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Overlord II

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Codemasters
Developer: Triumph Studios

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PS3/X360/PC Review - 'Overlord II'

by Dustin Chadwell on July 7, 2009 @ 4:03 a.m. PDT

Overlord II is a fantasy action adventure that will see a new Overlord and a more powerful army of Minions take on the Glorious Empire, an advanced Romanesque nation, in a truly epic yet familiarly warped adventure.

Genre: Action Adventure
Publisher: Codemasters
Developer: Triumph Studios
Release Date: June 23, 2009

Overlord II is a big improvement over the original title, and I was really happy to see that the developers had taken out many of the minor issues that had bogged down the first title.  They also added a mini-map to facilitate finding your way in some of the larger areas and a moving camera that you could actually control, instead of one that wildly fluctuated as you moved.  These two changes alone would have made me happy, since I enjoyed the original title's overall theme, world and core concept of minion control, but a few more changes and additions to Overlord II help the sequel stand apart from its predecessor and make it really fun to play. 

Like the previous game, you take on the role of an evil overlord, but it's not the same character.  The story picks up quite a bit later, and while the names and locations have changed, a lot of the ideas have stayed the same.  There's a new big bad in town, the Glorious Empire, which is basically a riff on the Roman Empire, but the whole thing is run by huge, obese aristocrats who will put up entire armies to stand in your way.  They'll dog you from location to location, so they'll be your common enemy throughout a good portion of the game.  There are plenty of other foes to encounter, like yeti, carnivorous pandas, hippie elves, etc., and the variety really stands out in comparison to the original title.  The often-loathed sheep are replaced with baby seals, and there's a side-quest that involves killing a thousand gnomes that are scattered around various locations. As you advance through the story, there are plenty of baddies to sic your minions on. 

The story takes center stage again, with the same combination of wit and charm that was present in the original title.  The overlord is still mute, but the minions are just as vocally active as before, with little snippets of voice acting that play as you slaughter various creatures and enemies, along with some tongue-in-cheek cut scene dialogue, which is definitely consistent with the wacky fantasy trappings.  There are certain elements that remind me of a Terry Pratchett tale, and I could certainly see some of the things presented being in a Discworld novel or two.  Almost all of the voice work in the game is great, and while there aren't a lot of cut scenes, most characters will say something or react to you in some way as you approach them. There are also plenty of side-quests and main quests for a bit of interaction. 

The controls in Overlord II are similar to those of the first game, and while the right analog stick controls the camera, it again serves as your group control for the minions.  Hold up with the right stick to initiate this style of control, which allows your minions to be moved independently of the overlord in order to get to difficult-to-reach spaces or sneak up on unsuspecting enemies.  You don't seem to need this mode very much in the sequel, while quite a few sections were dependent on it in the first game.  All in all, I found a lot of the strategy to be simplified this time around, and it's entirely feasible to get by with just rushing into a group and tapping R2 to send your minions in front of you to attack or destroy, along with actually getting the overlord in the mix and attacking enemies alongside your minions.  I found the hack-and-slash formula to be more fun than having to hang back and direct from the sidelines, which is how the first game mostly played out.    There are some new control elements tossed into the mix, like the ability to manually possess a minion, which offers up some interesting changes, in particular with the sequence that has you retrieving your green minion hive.  Minions can also take on mounts, man a ship and take over catapults, offering up a few additional changes to the hack-and-slash core of the game. 

The visuals have seen a noticeable boost, with each area just being filled to the brim with detail and attention.  There are a lot of distinct areas that fall into your typical fantasy trappings of world division, like a winter area, a jungle area and so on.  Your dark tower has been replaced by an entire underground netherworld, which can be outfitted by different additions again, along with the forge option, which allows you to create new gear.  There's a minion graveyard in Overlord II, and that will lets you resurrect specific minions, so if you've got a few that are particularly high in level and equipped with decent gear, you can bring them back to life by sacrificing a few of the lower-level guys in the group.  It's a pretty neat option to keep you from having to restart your minions every time they die, but you can also boost a group's level if you have the right resources to do so. 

The music doesn't stand out a great deal, but the soundtrack is decent enough.  It's filled with tracks that fit the Overworld universe, but a lot of it was generic fantasy to me, and nothing really caught my attention.  The voice-over work is the stand-out winner here, and while the minions can get pretty repetitive over time, I found it pretty easy to tune out, "For the overlord!!"  after a bit. 

There's some online and offline multiplayer offered up, both in versus and co-op modes, but I had a tough time finding a game to get into.  I'm not sure if nobody is playing online or if there's some technical issue with the netcode that's preventing players from matching up, but I was only able to find a couple of games during primetime hours.  The matches that I did find were lag-free, which was nice, but I'm not sure I'd suggest the title to those who only care for the MP possibilities.  Thankfully, all of the offline multiplayer works quite well, so that's going to be the preferred play method for me.

Overall, Overlord II is a great follow-up to the original Overlord title, and it's certainly deserving of being a true sequel.  They've managed to keep intact everything that I enjoyed about the first game, while at the same time fixing the majority of its issues.  Mapping the camera control and minion control to the right analog stick can get a little troublesome on occasion, but I didn't have any major problems with it, and I found the gameplay to be a lot easier to get into this time around.  Overlord II is a great game, and I hope that people are willing to try it out.  The changes should be enough to draw in those who had issues with the original, and if you missed out on the first game, this is definitely the version to jump into.

Score: 8.5/10

 

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