Overlord Review

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Overlord Publisher: Codemasters
Developer: Triumph Studios

Platforms: Xbox 360 and PC
Reviewed on Xbox 360

Battle deranged unicorns and undead elves as a dark figure who barely escaped death to take control of a deceased evil overlord's tower. Grow in power, raise a horde of minions and reconstruct your tower to lord your power over the surrounding lands.

Kyle Ackerman

"For the Overlord!" If only I had a horde of minions to follow me around and shout that outside of the game.

You have to play Overlord, even for just a few minutes, just to watch dozens of impish minions cavorting around the landscape, slaughtering sheep for their life-force, smashing crates, looting and generally wreaking havoc in your name. My absolute favorite moments of Overlord were when my minions looted the landscape, screaming "For yoooou!" whenever they brought me gold or potions and "For meeeeeee!" when they discovered arms or armor they could use.

Kill a Sleepy Elf and a Gourmand Halfling

Overlord cast me as a recently restored dark lord, with mastery over only a decrepit tower and a handful of goblins to do my bidding. By venturing into the world, I sent my minions out to recover objects to rebuild my tower, increase the size of my horde and crush the land with my mailed gauntlet. Truthfully, I didn't do much crushing. While the game casts you as an evil overlord, you can play as a despicable despot, or a hero disguised in an evil overlord's spiky armor. Frankly, I was a mild overlord, decidedly the least of all evils.

Whether you choose to be villainous or let the innocents of the land bask in your largesse, as overlord you use your minions to dominate lands inhabited by elves, dwarves, human knights and halflings. Each was once led by a hero, but all have become corrupted, so even if you play as a force of evil, you are battling your equals in evil, including a grotesquely gluttonous halfling and gold-mad dwarf.

A Minion for Every Mission

The crux of the game involves managing minions. There are four kinds: warriors, fire-hurling imps, stealthy backstabbing goblins, and magic-wielding water-based minions. These can be used in various clever combinations during combat, and to solve puzzles scattered throughout the game. As overlord, I had magical powers to enhance my minions or blast my enemies, and could even wade into combat myself. Even so, I was rarely more than a roving command post, with my minions doing the heavy lifting and hard hitting.

The minions are both the strength and the weakness of Overlord. In the early stages of the game, they cavort, gleefully doing your bidding, smashing and slaying as required. It's great fun. The animations for the minions and the voice acting for your advisor are spot-on, and left me eagerly anticipating the rest of the game. But very little in Overlord received the same level of attention as the minions. Most of the other characters have dismal voice acting to support mediocre animation and art. And the game deteriorated the longer I played.

When Minions Won't Follow Your Lead

To be fair, Overlord was never bad. It simply felt like the minions and the early parts of the game were decently tested, while the end of the game was churned out quickly and with less attention to detail. I can forgive issues like poor voice acting when the game is fun, but as the size of my minion horde increased, instead of becoming more fun, things got more frustrating. A large horde and more challenging foes required more careful strategy, but as the horde needed to finish previous directives (or just finish following me) before I could give them a new command, my horde constantly tripped over itself instead of following my directives. That delay often meant losing scores of minions. Certainly, I had so much life force that I could easily replenish those lost, but it made the final battles of the game irritating.

Basically, Overlord goes from being a simple action game with a small group of followers to a large-scale real-time strategy game towards its conclusion. As an action game, it works very well. As an RTS, it's a failure. Fighting the final two bosses was simply annoying, especially when I had to restart the second to last battle repeatedly because my minions couldn't follow a flick of the analog stick. Add to that the diminishing quality of the level design and the sense that the later levels could have used a lot more testing and polish, and the game shows its flaws.

Everyone should experience the joys of being an overlord, but Overlord isn't necessarily worth playing through to the bitter end. It's best enjoyed in its early moments. It's only unfortunate that the entire game couldn't reflect the level of polish and attention given to the horde of the overlord's minions.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on July 3, 2007 11:01 PM.

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