Over and Over: Overlord II Impressions

By Kieron Gillen on July 1st, 2009 at 5:02 pm.

Hot

It’s about ten minutes in the game and I’m presented by quite the sight. Hearing footsteps on the stairs, I shout to drag the Lady into the room. “Hey! Look at this”. I continue what I’m doing, before glancing over at her distinctly disapproving face. “You have just killed the Labrador of the seas,” she says coldly, then walk out the room. I can see the future. It is a lonely future. It’s a future which may drive a man to evil. Which is lucky, as I’m the right place.

What’s the problem? I’m just going clubbing.

Too hot

Seal clubbing!

And here’s my little boys, gathered around, beating the hell out of those cute-eyed little fellas.

Dying

In the few hours I’ve played with Overlord II – and, to its credit, more than I thought I’d play as I was aiming this to be one of the One Hour Impressions Things – it really is picking up where the last left off. In other words, you can read my review of the 360 version of the last and transfer it across. I admit, I wasn’t expecting to see a sequel when I reviewed it – an opinion some people in the comments thread voiced too. Third person slightly-quirky action/puzzle/RPG game with fantasy comedy doesn’t exactly scream something that would find a sequel-worthy audience. Except it did perfectly well, and Triumph Studios – who, in case you didn’t know, were the people behind the Age of Wonders series – had a minor hit on their hands.

For all the tweaks to the formula – and Overlord II is the sort of game which opens up its tweaks as it progresses, so the Devil knows what else awaits deeper in – it’s fundamentally the same game. Those who were turned away from Overlord’s approach to its subject will be just as dissatisfied here. The idea being, you’re an evil overlord trying to conquer the world. As well as your biffing abilities, you’ve got (eventually) four brands of goblin-esque helper to order around. The reservation people had was… well, in a world of GTA, you weren’t that evil. In fact, most of the time you were being treated as a hero. Which was occasionally of the game’s vague satirical angle – in that, really, there’s little difference between an overlord’s behaviour and any abstract heroes, and seeing the villagers treat this hulking armoured monster was pretty funny. While it doesn’t do anything in that area, it’s clear that we’re still dealing with – to re-use my phrase – the pantomine of evil. The tongue is still firmly in its cheek, as the comic seal-clubbing shows.

It’s changed a little. Rather than just one-size-fits-all evil or EVIL, you lean towards a style. That is, either dominating them and making them serve you (the Rossignol option) or the just smash everything up in a rage (the Meer). For example, to take your first proper spell, it wracks people in Emperor-Star-Wars esque pain. Release it when they get on their knees to turn them into a slave, who follows behind your pack of minions like a persuadatron-influenced citizen from Syndicate. Maintain it to – er – kill them. Other tweaks are similarly minor – for example, you can get mounts for your minions. I only got the wolves for my basic brown fighters, but it allows you to charge otherwise tricky legionaries, jump over gaps and look really rather cute (Yet again, the adorable nature of your mob is the game’s strongest card). There’s an experience point system for each of your individuals, meaning they get more powerful – and when they die, you can sacrifice lesser goblins to get your favourites back.

Send water

The weapon forging system has been reworked, with a slowly expanding shopping list of stuff craft back in your mansion (the game alternates between the mostly-linear levels and the hub castle which you hang around and improve). There’s a general graphical upgrade, with the levels showing more imagination in the visuals (For example, in your castle, while I could do without the micro-cut-scenes when you choose to do something, the architecture is gleefully extreme). I even realise that some of the things I was going to be hard on was an improvement over Overlord. For example, the in-game map isn’t that great. Then I read my review to discover the original didn’t even have an in-game map. And I let them get away with that? I must have been soft in my young age.

So: it’s an improved version of the game. I suspect I’m not going to play any more of it, as while a step on, it’s not enough of a step for me to re-devote myself to it. Its biggest new feature – split screen co-op! Even on the PC! – is something I’m not going to talk the Lady into, at least not now after The Seal Incident. While some of its problems remain – camera is a bit duff, it’s a touch too linear, it’s not quite as funny as it thinks it is – though even a lot of that subsumes into a general sense of affection for its quirks rather than hilarity – it’s probably of most interest to those who fancied Overlord, but haven’t got around to it yet. Fancy a go? Get this one. It’s 2009ier.

(Or – y’know – crazy Overlord fans, who’ll have bought it anyway.)

It’s too hot to write any more. I’d sign a pact with a dark lord to steal the golden persecutor from the sky.

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51 Comments »

  1. Flappybat says:

    Improved version of game really is the only thing to put about it. It still just lacks something, not quite enough variety or replayability and some annoying puzzles.

  2. superking208 says:

    The main difference I’ve noticed is the bloom. I mean, WOW, that’s just excessive.

  3. Dominic White says:

    So, another lengthy Overlord article/review/whatever without ever mentioning Pikmin?

    It’s like everyone goes out of their way to avoid mentioning the game it’s a direct clone of.

  4. MrBejeebus says:

    The only thing I’ve ever been interested in in these games was the awesome goblins, the part about keeping goblins etc had me (almost) sold.

  5. Paul Moloney says:

    I played the demo on the XBox 360 (hey, don’t look at me like that) and got bored literally within 5 minutes. Tutorials can be necessary sometimes, but this one spent that 5 minutes teaching me how to walk around. Dinner intervened, and I haven’t gone back.

    P.

  6. Kieron Gillen says:

    Dom: I forgot to mention Pikmin. I thought I had! I did in the review I linked it to.

    KG

  7. Flobulon says:

    MUCH too hot.
    Anyway, I just checked to see if there was a demo on steam, downloading it now. I’ve always like games which let me have minions.

  8. The_B says:

    I love it. And I am not ashamed to admit that.

    I won’t deny it isn’t a perfect series – and so far in the second one the camera is causing me some massive bouts of fury (hot weather not helping) but I must say, it’s charm and indeed personality – if you can give games that – is very charming, and I do like it a lot.

    And I defy anyone not to smile at the point in the first level when you dress up your minions as children and they start singing Ring Around the Rosie. It’s now my ringtone.

  9. Alaric says:

    I played for a few hours last night, and although a little crude, the game is fun. My biggest complaint is about the shitty console graphics. I mean come on, that’s just plain bad.

  10. Gpig says:

    Well, that’s the best “after the jump” RPS has had.

  11. Howard says:

    Have been playing this the last few days (or I was till my damned GFX card blew up…) and yeah, Overlord+ seems to fit. Only thing of note so far was that I thought the training area, where you play as a the Pre-Overlord kid, was slightly more fun and original than the actual levels. Maybe it will pick up again later.

  12. Turin Turambar says:

    It’s almost the same game. Bleh. I won’t extend myself a lot: i find it just boring.

  13. Pijama says:

    This seems good.

    But sadly, it wakes my “I WANT A THIRD DUNGEON KEEEEEEEEEEEPEEEEEER” self, which I do have some trouble controlling.

    Ah, hell. Excuse me while I jump the window.

  14. Flappybat says:

    They really should use all of the art and style from Overlord to make a Dungeon Keeper remake.

  15. Heliocentric says:

    I’ve always loved being a minion master. This game was lovely, if only minion control was this good elsewhere. But i will be getting this on sale after playing the demo.

  16. Optimaximal says:

    I still want to like the original, but why are all the minions the same, but different colours? Why not develop them as different unique creatures?

  17. lethial says:

    I have been reading reviews for this game, but none of them touched on the PC control of the game. Is it the same as the first one?
    While the first game had a lot of charms, the controls for the minions felt very clumsy. Why can’t the PC control interface be point-n-click based? :(

    (I doubt that the PC version of Overlord II uses point-n-click interface for minion control, so has the system at least improved over the first one? Maybe better AI for the minions?)

    thanks a lot

  18. Kieron Gillen says:

    AI’s a bit better. Most reviewers seem to think the PC version of control is better -and definitely better than the console one. I admit, I didn’t play it with the mouse and keys. I played with a controller.

    KG

  19. jackflash says:

    I played the demo for both these games but it never felt interesting to me. The whole concept just made me miss the original Dungeon Keeper and wish there had been good sequels made.

  20. Ian says:

    Adore the idea, but the execution of the first one left me mostly cold. The minions were ace, and I did like the setting but there was something missing and I couldn’t quite work out what.

    @ Kieron: So we know the Roosignol and Meer approaches to evil, what about Walker?

  21. Sombrero says:

    Should I play it if I haven’t played the first?

  22. Alex says:

    As a proud Canadian, I’m offended that clubbing seals would be included as an ‘evil’ act. Unless there’s a level where you force-feed a goose.

  23. Tei says:

    I have buy a XBox 360 control pad solelly to play this game.
    But I can’t have a “real” opinion just now, because I found the pad very strange as a control system. Soo strange that the game aparently has to tell you what button do what thing. Imagine a PC game where for every location you have to jump show the text “Press [Space] to jump”. Yea, you can see that thing in a tutorial, like in the Half-Life one. But Overlod have that… in *all* the game. And is really needed, because the pad is full of buttons. But yea, again, maybe is me. I used to play with a joystick in the Commodore 64 and the Atari 2600. These joystick only have one button. This one (the XBox 360) has a lot of buttons, so of course, is confusing to me.
    The drivers are also poorly coded, I have installed the officials from the CD-ROM and today my computer has show a strange message about “USB HUB full of devices”. It seems teh XBox 360 drivers has created a infinite ammount of instances of himself (maybe failing to detect itself and running again). I have never see something this bad with a USB device. Other than a cheap camera that mostly don’t work…

    And about the game controls. Theres something like a analogic pad on the Xbox 360 pad that is used in this game to control the movement of the horde ( it feels somewhat like controlling then with a mouse). To do that in the PC you have to fight with the mouse1/mouse2 and have a blue moon.. and anyway, you rotate crazyly… Is a pain to control the horde with the mouse. So for most stuff seems better the mouse+kb, but theres 1 essential control on the game, that his better with the bad.

  24. Lintman says:

    @lethial – Overlord plays a hell of a lot better on the PC using an Xbox controller rather than mouse/keyboard. I bought one specifically for this game, but got further use out of it with other console port games (ie: Lego Star Wars, and Viva Pinata for my kids)

    They designed the game to basicaly have simulataneous, independent joystick control of both your overlord and the minions. The mouse/keyboard doesn’t emulate that well, and re-adapting the control interface to fit better probably wasn’t in the budget for the PC port. My guess is that they probably didn’t splurge on that for Overlord II, either. Many console ports barely even support mouse-based game setup menus.

  25. Skalpadda says:

    I bought it two days ago and I’m liking it a lot so far. The biggest improvement for me is that your minions aren’t as prone to committing suicide anymore, and I haven’t had one get stuck or lost on obscure scenery yet either (if you just walk away from them they return to the spawning pit anyway).

    Also, I haven’t run into any bosses who suddenly killed half my minions with AoE attacks with so little warning that it was impossible to call them off in time, but I’m not far in at all and I suppose it’s just a matter of time..

    What turned me off the original a bit were the frustration of some of the boss fights and the sometimes retarded minion AI, and since they seem to have improved on that a lot I hope I’ll have lots of fun with this one. As The_B said above it’s got lots and lots of charm, even though the humour is very hit and miss, it works most of the time.

    I’ve also never seen another game where the actual act of smashing and looting is so much :)

  26. MadTinkerer says:

    “and when they die, you can sacrifice lesser goblins to get your favourites back”

    YES. Finally an option to sacrifice the more generic recently-generated minions to get back your more powerful/better equipped ones! Or don’t you get back the equipment? Well either way, I’m sold. Also map=ABOUT TIME.

  27. Skalpadda says:

    You get the equipment back :)

  28. The_B says:

    @Sombrero – There’s nothing story wise you’ll really be missing if you don’t play the 2nd – you’re allegedly playing his son but there’s not really a great deal to support that theory, nor does it make any impact whatsoever.

  29. The_B says:

    (Errm. I meant if you don’t play the first. rather)

  30. Kieron Gillen says:

    Ian: John Walker is never evil.

    KG

  31. tapanister says:

    MadTinkerer, you actually get them fully equiped as they were when they died.

    Ok I have one comment on the review to make and it’s about the in-game humour. One Two words: Treehugging Elves (ok, maybe three words).

    So, there’s this lot of pastry white rastafarian elves, that, without spoiling it for people, they’re like a sissy version of The Dude.

    When those elves first started speaking, I was actually laughing out loud (not lol’ing, actually laughing). They are one of the game’s strongest points, really interesting dialogue.

  32. pkt-zer0 says:

    They should just stop fooling around with this console RTS-lite thingy and get back to making more Age of Wonders. [/PC elitist mode]

  33. JKjoker says:

    Im a bit disappointed about O2, O1 had much better characters, the minions were cuter (probably because you could see them, being a less visually busy than your average “next gen” game) you also changed locations more often, and (my biggest problem with it) the AI was a LOT better (again, probably because the pathing was easier back then)

    O2 doesn’t add much to the table and most of it is irrelevant or actually BAD, let me go though some points (keep in mind i havent finished it but i put many hours into it) :

    Minimap: yeah it sucks, but it really beats not having one, being able to “click” in a spot and have a guiding market would have made it much better tho but no mouse in consoles

    Minions: There is some attempt at adding upgrades for them (they fail tho, the only noticeable change is that they die slightly less often, yet again only the browns change visually as they grab things and they change a lot less than in O1, shame on the devs!, this feature was freaking obvious), and the non-browns seem to work a bit better than before (haven’t found the blues yet tho they might be as useless as before)

    the experience on minions ? meh, completely pointless, they die so fast (and don’t get me started about the drowning, try to command your guys near water and expect half to die) that youll spend most of your time reviving them, i suppose you might want to keep your lvl10 dudes but thats about it and i never felt any difference between lvl1 and lvl10 guys (come on devs, put have them take a few skills or powers out of a pool as they level up, its not that hard to think about), what they grab makes more difference and those things are everywhere

    the mounts: they are ok, they wont follow you for too long tho, im neutral about them, *shrug*

    the enemies: one thing they did better, there is actually variety!, there is “some” strategy required for them (im using “some” rather loosely)

    the possessing scenes: oh god, i suppose Kieron didnt get the greens yet, remember all those “stealth or die” levels that sucked because the game engine didn’t support it properly that plagued many games after thief was released and almost everyone hates ? well, O2 has them and at least the one you have to do when you get the greens is REALLY REALLY long, if you get killed (very easy since the unupgraded greens have very low hp) you get to walk allllll the way back to where you got nailed, at least enemies don’t respawn

    the weapons: they were dumbed down for some reason, you can only use recipes, you cant improve weapons’s props like you could in 01, and no fighting skills … wth ? you fight mashing the button, thats it, a hint during a loading screen seemed to imply there is some kind of combo system but i have not seen any

    Spells: you get only 3 (you could say they are 6 since each can be used in 2 ways by holding the button a bit longer) but the idea of charging them to choose between the 2 variants sucks ass, specially for the second one where you either “charge” a minion with superpowers… or you eat him (for health), and the timing difference is less than a second with a very slight visual cue and you cant cancel it once you reach the eating stage, im afraid of using it because i keep killing my guys accidentally, the third one is a minion buff/nova, the nova sucks, too little area and expends too much mana, the minion buff is probably the spell youll use the most, the first spell blows for fighting, it does almost no damage, it only slows them down a bit, spell are supposed to be upgraded as you lean to certain alignment (one of the variant gets more powerful, the other sucks more, i have only reach the first domination level, havent felt much difference)

    the side Quests: devs have a problem with small numbers in this game, “go kill 1000 gnomes!”…. one freaking thousand ? uh, when you capture a town you get told to either kill or subdue all of them… the important word here “ALL”, each and everyone, in the first town : 100 aaaand many of them are inside their homes (you need to smoke them out) aaaaand some of them are hiding behind doors you need minions you dont have at the time (so you’ll have to come back later), aaaand you are always missing 1 or 2 and you have to run around town for hours to find them aaaaand you are forced to do some of them if you want your alignment bar to move, just awesome. they manage to turn a slightly fun activity of bending idiots to your will into a boring grindfest, great job devs

  34. Hoernchen says:

    The first one was better because:
    -the spells were actually useful
    -you didn’t have to walk half an hour just to get some stuff done in your castle
    - you didn’t have to endure the same sitting-donw-on-throne animation a hundred times
    -it was funnier. Overlord 2 starts great, but.. that’s it
    -no stupid “do times” quests which are as useless as the spells
    - no dumbed down weapons.
    -overall better level design

  35. JKjoker says:

    @Hoernchen: oh yeah, i can’t believe i forgot about the sitting down animation youll have to watch a hundred times

    also i cant understand why you cant do the reviving and the smiting without leaving the first screen, both character “workers” are right there standing next to the platform, let me talk to them and ill be on my way

  36. PHeMoX says:

    @Dominic White: You’re wrong in thinking it’s a ‘direct clone’, that’s just nuts.

    I challenge you to go into great detail about why you think this is the case here. It has like one element of the Pikmin game in there and it’s not even the main focus of the game anyway.

    I’m not out to defend the sequel though. I thought they sort of did a sloppy job here. I mean, it looks better even with excessive bloom, but for being basically the same game I own already.. they’re not getting my chips for this.

  37. lethial says:

    Thanks for all the feedback on the PC controls. I played Overlord I with Keyboard and mice and it wasn’t very efficient, I guess I will have to wait til the price comes down a bit.

    Oh btw, what DRM does it use?

  38. Kirian says:

    I personally loved Overlord and Raising Hell. It’s left me disappointed with the second one. Part of that problem is the weaker characters and writing, which probably stems from them moving away from the satire of the first one. The brown minions have less character due solely to the lack of armours and weapons for them, but the other minions are somewhat improved. The whole game seems to suffer from a lack of good humour. Actually, a lack of anything approaching the character of the first, and character was perhaps the strongest point of the first game.

    Mounts, except for wolves, were pointless and hugely under-used. I suspect they were put in because they wanted different puzzle possibilities. There’s almost an emphasis on the Overlord at the expense of the minions this time around, and Gnarl and the Jester get horribly, horribly short-changed as do the mistresses.

    Now with a terrible segue I’m going to be a little harsh. I think the difference between the two is best summed up by looking at the two Overlords. The first Overlord was essentially Sauron. A distant commander with a very upright stance, powerful stride and a detached demeanour. He led his armies and only got stuck in when all seemed lost.

    His Overlad has a more crouched (subtle) run and a more barbaric style to the clothing and movement, right down to the tattoos on the arms. He’s almost like a horde leader, running and hacking from the front, with spells designed to support this. I suppose I wanted an expansion of the former, and I’m trying not to use one of my most hated phrases in games writing (high hopes for the sequel. I HATE THAT PHRASE).

    Rose goggles off now, I think.

  39. mejobloggs says:

    I didn’t understand the original Overlord as a game

    Sure it was fun to watch your minions destroy everything for a while, but after that wore off there wasn’t anything to interest me further

    Watch minions destroy everyone/thing
    Move to new area
    Watch minions destroy everyone/thing
    Move to new area

    Strategy? Difficulty? None

    Or did I just not play long enough?

  40. JKjoker says:

    what happened with the Jester is weird, by giving him longer quotes and lines they killed him, i loved hearing the funny titles he gave you in O1 he never needed any more character development

    i barely remember the mistresses doing or saying anything in O1 tho

  41. MD says:

    I was going to mock you for complaining about your 30°C ‘heatwave’, but honestly I’m just jealous. England has officially been added to my list of places to flee to when global warming renders my homeland uninhabitable.

  42. much2much says:

    I played the demo and thought it was funny.

    Is there anyway to switch it to 1st person mode though? 3rd person gives me a headache.

  43. JKjoker says:

    @much2much: there is “almost isometric” style third person and “over the shoulder” style third person but most of the time the camera does whatever it wants

  44. pignoli says:

    Right, I’m going to dig out the Gamecube and play Pikmin until Bullfrog magically reform and make Dungeon Keeper 3.

  45. pzykozis says:

    It’s a shame really It improves on somethings yet, becomes far more annoying in others, green spiders walking on walls with dodgy sweeping (fair enough I’m talking about 360 controller) leads to one of the most frustrating experiences in a game yet.

    Why wont you just walk around the walls my little goblins… WHY?!

  46. Frosty840 says:

    I’ve just finished going through Ol2 and have gone back to Ol1 (where the lack of a mini-map is ruining my life), and I have to say that these two games continue the rather annoying trend in modern sequels to take a simple game (Overlord) and then streamline it to the edge of nonexistence (Overlord 2).

    Ol1 featured weak minions, low minion counts for a lot of the game, and the late arrival of blue minions. The best counter to this would have been the earlier arrival of blue minions, meaning that you’d need to keep a close eye on your minions, keeping the more experienced minions alive with blue revivals, etc. What they did instead was to make the minions very strong indeed, to the point where blues and greens are almost unnecessary; minions don’t die often enough to make blue revivers worth keeping around and browns now have so much health that it’s far simpler to just have them wade in than it is to set up an ambush with the greens.
    The three spells your overlord has are all crap. Health is easy to come by, so there’s little point in eating minions, and minions are powerful enough by themselves that none of the extra-damage spells have any meaningful effect.

    I think the thing that sums up the problem with Overlord 2 for me most is the fight with the troll. Trolls are a relatively common enemy in Overlord; I’d fought two by the time I rescued the red minions, they’re powerful, but not unmanageable. In Ol2, there is but a single troll, stuck in a big room at the end of a narrow corridor. The only sensible way to beat him is to stick a bunch of red minions at the end of the corridor, and have them pelt him with fireballs for FOREVER until he dies.
    I really, really wanted to distract him with browns, surprise him with the greens’ leap attacks and only use the reds to wear him down, but it’s just not possible to do that.
    All of the subtlety has been sucked out of the game.

    The combat in Ol2 is generally poor, to be honest. Most fights feature “roman legion”-type enemies, who must be defeated by working out the puzzle that allows you to kill their commanding officer, at which point the mini-legion panics and can be easily killed.

    The extra graphical prettiness can’t make up for the gutting of what little complexity the original game had.

  47. Subject 706 says:

    Liked the first one, found mouse + kb controls to be perfectly ok (maybe my fingers are just dexterous to the extreme). Bought the second one solely for the seal clubbing of course.

  48. MonkeyMonster says:

    Mouse + kb is fine for me too – I remapped a couple but slightly let down they don’t auto update the loading page hints to show this… Valve has a lot to answer for nice touches.
    Going for destruction all the way first time round… I’m guessing the bonus for getting all 100 people will be good enough that if you had it too early would make other things easier so added in (to me) logical barriers that require you having got the greens back to finish it off.
    Finding it as amusing as the first but blatantly being more evil this time around. Only annoyance really is when you mind meld into a red minion you can’t throw fireballs.

  49. Frosty840 says:

    Also, the thing that galled me the most about the difference between the two games came near the end of Overlord 2, when I ran across a field to kill some archers. Suddenly I’d lose eight or ten minions for no real reason that I could see. I killed the archers easily enough, but I was unhappy with and confused by the sudden and bizarre deaths of my minions, so I kept reloading the section time after time to work out what the hell was happening.
    Eventually I realised that fire arrows from the archers were setting fire to areas of the field, killing my minions. There’s no mention anywhere in the whole of Overlord 2 that long grass and fire arrows present a particular problem; there isn’t, in fact, another place in the game, so far as I noticed, where enemy archers can fire at you while you’re in long grass.

    Flash forward about four hours, and I’m playing the opening level of Overlord. I get my first magic spell, the fireball spell, and I find a bunch of halflings sleeping in a field and the game specifically tells me to set fire to the field, evilly burning all the halflings to death as the whole field catches fire.

    That’s the sort of thing that’s missing from Overlord 2, and despite the fact that everyone in Overlord 1 is treating me like the bloody Hero, it’s Overlord 1 that seems to get things right.

  50. LewieP says:

    You can get it for just shy of £16 here. Pretty great price for a new game.