Dissapointed in Overlight
I recognize this is a bit of a lengthy review, so if you want a quick glance skip down to the summary paragraph at the bottom.
Premise: Overlight is a fantasy RPG. The book contains the setting/story for the Overlight World, how to create a character, all the rules needed for playing, and a short sample adventure. In overlight the world consists of 7 floating shards. There is no sun, but instead a constant overlight shining down on the shards. You play as one of 7 unique species, who inhabit these shards. While each species tends to represent one of seven virtues, you are Skyborn. You're core virtue will differ from what is typical for your species or "folk". In addition you are able to utilize the overlight to preform some sort of Radiant Power called "Chroma". While very different from a flavor perspective, these are essentially just spells you can cast.
The Book: The first thing you'll notice in this book is the art. I know art is subjective, but I think it's fantastic. Illustrator Kwanchai Moriya does a wonderful job of bringing the world to life. The chapters are laid out in a logical order, and don't be intimidated by the large page number, the text is large print for easy reading.
Character Creation: During character creation, players select a race, a core virtue, and allocate a certain amount of character points to improve their character. These points can be spent to improve one of your six core virtues, one of your skills, or add different chroma you can utilize. Each of your virtues and skills is represented by a dice type (although you can be untrained in some skills). The dice options are D6, D8, D10, and D12. While I do have issues with how different aspects of your character is utilized in the game, overall I thought character creation provided interesting choices by having the character creation points be spendable on all aspects of the character. Maybe you want someone who's particularly strong at one virtue, or one that has a lot of chroma options, etc. It's a good way to specialize. One potential pitfall of such specialization freedom though is that first time players can end up with extremely ineffective characters.
Rollin' Dice: When a character wants to attempt something of uncertain success in Overlight, they must roll dice to determine the outcome. They will typically roll 7 dice. For Skill/Combat/Open tests, players roll 3 dice of their strenght for the skill they are testing, and 3 dice for the core virtue associate with that skill. Then they roll a bonus d4 called a "spirit dice" that can impact the test depending on the type of test. If players have no value for the skill they are testing, they simply roll 1d6 instead of the three skill dice. For Chroma tests you roll 6 virtue dice, 3 for each of the two virtues the chroma utilizes, and one d4. Next you count the number of successes (dice values 6 or higher) and refer to the skill test chart or chroma chart to see what happens. I'll cover Chroma later on, but for skill tests 2-3 successes means you "achieved your goal but with little flourish", 4-5 means you "achieve your goal competently and easily" and 6 successes means you did it with "expert skill".
This is where Overlight starts to sour for me. I feel like the dice rolling method was geard to be unique rather than effective, as in practice anytime there's a test it can be very tedious. The dice requirements are pretty high (you potentially need six d6s, d8s, d10s, and d12s) so I'd guess most tables ended up sharing. Every time it we needed a roll, it took a while for everyone to find the right dice they needed. By "a while" I mean less than a minute, but still enough to disrupt the narrative.
The other issue with the way tests run that was frustrating to me was how the math shook out. Almost every roll we attempted there was almost 0% chance of anything above a mild success. Sure mild successes were easy to get, but the excitement on the table you get when some one rolls a massive success in other games is extremely rare here. You could argue that extreme rarity makes it more exciting, but even if you continued to spend everything you earned on your character to get to roll 6d12s on a particular skill, you'd still only hit the massive success less than 4% of the time that particular skill was relevant in the game. In our five session campaign we saw it happen zero times, and instead coasted on mild successes. The gamemaster can also choose to make mild success a failure for more difficult tests, but the difficulty spike between mild and medium successes is huge, so it's difficult for the gamemaster to fine tune the difficulty of a particular test.
Wealth: I think overlight has needlessly way overcomplicated buying stuff. In most games you have a certain number of credits or gold coins, and to spend them you just subtract the price of your total. Not so in overlight. Instead you have a wealth rating (like a skill dice value) and wealth points. So instead of keeping track of one value (your money) you keep track of two. Then when you find something you want to buy from goods to information the book states "After stating your mercantile intent to the GM, you should perform your Wealth Test, then roleplay the encounter based on the results of the test." So if you succeed on your wealth test (another 7 dice roll) you're able to buy the item, by spending the amount of wealth points equal to what the spirit dice rolled. Your wealth rating only accounts for 3 of the dice rolled, your DM picks another skill for you to use each time you attempt to buy anything.
This is a terrible system for a lot of reasons. It is clunky and slow. Even if you succeed in your wealth test, the cost of the item varies from 1-4 at random regardless of what you're purchasing. Narratively, it's bizzaire. The shopkeep will sell the potion to me for 4 units of money, but my friend for 2 units of money. What does your wealth skill represent? Your wealth points represent how much money or barter supplies you have, so the wealth skill is just how interested people are in selling stuff to you? Never have I played an RPG and thought the parts we were shopping needed more randomness on prices and take up more of the session time. Overlight should have just abstracted currency completely, or just go with gold coins. You can still have people who'd rather barter if the situation calls for it.
Chroma: Chroma, these spells characters can cast, is a very important part of the Overlight. Almost a third of the book is dedicated to all the different Chroma you can select from, making it the largest section of the text. To chanel your chroma powers, you do a Chroma test by rolling 7 dice. 3 for the first virtue of the Chroma, 3 for the second virtue of the chroma, and a spirit die. With the six virtue dice, you are again counting successes. 0-1 is a failure, 2-3 is a luminous, 4-5 for aradiant success, and 6 for a brilliant success. Each Chroma has different results for each of the three success options. The spirit die dictates how many "spirit points" the chroma costs. If it costs more spirit than you have remaining, you experience a "shatter" which has different impacts on your character depending on the Chroma you are using.
The type of Chroma you can choose from is broken down between core virtues and folks. You can only choose chorma that is either in the section of your core virtue, or for your folk. Some of the folk chroma are subject to only one particular background. So right away you only have access to a fraction of the available Chroma. And because the Chroma relies on two virtues, you'll want to pick ones that rely on virtues your favored in, so you have a reasonable chance at success when using them. Because virtues are the most expensive thing in character creation to increase, you'll likely be only good at a couple. This narrows down the pool even further. By the time you've got your stats ready, you've already eliminated the vast majority of available chroma as feasible for your character. Because of this, I'd reccommend finding a chroma or two you like before committing to a character build.
Unfortunately, my group found the chroma to be poorly balanced. Many combat-focused chroma were significantly worse than just taking the regular attack action. Other chroma is extremely situational. I like situational spells, but in this game you might start with 1 or 2 chroma, so it can feel bad if you never get to use one. For most chroma, the higher you go up on the success chart, the better the effect. However, there are some cases where you might not want more successes. Survivor's Spark, for instance, can either let you have a small flame on your finger trip, create a campfire in front of you, or explode a fireball somewhere near you. If you wanted one of those to happen, it's is hard to imagine the other ones would do you any good.
Combat: Combat is very simplified, which surprised me given how detailed the chroma was and how many of them were specified for "during combat". Basically after determing which side goes first, all characters on that side get one action, then all characters on the other side get one action. The action can be an attack, channeling chroma, a battle manuever, or anything else that takes a few seconds. To attack, you do a skill test with a combat skill, and each success does 1 damage. There's almost no need to do anything else in combat. Most battle chroma does or prevents less damage than a normal attack would do (with the exception of the automatic KO chroma), and the battle manuevers might be useful in very specific situations, but we never used them. I'm a fan of a lot of RPGs that have little to no combat, but Overlight seems to emphasize combat in a large portion of the book. Unfortunately the actual combat rules are pretty lacking.
Summary: The world in overlight is an interesting one, but the mechanics make it difficult to reccomend. The rules tend to bounce between those of a very meaty RPG, and an extremely light one. We found a lot of the rules it did include to be very unbalanced. I understand you don't need a perfectly balanced game to tell a good story, but I can't help but feel it makes it a lot easier when the game is at least kind of balanced. If you do find yourself captivated by the world of Overlight, my reccomendation would be to take the world and play it in an existing fantasy RPG.