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Old 30-04-2008, 10:26 PM   #1
Blood-Pigggy
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Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Wilmington, United States
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Default Overlord

OVERLORD
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Baby you burn like prostate cancer... mmm...
I like fun original games. Games like Pikmin. And sometimes, games that kind of rip Pikmin off yet still manage to be interesting and good on their own terms. Overlord is that kind of game. The kind of game that rips Pikmin off and yet still manages to be interesting and good on its own terms.

Like Pikmin, Overlord revolves around proper usage of little servants under your whim that you can manipulate to interact with the environment or to battle enemies with. Pikmin was a bit more on the puzzlish and cutish side, Overlord tends to adjust itself towards combat and exploration.

Overlord opens with you being exhumed from a tomb by impish minions that declare you their new Overlord, a master of evil. As this would infer, Overlord is a game about playing an evil jerkoff, although there are some twists in turns in just exactly how evil you can be.
After a few dull tutorial sessions detailing how to control your minions and to fight using your big lug of an Overlord you're placed in the game's first "area".

Overlord is split into several different large levels with different levels of access. You might come to a certain area only to find that you need new minions or a new spell to access certain parts of the level. It's typical stuff, but Overlord handles it quite well.
As you would imagine, the bulk of the game lies behind manipulating your minions. There are four types, brown, red, blue and green. Each has a different purpose and can pass areas that others can't or can open up these areas to other minions. Reds can remove fires for example, and blues can pass through deep water while greens can traverse poisonous gas infested corridors. Browns are your all purpose fighters with tough skin and high damage.

Not only does each minion type allow access to certain areas, but they also provide different bonuses in combat. Browns give and take good damage, reds attack with ranged fireballs, blues resuscitate fallen minions, and greens and can turn invisible. It all fits into the combat oriented aspect of Overlord since proper minion army composition not only involves which minions will be necessary to pass obstacles, but also which combination of minions will effectively destroy the varying enemies in your path.
You can "sweep" minions to control them directly, you essentially use one of the thumb sticks to navigate your chosen minions around, if you're playing the PC version you have to settle for a clunky manifestation of "sweeping" that doesn't allow you to independently move around and "sweep" your minions at the same time.

You can select specific minions to control as a group from a menu, so if you only want to move around or order browns, you simply select them and the rest of your minions will wait behind you. Early in the game "guard markers" are introduced that basically act as beacons where your minions will stand ground and attack, or in the case of blues revive your minions, any nearby opponents. There's also a "send" button that throws all your minions ahead of you and they interact with whatever they touch, if they run into a bag of gold they'll pick it up and bring it to you, if they run into an enemy they'll attack and so forth.
With a combination of these control methods you have a level of control over your minions that almost achieves RTS levels of micromanagement, although you're never able to select single specific minions.
Certain amounts of minions are required to accomplish specific actions. Turning a wheel to open a gate might require twelve minions, while picking up a artifact for a new spell might take four or five. This is usually how your minions accomplish interactions with the environment, and sometimes Overlord will challenge you to protect minions manipulating objects or carrying things away while fending off attackers.
Minions also have the ability to pick up weapons and armor and thereby improve their fighting abilities.

It's all done well, but the manner in which minion control is structured can sometimes make it difficult to properly control them in battle. These issues tend to stem from poor design and not the player's performance. Blues will only revive fallen minions if you either use a "guard marker" to have them stand ground, or if you "sweep" them over the fallen minions. They won't do it if they merely walk over the fallen minions when following you, nor will they do it if you're idling nearby fallen minions and they happen to be standing right next to them.
Conceptually, it prevents your blues from running off and getting themselves killed but there were so few situations where it would actually be a detriment for me to have them run off after any nearby fallen minions. Most of the time you'll be in the thick of combat when this happens, and at that point the most useful thing the blues can do is to revive nearby minions.

Combine that with the fact that reds are difficult to control when it comes to directing their ranged fire and that greens never properly approach large enemies from behind for their special "backstab" attack and you get a variety of problems, that while not being major issues are still quite annoying. There's also some path finding problems with the minions, many times they'll get caught up on fences or follow the wrong path to get to you, but this tends to be rare and most of the time your minions will be smart enough to get around without danger.

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Most of the time your minions will get things done right, but every now and then the controls can get slippery and you can find yourself with some stupid and dead minions. Yes, those two minions are sporting ridiculous beards.
Combat is quite entertaining, the minion tactics and your Overlord's attacks are equally satisfying and important. It feels awesome to clash with large groups of enemies as you battle alongside your minions. The feeling of chaos and the ridiculous nature of your minions just make it unbelievably fun. It's only improved by the fact that combat can become hectic yet in never degenerates into something unmanagable.

Thankfully, if you're finding yourself fumbling with your minions the Overlord can always attack and kill things himself. There's a variety of spells, weapons and armor that can benefit your combat ability. As you gather "life force" which is essentially the resource that creates your minions (red lifeforce adds to your pool of reds, brown to brown, and so on and so forth) you can utilize it in different ways. You can either save it and store a large backup of minions in case you have a particularly nasty defeat, or you can head to your armory and sacrifice minions to produce new weaponry and armor.

That brings me to your tower. As the game goes on, more and more segments of your tower become available. At first all your tower will sport is a measly throne room and a chamber for reviewing your minion forces, but as time goes on and you reach more goals everything from an armory to a arena-like dungeon where you can fight previously vanquished enemies (for practice or harvesting lifeforce) and even a bedroom for your mistress become available. There's a variety of decorations that you can purchase for your tower as well, but these are merely cosmetic and tend to be underwhelming.
Along with these rooms will be tower objects you have acquired on display. Tower objects are scattered around the world and include everything from big bags of gold, spells, mana/health boosts or the ability to command more minions. These tower objects aren't that thoroughly hidden and are quite easy to find making progression through the game pretty easy if you keep your eyes open.
Your eventual goal is to totally reconstruct your tower and take over the surround country.

The weapon/armor forging aspect of the game can involve a bit of grinding attempting to kill enough beetles/humans/whatever to acquire the necessary amount of life force to upgrade your arsenal. Your options range from different types of metal (more options become available as you find smelters for each out in the world) to three different classes of weapons. Ultimately, there are three different types of metals, three different types of weaponry and your armor and helmet.

What makes this process a bit more interesting is how each minion you sacrifice has a different effect. Put a lot of brown minions into your ax and you'll do more physical damage, a lot of reds and enemies will burst into flames. Unique effects are also applied to your armor, browns give more protection against damage, while reds might increase your health bar or greens can give regenerative properties to your armor.
Your helmet only serves one purpose and it doesn't matter what type of minions you throw into it since there are no unique properties applied to it. Your helmet merely adds to the amount of minions you can control (with all tower objects and a maxed helmet with the best metal you can control a total of 50 minions at a single time).

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Your tower begins as a hideous, abysmal, disgusting, dilapidated and downright gag-inducing piece of repulsive junk, but with a pit of sprucing up and some good/evil deeds it soon gets a bit more colorful.

This stuff is all neat, but it's downright painful to work up to the point where you can actually afford some of the more expensive pieces of weaponry or armor. There's a heinous amount of life force required for stuff like your armor and helmet and it can take a few good hours of grinding in your tower dungeon just to harvest enough life force (by killing endless beetles) to upgrade your equipment.

Unfortunately, the effects of some minions on your equipment can be quite negligent. Never did I see the need for extra health provided by reds in your armor, nor did I ever see the point for increased knock back in my weapon from blues since just slamming red or brown minions into my weapon gave me more mileage damage-wise.
It narrows down the options available to you, at least the useful ones. But still, the ability to customize your junk is cool enough, and it's great fun just to burst things into flames. You can even pick a "theme" like a good Overlord with a high damage sword, or an evil Overlord with a mace that causes enemies to burst into flames with a single hit. If you're into that sort of stuff.

Overlord also presents a little bit of non-linearity in its game play. Aside from customizing your equipment, you can also choose to be evil, or really really evil. On your status menu is a percentage labeled "Corruption". This is essentially a counter that adds up all your evil deeds against your good ones. There are several points where you can with hold items or destroy things that will either raise or lower your corruption. For example, if you keep the food a dying village needs just so you can get the extra life force the food provides, it increases your "Corruption" counter.
Zero percent means good, and higher means bad. You gain different benefits from both paths, evil tends to give more immediate bonuses, whereas good provides long term or delayed rewards.

It's balanced well and it makes sense, the appearance of your tower and the Overlord even change as your become more or less evil. It's a nice touch and it's improved by the fact that your tower Jester acquires a growing vocabulary of titles for your Overlord as you advance in the game based on your deeds.

Overlord has a very strong comedic aspect. There's some light black humor and tons of cheesy cracks at typical fantasy fair and it's all quite funny and well done. The best quips come from your minions though, especially the running theme of their obsession with "sheepies".
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Some areas in Overlord are just gorgeous, like this little halfling community, while others are quite drab and dull. Bitches.
Overlords' graphics range from everywhere to beautiful and stylized to boring and dull. The best areas actually come from the early segments of the game. The Mellow Hills are utterly gorgeous with lush green grass and sloping hills with bright and cheery lighting, whereas Heaven's Peak is a ugly drab city that while being on fire and infested with zombies doesn't manage to come across as well done stylistically or by level design.
The good mostly outweighs the bad though, and while you do get some iffy lip syncing and frame rate drops every now and then, the quality of the character models and the attention to detail in most areas is fantastic.

I only wish that the sound was improved, the music is very quiet and muted and hardly seems to play at all, which is quite disappointing considering that Overlord's soundtrack is actually rather pleasing. Your minions let loose little war cries that are pretty damn funny and villagers will comment on your passing in appropriately cheesy accents.
The sounds of weapons and combatants clashing are quite repetitive though, you'll hear the same clicks and clanks as you smack enemies with your mace over and over again and your spells have underwhelming booms accompanying them.

Overall, Overlord's presentation is adequate, it's not top of the line, but there's usually some neat sights and effects thrown in that can bring it out of the average.

When it comes to Overlord's flaws, there's nothing that I can really say beyond what I already have, most of the stuff Overlord flops with is just design quirks and grumbles that bring down the overall experience. The somewhat iffy minion control was already mentioned and so was the disappointing sound design, but the worst offender comes in Overlord's numerous bugs. There's nothing game breaking, but there's quite an amount of bugs that can take you out of the experience a bit. One of the worst is a bug that causes certain cut scenes to replay themselves when you revisit an area you've already cleared. Oftentimes this will include invisible characters that aren't even there anymore because you already wiped them out.

There's nothing majorly broken in Overlord, and all around it's a satisfying experience. With a few quirks and problems here and there it isn't perfect, but all in all, you can't go wrong with a little grown up Pikmin.

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Gameplay
- 9
Graphics - 7
Sound - 6
Polish - 8
Overall - 7.9
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Last edited by Blood-Pigggy; 06-05-2008 at 09:43 PM.
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