Mischief, Murder, and Mayhem
Overlord: Raising Hell is an RTS-like action/adventure title in the mold of Pikmin. Instead of using cute, little onion-spawns to help you put your spaceship back together, you’ll be in control of a snarling bunch of goblins tasked with reestablishing your dark empire and dominion over the Abyss. The concept sounds quite entertaining, and for the most part it is. Unfortunately, a few technical issues hamper this PS3 title, and the simple challenges, while fun, don’t manage to be particularly engaging.
Overlord originally released on the Xbox 360 to mixed reviews. Subsequently, the title was released for the PC – arguably the game’s best outing. Overlord: Raising Hell encompasses all the material of the original 360 release, plus the additional downloadable content and several upgrades including new realms, a mini-map, legendary difficulty, local split-screen multiplayer, and Dolby 7.1 Surround Sound support. What the title doesn’t improve upon is the sluggish multiplayer gameplay and the somewhat mediocre visuals. Even worse, the game’s fraught with technical issues such as a glitch-filled framerate and lethargic load times. Still, the game has its moments of fun, snappy dialogue, and niche gameplay.
For those who’ve never played the original, Overlord: Raising Hell has the player reincarnate as a dark lord whose evil empire was destroyed during the last cycle of evil. As the Overlord, you will be in control of a horde of minions, a host of magical spells, powerful armaments, and a dark tower. The main gameplay mechanic deals with the size, make up, and experience of your beastly minions. The Overlord is more than competent to fight on his own (more on that later), but a true master of evil has others do the work for him. Consequently, the Overlord has four different types of minions that are more than eager to do his bidding.
Browns are your foot soldiers. They are good melee fighters and are quick to pick up and use implements of war. Reds are fiery archers. These little greeblies are inept at hand-to-hand combat, but they pack a long-ranged fireball attack and can absorb fire that stands in your path. Greens are stealthy assassins. They are nearly invisible to your foes and are incredibly lethal when attacking from behind. Finally, Blues can resurrect your other minions, swim in water, and do magical damage. Successful Overlords will have to strategically use the distinct properties of each minion in order to advance. Additionally, if you can keep minions around long enough, they will find weapons and buffs that will increase their experience and your power.
As you progress through the game, you will also be able to improve your spell casting by expanding your knowledge of the four magical domains (Fire, Domination, Shield, and Minion spells). These spells allow you to do direct damage to foes, slow and confuse the enemy, protect yourself and your minions, and strengthen and rile up your filthy horde. Magical might is the best demonstration of the Overlord’s power. However, melee opportunities also abound.
As with spells, your weapons, armor, and tower fortification can also be improved. By harvesting life force from the living world, you will be able to imbue your equipment with the souls of your minions – thus, giving your axe a keener edge, your sword extra fire damage, your armor a more resilient finish, or even improve your helmet to give you the power to control more minions. All of this can be achieved by finding the stolen forge portions during your adventure and bringing them back to your tower. You see, your dark tower was smashed into ruins by the incompetence of the previous Overlord. As such, you will spend much of your time refurbishing your tower to its former power and glory.
Plowing through the challenges and advancing the plot requires players to use strategy, do some minor puzzle-solving, and master the command controls. Minions can be given orders via The Guard Marker. The Guard Marker is nothing more than a standard of war with a skull emblazoned on the crest. The Guard Marker functions as a rallying point for your various minions. This allows players to quickly issue orders to get the most out of the unique talents of each minion type. In other words, you can place Blues on higher ground, get Greens to attack from behind, have Browns make a frontal assault, and get Blues close enough to the fray to get their heal on! Admittedly, this can be somewhat cumbersome, but mastering the technique does yield quality results. If you don’t really care about strategy, you can always sweep you minions into battle by simply directing them with the right analog stick. As much as I liked the controls, they are far better on PC. Even these toned-down RTS mechanics just don’t feel natural on the PS3.
The game offers several multiplayer options, both locally and online. All multiplayer modes are for two players and include the same game types. Slaughter pits Overlords against each other in a duel to see who can accumulate more points. Points are garnered by killing and destroying the villages and monsters in the surrounding area. The one who reaches the point target first or finishes with the most points at the end of the time limit is declared the winner. Pillage is similar to Slaughter except accumulating gold, not points, is the objective. Co-op Survival has both Overlords work together to see how long they can last in unique Survival maps. All these modes work well, but I didn’t find them nearly as engaging as the simple single-player campaign.
Graphically, the game struggles. It’s not that they look bad, they just doesn’t live up to the lofty standards set by the hype surrounding the PS3. For instance, the game only supports 720p and players will notice a preponderance of framerate shuddering and blocky environments. On a better note, I enjoyed the animations and thought it was a hoot when my minions put on pumpkin helmets and other nasty implements of destruction.
As far as sounds are concerned, they are awesome. The limited voice over work is very professional and the multitude of funny comments, slick dialogue, and dark humor had me constantly giggling. Additionally, Dolby 7.1 Surround Sound support was included to help keep your home theater rocking.
All in all, Overlord: Raising Hell is fun title that should please many gamers. The game is not devoid of its fair share of problems though. Most prominent are the boring load times, constant frame rate issues, and somewhat challenging controls. As such, Overlord: Raising Hell for the PS3 is not quite as good as its PC counterpart. Nevertheless, it’s a good game that is the crown jewel of the console editions.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.5 Graphics
The visuals convey an interesting atmosphere, but the constant framerate issues are bothersome. 3.5 Control
The controls are about as good as they can be for a console controller, though they can’t compare to those of the PC. 4.4 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The sounds and dialogue are expertly done. I really enjoyed the banter of my minions. 3.5 Play Value
There are a lot of fun things to do in Overlord: Raising Hell, but I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone. 3.7 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.