Originally slated as a tech demo to showcase the physics of Frictional Games' HPL Engine, Penumbra: Overture was later released as a standalone game as the first part of the Penumbra trilogy. The gameplay style of Penumbra is a mix of first person adventure and a point and click system which heavily utilizes the use of the games physics to manipulate and solve "real world type" puzzles. Examples of this include holding the mouse button down and dragging to perform certain actions such as closing a door or swinging a weapon. The genre of this game is horror and heavily promotes stealth and hiding in place of combat.
The game was released universally on March 30, 2007 via digital distribution. The game also received a simultaneous, hard copy release in the United Kingdom. The game's boxed edition was also released in the United States in May later that year.
Penumbra: Overture follows the story of Philip, a thirty year old physicist who is drawn into the events of the game after receiving a letter from his dead father which was passed onto him after his mother dies at the beginning of the game. When he receives this letter he is given information about a lockbox containing information about his father. Philip is intrigued, having just lost his mother and never really knowing his father, he investigates the lock box to find a map and information about a secret facility somewhere in an isolated region in Greenland. The information his father provided in the letter is a warning about the facility and its dangers and that by all means he must not endanger himself journeying there to find out what happened. Philip however needs to know and goes anyway.
A plane trip, boat ride and hike later, Philip is stumbling around in the Greenland wilderness, lost in a huge snowstorm. Before dying he finds a hatch, and desperate to escape the storm breaks in to take refuge. Upon entering he is trapped in an abandoned mine. As he goes through the mine further he begins receiving radio transmissions from Tom Redwood aka "Red." Red promises to tell Philip about what happened once he comes and rescues him.
Throughout the game Philip descends deeper into the mine to find Red, all the while coming across the various new inhabitants of the mine and reading over dated entries of previous work. The information he uncovers indicates a secret military facility and laboratory which had been used secretly during World War II, and only recently reformed to study strange, xenomorphic phenomena which had been developing in the deeper parts of the mine.
Working his way through the abandoned tunnel system and avoiding detection by the new ecosystem of deformed animal inhabitants, he finally reaches Red who has lost his mind after being trapped in the mine for an unspecified amount of time. The evidence of diary entries and his living quarters indicate that Red had been isolated from human contact for ten or more years. His suffering has driven him into insanity and he requests salvation from Philip by asking that he incinerate him in the furnace, deep in the underground. Philip obeys without ever meeting Red face to face. His death allows Philip to progress further through the mine into a section known as 'The Shelter'. This marks the second area of the underground, housing the primary research labs and setting the scene for the events of the second game.
There is a known issue with the newer Steam version of Overture that causes the game to freeze during the final load screen transition. This load screen is initiates upon entering the brightly illuminated door in the incinerator area once you locate its key. This glitch is believed to be caused by a corrupted "phantom" update alongside the patch that includes crosshairs (patch V1.1).
A few potential fixes exist:
The simplest is to uninstall and then reinstall the game and make sure to turn OFF the "Keep Updated" option for the title. It is reported that some users may still have the load issue.
A more complicated fix is possible with a greater chance of success however. The user must download the official non-Steam version of the patch (V1.1) from the Frictional Games website found here.
During installation direct the install to:
<SteamPath>\steamapps\common\penumbra overture\. (remember to remove the "episode 1" directory at the end by default)
Even with this patch however some users may still be unable to enter the final hallway. It should be noted that beyond the doorway and the final load screen only between three to four minutes of actual gameplay exist. Most users simply view the final minutes of gameplay and the closing cinematic on youtube.