Overlord ReviewHovsep Yaghmourian
These days, it seems like a lot of games (mostly RTS’s) offer you the opportunity to play a campaign from the side of either good or evil, in an attempt to broaden the scope of a narrative. There are few games, however, that are designed to allow you to be really evil. Well ladies and gentleman, your game has arrived, and its name is Overlord. This quirky action/adventure/strategy hybrid from developer Triumph Studios and publisher CodeMasters allows you to get a first hand look at what it’s like conquering a beautiful fantasy world for no more reason than the fact that destroying and/or subjugating magical folk is both fun and funny.
When you start the game, you are in control of the titular Overlord, having awoken in the ruins of your once awe-inspiring dark tower after having been magically imprisoned by some gallant heroes. Your goal is to rebuild your tower and re-conquer the land from those devilish do-gooders that sealed you away. Of course, having been stripped of your power and equipment, it’s going to take a lot of work. Luckily, you’re not in it alone. The game’s first objectives are regaining control of your minions, small gremlin-like creatures that obey your every whim. There are four different types of minions for you to collect and control:
The Browns – Toughest of the lot, these guys are your front-line fighters
The Reds – Physically weak, the Reds make up for it with their invulnerability to fire and their ranged combat skills
The Greens – Immune to poison and able to go into stealth mode, they don’t have much in the way of defense, but get them around your enemies’ back and they can deal some incredibly high damage
The Blues – The weakest of all your minions, the Blues are able to resurrect other fallen minions, making them invaluable during battle. Blues are also the only minions able to go through water.
You use your minions from everything to combat, manipulating the environment, and even to upgrade your weapons and armor with the use of magical forges (watching your minions happily hurl themselves into your smelter to craft new weapons puts a smile on my face every time.)
You control your Overlord with the left analog stick, and your minions with the right one (you can also set up waypoints for your minions where they will await further orders, or attack if the opportunity arises, using each of the face buttons to control a different type of minion.) Controls are responsive, for the most part, though you’ll oftentimes see one or two of your minions lagging behind the rest. The graphics are great, the cartoonish world coming to life with bold, bright colors and hilarious character models, and that’s not the only funny part of the game. The dialogue and voice-acting, while campy, fits the tone of the game very well and had me chuckling (and occasionally, even outright laughing) throughout the whole, though the funniest parts by far are the casual actions of your minions while they trample everything in their paths. Looking on as your minions stumble drunkenly and noisily relieve themselves after raiding a dwarven drinking party never gets old.
While all these things stack up in the games favor, the experience isn’t perfect, with a few large stumbling blocks marring the overall experience. The first noticeably troubling oversight comes in the form of the map, or rather, the complete lack of one. The world your would-be-conqueror is traipsing around in is fairly large and full of twists and turns, and the absence of a map, any map, goes from mildly irritating when you’re having a little trouble finding your next objective, to infuriating when you’ve spent 15 minutes going in circles looking for the path to the next area. Also increasingly irritating as the game progresses is the A.I. of your minions. To put in bluntly, your minions are dumb, incredibly so, and if you’re not guiding them almost all of the time, they will get themselves killed. This is only a minor nuisance early on in the game, when simply swarming your troops over enemies is enough to take them out, but in later stages where higher degrees of organization and strategy are essential, your loyal servants’ habit of running headlong into certain death if you don’t watch their every move will have you tearing out your hair. Compounding that problem is the camera which (since the two analog sticks have already been assigned tasks) simply follows your Overlord around. This can be very aggravating in battle when to get behind an enemy to assist your minions, only to realize you cannot, now see what your minions are doing.
Though these issues keep the game from perfection, its imaginative setting, maniacal humor, creativity, and sheer fun keep these problems from being game-breakers and solidify Overlord’s place as a game that everyone should, at the very least, check out, and with a new expansion adding several single and multi-player levels, you can be sure that evil won’t be going out of style any time soon.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.