Overlord Xbox 360
Published by: Codemasters
Developed by: Triumph Studios
Release Date: Out Now
It's always refreshing to play a game that's quite unlike anything you might have played before. Overlord is essentially a game where you get to control an evil overlord who has been reawakened after lying dormant for many years. Your kingdom has essentially gone to pot and it's your job to restore it to its former glory. There have been many heroes of late and your predecessor was killed by one of them. To make matters worse your Dark Tower was wrecked. Your task is to rebuild your Dark Tower, exact revenge on those who were responsible for the destruction of the Dark Tower and to re-establish your dark domain.
It's difficult to actually define what type of game Overlord is. I suppose you could say it's a mix of a third-person action RPG and a real-time strategy game. You'll move the Overlord around in the same way you would move your character around in a third-person RPG. You can obtain new weapons for the Overlord and he will gain access to new and more powerful spells over time. You can perform physical attacks and cast spells but your primary function is to co-ordinate the actions of your minion forces that are only too willing to do your bidding. You'll begin by only having three of them to control but as the game progresses you'll have the ability to amass larger minion forces and there are even different minion types that you can use to carry out your tasks. In addition to the single-player game there are also a few multiplayer versus and co-operative modes that can be played over Xbox Live.
You'll rebuild your Dark Tower by completing various missions. In these missions you'll have to summon the minions you need from a Minion Gate. Summoning minions requires a special energy that can be harvested from living creatures you've killed such as peasants, Halflings, or animals. Killing innocent peasants does have a corrupting effect on the Overlord and this can cause complications (corruption leads to corrupt versions of level three spells for the Overlord). There are four different minion types although initially you'll only have access to one. Brown minions are the fighters and the ones you'll begin the game with. Green minions are the assassins. They are not as strong as the brown minions and prefer to catch their enemies off guard. Red minions are the archers and can throw bolts of fire over a long distance although they are quite useless when challenging an enemy at close quarters. Finally the blue minions are the healers and they have three unique abilities. The can hurt ethereal enemies, thanks to their ability to deal magical damage, they can swim (water kills other minion types) and, perhaps more importantly, they can resurrect fallen minions.
Once you've summoned your minions you can control them using the right analogue stick. Basically you'll have direct control over them and navigate them to either enemies or objects you want them to interact with. You can also position them in certain locations once you have access to the guard marker. Where there are objects to interact with, the game works in a similar way to Pikmin on the GameCube. For instance, a fallen column may need moving to clear the way for the Overlord. An icon above the fallen column will indicate that you'll need five minions in order to move the column. All you have to do is steer five minions to the fallen column and they will automatically move it out of the way. If you're in pursuit of an enemy you'll simply navigate your minions to the enemy's location and they will do the rest. You can also send a minion directly in front of you to interact with objects and enemies by pressing the RT button. The AI of the minions is actually pretty impressive, which makes ordering them about a fairly trouble-free affair. Though the minions are extremely loyal, you'll have to sacrifice them in order to regain health. The controls, for the most part, are good although there are situations when having to keep track of the different minion types during a battle can be a little testing.
Overlord is a visually pleasing game. Various characters in the game do resemble some of the characters you'd find in The Lord of the Rings such as the Halflings and the minions and even the Overlord himself. There are a lot of soft lighting effects in use here and some of the locations you'll encounter in the game do look reminiscent of those in Fable. The camera is generally well behaved even though you can't use the right analogue stick to manipulate it (because it's used to control your minions). By pressing the right analogue stick down you can switch between a top down and third person view and both views have their uses. The frame rate is generally fine and although there are moments when it's quite noticeable that it dips a little, it's never problematic.
With Overlord being as enjoyable as it is, it's good to see that the game does a good job of being deaf gamer friendly. The game is subtitled so you'll be able to enjoy the game's storyline. The cutscene subtitles don't have any character names or portraits placed alongside the text so it's not always crystal clear who is saying what although most of the time it's Gnarl the Minion Master who is talking to you. The tutorial messages are given in text so you'll have no problems in learning to play the game. Objectives are shown in text and you can recall them at any time by pressing the back button. The game makes good use of icons to convey information. All things considered then, deaf gamers shouldn't have any real problems with Overlord.
Overlord is a lot of fun and a nice mix of genres that contains many familiar concepts that have been put together in a rather unique way. At times it can be a little testing when having to control multiple groups of minions but given how enjoyable the majority of the game is, this is a problem that's easy to overlook. It's been a while since there was a game where it was fun to be evil. Dungeon Keeper 2 is eight years old this year and there aren't many others that readily spring to mind. If you're looking for a game that allows you to do some evil, albeit in a humorous rather than offensive way, then Overlord is well worth considering.
Overlord is both refreshing and enjoyable. For those who fancy a different kind of RTS, with a dash of RPG thrown in, Overlord is well worth a look.