Overlord (360) – Review

Overlord - CoverOverlord, developed by Trimuph Studios and distributed by Codemasters, is a game in the same vein of play like Pikmin, a mix of a third-person fantasy hack-and-slash and minimal RTS elements.  The game is pretty fun, offering puzzles and monsters that are just right in difficulty, an entertaining story, and plenty to do outside of the main plot with only minimal problems.

Story: B+

You start the story, apparently risen from the dead by Gnarl, a chief minion in a dark tower in a faraway land.  Gnarl helps you to reacquaint yourself with the tower, which you are apparently the Evil Overlord of, but the tower’s fallen into disrepair.  With his help, you start to get back minion hives, a necessity for getting the tower operational again; along the way, you’ll gain a mistress, save humans from the pesky halflings, free elves from their dwarven slave masters, and put down a few unicorns or two.  However, there seem to be people that seem to recognize you and don’t expect you to be wandering around, suggesting a much more evil plot working behind the scenes.

The story is primarily told through Gnarl’s voiceovers with in-game engine cut-scenes, and does have a few leaps of logic in terms of its plot.  The writing style is just twisted enough to make it humorous, but I think they could have gone a bit further in the humor taking on a Tolkien-esque world in full parody.

Gameplay: A-

Overload - In-game screenshotOverlord definitely feel like it has its roots in Pikmin.  While your character is armored and can swing a weapon, the bulk of the work is going to be done by your minions.  There are four types of minions in the game identified by their color.  Browns are your strongest fighters but otherwise lack any other abilities.  Greens can hide and ambush enemies from high and can resist and defuse poison plants.  Reds lob fireballs at your foes and also can withstand and put out fires.  Blues are the weakest fighters but the only type that can cross water, can fight magical beings, and regenerate downed minions.  As you fight monsters in the game, you’ll gain lifeforce of each of the different colors to store up for your minions, so that if you run out of minions of a certain color, you’ll have to go fight some monsters of the right type to get it back.

Using a limited number of minions generated from spawn points scattered throughout the levels, you need to solve puzzles and defeat foes in order to perform various tasks in order to bring your tower back to serviceable level.  Commonly, you’ll need to open up a pathway to bring back an object after working your way through a section; effectively, you create a shortcut after each little mission to make getting around easier.  Sometimes you’ll need to have your minions operate push-wheels to open doors or extend bridges, take down barriers, or have them carry the tower items with a minimum number of minions back to the nearest waypoint (warp point back to the tower).  Many cases, you yourself cannot move in the same areas the minions can, and so you have to use “sweeping” with the right thumbstick to direct the minions to their target or to navigate a maze-like area.  You can also instruct one minion at a time to a target if you don’t want to risk the entire group.  You have the ability to select minions of one color type as well, as for example, if you try to sweep the entire group across water, you’ll lose all but the Blues.  You can also create waypoints for minions to stay at, either to prevent them from moving, or in some cases for a tactile advantage such as for Greens to ambush a creature.  At the end of the day, the controls for managing your minions is pretty easy to get used to, and to me, much easier than Pikmin‘s control scheme.

Overlord - Graphics and MinionsAlong the way, you’ll find lots of boxes and crates, and similar items, which if you sweep your minions through, they will demolish and grab anything they can.  Besides health, mana, and gold for you, they will find weapons and armor for themselves; they’ll also grab the same off any monsters that drop this stuff and wear it immediately.  This will increase their overall power (based on a percentage over 100% of the base minion power) though they will still easily die.  In addition, you gain a number of spells (4 different ones, but with various upgrades in the game), some that help your minions, some that are more for you to do direct damage with.

The game presents missions to you, though missions generally require performing other duties to complete.  For example, one mission you get early on is to destroy 5 orbs that control an evil being, but only 2 of these can be accessed with what you have when you get the mission; the others require you to find all the hives of the minions (so that you can spawn them), along the way gaining other items for your tower.  The general solution to the game is mostly linear though there are some tower items that you can skip to continue the plot, but in general, it is straight-forward.  That’s not to say that the game does not allow for non-linear play: you can revisit any areas you can access before to stock up on minion life-force, acquire gold and weapons for your minions, and the like, but in general, you need to complete certain tasks in a given order to complete the game.  There’s points throughout the game where you are presented with an obvious choice between two options, one more-or-less less evil than the other, such as either killing unicorns around a sacred tree or burning the tree down.  These lead to a corruption level which will affect some aspects of the game, but two of the more significant Achievements in the game are to complete the game fully uncorrupted, or to complete it fully corrupted.  It would have been nice to have an in-game map of how the various levels are connected; there is a map that comes with the game manual, but it’s much easier to check where things are on screen.

Along the way, you’ll gain tower items, which includes columns that increase your health, mana, and maximum number of minions that you can spawn at any time, and the spells that you use in the game.  There’s smelters that will allow you to create better armor and weapons for yourself, with the ability to sacrifice minions into the item you’re smelting in order to increase the benefits of the item.  Acquired gold can be used to “spruce up” the tower along with a couple of options to help increase your minions’ default power.  The tower also features a challenge pit where you can try to defeat a rather sizable horde of a single foe with a fixed number of minions.

Probably the biggest nit of gameplay is that because of the sweep control, you lose a camera view control.  This can make for cases where you are hit from behind, or you’re trying to control your minions while moving around and have them end up in the water.  There’s a quick camera spin control that does help when you know where to look, but it’s not the easiest replacement.  Outside of that, the single player experience is very good.  There’s a few puzzles but these are generally easy to figure out.  The monster difficulty is about right; early monsters are easily “swept” over with your horde, but later foes need you to use the colored minions wisely.  There’s a handful of bosses in the game, basically creatures with a lot more hit points than usual foes, though generally have certain attack patterns.

There are multiplayer features over Xbox Live, though I’ve only played a couple games of them – the servers are rather empty otherwise.  Each mode uses your Overlord and minions in the same style as the single player game.  A Co-op survivor mode has you and your friend lasting as long as possible against a near-infinite army of foes.  The competitive modes include Pillage, where you trying to loot with your minions while taking loot from your foe, and Slaughter, where you try to take down the other Overlord while he does the same to you.  The games seem like fun, but as there’s no way to really try them out without having  actual opponents, it’s hard to tell how well these last as there’s only a couple maps for each game type.

Value/Replayability: B+

The single player campaign took me about 15 hours to complete, feeling maybe just a tad long by the last couple hours, but still a game with good length.  The added features of the tower along with the various Achievements in single player give some legs to the game.  It’s unfortunately that the game seems to be suffering from poor sales as the multiplayer seems to be interesting.

Graphics: A-

Besides a bit excessive on the bloom, the game looks pretty good; much of it reminds me of an improved version of Fable in how it’s designed. There’s notable slowdowns on some cutscenes when a lot is going on and a few hints of the same in the game, but most of it runs fine.  The design is a bit tight at times, but you have both a low-view and high-view camera that you can toggle between.

Audio: B+

The sounds are mostly atmospheric with a few hints of music when you complete key tasks; environmental sounds are done well however.  The voice actings ok, but a few parts could have done with a bit more enthusiasm.

Overall: A-

Overlord may not be a A-list title for the 360, but it is a fun game that takes the Pikmin gameplay mechanics in a new direction.  Controls work well and makes it a pretty good pick-up-and-go game and has a good single-player campaign that’s just about the right length.  I think if you enjoyed either Pikmin or at least enjoyed that type of approach to gameplay, this game will definitely be right up your alley.

2 Responses

  1. No cheats so it sux

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