Wednesday, January 21, 2009


I bought a copy of Faster, Pussycat, Kill, Kill today, which has nothing to do with Overlord but is still awesome.Review of Overlord for those who have played Pikmin:
Overlord is basically a re-skin of Pikmin. It's not quite as good as Pikmin but it's better than Pikmin 2.

Review of Overlord for everyone else:
Overlord is a game about terrorising a fantasy realm using a squad of goblin-like "minions". Despite the title, the game never really makes you feel like an all-devouring titan of evil, but the core game mechanics are solid enough that it's a lot of fun anyway.

You play as the helmeted guy on the cover of the box, who's experienced a long "sleep" after a titanic final battle between good and evil. Brought back to life by devoted minions, you're told to get busy about rebuilding your dark domain of evil.

Your chief tools for evildoing are the aforesaid minions, who are the real stars of the show here. These guys come in an unruly mob, initially comprising only five of the little buggers but eventually snowballing out to an even fifty. You control your character with the left analogue stick (at least, on the XBox 360 you do), and you can use the right stick to "sweep" your minions ahead of you. Minions making contact with vases and crates will smash them and loot whatever's inside; minions who come across an enemy will get stabby with it until it is dead. Large items can be lifted, if you have enough minions, and carried back to your tower.

Minions can automatically equip themselves with whatever they find in the environment, including ancient weapons, the skulls of fallen enemies, or, in a pinch, hollowed out pumpkins. Each minion is rendered separately and it's great to see the little guys levelling themselves up. Their voice work is also quite excellent, and their cries of "For me?" and "Mine!"when they loot new gear never get old.

Minions come in four flavours. Your basic browns are the grunts of the game, good for combat and lifting. Reds are fragile but can extinguish fires and have a ranged attack. Greens are immune to poison and have a "backstab" ability in combat, whereas blues can swim and are the only ones who can damage magical enemies.

Early in the game the focus is on rebuilding your dark tower and tracking down the missing minion colours, which requires a fair amount of exploration and puzzle-solving, but towards the end there's a shift towards killing "heroes", who are effectively the boss monsters of the game.

I say "monsters" because although you're supposed to be evil, there's really little opportunity to be villainous. Much against your will, you'll find yourself pressed into helping out whingy villagers, rescuing princesses, and beating the crap out of all manner of abomination (carnivorous unicorns are a personal favourite). The "heroes" themselves have been corrupted until they're really villains, such as a fat cannibal halfling and a dwarf with a pornographic love of gold.

Still, the core gameplay is solid and remains reasonably entertaining through to the end, which is 20 or so hours of play. There are some uneven spots, and some areas that clearly weren't thoroughly playtested, but if you struggle through the rough patches you'll be rewarded with more fun afterwards.

One thing that particularly wasn't fun was the grinding. To upgrade your character's armour and weapons you'll need to sacrifice minions in epic quantities. Gaining the necessary minion lifeforce requires killing enemies of a certain type. To get the necessary amounts through normal play requires re-visiting levels many, many times. It wasn't until I was three quarters of the way through the game that I discovered you can grind much faster fighting against common beetles in the tower's "arena" area, which lets you re-fight any opponent you've encountered previously. Although faster, this was still a grind, and pretty bady broke the pace of the game.

The ending of the game is great. It turned out that the story was a little more thought-out than I had assumed, and the final sequences were a fitting conclusion to what had gone before. My appreciation of the ending is as much to do with my low expectations as it is to do with the ending's inherent excellence, but it still left quite an impression.

If the basic game isn't enough to keep you busy, there are several multiplayer modes, which can be played online, or via local splitscreen if you download a free patch. There's also a downloadable expansion for about $15 AUD but I wasn't quite enthusiastic enough to try that out.

Overlord didn't exactly shake the world when it came out, but I think it's a better game than it was given credit for at release. Now, a couple of years later, you've got a great opportunity to try this out at second-hand prices, and it's well worth a look.


juffles said...

The minion animations and voices kept me entertained for ages, especially when you send them running into a pumpkin patch and they all come out wearing pumpkin helmets. Got bored (as I tend to do in SP story-based games) somewhere around discovering the blue minions, but the amusement factor kept it going longer than it would have otherwise.

Greg Tannahill said...

Yes, the blue minions was where I almost stopped too, there's horrible level design in that area, but it picked up again.

juffles said...

Right. Well since I'm on a break from shotgunning zombies for a while, I'm going to drag it out and get those damn blue minions. Besides, I want to go raiding pumpkin patches again for chuckles.