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Overlord Review

publisher: Codemasters
developer: Triumph Studios
genre: Action Adventure

CPU 2.4 GHz, 512MB RAM, GeForce FX590/Radeon 9500
ESRB rating: T

release date: Jun 26, 07
» All About Overlord on ActionTrip

It's not very often that this jaded reviewer is surprised by a video game. And yeah, you've guessed it, Sherlock, I was (pleasantly) surprised by Overlord.

The newest game from a Dutch and American game development team known as Triumph Studios (creators of the Age of Wonders series), is a mixture of genres bringing some innovative gameplay conveniently packaged in a familiar wrapping. For those of you who haven't played the demo, Overlord puts you in the iron-clad boots of a wannabe evil mastermind. Awakened from God only knows what, you are reinstalled on your tattered throne and tasked with rebuilding your evil empire. As any decent overlord, you will frown upon doing all the dirty work yourself - which is where your minions come in. These little goblin-like creatures will do your bidding and spread terror across the world as your power increases.

The crux of the game comes down to following the main campaign as you unlock new minion types, rebuild your ominous-looking castle and regain power with mighty spells. As you progress through the story, a number of minion types will become available. The true innovative segment of the game is the exceptional handling of the minions and the fact that they will be your outstretched arm of evil for almost every single challenge in the game.

Roughly speaking, minions will be of the melee (browns), ranged (reds), stealthy (greens) and magical (blues) kind. In addition to each of them being specifically tailored for a certain type of combat, your minions will possess abilities to remove poisonous plants, put out fires, and swim through water. This is closely tied to level puzzles, as certain new areas will only be accessible once a certain minion type has been unlocked.

This being the nitty-gritty of the gameplay, I have to say that the minion path-finding is overall quite good. In addition to being eviliciously adorable and often quite witty with their commentary, these little pointy-eared wrecking balls will smash and tear through just about any target you set for them, while effectively finding their way back to you in some very tricky (programming-wise) environments.

This sort of approach to action gameplay is not particularly common on the market and this is where the bulk of Overlord's innovation comes from. Point being, that Triumph pulls this off quite well, thus laying a solid groundwork for their title.

As you get into the game and start discovering new areas and branches of the storyline, another great feature of Overlord will shine through - the main campaign seems inherently non-linear, which is truly not what I had expected from this game. Of course, this can only be a good thing. I was playing on the part of the elf boss quest when I hit a dead end, so to speak. Going back and revisiting certain other parts of the land that I have discovered, I realized there is a rather lengthy sub-section in one of the areas where you will discover your blue minions. These, in turn, were critical to unlocking the rest of the Eversong story branch. This is just one of the examples and there are numerous others. Players will move back and forth through the main campaign while always coming back to their dark tower as their main hub. There, the court jester will tell tales of your exploits in short and rather amusing catchphrases. You will eventually snag yourself a rather obsessive and needy wench (just the type every overlord needs), and she will teach you how you can redecorate the place to look more sinister than ever, while constantly reminding you with her remarks of her gold-digger mentality.

That said, Overlord is riddled with numerous bits of refreshing and entertaining dark humor. The game is brimming with excellent dialogue and lots of subtle references, which many folks will enjoy. I know I did. The quality of the voice acting and soundtrack is only topped by the intricacy and aesthetic value of the art work.

Now, bear in mind here that, to many, Overlord's art style and overall atmosphere may feel like they've been ripped straight out of a Peter Molyneux game (Dungeon Keeper and Fable especially), but if you want to be lenient about this, you can assume that, say, Triumph was paying homage to Peter's opus. Personally, I embraced the fact that Overlord reminds me so much of Fable and Dungeon Keeper, as we're talking about quality work whichever way you spin it. This becomes quite apparent after fighting a few grotesque yet absolutely hilarious bosses, flesh-eating unicorns and more. The borderline crass dark humor is done with style and class (if what I just said made any sense to you).

The single-player game takes a while to get going fully and it's quite extensive by today's standards. I've been spending quite a bit of hours with Overlord.

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8.6   Very Good

Innovative, solid main campaign, humor, art design, excellent voice acting and more;

Hardware hog, control issues on certain more complex levels, you can't beat up your nagging wife like every self-respecting overlord would.


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