|a game by||Triumph Studios B.V.|
|Platforms:||XBox 360, PC, Playstation 3|
|User Rating:||8.0/10 - 3 votes|
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|See also:||Overlord Series, Games Like Neverwinter Nights|
Now wind it back a bit, because we can't print what you just thought of, and you should find yourself somewhere in the region of heinous war crimes. Now think of another evil thing.
Was it slavery? Good! Now imagine both of these acts being carried out by a pantomime villain in a pointy helmet in such a way that makes everybody laugh and feel good about themselves and the despicable world that we live in. Hey, that's OverlordII, a game whose morality slider goes from one sort of evil to another sort of evil. Destruction and domination are the two extremes, and being good doesn't really come into the equation. Which is fine, as the sprawling faux-fantasy world that is the game's setting is populated by wankers.
OverlordII doesn't fall far from the action-adventuring of the original game. In fact it feels more like Triumph's second attempt, and fans of the first will find themselves in instantly familiar territory. You're the titular Overlord, a villain in charge of an army of dozens of scurrying minions who'll pillage, loot and pile on to enemies. On the consoles it utilises both analogue sticks - one to move your character about the world, and another to sweep your underlings about the vicinity. Pleasingly, this translates well to PC: using the mouse to move your minions is at first clunky, but once you get to grips with just how subtle your gestures have to be it quickly becomes intuitive.
Fable is structurally this game's closest relative. The map is an interconnected web of levels which don't pull off the feeling of a proper open world, but at the same time are diverse enough to allow you to backtrack in search of resources and treasure. From your throne in the Netherworld you'll receive quests to progress the plot, as well as various other quests to dominate or destroy the locations you control, or simply to pester the locals. At all times you can explore your dark sanctuary, which is home to the game's weapon and armour forging, minion resurrection (hurrah), and the nicked-from-Lionhead-but-not-as-good wife management stuff.
The minions remain the game's stars though. They'll destroy anything you point a bony finger at, either throwing themselves at a selected target or streaming forward and interacting with the first thing they encounter. Clubbing seals, smashing crates, lobbing fireballs -they're largely autonomous creatures, who'll retrieve anything of value from the detritus and return it to you like an overexcited child.
Minion Man Army
They retain their ability to wield and wear all of the fallen crap they find scattered about the floor - though tragically the game fails to demonstrate this as well as it did in the original, where a run through a vegetable patch would have your minion forces decked out in pumpkin helmets. Instead your first, batch of minions will sport some less- impressive seal-fur hoods nicked from the corpses of dead hunters.
Scavenging armour and weapons like this increases your mob's effectiveness, indicated by a rising percentage stat on the HUD. Not only that, but in certain cases you'll use disguises to allow your minions into previously inaccessible areas. Roman (or the Empire, as they're known in this fantasy world) garb will get you past town guards, and at times you'll have to combine the sartorial puzzling with your ability to leap into the body of a minion, which makes them far less conspicuous than when an eight foot tall bastard was standing in their midst.
Puzzles aren't taxing, rarely involving much more than using the correct minion type with the correct object. The browns are your cannon fodder brawlers, but your reds can chuck fireballs and (I think, it's hard to tell for sure) inhale away fire from burning barricades. Blues are medics and swimmers, while greens turn invisible when standing still and can saunter through toxic fumes. Every minion type has its own unique mount too, which furthers the variation in puzzles: browns riding wolves can leap short gaps to reach switches. Greens on their giant spiders can crawl up walls to unlock doors. That sort of thing.
You'll undoubtedly become attached to at least one of the little fellas, as soon as one of them finds a hat or something to mark him out as an individual. For this reason, minions can be brought back from the dead, at the cost of some of your newbies. Every minion's got a name this time around, and can level up independently of you. Brilliantly, they'll earn titles depending on their combat history - from lowly epitaphs like New Born, to the more noble Centurion Crusher. They'll have all of the weapons they died with too, so while visits to the graveyard aren't a necessity, they're an alluring option for a caring Overlord.
For a simple bringing-together of some basic ideas, Overlord Il's an incredibly fun game. The depth is obscured behind some console-minded interfaces - running about your tower to access what are essentially different menu screens is a pain - but it's delivered with great pace and an engaging sense of progression.
So while this self-proclaimed "evil simulator" (that's actually the genre it gets listed under in Vista) doesn't feature that horrible thing we made you think of in the first paragraph, its brand of guiltless comic villainy is probably more entertaining than "true" evil could ever be. Just look at Kim Jong-il, that guy's never smiling.
Behind every evil man...
Much like real life, you can often end up married to people who you never really had any intention of being around for very long, compelled into an awkward relationship by some overarching narrative dictating your every action and unable to end it all by scything through your other half with one of your many giant, sharp weapons. This is at least the case with the Overlord's first wife, who's very much an introduction to wifery and mistress management. You'll have to buy her drapes and pretty things with which to dress up your private quarters, otherwise she'll be pissed off. It makes sense that a game with such a two-dimensional representation of evil would require a similarly shallow outlook towards what women want. Drapes. Women want drapes.