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Old 10-17-2016, 01:04 AM   #1
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Default In Hindsight...Overlord!

"Evil always finds a way."

As the player, in the heavily-armored shoes of the eponymous Overlord, leads his army of minions against seemingly overwhelming odds, these words could not possible ring any more true. Peasants, demons, and heroes be damned; nothing can stop the spread of Evil! Just how evil is Evil, however, is up to each mighty Overlords' discretion. Will your reign be marked by harsh but efficient domination, or would you rather watch the world burn from high atop your Dark Tower? Either way, you're going to be doing a lot of smiting, so get to it! Did I mention Rhianna Pratchett had a big hand in the writing of this game?

Now, for those that prefer their games a bit more light-hearted, don't let Overlord's premise discourage you, for it's not quite as dark and gritty as one might think at first glance. The setting of Overlord is a fairly standard high-fantasy world of peasant villages, castles and magic, though a tad ironically crapsacky. The inhabitants or either goofy and carefree(sometimes making you question their priorities), or cartoon villains that, honestly, you're doing the world a favor by disposing of. The gore level is pretty low, and defeated foes simply dissipate unless caught in an explosion, but even then it's not a spectacle.

Above all else, though, the best representation of the Overlord style are the Minions: little gremlin-esque creatures that follow you around, ever-ready to carry out your will. The Minions are best described as delightfully wicked, clearly sadistic and loopy but never really coming across as full-on dark(though this game does have a bit of dark humor). As the game progresses, you're more than likely going to end up loving them(when they listen to you, at least). They'll cheer you on at every turn, giggling and singing praises as you blast a sheep with fire magic or lop a drunken dwarf's head off. They also get into shenanigans of their own, mainly by finding all manner of things to wear on their heads. Send a Minion to break open a box full of weapons, and he'd likely run back to you wearing the box!

Overlord's soundtrack, composed by Michiel van den Bos, is serviceable and well-fitting. The combat themes befit a powerful Overlord smashing his way through his enemies, while the exploration themes are quite calm and understated. The sound design is what you'd expect of a game from 2007 and with a budget of a turkey sandwich, but it gets the job done. What is a slight, niggling issue though is some of the the audio balancing. Some songs were incredibly quiet in-game(such as the "Combat Fast" theme) while others were so loud they woke my cat up when they started playing(such as the Ruborian Desert exploration theme). It's the same for some sound effects: The Overlord's actions are as loud as they need to be, but the effect that plays when hitting an armored opponent can get very loud. Thankfully it doesn't happen all the time, but when it does it can be rather jarring. Simply put, you might need to tweak the audio sliders every once in a while. As for the voice acting, it's...okay for the most part, but nothing to write home about.

Moving on to the actual mechanics, an important thing to note is Overlord's "morality" system. This, admittedly, is quite a weak part of the game. Throughout their play time, the player will be presented with binary Good/Evil(instead of Evil/Evil-er) choices. One of the earliest occurs shortly after defeating the first boss. In short, you have the choice between giving the stockpile of food to the nearby village, or take it all for yourself and your minions to give them a boost. The "boost" is either insignificant or simply not there at all, so there isn't much incentive to being "evil". In this case it's more of "Are you going to give up this food to your worshipers, furthering their love of you, or take it for yourself for the evulz and no real benefit to you?" Thankfully not every choice is that lop-sided, but one may not be able to shake the feeling that the "evil" choices are more sociopathic than evil. But hey, the more Corrupted you are, the spikier your armor gets. That's cool.

Thankfully, the actual gameplay is quite a bit more thought out than the background "Corruption" system. As the Overlord, your most important tools are the various Minions you will be commanding. It's oddly therapeutic to send your entire force to slaughter a group of fools that dared stand in your way, watching them get ripped apart by your gremlin army. Over the course of the game you unlock four types of Minions. You have your browns, the melee fighters and frontliners; the reds, which lob fireballs; greens, which you can direct to an enemy's back and have them go nuts; finally, blues, who serve as medics for when your minions start dropping. The different types of minions open up some fun tactics and strategies, and even the slow methodical approach is very involved. Small objects called Life Force(one color for each corresponding minion type) drop from various creatures such as beetles and sheep, and when you have enough Life Force, minions can be summoned from Spawning Pits that crop up around Tower Gates near the start of an area, with the occasional pit sprinkled across particularly lengthy segments. The minion system has given Overlord a reputation as a "dark pikmin" kind of game, which isn't wrong by any means.

Overlord has quite a few control and camera issues, though. The camera will ram itself straight up the Overlord's rear at exactly the wrong time. When Sweeping your minions, a mechanic enabling you to direct a large group of minions at once, your view may be snapped toward the direction of a stray minion that hasn't quite caught up to the pack yet. Even at its best, when Sweeping, your camera will only pan when your minion horde has reached the edge of the screen, completely obscuring your view of enemy placements and hazards. If that wasn't bad enough, if playing with a keyboard and mouse, your minions will never stop moving while being swept, forcing you to awkwardly wiggle your mouse back and forth in a desperate attempt to keep the little freaks in one place. It doesn't help to set a Guard Post either, because while it makes minions stand still, you can't move them without calling them back completely, ruining any strategy you were attempting by trying to get your minions to a certain place. Sending them out one-by-one isn't any smoother, as the deployment is quite delayed, as is the call-back mechanic. It ends up making the game feel outright sluggish at times, resulting in frustrating losses of minions because they simply didn't move when you told them to.

Not all is hopeless for the Overlord though, as he has plenty of backup implements of Evil-doing. By collecting spell stones, the Overlord can access a variety of spells in four types: Destruction(offensive fire spells), Minion(minion damage/defense upgrades), Shield(LEROOOOOOY...), and Domination(enemy manipulation). Health, Mana, and Minion capacity totem pieces are scattered around the world which directly upgrade the Overlord, eventually turning him into a one-man siege engine when combined with upgraded weapons and armor. Feel the power of Evil!

The story is fairly simple, with heroes of old becoming corrupted and you putting them down for your own Evil purposes, with a decent twist revealed near the end. The writing is humorous and satirical in nature, and it's bound to elicit a chuckle or two. The occasional musings of Gnarl and your chosen Mistress will keep you entertained as you romp through new areas, and they were clearly carefully written so as to not be grating, even if certain "tutorial" messages can get annoying when repeated enough.

For all of its faults, Overlord is a charming game that is still fairly fun and definitely worth the price. It tried something different and succeeded, albeit by the skin of its teeth. If you can look past the few issues with some of the controls and the morality system and get engrossed in the world, you'll have a good time.
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