Overlord II

overlord-2
7.0 Overall Score

Great sense of humor | Varied gameplay | Memorable boss fights

Awkward camera control | Lousy targeting system | Genre straddling blend of strategy, exploration and action has been sacrificed for accessibility, making it side more heavily on the action side of things

It’s been two years since Overlord’s delightfully devilish minions were first unleashed on consoles, their comedic blend of action-strategy embraced by gamers weary of the standard fantasy fare. Though not perfect, the title proved an exciting and enjoyable romp. That same sense of mischief carries over into the Pratchett-penned sequel, Overlord II, as unfortunately do some of the problems that prevented the original from realizing its full potential. This time ‘round, the malevolent little monsters have learned some fun new tricks, including riding mounts, firing catapults and donning disguises, but at the expense of the strategic and exploratory elements that made the original so enjoyable. These new gameplay features feel more like distractions than improvements, as many of the issues that plagued the first game are still very much present here in the sequel, no matter how many shiny new powers and abilities your dark lord and his horde have at their employ. But despite the awkward camera, tedious backtracking and simplified gameplay, Overlord II still surprisingly manages to be more enjoyable than the sum of its parts. It’s a frustrating but fulfilling trip to the darker corners of your psyche, where an army of demonic beasties waits with baited breath.

 

As the son of the first game’s Overlord, you have inherited your father’s fearsome armor, glowing eyes and gigantic axe, but it’s still the horde of evil little critters you control that are your real source of power. Set several years after the events of the first game, you start off as an ostracized and alienated pre-teen witch boy, bullied by the local kids until your minion-aided sacking of the town sends them fleeing in terror. Unfortunately, it also attracts the attention of the magic-hating Glorious Empire, the Roman-esque ruling power that has taken control in evil’s absence. The main enemy revealed, it’s time to grow up and start building your own Empire, renovating your tower, developing your powers, accumulating mistresses and generally laying waste to anything and everything that stands in your way with the help of your multi-hued minions.

You begin with just a handful of Browns, tough-skinned brawlers perfectly suited for a savage frontal assault, but near the finish you’ll have fireball-throwing Reds, stealth-attacking Greens, and magic-using Blues at your disposal. Though you may look like a total badass, you won’t be able to take on more than a few enemies at one time, relying instead on your color-coded army to do most of the heavy lifting. Each of the minion classes possess very specific strengths and weaknesses, requiring a fair amount of strategy when it comes to deploying them in battle. Or at least that’s how it’s supposed to work – sadly, the sequel seems to have dumbed down the strategy element so strongly present in the original, as most fights can be won via demonic dog pile. When blunt force won’t work, the game straight up tells you which strategy to employ and which minions to deploy rather than letting you figure it out for yourself. The linear design of the quests is also disappointing. Codemasters has seen fit to rectify one of the major complaints from the first game, the lack of a map, but made it moot by providing little room to explore – though its twists and turns can still get you lost, there’s usually only one path to take. And because enemies don’t respawn in the areas you’ll occasionally be forced to backtrack through, it can be a lonely path.

 

Well, not entirely lonely, as you’ll always have your trusted demonic sidekicks in tow, who provide the game’s gleefully malevolent soul. Seeing as your second-generation Overlord is once more the strong silent type, it’s up to the minions to provide all the personality. It’s fun to simply sit back and watch your impish horde tear through a town, smashing crates, harassing townsfolk, guzzling booze and generally wreaking mayhem, all in lovingly loyal service to their master. They’re quite charming in their slavish devotion. And they’re smarter. Your pint-sized pawns will still occasionally stop to pick up treasure in the middle of a heated battle, oblivious to your quickly dwindling numbers, but for the most part they can be counted on to attack the nearest enemy or follow the easiest path. They also have some new abilities, like rowing a slave galleon, manning wooden war machines, donning disguises and riding mounts. The ships are hard to control, the catapults and ballistas difficult to aim, but the mounts are an absolute blast. Browns can break through shielded ranks with ease on their nimble wolves, reds can roll into flaming balls atop their armored salamanders, and greens can climb walls on their web-spewing spiders.

Riding these beasties makes your minions much stronger and faster, in addition to granting them special abilities and attacks. It’s really one of their best tricks. The other new abilities add variety, but they don’t really do anything to enhance the actual gameplay, wrapping the same old problems in shiny new skin. The first game’s static camera control has been replaced with a manually adjustable camera, but it’s tied to the same stick that directs the minion’s movements. Sweeping your minions and moving your camera with the same stick works just about as well as you’d expect, meaning not so great, especially when you find yourself in one of the many cramped corridors of which the Overlord universe’s architects seem so fond. Controlling the Overlord, minions and camera can be frustrating, as can the sporadic auto-targeting, sparsely placed checkpoints (there’s no “save anywhere” ability), and excruciating loading times when traveling between your tower’s minion hives, forges and personal quarters. A massive and foreboding fortress is great for conveying grandeur while striking fear into your subjugates, but what’s the point of conquering the world if you can’t splurge on a Segway?

 

Though he has to slog through his lair on foot, your new Overlord does have some nifty new powers. Whereas the first game allowed players to be good or evil, Overlord II offers a choice between evil or really evil via the “Destruction or Domination” system, which allows you to either control the minds or drain the life of any innocent bystanders you encounter. Choosing to kill them strengthens your magic powers, while choosing to turn them increases your gold flow, forcing you to consider your long and short-term goals when plundering a town. You’ll need cold hard cash to forge new weapons and amour and to decorate your fortress, but killing also serves a purpose beyond cathartic thrills. Cutting down your victims, which includes not only hapless townsfolk but baby seals, pandas, elves, bunnies, gnomes and some very well-endowed fairy folk, will garner you life force which can be used to summon more minions should some fall in battle.

Developer Triumph has made a real effort to get players to invest in their minions as more than just fodder for battles and puzzles. Throughout the course of the game, your tireless little slaves will level up. The game keeps track of their individual experiences, weapons and unique gear and items, even granting them names based on their accomplishments. Should one of these treasured minions die, you can choose to resurrect them with their equipment and experience intact. Not without a price, however, as you’ll have to sacrifice a few of those less favored. From your tower you can also upgrade your Overlord’s weapons and magical abilities, giving you a sense that you’re really growing your evil empire as the game progresses through it’s lengthy single-player campaign. Add to this a two-player cooperative and competitive mode, which can be played either online or offline, and you’ve got plenty to keep you and your minions busy for quite some time.

 

Despite it’s many missteps, Overlord II’s hilarious and charming send-up of fantasy game clichés redeems the experience. Though the strategic and exploratory elements have been toned down, resulting in an action-oriented title more linear than its predecessor, it’s also more varied. And of course, the minions remain unflappably malicious. Whether torching environmentalist elves, swarming helpless villagers or clubbing baby seals, their tongue-in-cheek humor makes them more mischievous than malicious and keeps the game from ever feeling nasty. Evil can be all in good fun, when tempered with humor. If this is your first foray into this diabolically devlish series, I’d reccomend starting with the first Overlord. But if you’re already a fan you’ll be pleased to know that although it doesn’t quite fix all the things you hated, Overlord II has a whole lot more of the things you loved – more powers to abuse, more weapons to forge, more mistresses to woo and more minion mayhem to enjoy in a graphically lush and personality rich world. A world yours for the taking.

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Author: Kristen Spencer View all posts by

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