By Kieron Gillen on July 1st, 2009 at 5:02 pm.
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.
And here’s my little boys, gathered around, beating the hell out of those cute-eyed little fellas.
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.
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.