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Daniel Golding
29 Jul, 2008

Overlord: Raising Hell Review

PS3 Review | A game to lord over your friends?
It’s not easy being evil. This, the key premise of Overlord: Raising Hell, has been explored in many facets of popular culture. There’s our fascination with head nasties like Darth Vader, Hannibal Lecter, and recently, The Joker. Then there are those films and books that gain vicarious pleasure from putting the audience in their evil-doers shoes, like the Talented Mr. Ripley series, Taxi Driver, or any of Hitchcock’s work. Surprisingly, however, there have been fewer attempts at having gamers play bad. Sure, there are those role playing games such as Knights of the Old Republic which let you chose an evil path, but fewer games uncompromisingly put you in the position of evil-doer.

Which is precisely why there’s just something about Overlord: Raising Hell that means we can’t put it down. It isn’t a great game, and as we noted in our Xbox 360 review, there are definitely issues which bring the game down. Nevertheless, that the game has a concept successful enough to make us want to overlook the flaws is something in itself, and unusual in gaming.

Overlord: Raising Hell is the PlayStation 3 version of the game that was released for Xbox 360 and PC last year under the Overlord title. The Raising Hell suffix indicates that the PS3 version has come with enhancements: what was originally designated optional downloadable content is now built-in to the PS3 Blu-ray. Raising Hell, therefore, comes with an additional storyline not present in the original, as well as several other enhancements and additions, such as new items, making the game’s lifespan now a hefty proposition.

The Overlord's armour meant that toilet stops frequently held up evil-doing progress.

The Overlord's armour meant that toilet stops frequently held up evil-doing progress.
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The basic gameplay of Overlord is back in full force. The basis for Overlord was simple: you are a head evil-doer in a fantasy land — similar to a Lord of the Rings Sauron-type. It’s your job to wreak as much havok as possible and restore yourself to power. The most unique aspect of the game is the Overlord’s faithful minions, who will attack and sacrifice themselves for you at your every command, as you’re either too lazy or too useless to do the dirty work yourself, although you do possess some magical attacks and the occasional brute smash. Happily, though, this fits in with the popular conception of evil-doers — Darth Vader always waits until the battle is over before making his entrance, and the less said about Sauron’s battlefield presence in The Lord of the Rings, the better. Control of the minions is well-implemented — they’ll intelligently perform commands when told, and if they can’t do it themselves, you can accurately control them yourself. Minions also provide strategy for Overlord: different coloured minions will perform different tasks and have different strengths, and choosing between them is often a loaded decision. They may also be sacrificed for restoration of health or magic, leading to a choice between protagonist and supporting cast.

The tone of Overlord could easily have descended into bleakness, but Triumph Studios never let the game take itself too seriously. Much of the game pokes fun at the traditional nature of evildoer-minion relationships, as idiotic underlings joyously surrender their every will to the Overlord, and townsfolk cower in fear. The humour of the game will either reverberate heartily or be found simple and limited, but it’s successful in its own way. What is perhaps less forgivable is the weak exploration of evil-doing. Though the Overlord is undeniably evil, the game often allows players to let potential victims off without so much as an evil stare thrown in their general direction. Though perhaps the comedic tone allowed the game to receive an M rating from the OFLC, we wouldn’t have minded a more serious exploration of the textbook villain: Overlord just isn’t evil enough.

What a difference a map makes.

What a difference a map makes.
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When we reviewed the 360 version, we had several major gripes, so it's worth revisiting them for a look at an ‘enhanced’ version. The camera was a major issue, and unfortunately, it remains so in the PS3 version. Precise control over your minions has been allocated to the right thumbstick, leaving no room for precise camera control. Though the lock-on system does feel improved over the prior versions, it’s still a pain not to have mastery over your viewpoint. The lack of a map was also a problem with the 360 and PC versions: often, the player would get lost in vast expanses, or become confused as to where the objective was. We’re happy to report that in this case, the developers have listened to feedback and included a very helpful mini-map. Problem solved.

When we looked at the 360 and PC versions of the game, we also weren’t over the moon with the game’s presentation. The visuals were uninspired, slightly derivative, and compared badly with many current-generation games. Likewise, the audio often looped irritatingly, a problem amplified by average voice acting. In this sense, Overlord: Raising Hell is a mixed bag over its predecessors. The audio technical problems have seemingly been solved — characters no longer repeat the same annoying phrases over and over when you aren’t doing what they want you to. Of course, though, the voice acting hasn’t improved in the transition. Graphically, we still more-or-less face the same issues. Though we were told at our hands-on preview in May that the PS3 version had undergone a graphical renovation, we can’t say we noticed. It’s still a visually uninteresting game, and it’s still underperforming for what PS3 titles should, and do look like.

The minions — we still can't decide if they are annoying or funny.

The minions — we still can't decide if they are annoying or funny.
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It’s hard not to think that Overlord: Raising Hell is what Overlord should have been like when first released. The game feels much more solid now than the original, though undeniable issues still persist. But bad voice acting, graphics, and even controls can’t wholly get in the way of enjoying what is essentially a very fine videogame. There’s just something indivisibly enjoyable about being an evil-doer, even a watered-down comedically enhanced one. Control over minions is a great gameplay mechanic, and it’s well implemented, even if it probably is at the expense of camera control.

Awarding Overlord: Raising Hell a score is quite an interesting prospect, as that great big ol’ number down there probably more reflects our enthusiasm for the game in spite of its (mostly reoccurring) flaws. At heart, it’s a good game, and something unlike almost anything else that PS3 owners have at their disposal. On the other hand, we can’t help but be irritated by returning problems that probably could have been ironed out by a more thorough translation between platforms. However, for better or worse, we can’t help but like Overlord: Raising Hell, and we think you will too.
The Score
As a port from 360 and PC, Overlord: Raising Hell has some things going for it, and some things detracting from it — more or less creating equilibrium. As a game, though, there's something forgivably enjoyable about Overlord: Raising Hell. 7
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Overlord: Raising Hell Content

Overlord: Raising Hell competition winners announced
07 Jul, 2008 You too, could soon be raising hell.
Win one of five copies of Overlord: Raising Hell
02 Jun, 2008 We give you permission to raise hell if you win.
Overlord: Raising Hell Preview
16 May, 2008 We go hands on with Overlord on the PlayStation 3.
1 Comment
5 years ago
I have the PC version which gave me heaps of enjoyment till I cleared it ofcourse. I found the minions an ill begotten yet lovable bunch. Its a shame no additional content was provided to the PC.

I am starting to realise why PC owners are geting jipped on DLC - it's because there's predominately no company that pays the developer team to release it just for their system as is the case now, with all these paid for 'exclusives'. The days when devs released massive free download packs for their PC titles are coming to an end. Who could forget Epic's awesome download packs for Unreal Tournament 2004? What did they charge for them? Not a cent.

Now it's all gone the way of the dodo unfortunately.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  27/06/2008 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $109.95 AU
Publisher:
  Atari
Genre:
  Action RPG
Year Made:
  2008

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