Critic Reviews add missing review
Average score: 80% (based on 27 ratings)
Average score: 3.5 out of 5 (based on 34 ratings with 1 reviews)
Overlord creatively mixes ideas from other games to offer players something new and for the most part it succeeds. The "bad guy on the loose"-flair of Dungeon Keeper in combination with the control over an army of expendable, mindless minion creatures as in Pikmin takes the best of two worlds and adds fantasy parody elements à la Shrek. The result is a game that feels fresh and rarely takes itself seriously, inviting players to explore a world, then wreck it and laugh at the hilarious results.
Graphics are pretty and just realistic enough to give players the impression of a living world, but also exaggerated enough to never let them lose sight of the fact that they're playing one big fantasy spoof. Covering many themes and being powered by a capable engine, the surroundings never get boring.
Overlord offers exploration and customisation and at first goes the right way about dangling rewards over players' heads to keep them at it. The game's centrepiece, the evil minions, are perfect in their roles, skittering around, doing their master's bidding and trying hard to keep him amused by offering him the spoils of war and behaving like a bunch of hyperactive gremlins with barely enough discipline to carry out orders.
The game gets interesting as more of the four minion races are unlocked. All come with their own special abilities that sometimes must be combined to clear the way. Not only is it fun to direct a wriggling mass of imps who automatically do what likely is on their master's mind, controls also allow players to single out specialists from the horde and give them explicit orders.
For the major part players are free to go where they want and side quests offer gold, magical artefacts and additional objects to improve weapons, armour and the overlord's tower, making the extra time worthwhile.
Few games allow players to be really "evil", even if "evil" in this case means the clichéd kind of evil we expect from the likes of Ganon, Mother Brain and other famous video game overlords. Ironically, "Overlord", a game the title of which promises exactly that, fails to deliver in the long run.
Although killing peasants, setting fire to their fields and having minions destroy their possessions makes the good populace hostile over time, they simply are no match for the Overlord's wrath and as such stand comparably helpless as their stuff and hard work is ruined over and over. Lucky for them, the Overlord himself is likely to get sick of the procedure more quickly than they because it makes very little difference. So being evil consists of kicking the odd peasant into the dust and destroying possessions and cattle which gets boring over time. But wait, there's killing mighty heroes, right? This being the main quest, what ultimately defies the overlord's "evil" mission is the simple fact that aforementioned heroes who act as the game's boss enemies are much more depraved and hated by their people than the overlord himself. Whether he mows the people down or shows himself a stern ruler, ultimately the overlord rescues maidens, drives out the depraved hordes of those who once defeated him and in order to proceed must take on quests which make the world a better place to live in. Pretending to be evil is all fine and dandy but even so, fighting against people even more evil makes the overlord really what? That's right, a hero.
The game world, although explorable, suffers in scope from being divided into levels between which the game loads. While it is possible to do things that might be regarded as inconsiderate towards the NPCs, the illusion of leaving a lasting impression on the game world is destroyed by the fact that all levels are reset once left and re-entered. It is fun for a while to use amassed riches to customise one's evil lair but in the end even this is just a gimmick to illustrate progress and brings only few real advantages. The fact that players have to return to their lair often doesn't speak for the game, either, as there is a lot of backtracking involved made even harder by the fact that no overworld or region map exists.
The puzzles in Overlord are no real brainteasers and this is where another huge chunk of potential seems to have gone to waste. Very often the solutions are clear from the start and it's the lack of the correct minion type and fiddly controls of smaller minion groups that make tasks really challenging.
What takes even more fun out of minion control is that in order to summon members of each of the four races, exactly the right kind of souls must be collected and brought to exactly the right altars. Especially at the beginning of the game this is a chore because enemies yielding souls for blue or red minions are comparably rare. In case a lot of minions are killed at once (which happens more often than benefits gameplay) and a special race players just lost are needed to clear the way, it's back to an earlier level to gather the right souls, then to the right altar to summon the needed minions and FINALLY back to where they were needed to begin with. The result is a lot more backtracking than necessary and seems like a means to lengthen game time.
The Bottom Line
Overlord works as a witty mixture of two game ideas which come from two of the most creative minds in video gaming. Sadly, it fails to combine and heighten the playability and fun of its predecessors and as such falls short of expectations. Although graphically pretty and with a great sense of humour, Overlord is neither as evil and strategic as Dungeon Keeper nor as playable and clever as Pikmin.
Exploring the world, ordering minions around and laying waste to whole regions is fun for a bit but eventually gets a little boring and lacks the scope and impact one would expect from a true overlord's evil deeds. Overlord still is wittier and funnier than the average action-adventure and worth playing, but it doesn't mercilessly rule a ravaged land from a throne of skulls in a looming tower like it promises.
Windows · by Kit Simmons (249) · 2008