Penumbra: Overture is the first in a series of episodic games developed by Swedish[3] developer Frictional Games. It was originally intended as the first episode of a trilogy. With the announcement of the second episode, Penumbra: Black Plague, it was stated that the second game would be the final chapter.[4] However, an expansion has been released since then: Penumbra: Requiem, giving the series a third chapter, although not continuing the story in any way.[5]


Although Frictional Games describes Penumbra: Overture as a first-person adventure[6], the game blends the genres of survival horror, first-person shooter, and adventure. The use of Newton Game Dynamics emphasizes physics-based puzzles as well as physics-based combat.[7] The game also takes advantage of advanced artificial intelligence to respond realistically to noises and light, creating stealth-based gameplay.

There are no firearms in the game, so during combat the player is limited to improvised melee fighting with a pickaxe, or throwing objects at attacking creatures. The game is designed to emphasize stealth and avoidance over direct conflict. For example, Philip can close doors behind him to temporarily hold off attacking enemies.[8]

The game's main focus is on exploration and classic adventure game object interaction: examining and collecting objects and using them to solve puzzles.[9]


Set in the year 2000, Penumbra: Overture follows the story of Philip, a thirty-year-old physicist whose mother recently died. After receiving a mysterious letter from his supposedly dead father, Philip follows a series of clues that lead to him to a mysterious location in uninhabited northern Greenland.[10] The harsh cold forces him to take shelter in an abandoned mine. Unfortunately, the mine's entrance collapses as he enters it, and he is forced to move deeper inside. Within the mine, Philip discovers diary extracts written by a scientist of some sort, who was alone and gradually resorted to eating cave-dwelling spiders as an alternative food source as his supplies diminished.

The unknown person also describes discovering a psychoactive toxin in the spiders and deduced that, after eight months of consuming them in the mine, it was beginning to have an effect on him, physically. Philip also begins receiving radio messages from Tom "Red" Redwood, a man driven insane by cabin fever. Red promises that if he is found, he will give Philip answers. The game follows Philip as he descends deeper into the mines in search of Red while unravelling the secrets of the mine's previous and current inhabitants.

Philip quickly discovers that the mine is inhabited by an ecosystem of abnormally large and hostile animals: dogs, giant spiders, and gargantuan earthworms among others. Abandoned outposts and various scattered papers found throughout the mine indicate that a secret society is studying some unusual phenomena inside the mines.

Following clues and solving various puzzles, Philip eventually comes to an area deep within the mine where Red is waiting for him. Red waits inside an incinerator where he begs Philip to kill him. With no other option, Philip activates the incinerator and amongst Red's remains, he finds items he needs to progress into a new area of the mine which is identified as "The Shelter". Once inside, Philip notices what appears to be a human watching him. Philip approaches the figure, but the lighting is suddenly extinguished and Philip is knocked out and dragged away.


Tech demo

Penumbra: Overture is based on Frictional Games' earlier game Penumbra, a short tech demo meant to demonstrate the capabilities of the company's HPL Engine. The developers admitted to making significant modifications of the original engine to accommodate the 3D graphics in this game, "The engine is built from an engine created when making a thesis job which resulted in the platform game Energetic. Before moving into the 3rd dimension I made some cleanup of the engine (which was quite rushed in some places) and started to add a base for 3D rendering. I would not say that the original 2D engine was modified to add 3D, but rather a 3D layer was added so all of the 2D stuff is still there. It is still possible to make a 2D tile game using our engine." While not initially intended to be a commercial product, Penumbra was received exceedingly well, and Frictional decided to develop it into a full-length game.[6]


The first episode of Penumbra was released on March 30, 2007, through various digital distribution websites. The game was simultaneously released in a boxed edition in the United Kingdom, and the boxed release in the United States was shipped to retailers on May 8, 2007.[11] On May 25, 2007 the full version for Linux was released on the Frictional Games store. In addition, the game became available on GameTap on October 4, 2007. On January 10, 2008 the full version for Mac OS X was released on the Frictional Games forum for PowerPC and Intel architectures.[12] On March 6th, 2009 Paradox Interactive released Penumbra Overture in a collection pack along with Penumbra: Black Plague and Penumbra: Requiem. The game became available via Steam on March 7, 2009.

Overture was released as part of the Humble Indie Bundle[13], and when the Bundle made more than $1 million, Overture was released as open source.[2]


As of April 2010, the game has a MetaCritic score of 73, a MobyGames rank of 74[14], and a GameRankings rank of 73.63%[15], as well as an average rating of four stars on the The Linux Game Tome[16] and average of four and a half stars at JeuxLinux.[17]


External links

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