Overlord II Review - The Next Level

Game Profile

System:
Xbox 360
Release date:
June 23rd, 2009
Publisher:
Codemasters
Developer:
Triumph Studios
Players:
1 - 2
Genre:
Adventure
ESRB:
T

Overlord II

Being bad is good, but being evil is better.

Review by Ken Horowitz (Email)
July 4th 2009

 I really loved the original Overlord. It was fun to finally be the bad guy in a game that really made an effort to make you one, and those little minions were hilarious in their efforts to please their dark master. My anticipation at returning to this terrific game world was almost palatable, and I started grinning wide the moment I first saw those little Gremlin-like minions appear on Overlord II’s loading screen. Yeah, this was going to be fun! I went into this sequel with very high hopes, and for the most part, I must say that developer Triumph Studios has delivered. The presentation and level design are all top notch, and just about everything that was problematic with the original game has been tweaked enough to not only eliminate some flaws but to also add some really cool features.

However, notice that I said “for the most part.” There’s a reason for that, a big reason. For all its improvements and additions, Overlord II possesses a nearly fatal flaw: the camera is simply horrible. In fact, it’s so that it can actually affect the gameplay to the point of frustration. Toss in some really annoying glitches, and you have a game that’s only on par with its predecessor instead of above and beyond it. That’s unfortunate, because Overlord II had the potential to really refine the whole minion dynamic into something really great.
Those who played the excellent Raising Hell downloadable add-on for Overlord will remember how things were set up for a sequel. The original Overlord is gone, and his son has been whisked away to the cold north. But no amount of love could make this child grow up normally, and the time has now come to conquer anew. In the absence of evil, a new “Glorious Empire” has arisen and is determined to rid the world of everything magical. The dark minions have retreated underground, and they soon rescue the “witch boy” of Nordburg in order to raise him as the new Overlord. The apple, no matter how rotten, doesn’t fall far from the tree, and the new sire of evil eventually jumps right into his new role. After quickly assembling the initial brown minions and returning to his tower, it’s time to reconquer the world, defeat the empire, and take a mistress or two.
 
Now, please don’t interpret my initial complaint above as an overall reflection of the game. I can’t stress how much I enjoyed Overlord II, and while all this enjoyment came with a heavy price, I consider it to be worth the effort. I was quite pleased to see that most of what made that title so good has remained unchanged. If something’s not broke, why fix it, right? The control and general gameplay is pretty much unchanged from the first game, and players are still required to scour the countryside (including the countryside from the first game) in search of the four minion classes, along with upgrades for the tower. Along the way, weapon and magic upgrades are found, and there’s even a mistress (or three) to be taken. Yes, polygamy is not frowned upon in Overlord II. That shouldn’t be surprising, since the game has players clubbing baby seals to death within the first half hour of play. I’m surprised PETA didn’t boycott the launch.
 
One thing that I never understood about the first game has been remedied. No longer can one choose to become a benevolent overlord. Why they even gave you that option escapes me, as the general theme is one of pure evil (taps fingers together menacingly). That’s all been changed now, and there are only two degrees of evil here: domination and destruction. Either enslave the local populace and have them driven before you or destroy them outright. And yes, you can hear the lamentation of their women. No, seriously, you can. They run all over the place, lamenting and screaming hysterically. It’s quite nice, actually. Either option has its benefits, and the Overlord’s magic and fighting abilities will grow accordingly depending on the choice made. Personally, I have no stomach for making people my slaves, so I chose to wipe them out entirely and raze all traces of their existence from the countryside. Fun!
 
The drama isn’t the only thing that has been expanded. The adventure itself is now simply massive and takes place over several different environments. Players will find themselves doing everything from destroying snowmen in Nordburg to chasing Elven ships near Everlight. The minions themselves have been opened up greatly, and they can now pilot ships or man war machines, such as catapults. Each type can also use a certain type of creature as a mount, adding to the awe of fear and utter coolness that ransacking a town entails. For instance, browns can ride wolves, and greens mount giant spiders. In a word: awesome. The Overlord himself can even become a minion through the possession stone, which sends his essence into the body of one of the little buggers in his service. Several of the puzzles can only be resolved in this manner, which means lots of trial and error, since minions have precious little life force. Thankfully, none of the open doors and defeated enemies respawn should the possessed minion perish, so it’s tempting to explore and try different methods of passing a specific area.
 
As I mentioned, there’s a ton of stuff to upgrade, and it’s always nice to see one’s tower become more and more foreboding as the game progresses. Evil has its rewards, and the different equipment forged by Giblet in the tower adds many useful perks for smiting everything warm and fuzzy. Each of the Overlord’s mistresses brings something different to the castle, and it’s possible to mix and match decorations and items between them.
 
So for all its cleaving and killing goodness, what could possibly be wrong? Quite a few things, actually, but the most glaring problem is the horrible camera. The original Overlord wasn’t free from this defect, but Triumph Studios seemingly went out of its way to make it worse this time around. Maneuvering it manually is a chore, and it has a nasty habit of spinning around as the player runs, coming to rest in front of him. Now, I know the Overlord is a total badass and all, but do I really need to look at him when I’m running at my enemies? The total lack of camera cooperation led me to lose the locations of foes, get stuck behind an ignited powder keg, and even get stuck behind a dropping door, prompting a save reload. Oh yes, did I mention there are some annoying glitches and bugs? Overall, it seems like the game was a bit rushed, a real shame for a title that has everything else going for it.
 
The multi-player suffers from this as well. Despite some really cool co-op and death match modes (split-screen and on Xbox Live), it all seems like an afterthought. I know developers today are pressured for everything to have multi-player, but sometimes it’s better to let it go. The cooperative missions were fun for a while, but like Fable II, Overlord II shines much brighter as a single-player affair.
 
Despite some unfortunate glitches and a horrible camera, Overlord II as a complete package is definitely a game worth playing, especially for those who enjoyed the original. The visuals are stunning, and sending a horde of blood thirsty minions out to rampage and pillage never gets old. I only wish the camera would stop trying to prevent me from enjoying it.
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