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Retrospective – Overlord

August 27th, 2011 by

Retrospectives are opinion pieces looking back at older games and discussing what made them great, mediocre, or terrible. Cynical Hunter takes a look at recent Game of the Month title, Overlord, and gives his opinion.

Overlord is a third-person action RPG with elements of RTS thrown in to confuse you. However, all these elements are stripped down to their bare essentials so you’ll never confuse this hybrid as a pure breed. The RPG elements are sparse overall. Loot has only three tiers of items and the only restrictions of this these is finding the forge needed to make them. You can customise items to a point by adding a few souls to change the armour or weapons abilities but it’s subtle and basic. On the RTS side of things, your abilities begin and end with the ability to tell where minions they should go, whom to kill and whether they should be drowning or not, more on the minions later.

The game takes place in a fantasy world filled with hobbits with eating disorders, elves suffering from a horrendous case of narcolepsy, dwarves with drinking problems and homicidal unicorns…. so typical yeah? That’s the way with Overlord setting and story; you are presented with the expected and the unexpected jumps you and steal your wallet which is to be expected due the writing of Rhianna Pratchett (yeah Terry Pratchett’s daughter, the apple never falls far from the tree). The games story is, and I’ll try to be spoiler free here, a typical revenge quest at its core with the Overlord being raised from the dead and then setting out to kill the seven heroes who beat him last time they met. However, during his time as worm food the seven heroes have become corrupted by wealth and power and so you raise your army of minions to show these heroes how to be properly evil. You won’t feel emotionally invested in the story but that’s fine as it isn’t what carries this game, what does are the minions.

The Minions are the heart and soul of this game. They do everything you could want them to do, they kill peasants, loot villages, ride sheep and generally be unpleasant to the world at large. The Minions come in four flavours. Vanilla is your basic brawler. This little feller is with you from the start and does the lion’s share of the work when it comes to you conquering the world. They can be brutally effective at killing enemies when sent in a swarm but are weak on their own. They will equip any weapons and armour they find so your army with start to look very strange (the rat hat is a interesting piece of head wear) any gold, souls or anything else useful to your cause will be brought to the overlord followed by some grovelling that really makes you feel like a god. The second class of minion is the little red bugger, the archer. The archer throws fire and has the ability to absorb fire, meaning you can then go places you couldn’t before. The third class is the assassin, and this little feller would, in a personal ad, describe himself as “green and homicidal with GOSH”. He likes to jump on peoples backs and start slashing. He’s also immune to poison and so can destroy pods puffing out toxic fumes that impede your progress. The fourth and final class you get is the little blue healer, who is the only one able to kill magical enemies and are able to revive the recently deceased. They are also the only minions who can walk in water.

Controls over the minions is simple to learn but difficult to actually manager, especially late in the game when things get hectic and you need to control several groups of minions, but to be honest the tactic of sending everything at one target can often work out just fine. In contrast, combat as the Overlord himself is just bad. You don’t feel like an all powerful being swinging a battleaxe at the poor whelps, but instead you feel weak and feeble, only beating up a sleeping kitten with its paws behind its head. Combat it greatly improved when your magic supply grows and you can unleash some pretty darn spectacular magic spells. My personal favourite is the good old Inferno; it just looks fantastic when invoked on cowering peasants.

Being evil is the second main selling point to this game after the minions, and you’re given many opportunities to choose whether or not to be a douche bag to the plebs, settlements and girlfriends. The problem with this is that due to the light hearted nature of the world you live in, none of the really evil choices have any moral guilt attached to them, so the evil option becomes your go to for choices in most cases since playing through the game as a nice guy will leave you poor, bored and sexual frustrated (at least one of these symptoms may be exclusive to me). As is often the case with being good, you will find yourself restrained from pillaging; taking away the fun from one of the more enjoyable acts in the game. Any of these problems I had are tempered with the fact that this game was not meant to be serious and the story was never going to be Dragon Age quality (insert other game that personally got you).

To sum up, Overlord is a good game and has some great ideas in terms of gameplay but some control issue and the main character being silent (not in the Gordon Freeman badass way) distract from the experience and lessen its appeal. The game’s true heroes are the minions, their charm and moments of chaos they can unleash are divine to watch. Out of ten I would give this an above average six, and i felt it was certainly worth revisiting from when I first bought it at release.

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