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Jason Picker
30 Jul, 2009

Overlord II Review

PS3 Review | They're baaaaack.
We have a soft spot for the original Overlord and its expansion pack, Raising Hell. Never taking itself too seriously, Overlord played a lot like an elf-hating version of Pikmin, while liberally ‘borrowing’ elements from a number of other genres and mixing them together with enough offbeat humour for a satisfying experience. While it still featured some pretty obvious shortcomings, these were – on the whole – balanced out by the very high 'fun-factor' the game was able to offer to the player. This tradition continues in Overlord II.

First of all, let us say that any game that takes a swing at over-the-top environmentalists and feminists by rewarding you with a trophy for killing baby seals and letting you have multiple ‘mistresses’ in your castle is okay by us. This is one of the highlights of the Overlord series… not the killing baby animals and having orgies part, but the politically incorrect sense of humour. In this day and age, it’s refreshing to see a game that makes light of the virtual death and destruction you are causing, rather than making you feel either corrupt or holier than thou for the morale choices you make. We have our real lives for that.

PALGN's Christmas party is often a debaucherous affair.

PALGN's Christmas party is often a debaucherous affair.
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In Overlord II, you start the game as an outcast who was dumped at the gates of a small town, and is now taunted by the locals for being different. It might have something to do with your evil, growing eyes and your inclination to club anything that moves, but kids can be so mean. Soon enough, your true destiny is revealed as you become the omnipotent overlord tasked with rebuilding your empire and generally making being bad look so damn good. However, another empire has risen between the downfall of the last Overlord and your upbringing in Hicksville. A well organised imperial-type race (which bears more than a passing similarity to the Romans) stands in your way of world domination. To take back what’s not yours, you must attack towns, solve puzzles, bash enemies into submission and collect trinkets that help increase your ungodly powers.

However, your overlording is largely a hands-off affair and tends to be done through your ability to control evil little gremlin-like creatures known as minions. Think of Overlord as a Kevin Rudd simulator where you are the PM. You tell your public servants (minions) to do something, they do it at their peril, and you gain all the benefit of any success. However, unlike public servants, the minions have interesting personalities and continue to be one of the highlight of the series. Although many of their sayings and animations are largely recycled from the previous game, they still remain very cute, in a psychotic, stab-you-in-the-leg kind of way. Our favourite is when they excitedly find loot, hold it up to the sky and proclaim in their Gollum-like voices “Treasure!” It's funnier than it sounds.

Responding to the criticism of the last game, minions now have their own names, and if one of your favourite minions who you've nurtured and equipped with some cool weapons and clothes happens to die in battle, you can resurrect them in your castle by sacrificing other minions. While this is good in theory, the personalities of the minions are too similar to make you feel close to them. Perhaps if there were less minions needed to complete the game, and if they could become a lot stronger or evolve in personality, you’d be more inclined to want to resurrect them. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case and most players will simply use them as cannon fodder.

That baby seal looked at me funny. Kill it!

That baby seal looked at me funny. Kill it!
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Gameplay is largely the same as the first game. With minions at your beck and call, you travel very linear paths to unlock new areas of the map, fighting enemies and solving puzzles along your merry way. These puzzles largely revolve around use of your minions, of which there are four kinds. Your brown minions are melee fighters, the greens are good at ambushing enemies from behind, the reds lobs fireballs and the blues can swim and absorb magic-goo-stuff. Predictably, you start with only one of the four types (the browns) and have to find the other types along the way. It’s a well-worn convention whereby previously inaccessible paths can be unlocked by finding new unit types, but it's one that works well here.

Some changes have also been made to mix the core gameplay up a bit. For a start, most of your minions can commandeer animals and insects to perform certain tasks. The browns, for example, can ride on the back of wolves and jump across large ravines to use otherwise inaccessible levers and reach treasure, while your greens can ride on the back of spiders to incy-wincy their way up webs. While the game makes it pretty obvious where you need to use these creatures, it does mix things up nicely. Another addition to the gameplay involves finding magical-stone-hand-things that enable you to possess the body of a minion (as you do). This in turn gives you access to parts of a level your fat and pampered overlord butt can’t go. In this diminutive state you are much more vulnerable to attack, and as you can only take a certain number of minions with you, it forces you to be more careful and adds a nice level of strategy to the game.

Your castle, which acts as your base of operations, largely works the same as in the previous game. You can build new weapons and armour by sacrificing minions in your forgery's smelter and you can impress your mistress/mistresses by buying new ornaments for the castle (an accurate representation of real life – am I right men? High fives!). From your throne, you can view your quests and can grant an audience to locals who give you information and want things in exchange (such as sharing your mistress with them). However, accepting or declining these side-missions doesn't tend to make much difference to the game. The castle also has an area that gives you greater control over your magic. Unfortunately, the castle is again divided into a number of areas which makes it a bit cumbersome to get around, with each section taking a good 20 seconds to load.

Not so incy, wincy spider.

Not so incy, wincy spider.
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Some of the faults of the previous Overlord game have strangely not been rectified for the second outing. The camera is particularly troublesome. There are two equally useless perspectives to choose from and you’ll often have to manually wrestle with the camera to make it work. At times it feels like you’re trying to pull a shark into a boat through a keyhole. The visuals also continue to be a mixed bag. We’d honestly thought this game would improve graphically this time around, but not so. The PlayStation 3 version looks almost the same as the original game, especially early on where many of the textures are either washed out or over-saturated with light. This, combined with other graphical problems, can make it hard to tell the difference between a treasure chest and a fallen branch. Many of the character animations continue to be unnatural and some of the clipping issues where one object (usually a minion) is stuck on (or in) another object is enough to give you an aneurysm.

Yet the game overcomes its flaws with simple and effective gameplay that combines action, adventure, resource management, and other RPG-lite elements. It also uses the ageless strategy of keeping the best gear and upgrades just out of your reach, always giving you something extra to aim for. Add to this the oodles of good (and bad) humour that keep it fresh and distinct from the run-of-the-mill games on the market and you have a pretty good package. What Overlord really has in its favour that many of the ‘better’ games don’t have is the rather high fun-factor. You play this game for fun, not to simulate any real life experience or emotion. Call it a guilty pleasure, but despite its many flaws, Overlord II rises above mediocrity by keeping it simple and keeping it fun. It's a lesson that many other games could take onboard.
The Score
Despite remaining very similar to its predecessor and with a number of ongoing flaws that have yet to addressed, Overlord II still managed to largely overcome these shortcomings with a unique sense of humour and an undeniably high fun-factor.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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16 Feb, 2008 More minions for the cause.
9 Comments
4 years ago
I would give it 9.Funny game, damn fun game.Few minor problems but when the game is so fun, those minor problems are EASILY overlooked.It's just plain simple fun and these days I prefer that over blockbuster games with a billion features, realism and too much of a serious nature.


A game like this imo is refreshing.
4 years ago
First caption - I'm assuming you are referring to debauchery, so that would be a debaucherous affair. icon_smile.gif
4 years ago
MrAndyPuppy - the importance of running a spell-check can never be under-estimated...and I didn't. Thank you and corrected.
4 years ago
I'd give it a 7/10... apart from the graphics being incredibly horrendous (PS2 stuff here people), I also found the camera to be incredibly annoying, the controls unresponsive and the difficulty to be incredibly varied (some areas are incredibly easy while others are almost impossibly hard). What this game has going for it is its art style, humour and a sense of variety in gameplay (some of the time).
4 years ago
Jason Picker wrote
MrAndyPuppy - the importance of running a spell-check can never be under-estimated...and I didn't. Thank you and corrected.
_________________
“It's not that I'm lazy; it's that I just don't care.”
Had to be quoted because of the appropriateness of your tagline. icon_smile.gif
4 years ago
djrussell wrote
apart from the graphics being incredibly horrendous (PS2 stuff here people)
WTF? Are we playing a different game? i'm playing it on PC and it looks fine to me. Never played the original but i'm loving this, it is a pleasant surprise.
4 years ago
Yeah it's pretty ugly on PS3
4 years ago
quote="review"]The browns, for example, can ride on the back of wolves and jump across large ravens[/quote]
Woah, Raven jumping sounds awesome!! Way better than the ravines you usually see in games these days...
4 years ago
Ah sarcasm, the poor cousin of wit. Fixed. We also won't mention that floating code in your comment... icon_smile.gif
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  9/07/2009 (Confirmed)
Publisher:
  Atari
Genre:
  Action Adventure
Year Made:
  2008

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