Developer: Triumph Studios
Release Date: June 26, 2007
Evil always wins, because Good is dumb...
Every so often, being a hero simply fails to satisfy. This can be realized in many forms of media, not just gaming. Comic books had Spawn, an atypical anti-hero with some serious flaws. "Casino Royale" gave us a much darker and meaner James Bond, driven by ambition and fueled by vengeance. Professional wrestling offers a villain for every hero for fans to flock to and adore. Even NASCAR has its "bad" guys who do a little bit more than rubbing while racing.
In every genre of gaming, there's always an antagonist that proves to be the motivation for the player to work through the game's framework. With villains playing such a vital role in game design, it's nice to occasionally hop onto the other side of things, which is the premise behind Triumph Studios' Overlord. This is not a new game design notion, but it's a worthy and novel direction to take nonetheless.
The game begins as you are unearthed by your minions to take the place of a former dark lord who has since been vanquished, leaving a vacuum of evilness in the local realm. There is no real direction to the game, other than to become the biggest and baddest man you can imagine. Your beginnings are humble, and the tower in which you reside is a hovel having been all but pillaged and plundered by heroic do-gooders.
The whole aesthetic direction behind Overlord is that of a bizzaro-Middle-earth. To begin with, your chief enemies are Halflings, and the local human farmers and townsfolk serve as future slaves or fodder. Goblins act as your minions and come in three flavors: brown, blue and green. Each type of minion specializes in melee, ranged attack, or magic combat; the trick is learning how to maximize your various minions, but before we get into gameplay, let's talk about visuals.
I tested out Overlord out on both my notebook and my desktop, and both platforms served playable experiences. The biggest difference in graphical quality between my desktop with a GeForce 8800 GTS and an NVIDIA Geforce2Go on my notebook were more or less frame rates and texture resolutions. Other than that, the lighting effects and geometry were well addressed on my much humbler notebook. On my full-sized widescreen monitor, Overlord acquits itself well visually. With a decent processor, a good dose of DDR RAM and a good GPU, Overlord puts forth a good-looking experience, with a full host of graphical options and resolutions to support a wide variety of setups and monitor sizes. There was nary a hint of a texture tearing, nor were there any clipping issues that distracted the eye from the focal point, and most of the objects in the game destructible or usable.
Character modeling may not be top-notch in all accounts, but the character textures are defined enough to make everyone look nominally different. While the models may not blow you away in their appearance, their comic nature and animation make up for a lack of visual flair. There is something wonderful when one of your minions runs around carrying a sheep over his head while his compatriot rides around on another, and a third minion decides that a jack-o'-lantern would make a great helmet.
The reason to play Overlord is not for its visuals, but for the fact that you get to be the bad guy, and Overlord provides a very good entry point into this sub-genre. The gameplay closely resembles Nintendo's Pikmin, which is a good thing. Controlling where your minions go is done by clicking and sweeping your view across the target area. You must manage your melee minion types versus your magic casters, in addition to using your own avatar's magic and melee attacks; it's all a means to an end, and all sorts of havoc ensues in the process.
The problem with this somewhat-simple gameplay dynamic is that it can get repetitive. The only real sense of motivation is to build up your tower and keep your evil missus at home happy with your nefarious accomplishments. In the process, you upgrade your anti-hero with new armor and weapons and minion types. Forging new weapons and armor between missions requires the willing sacrifice of your minions, and watching your boys leap into molten metal never gets old. Using various combinations of your brown, blue and green minions return different effects and advantages in your gear, allowing you to tailor new items.
Overlord is old-school in the sense that it's purely a single-player experience. Available both on PC and 360, the only true difference between the two versions is that one comes with achievements, and the other doesn't. Overlord is a single player game and. Although Overlord is a lot of fun, the gameplay isn't heavily nuanced' playing through the game once pretty much covers every possible angle you can experience, aside from remodeling your character's items, weapons and gear. Even so, that experience is lots of fun. While using the cover of being evil, the game is really a comical satire of every major fantasy tome or canon. In the end, Overlord delivers a fun experience and is well worth the $39.99 retail price of admission.
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