Review by Stabby

" For a game that doesn't try to be serious, one can still get a serious amount fun from playing"

With the whole wave of video games for the so called "next generation" of gaming whether it's hyped up feature come in the form of epileptic inducing graphics, ear drum bursting sound effects, wrist cracking motion sensing or pretentious story/visual appeal that claims to be "art" developers appear to have forgotten that games were supposed to be a fun form of pass time. Now don't get me wrong, as "interesting" all the above are, notably to the "next (next in line) generation" of gamers who didn't grow up with actual games for fun and fun only its becoming harder for a game to claim its all about gaming but then fails with either bugs, graphics close to have been drawn by toddler with rickets or a game with ends the moment you close the console tray... but enough ranting, my point it finally here, Overlord ACTUALLY proves to be the crazy fun bit of gaming we haven't seen in a long time.

Overlord is a so-called "action RPG that merges first person adventure with real time strategy while retaining the structure of a role play" or whatever cheesy sounding selling point the market can make. You take control of the nameless warrior referred to throughout as the "Overlord" (didn't see that coming!) or if you want to be a proper nerd "what Sauron might have looked like during his college years". After being resurrected by a small band of "minions" (or gremlins) it is your job to raise from the rubble and take over the land before you via a swarm of mindless gremlin minions that come in many forms... well just four but I'm trying to sound like the hype mentioned earlier. Your job is to be evil, and by evil I mean doing to dirty work against all that has pissed you off from previous fantasy games. That's right, the drunken dwarves? OFF-ED! The petty humans? BOW AT YOUR FEET! The fat Halflings? STARVED! The pompous Elves? OH BOY, YOU'LL SEE! Finally you can take all that irritated you in Lord of the Rings and kick it in the crotch. Sounds like a convincing game formula? We shall see...

Lets get passed the boring aspect shall we? With games like Gears of War, Shadow of the Colossus, Medal of Honor and Name of name of the name we see a real emphasis on both roaring collateral damage and orchestrated background music, it kind of puts the whole game in motion. Overlord on the other hand... erm... its not that it doesn't have music just music that you'll identify as back noise to keep the game from being boring when you're not in combat. Not bad, and it does fit the style of the game quite well (and I'm not even 100% sure what that is) but you can and probably already have heard better music. However the voice acting on the other hand? Now when I build that up I didn't mean it was of Oscar standards but it sure does add charm and humour. Most of the talking will be through narration of your sinister adviser, moaning foes and of course your down right dim-witted minion horde. They'll laugh, scream and chant in your presence and not only does it create a sense of humour but will make you feel all the more superior that any overlord should feel. There is plenty of toilet humour and childish doings with a shade of black comedy to them, which is a hit or miss depending on your opinion. For a title that clearly isn't trying to be the next pretentious "artist video game" you should appreciate to effort.

Let me cut to the chase. Its no pretty picture or cinematic masterpiece but its enough for a 360 title. The landscape looks like everything you've seen before but a little more updated. Character models are interesting and the world before you is full of life or scenery (ready to tear down, which is always a beautiful thing for games!). Of course you will see a lot better in the 360 range but that isn't to say its torture to watch. Now here's the thing that has put the game on the map: is it buggy/glitchy? Yes... like EVERY SINGLE GAME I'VE PLAYED its buggy. After one play through I encountered the following in terms of technical problems:
- The odd minion got stuck behind things
- Text on screen long before voices actually play out
- The brief moment of half the sound effect tuned out
But for a 360 game, a console that has been noted for the infamous red lights of catching doom, it's no different and let me set the record straight.

"IGN US either played a damaged copy, used a damage machine or reviewed the production title because their claims of a game stopping, game breaking bug aren't true for me, Gamespot, other critics and just about every gamer you'll meet."

Frame rate is usually set but you can change to an overhead view or press LT to face you character third person view. While not the best form it's still usable.

To ability to control minions sounds fun right? In short yes, but of course there's a lot more to it. In terms of the proclaimed "RTS" element, it is in a way. You can sweep them all in, hold certain minions back, direct them around terrain and lure you foe. While not a real major kind of strategy we're used to like PC games, it still interesting enough to say, "I command all that". And trust me it does help. Your minions will do most of the fighting but if you feel like it you can cast the odd fireball or swing the odd hand held weapon to enforce your dominance against the enemy, hence is being the action element. But you will just forward your army and enjoy as they climb over and beat their enemy to the dirt before scurrying back to you with spoils of war presented before you. Now comes the RPG element. You can't customise your character's look like Oblivion and the few options you get just improve your character's and horde's skill than look but then again it's all about the minions. You can customise your tower, but only so much so don't expect the whole Sims 2 package but your actions in the game will change things. The prime source of the RPG element is the option to do MOST (not all) missions in your own order and own way. While a lot of them don't sound so evil, in fact they sound as good as it gets you can help your ego by beating the quest giver or taking the treasure/goal for yourself so you can get REALLY evil at times that renders your castle and character's look (light of dark) and how the friendly AI reacts when around you whether that be with Godly praise, resentful bitterness or fearful grovelling (always the best one) and finally will change your final game ending. You will encounter God knows how many boss fights, all of them with interesting character and action that come up without warning so be on your guard... but you have minions to do that for you. As for multiplayer it's hard to describe since it depends on whom you're playing with. Overlord is more of a single player experience personally.

Game time various but with me I spent a full week playing before the final credits. You'll explore 4 different landscapes with plenty to do (destroy) and characters to meet (kill) with different paths and endings to allow one to replay. If you're looking for something lengthy and different in a fantasy adventure with a plausible amount of difficulty then you should get your money's worth, which is good considering 360 titles seem a little over priced these days.

There's no game like it. Overlord is an original concept that works in its own way. Being original it will probably be a hit or miss but due to the fantasy background, it should be a clear market target audience. If you like adventure games without the need to be the next groundbreaking masterpiece, then you should ATLEAST play the demo or rent it. Overlord is a fun game that doesn't try to hard in the "innovation fad" and because of that succeeds in the sort of game it is which is all about wit and game play. If you've had enough with seriousness and want to get back to what made games great then Overlord should supply you with whatever your lacking in game terms whether it be the need to just play and not get carried away with story or "art value" or if you want to water your dried up ego in terms of feeling a sense of power and dominance. Overall, Overlord is a solid game, while not perfect its worthy enough to be apart of the so called "next generation" while focusing on being its own kind of game and style instead of a predictable rehash of previous titles.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 07/11/07

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