Review by draconobilis

"Fantasy cliches standing on their heads."

Overlord is a gorgeous looking action adventure + RTS (Real Time Strategy) with a sprinkling of RPG element, by the developers ‘Codemasters' who had brought us the amazing ‘Brian Lara Cricket” on Sega Genesis System a decade ago. The game has been released on PC and XBOX 360. The following review is based on the XBOX 360 version, though the game is virtually identical in all aspects on either of the platforms.

The very first thing to know about this game is that it is not, and I repeat NOT your typical run of the mill action adventure where a hero/heroin equipped with most technologically advanced guns/most magical sword in the world, is sent on a quest to vanquish evil, save any distressed damsels if the opportunity presents itself and basically to save the whole universe with a lot of bangs while spouting cheesy one-liners like a bad malfunction with the garden sprinklers. You are not required to save the world, you do not utter a single word during the whole course of the game play… and you are not a hero you see? You are that other guy who lives in Barad dur and commands a whole legion of hellish creatures. Yes you are the Dark Lord. Or more precisely, the Overlord!

When you open your eyes you find your self lying amidst the rubble of a massive tower, suffering from amnesia. A hideous old gremlin introduces himself as ‘Gnarl', one of your ‘minions' and explains that after the ‘Heroes' attacked, plundered and destroyed your tower and left you for dead, it was he who revived you from your fallen state and now you must retrieve the magical artifacts of your tower, start rebuilding the ruins, acquire your magical lore again and once again muster your army of Brown, Red, Blue and Green minions so that you may finally reclaim your position as the great Dark Overlord. Thus begins your quest for the power you lost.

As the Overlord you have access to melee weapons, including Swords and Battle Axes of various temper and properties, and some destructive magic as well, but your real strength lies in the control and manipulation of your four types of minions, which are indispensable for making progress in the game. Each of the four coloured minion types is unique, and there are many such areas in this game which could only be unlocked by minions of a specific type. In order for you to acquire a minion type to use it, you need to complete a small quest each time to retrieve their respective ‘Hives'. Once located, you order your minions to carry those hives to the portal to your tower, and it is very important t escort your laborers through the path to the portal. When the ‘hive' is placed on the portal, it automatically teleports to your tower and in the dungeon at its allocated place.

Brown Minions:

You begin the game with a small troop of five browns under your command. Browns are the soldier minions. They are pretty tough, both strength and stamina wise, and have good discipline. In a fight, they are your strength.

Red Minions:

Reds are next in line to acquire after browns. They are weaker in strength than the Browns, but quite aggressive and have a serious discipline problem. Even when you order them to stand still at a particular place they would still try to take every chance they get to attack people or sheep with their infinite supply of lava rocks. Reds are immune to all kinds of fire and they could also quench fire by sort of drinking it. This makes them very useful in various situations.

Blue Minions:

First and foremost do not forget that the Blues are the ‘weakest' of the four types. No matter if you ordered 20 blues to attack a simple beetle that would be a massacre. BUT they have two such important qualities that you have to keep at least four blues in your legion of minions (maximum limit of which is 50 at a time) ALL the time. First, blues could swim! And in a game where ordinary water from river, lakes, ponds or swamps burns your minions like acid
(though thanks to the smart A.I of the minions they never fall in the water but actually find ways to cross it) the Blues become invaluable soon after you acquire the Blue Minions Hive.

But that is not all. The reason why it is advised to keep a small band of Blues always in your legion is that Blues could resurrect the dead minions! For as long as the death sign of a yellow skull remains intact over the head of a dead minion, you could send a Blue who would quickly pick his fallen brother up, run back to the cover and bring him to life. If you could afford to keep 10-15 blues in your army, you could simply post a guard marker near an enemy and the blue would automatically run into the battle to fetch a dead minion when it would be needed.

Green Minions:

Greens come second in strength after Browns. Though it is a matter of preference, Greens are perhaps the most useful of the four types. Greens are immune to poison. Even a single Green at your command could clear a field covered with thick clouds of noxious poisonous fumes; but what makes them an invaluable asset in a fight is the fact that if posted near the enemy for over ten seconds, the Greens could become invisible. They could also jump high and far, and could cling to an enemy's body or climb up quickly to its head. Greens do a lot of damage to an enemy when latched on to its body and they specially come in handy while facing tall or massive enemies like Trolls or Sea-Serpents.

As your strength grows and you recover more and more stolen artifacts and tower items, new rooms and spells become available and both your Health and Mana receive considerable boost. The tower is customizable to an extent that it visually transforms from a decadent ruin into a menacing and intimidating abode befitting a Dark Lord… with spikes on the outside and torture room, Dungeon and black carpet on the in side. At a certain point in the game you are given a choice to remain either completely faithful with your old mistress or dump her for a better looking and more sinister one. Depending on your choice you'll receive options to customize your tower and upgrade two of the four of your minion types with upgrades and powers unique to either of the two women.

Your Forge is a very important and useful part of your tower where you could make new armour and weapons or upgrade existing by using your minions, literally. You order your minions to jump into various smelters that you have retrieved, in order to imbue your armour and weapons with special attributes.

The Dungeon in the tower is basically an Arena where almost those enemy types are available to fight whom you've defeated. Since you can not use your magic in the dungeon, it is the best place to hone your strategic as well as combat skills to sharper points and receive tons of brown, red, blue and green essence as a reward.

The control scheme for this game is quite innovative, albeit a little unusual. When you need to control the movement of your horde or even a single minion at times for a specific purpose, you must control the movement of your character as well. This takes a little bit of time getting used to, but it never becomes a frustrating problem.

The camera offers both the generic Third-Person Perspective and a pulled back overhead view a la Metal Gear series, which are useful in different situations.

The game is alive with almost all conceivable fairytale creatures from fantasy genre , no matter if they are Unicorns, Giants, Ogres, Dwarves, Elves, Satyrs, Succubae, undead creatures like Zombies and Skeletons or Halflinsgs (Hobbits). The obvious homage has been paid to Professor Tolkien's Lord of the Rings mythos but the influence of Shakespeare's ‘A Midsummer Night's Dream' could also be observed. The seven major bosses that you have to defeat in order to finish the main storyline are symbolic representations of the Seven Cardinal Sins in Christianity, namely : Gluttony, Envy, Rage, Sloth, Lust, Pride and…….However the concept of the four coloured minions and their respective powers seems to be directly ‘inspired' by the game Pikmin released on GameCube.

You also have a choice to play as Bad-good (kind of a benevolent despot) or a full fledge Evil Lord. You are awarded Corruption points when you do a truly evil deed and at the end of the game you receive any of the six possible endings of this game, depending upon the percentage of your Corruption.

Overlord is a game of decent length and would prove to be a very enjoyable experience. The ‘Achievements' system of Xbox 360 adds a lot of replayabillity to this game as well.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 12/25/07

Game Release: Overlord (US, 06/26/07)

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