Insurmountable managed to turn mountaineering into a turn based strategy game. I don’t think any game is going to completely capture the essence of climbing a mountain in real life but Insurmountable does a pretty good job of making you carefully consider your options before trekking forward.
The game is pretty simple and intuitive. Your climber only has four meters to keep track of: sanity, stamina, body temperature, and oxygen. Sanity decreases slightly for most actions and some actions like searching a corpse for supplies will reduce sanity greatly. Sanity is restored with herbs you find on the mountain side or through trading with others. Some events, such as watching the sunset, will restore sanity. The game does try to ape what it would feel like to loose and gain your mental sanity through game play mechanics if you use a little bit of your imagination. But for the most part, the mechanics are pretty transparent. It’s all risk versus reward and you have to risk one of your four meters to gain possible supplies to aid you in your quest to the summit.
In reaching the summit, stamina is the meter that is the most obvious to keep track of. Every action uses stamina and you need stamina to climb the mountain. You can regain stamina by sleeping, eating food, and through some events and interactions. Later on, you will find items to equip that will reduce stamina usage such as snow shoes that reduce stamina usage on snowy terrain. In addition to equippable items, there will be passive upgrades that can be selected every time you level up.
Almost every action will generate experience points and once you level up, you will be able to pick one permanent passive upgrade out of three choices. The upgrades provide benefits such as decreased stamina usage, a decrease in time spent for climbing, and increased oxygen generation and so forth. You can pick and choose your upgrades based on your play style.
Finally, the last two meters are body temperature and oxygen. Body temperature goes down when the weather is severe as well as when you sleep outdoors without a tent. You can regain body temperature by drinking hot tea as well as through interactions and events and passive bonuses. Sometimes you will find equippable clothes that will help you retain body heat much more easily.
Oxygen is the last meter you have to pay attention to because it usually doesn’t start going down drastically until you reach the death zone of the climb. The game simulates being in higher altitudes by decreasing your oxygen meter rapidly. The items that restore oxygen are usually harder to find and few in number so you really have to start planning your route to the summit more carefully and not take any unnecessary detours.
The game always offers that risk versus reward game play. Moving anywhere will always reduce stamina but going to points of interest always present the opportunity of gaining something that will make the climb easier. Sometimes you need to take calculated risks to find items or restore one of your meters because just trying to climb to the summit in the shortest path possible will leave you exhausted and without any recourse.
Overall, Insurmountable is a pretty chill mountain climbing strategy game. It really does feel rewarding when you reach the summit and look back at the starting point. You notice how far up you are as well as how far you’ve come. I gained a very small understanding of the satisfaction a mountaineer must feel upon reaching the summit.