Stamping Out Goodness Everywhere
If a game that casually encourages you to send a band of slathering, goblin-like minions to gleefully bash in the heads of cute little seals doesn’t pique your interest (or alternately elicit total disgust), I’m not sure what will. Playing the role of the good guy has long been a tradition in video games – one that has grown a little tiresome.
Being nicey-nice is fine if you’re in a pleasant, benevolent mood, but sometimes the pursuit of catharsis demands more drastic measures, like setting fire to a peaceful village, bending peasants’ weak minds to your unholy will, and harvesting the souls of the small furry creatures you’ve just trampled.
The original Overlord let you take control of a powerful demonic warrior in control of a small army of diminutive followers and act out your insidious, war-like fantasies against the forces of good – all with a twisted sense of dark humor and trademark goofiness that made it hard to resist. For the delightfully evil sequel, Triumph Studios brings a few necessary improvements into the fray and builds on the surprisingly charming – yet demonically twisted – personality it laid down in Overlord. It turns out siding with the unholy forces of darkness is more than a little fun; it’s also freaking hilarious.
Overlord II embraces an amusing, tongue-in-cheek lack of seriousness from the get-go. Starting out as an awkwardly youthful magic-wielding overlord who’s called “witch boy” and picked on by other kids in the local village, you’ll immediately start along the path of evil by wreaking havoc against those who taunt you. A concise tutorial section culminates in you igniting the town’s giant Christmas tree just before narrowly escaping a swift death at the hands of the magic-hating Roman Empire. Your young nefarious deeds don’t go unnoticed; minions from the underworld spirit you off to their subterranean lair and decide to groom you to become their next dark master. A quick fast-forward time lapse finds you all grown up and in control of the vast evil underground. Bent on kicking some Roman backside and exacting a more satisfying revenge on the village you were booted from, you set off on a campaign of malevolence fueled by a desire to expand your empire and trample anyone who stands in your way… good times.
Trudging across the land with your death-dealing implement of choice in hand, smashing open barrels and chests filled with loot, and flaying the minds of innocents you encounter with demonic magic all has a Diablo-like quality to it that’s rather appealing. As satisfying as it is to crack skulls open with your destructive might, your towering overlord is really just a glorified support unit. It’s the rag-tag gaggle of assorted minions that you’ll keep by your side at all times that makes the pursuit of world dominance far more interesting. You’ll start out with access to brown minions that are excellent in melee combat and eventually add flame-shooting reds, backstabbing greens, and healing blues. Some minions can ride mounts like wolves or spiders, and each has additional benefits like immunities and special abilities that make them particularly useful in certain situations. These beasties provide occasional comic relief and do most of your dirty work for you. Your minions gain experience and grow more powerful as you use them. This time around you can bring back your favorites from the dead – for a hefty price and a few sacrificed souls.
Most of the time you’ll control your overlord directly; any minions you have in tow will follow you around and attack when enemies get within range. Alternately, you can switch to directly controlling your selected minions by making them rush around the map manually. This is great for charging ahead into battle to soften foes for the overlord to cleave in twain or accessing switches and other items you’re demonic ruler is too lumbering to reach. You can select groups of minions by type and give them orders to attack or interact with targeted foes or items. Also, they can be set to defend areas, allowing for a greater level of strategy. On the downside, the camera angles occasionally wonk out and targeting troops and directing minions in mid-battle seems trickier than necessary at times. Otherwise, controlling your overlord and minions independently of one another is easy to pick up.
Expanding your evil reach will take you from the ice-covered mountaintops to the sweltering jungles and beyond. In addition to trudging around on foot, your band of malevolent warriors will also take to the seas and utilize powerful siege weaponry among other tools of war.
The enemies you encounter along the way offer added moments of humor. Human soldiers comically flail about and yelp when they’re set on fire; elves exhibit a flamboyant, eco-hippy posturing that makes slaying them incredibly satisfying; tiny gnomes serve as useful wicks to spark huge oil bonfires and also are fun to crush in droves; morbidly obese mermaids flop around at you in a particularly grotesque manner. The list goes on.
Wanton destruction and dominion of the land is your main objective, but it isn’t necessarily your only goal. In between pillaging for treasure and harvesting souls to power you army, there are ample reasons to spend time exploring and enhancing your underworld lair. Demonic portals open up as you progress through the campaign, allowing quick access to various locales from your underground fortress. Money and souls you’ve collected can be spent to forge new weapons and armor, upgrade your private abode to suit the needs of your numerous mistresses, and resurrect fallen minions, among other things. The lair is nicely designed, but it’s large enough that it takes a while to travel around and through. Lengthy load times compound this issue when accessing different areas of your subterranean realm.
Overlord II will feel largely familiar to players who weathered through the original game. The development team has shored up some – but not all – of the loose elements to make the gameplay a bit tighter and added in minor touches here and there that generally enhance the evil enjoyment it dishes out. The new additions help to amp-up the inherent fun of being a rampaging dark overlord, but the linear path of destruction you’ll create doesn’t really feel like epic progress. You’ll find some entertaining mayhem here. Just don’t expect to be blown away.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.0 Graphics
A generally good-looking game. 3.8 Control
Learn the ropes and you’ll find controlling your overlord and his minions simultaneously a breeze… most of the time. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Humorous voice work brings the laughs. 3.8 Play Value
Linear romps of destruction are enjoyable in mid-length spurts. Multiplayer offers a few different modes to play competitively or cooperatively. 3.9 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.