July 03, 2009
It has been a while since I had a horde of evil minions running around at my beck and calm ready to spread fear amongst the masses – but then again, my job at McDonalds never really worked out. If you do not have the pleasure of working for an overbearing multinational company then the next best thing might well be the Overlord games. After all, what other game gives you a choice between evil and more evil? Overlord has never been about making the right choice, it is more about doing whatever the hell you like and bossing your minions about to get things done.
Developed once again by Triumph Studios, this game bears many of the hallmarks that set its predecessor apart from the rest of the pack. While the central mechanics of minion control have remained the same, there have been a few novel touches inserted in a bid to spice up the formula. There was never anything especially wrong with Overlord but the variety was sadly lacking and you often felt like you could make it through the game at a canter. It also suffered from pretty average multiplayer features, an issue that I fear may have reared its ugly head once again. Still, it is hard to improve upon a game that did so well first time around and the trick here is to ensure things do not get stale in a hurry.
The story is a mix of exaggerated fantasy stereotypes and over the top violence. This time your foe is the evil Empire (not that one) who bear a remarkable similarity to Romans and have a marked hatred for any kind of magical creatures. Truly only the most vicious of armies would turn an elven forest into a holiday resort? The blaggards. The story follows on directly from the first game, or to be entirely accurate, the DLC portion of the first game. The original Overlord is trapped underground and his wicked offspring, Overlad (just because you are evil does not mean you are smart), is hustled off to be raised by peasants. Now the youngster is back with a thirst for the finer things in life. Obviously he does not want to help out his fellow magical folk but he is certainly ticked off that the people causing them such misery are not underneath his own iron boot. After all, only a malicious Overlord can possibly be allowed to cause grief on such a grand scale.
The story unfortunately is not as funny or gripping as the original. The first Overlord played up the fantasy genre to create obese halflings, gold crazed dwarfs and perverted paladins whilst the Empire villains on offer here seem a tad drab by comparison. The number of enemies is also quite small this time around and the story seems a touch stretched, not to mention the fact the world seems a little on the small side. Thankfully your trusted advisor Gnarl and your array of angry minions all retain their sense of fun, and are at turns wickedly vindictive and amusingly cute. Your best minions also attract titles and can be revived should you so wish, so you can really build up an army of your most trusted evil doers. From there on you have free reign to lash out against the Empire from your Netherworld lair while also taking time out to bring towns under your sway, snag a few ladies and generally get up to no good. Quests are brought to your attention through supplicants from the lands above and then you can head out, with a few minions in tow, to dispense your own brand of justice ... and by justice I obviously mean destruction.
The game is ostensibly a mixture of action, strategy and puzzles; most of which revolve around the correct use of your minions in each situation. You start with the tough brown minions, who act as your main fighters, and as you progress further into the game you pick up the fiery reds, stealthy greens and healing, water based blues. Your minions are all useful in set scenarios and supplement each other’s weaknesses when used as a group. The game is a lot smarter this time around too, especially when using a guard marker, as your browns will protect your weaker colleagues while the blues stand back and heal when needed. It prevents the large number of needless deaths that pervaded the first game and ensures your troops act a bit more independently.
The game handles fairly smoothly with the right analogue stick used for general control of your forces and then a variety of other buttons allowing you to issue more advance commands, such as setting guard posts or using specific critters for a certain job. The camera is still an issue however and can be quite obstructive at more than a few points, though at least your minions seem to have much more reliable path finding this time around and will rarely get caught up on scenery or just ignore you altogether. They will also on most occasions refrain from causing themselves harm, so will not walk willingly into fire or water unless you specifically command them to (you sick and twisted being). Your Overlord also has a few generic attacks and spells up his sleeve but seems a bit more underpowered this time around, as if the developers wanted to make sure the minions were your first port of call for most tasks rather than just beefing up your main character and going on a killing spree.
The main additions to the game are somewhat of a mixed bag. Your minions can now control weapons towers to unleash hell on your foes from afar, and you can also do a spot of sailing and piracy too. Sadly the boats mechanics are a touch unwieldy on the whole and you never feel entirely comfortable due to the narrow areas you are forced to traverse. The most useful additions are probably the mounts your team of minions can ride, with each minion having their own animal to call its own. These beasties beef up your goon’s combat abilities and also help to solve specific puzzles, though they often act as spoilers too as when wolves appear you can expect gaps to leap, or localized spider webs should you stumble across some eight legged steeds. The most bizarre addition sees you leap inside one of your minions for a short time in order to access smaller nooks and crannies. What is odd here is that you can still control your other minions so it does not really make ANY difference to the gameplay, other than the fact you are controlling a minion rather than the big man himself. It is a pleasant break from stomping around but has pretty much no effect on the core mechanics.
Graphically the game is a step up in class but still nowhere near challenging the giddy heights that the 360 can produce. Your minions are great to look at and fluidly animated in most cases but the rest of the backup cast seems a bit more cobbled together. The backdrops too are extremely generic and relatively small in most cases, plus you will be revisiting a few of them on numerous occasions which feels like a bit of a drag. The voice work is solid but unspectacular too. Once again your minions are the shining light and provide most of the humour but the rest of the script does not feel up to the quality of the original, though you will still find the odd genuine chuckle here and there.
Sadly the game includes the same tacked on multiplayer experience that dogged the original title and, just like in that game, the online lobbies are pretty much devoid of players from the get go. The decision to transform a peculiar blend of strategy, RPG and puzzle elements into a competitive online offering is a strange one. The main problem is the fact that there is never that same sense of humour and fun when playing against a human opponent. Instead you have to roam around small maps beating each other to a pulp while trying to snag treasure or complete objectives. The addition of the pirate mode would be a neat touch (as we all love pirates, right?) but the unwieldy nature of the ship handling makes the entire thing rather sluggish. Thankfully there are some fun co-operative modes though, with the fun filled survival mode making a comeback and the invasion mode seeing you and a partner wipe out a bunch of enemies. These modes use the game mechanics in a more skilful way, though the conspicuous lack of achievements for each coupled with the less than subtle DLC option in the menu suggest a cash-in ahead. Frankly all of these modes can give you a bit of fun but the maps and options are not exactly wide ranging and you will soon get bored.
While the achievement list is diverse and relatively free of online tasks, I cannot help but notice how similar it is to the previous title. You will be rewarded for story progression, forging certain items, getting so much life force and getting on well with the ladies amongst other things. Once again you will be required to do a minimum of two plays through the game to be either evil or SUPER evil, with even a slight misstep ruining your chances at either so be careful. The collectables can get a bit much, as you need to snag a bunch of dark crystals, along with tower objects, forge stones and character upgrades – so anyone that does not love scouring maps for every last hidden object need not apply. The online tasks merely require a set number of wins and are easily boosted, though I suspect there will be more tasks on the way via DLC as the survival mode has been strangely ignored.
Considering how much I loved the original Overlord this was something of a letdown, primarily because very little has changed and the few new features that have turned up add almost nothing. That being said, I still had a blast and controlling an army of minions is as maliciously entertaining as ever. If you have not played the first game then I would do that first of all and if it takes your fancy, then this will be the natural progression though in both cases the multiplayer can be safely ignored. The gameplay is superb fun and it offers something wonderfully different from the usual 360 fare.
Decently evil voice work and your minions are more than happy to make their feelings known as you go about your work. The sound bites can get a bit repetitive though and the script is not as sharp this time around.
A lot tighter all around and the crisp visuals do a very good job. There are also less issues of minions going AWOL during dungeons and getting snagged on scenery.
Plenty of fun and the chance to be out and out evil is one not readily embraced by many games. Handling the minions is simplicity itself and the variety of puzzles and combat keeps things ticking along beautifully.
Pretty much the same as the first game, though surprisingly smaller in scale and plot. The additions to the multiplayer modes are welcome too but still fail to make the online experience much more than a minor diversion.
The list is worryingly identical to the original, but the variety is pleasantly diverting and encourages you to explore each area to its fullest. There is plenty of collecting to do which may irk some people, but at least the online tasks are kept to a minimum.
While not a vast improvement over the original, the gameplay and story are still solid and provide plenty of fun moments. Sadly the dubious multiplayer has come along for the ride yet again and it just does not seem as fresh as the first game did. I would urge you to give it a go, but considering how cheap the original is by now, you will probably pay over the odds for what is basically more of the same.