Overlord: Dark Legend Review
Overlord: Dark Legend box art
System: Wii Review Rating Legend
Dev: Climax Studios 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Codemasters 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: June 23, 2009 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1-4 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Teen 3.5 - 3.9 = Good

It’s always fun to be the bad guy, and it’s even more fun to be the bad guy who gets to boss a bunch of minions around. That’s the experience the Pikmin-esque Overlord series provides, and Overlord: Dark Legend (a different game than Overlord II, though the release dates were the same) brings that pure joy of dictatorship to the Wii. The basic setup translates incredibly well to Nintendo’s current console, and the storytelling and graphics certainly have their moments, but some technical shortcomings and a lack of challenge keep this action/adventure/strategy game from being all it could have been.

Overlord: Dark Legend screenshot

Dark Legend is a prequel to the original game, and the basic idea is that you’re a young overlord-in-training who has to defend his family’s land. To ease you in, the game offers some of the best tutorial work in recent memory. The story presents the core abilities and techniques quickly enough that you learn the basics in a hurry, but slowly enough that you never feel overwhelmed. It’s not a separate tutorial, but rather the earliest section of the game.

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It’s good the educational stages are handled well, because there’s a lot to learn. In addition to the basics of moving around and swinging your weapon (which works pretty much the way it does in a Zelda game), you have to master the art of guiding the little monsters under your command. You can move them as a group, as individuals, or in smaller clusters of like-colored underlings (you slowly unlock new colors until there are four). By taking advantage of their unique abilities, for example by setting up some red monsters at a safe distance to throw fireballs at an enemy, you can make the game a lot easier on yourself. When you come across an impassable barrier, you can grab a minion by the neck, shake him, and send him toward whatever’s blocking you. He’ll explode, clearing your way.

Overlord: Dark Legend screenshot

The developers did a great job of incorporating motion control without making any of these maneuvers difficult to pull off. For example, to order a minion into place, all you need to do is select his color with the D-pad, point at where you want him to go, and click. It’s hard to imagine a more natural way to play.

Working through the early challenges, one thing that’s instantly clear is that the series’ gleefully wicked sense of humor is intact, even if some of the more inappropriate material has been toned down. Many of the missions are based on fairy tales (Li’l Red Riding Hood and the Gingerbread Man have roles), and your medieval misbehavior ranges from vandalism (you start by smashing up items in your siblings’ rooms, and proceed to break virtually everything else you encounter) to violence (you and your minions spend most of your time killing your enemies and pillaging their lands, and PETA will be thrilled to know you can slaughter farm animals for the energy you need to call more minions). Your underlings do all sorts of crazy things to amuse themselves and please you, from wearing the clothes of defeated enemies to making servile comments (“For you!”) whenever they bring you back items. The writing and voice acting are well-done and funny, creating an atmosphere of dark-yet-giddy comedy. Dark Legend gets the tone just right, and kudos to everyone involved, especially writer Rhianna Pratchett, for that.

Overlord: Dark Legend screenshot

Screenshots / Images
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