"Insurmountable" was released in April 2021, but just a few days ago it got a big update that completely reworked its adventure experience, adding a base camp, side missions, more than 100 new events, an improved tutorial; the update rebalanced the game.

[Video not showing up above? Click here to watch » arkansasonline.com/425climb/]

Before each climb, one of three characters is selected: An adventurer, a journalist and a scientist. Succeeding on missions raises the player's overall level and gives skill points to all three, so it's fine to use a favorite, although some missions require certain climbers.

Starting equipment is selected, such as warm gloves, a tent, food or tea, and then it's off to the peak of the next mountain. A randomized weather system can bring dangerous storms, and at night it grows colder, meaning status bars such as health, warmth and energy must be carefully managed.

Along the way are a number of event hexes, noticeable by a big spinning disc hovering over them to say what kind of event will take place, such as trading, a chance to find equipment, or some natural beauty to wonder at. There are also caves to rest in and sometimes explore, and other travelers stuck in the time loop are sometimes encountered. Once I encountered a goat, was friendly to it, and then later in the map it alerted me to a mountain lion ahead.

The peaks are tall, too, coming in at over 7500 meters (about 25,000 feet) in elevation. Each map will have you climbing into the Death Zone, which here starts at 6000 meters (about 20,000 feet), at which point oxygen and other resources drain faster.

Separate from your overall level, experience gained from event hexes during each climb will build levels, and each level allows for various mission-only boons to be selected, such as increased oxygen intake or staying warmer as you climb. Some boons last the whole mission, and some last just 24 hours. Each climb can take a week or more, as sleep is required to regain energy levels and get warm again.

At the end of each successful climb, points are awarded for various aspects of the gameplay, such as how many events were triggered, and the various climbers will level up, gaining points that can be used to increase their skills and the equipment they can start with permanently. This allows for some customization and versatility. Do you want to build your adventurer with lots of extra energy? Or do you want to make it easier to climb on ice or snow, etc., and have the map give a warning as to what kind of climb will be encountered next, so the right equipment can be prepared?

"Insurmountable" is not a terribly long game — it will likely take about six hours on the initial difficulty level to complete, and a few play-throughs if you're an achievement completionist. The recent update greatly increased the replayability factor by adding more random event options and better procedurally generated maps, but I think it's still unlikely this game will capture your long-term interest.

Even within my initial play-through, I was experiencing the same events repeatedly (which does sort of help survivability if you know what outcomes to expect), and the storyline, while appreciated, won't have the same impact the second time around.

Overall the game was enjoyable to pick up, but also easy to move on from when completed.

And maybe that's just what you're looking for.


Platform: Windows

Cost: $24.99

Rating: Appropriate for any age

Score: 6 out of 10


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