Tobold's Blog
Monday, October 08, 2007
Overlord review

With my MMORPG gaming in a bit of a slump, I finally got around to playing Overlord on Sunday for a few hours. Can't play it hours on end, because the mouse look camera then gives me video game motion sickness, but it's not as bad as some other games in that respect. And the game makes a refreshing difference from the usual fantasy fare. I finished the halfling part of the game, killing the first boss mob, the fat halfling hero Melvin, and am now at Castle Spree. I'm playing it on my PC, but an XBox 360 version is also available.

In Overlord you play an evil Sauron-wannabe. The game starts with you being awoken in your tomb by some minions, goblin-like creatures, after your predecessor has been slain by some bothersome heroes and your dark tower laid in ruins. Your job is to rebuild an evil domain, and reconstruct the tower. For that you have to do a sort of quests in which you find evil powers and additions to your tower. You can hack at things with a sword, and you have some spells, but your personal powers are quite limited. The majority of the actions will be done by your minions, which you control. Minions can die, but can harvest life force from other creatures and use that to summon replacements. But its better to not lose minions too often, because if you keep them alive and plundering for a while, they pick up all sorts of equipment: pumpkin helmets, makeshift weapons, etc., which makes them more effective in fighting.

You start the game with only one sort of minions, and you can control only 5 of them at a time. But then you find items that increase that limit in steps of 5, and you find other sorts of minions. I'm at the step where I have brown and red minions, with the red minions being immune to fire, thus able to remove fire barricades, or walk through fire towards some target. They also serve as artillery, while the browns are infantry. You can select one type of minions, or all minions together, and direct them with the mouse. The controls take some training, but then become quite easy to use. Send minions forward with the left mouse button, call them back with the right mouse button, and "sweep" the mouse with both buttons pressed to have the minions take more complicated paths. Minions not only fight, but they also operate wheels to open doors, and transport found items back to your tower.

Overlord is great fun. In the easy areas you just have your minions kill, destroy, and plunder everything. But then you need to solve puzzles and guide them through small areas which you yourself can't enter. For example the point where you first see the red minions is a kitchen full of bloodthirsty halfling cooks. You guide your brown minions past a grille floor towards a wheel which opens the cage where the red minions are held. That attracts the cooks onto the grille. But when you open the cage, the red minions are under the grille, and can set the cooks on fire. The only good halfling is a set-on-fire and screaming halfling, the game tells you. For the mini-bosses and bosses, and some situations with many enemies, you need to apply strategy, like placing a guard marker for a group of minions somewhere to set their position, or by calling your minions back to you when the enemy prepares a big area attack.

Although you are always the evil overlord, you have a choice of how corrupt you want to be. Besides the enemies like afore mentioned halflings, there are non-combatant villagers in the game. You can either help them and keep them alive, or you can burn down their houses and kill them too. That choice results in a corruption level, a bit as in games like Knights of the Old Republic or Fable. Apparently your appearance and high-level spells will both depend on how nasty or nice you were during the game. The only problem with that decision is that you better take it early and stick to a plan, because only 0% or 100% corruption are really interesting, while being somewhere in the middle doesn't do much for you.

All in all the game is relatively easy, and quite playable even for the casual gamer. It has its downsides, like sometimes having to run long ways, or having to farm lifeforce and equipment for your minions if you lost too many. But its lighthearted evil humor, innovative gameplay, and pretty graphics more than make up for that. Recommended.
In game like Kotor, Sacrifice and Bioshock I find it hard not to follow the "good" path. Its not just a morality thing - in order to enjoy a game and feel immersed in it I have to like my character. In most of these games the choice is so starkly defined that the evil choice is unpalatable to me. Games rarely give the choice of being a likeable rogue - either you are Mother Teresa or a monster and I just can't get into being the sort of character who eats babies. I am tempted to try Overlord to see if I can broaden my horizons - particularly since it seems to allow for different shades of "evil".
Sounds like a cross between Lemmings, Pikmin, and Diablo!
Sounds like Dungeon Keeper! Now there was a game where being evil was positively a breath of fresh air...
Just a little advice. When you get the blue minions which can resurrect, place them on a guard marker just a little bit behind the main battle. They will automatically run in and res the fallen ones. Otherwise you have to send them in manually and that's a bit harder. It took me some time before I figured that out. Well actually I read it somewhere online, but anyway. :)
I played the heck out of Overlord. I felt that it was very shallow yet so much fun. Definitely recommend it. :)
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