Developer: Triumph Studios
N Amer - 06/26/2007
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It’s a conundrum, that’s for certain … be truly evil and kill the peasants, as a dark overlord should, or do them some good deeds and wind up with their undying devotion – which translates into offerings of gold.
Hmm, on one hand, there are the minions that mindlessly throw themselves into the battle against forces of evil – which you seem to be fighting rather than conspiring with. If memory serves, though, even in human history, evil dictators (think World War II) worked together for a common end, regardless of who the top dog was on the evil ladder.
Codemasters and Triumph Studios are the forces behind the PC release of Overlord, a title that promotes the idea that being on the side of evil can be fun. No hang-ups and just for kicks, you can continually beat on the tower jester, who takes the proverbial licking and keeps on ticking.
But before going too much further into the game that is Overlord, a bit of a history lesson might be in order. Way back in 1997 Bullfrog Productions had a title called Dungeon Keeper. In that game, you were the force of evil, controlling and building a dungeon, setting traps, recruiting minions and fighting off the hordes of wannabe heroes that would try to storm your domain.
Triumph has updated that concept considerably. In Overlord, you are the resurrected embodiment of evil (which bears a strong resemblance to Sauron’s armored self from the Lord of the Rings movies, not the floating eyeball atop the tower), complete with a destroyed tower/keep, and a group of brown minions (they look like gremlins) ready to throw themselves into battle for you. Hey, if you are a little low on health, you can have them commit minion-cide (minion suicide) to give you a few injections on the old health meter. The task at hand is a simple one – rebuild your domain, which includes the tower, gain all four tribes of minions (brown is melee, red is fire and ranged attacks, greens are stealth and assassins, and blue are the healer types), collect objects for your tower (which translate into more minions you can call, and more spells, and weapon and armor upgrades) and even get a woman to become the Mistress of the Tower (you can go with a sweet good maiden, or one that implores you to be a ruthless evil tyrant).
C’mon, face it – being a metal-suited, glowing-eyed overlord can attract women who want you for all the wrong reasons, so finding that perfect mate can be a bit of a challenge.
And speaking of challenges, Overlord is full of quests you can undertake, though they do seem to follow a very linear path and sometimes you will get the feeling that you are working for the good of the people and not for the pure evil enjoyment that should come with being an overlord. But the game does allow you the opportunity to just add to your corruption level. You can just kill the townspeople (best to do this when the whole town is not looking – you can get away with it in smaller numbers quite easily) in creative ways – like tossing a fireball into a field of wheat where they are working, to see them running out of the field on fire (the animations spur realistic and go for comedic and cartoonish in some regards, so it is far from gruesome).
Thankfully, there are the minions to bat around. This is part of the game where you can use strategy. You gain the ability to have more minions with you as you move up the ladder, gaining new abilities. You can mix the type in your command, and then place them strategically during a battle. For example, send in the browns, then send the reds to an overview of the battle and have them engage. The little fireballs they hurl will light up the enemy, but spare the melee minions. Walk through an area and have your minions lay waste to every breakable item there. They will bring gold and potions (health and mana) back to you, and use the armor they find the outfit themselves. Your little ragtag army can look rather dapper after enough successful raids … well, dapper in a gruesome cartoonish gremlin buffoon-ish way. And you get some skills as well. You can smite things with your melee skills, or - if you have the mana and have loaded up the right spells in the interface - you can be a deadly mage type.
The sound is very well done. The minions grovel (except for the one that sounds like the Pillsbury doughboy being poked in the stomach), the environments are alive and the music is solid.
Graphically, the game is very good. Throwing caution to the wind, and because the host machine was a top-end dual core, the game was run at the highest possible graphics setting of 1440x900 with the only slowdowns occurring during access the options menu (for saving and adjusting brightness or audio). Load times were small. The visual reward was great though. The environments are wonderful, the animations are very good and the special effects sparkle.
The game does have an online multiplayer component, which is comprised of a versus mode and a co-op survival type element. They are fine, but the meat of this game is the single-player game. It might have been better to discard the multiplayer and spend a little more time creating more within the single-player experience. As it is now, if you shoot through the game, not taking every mission offered, you can complete it in 16-20 hours.
Overlord is truly a fun experience. The game looks great and plays great. There are clever pieces of humor thrown in, with some tongue-in-cheek moments. The NPCs are varied and have some interesting personalities. While the game itself can be completed in a weekend, there is an insidious element (charming? No, no, no, this is an ‘evil’ game; charming can’t be used to describe it under any circumstance) that will lure you back into its colorful and imaginative world. Overlord should appeal to not only adventure/RPG fans, but those who are looking for a different take in the persistent video-game battle between good and evil.
Review Scoring Details for Overlord
There are a few minor flaws, but the game runs at a steady framerate and the control scheme is easy to both learn and implement. Fun is an underscoring element here.
Even at the highest settings, the game ran smooth and looked great.
Well done, both from the voice work to the environment sounds to musical score.
There are quite a number of borrowed elements, but this game still provides a somewhat unique experience. And the groveling that the minions do never gets old.
It’s fine but don’t expect this to have the lasting appeal that the single-player game provides. The multiplayer feels like it was thrown in to try to give the game legs beyond the single-player experience.
The humor can be a bit cheeky (no reference to Marvin, a boss monster you take on early in the game), with a bit of fun evil undertones – which basically describes the game itself. It is fun, nothing serious, and looks (and sounds) great. This game is a tad too linear at times, but that does not detract from the fun.
Overlord promotes evil over good, but sometimes good just sort of crops up
Reviewer: Michael Lafferty
Review Date: 07/25/2007