Overlord II
Developer: Triumph Studios
Publisher: Codemasters
Release Date: Out Now
Players: Single player campaign, two player co-op and versus maps if you can find any other players
Words By:

Something's wrong. This game should have been a lot of fun...

Just like the original game, you take on the role of a pointy-helmeted evil overlord who with the help of growing horde of ragged goblin-like minions fight to defeat mock versions of sword and sorcery good guys (like tree-hugging elves) and the Romanesque "Glorious Empire.” So far so good…

The game begins with a short tutorial where the game’s basic controls are explained through a flashback to the main character’s childhood as he wreaks havoc on the village he grew up in, for shunning him for his glowing eyes and spooky ways. There are some issues with the controls, but so far so good. Tutorials are supposed to be linear to show the player how things work.

Linear games are not always bad. They provide an excellent way of being able to tell the precise story that the game’s designers intended. However, when the only way to progress is not obvious, the player experiences the frustration of dead ends and going back over explored areas over and over again in the hope to find some missed element in order to get on with the story.

Here's an example. There comes a point in the game where you're in a position to take over and either destroy or rule the town where you grew up. When the section begins and you start stomping around the town with your horde of minions in tow, you are told that the town has a population of a hundred townsfolk. To take control of the town you must either kill or mentally enslave all of them using your zappy powers. There are about twenty or so townspeople milling around and a good few more hiding in buildings, but once they are dealt with, you finds yourself in an empty town and still well short of the one hundred score to either slaughter or put the mind-whammy on.

The game uses the old favourite mechanic of not being able to reach certain parts of the town until you have a specific sort of power or minion. So, do the townspeople who are held safely behind a poisonous thicket count towards the hundred? How about the ones behind a metal gate that require minions that can swim to splash through a stream and pull a lever to open the gate? Probably. Possibly. Who knows? What I do know is that after hours of wandering through the town occasionally squinting at a tiny ineffectual map trying to any possible accessible locations of the last thirty five townsfolk who are both alive and free, that had I returned to the Overlord's Tower (his base of operations) I would have noticed a new mission appear that would allow me to progress with the game. Was I informed of this development in any way? No. When did it happen? Still no idea. Having to re-explore earlier portions of the game (now devoid of any action beyond smashing up the same old regenerating crates for gold etc.) on the off chance that you may be able to progress in the main game is an astonishingly bad idea.

The primary game mechanism is the use of the main character's horde of minions. Depending on how powerful your character has become you may summon a number minions of various types to accompany you as you make your way through the world. Some are ordinary soldiers, some heal, some throw fiery bolts, and so on. The right analog stick is used to control the movement of the minion horde, to send them towards some enemies or things to smash or to use some special power they have. Sadly, this is not always effective. There have been times when I have wanted to send a group of minions to go crate-smashing for gold and they keep missing one, or sent towards some enemies and remained inactive and not attacked. This is not helped by odd camera behaviour that can leave you with a close up of the back of your main character rather than the action. Wrestling the camera back into a sensible view, also with the right stick, can inadvertently send your minions off in unexpected directions.

As far as the puzzle elements of the game itself are concerned, they are unchallenging. As there is only often a single direction you can go in, progress can be made by using some new element of the game that has just been uncovered. How do I get past the fiery obstacle? Using your fiery minions of course. It's at this point where the possibility of backtracking raises its ugly head again, spoiling the flow of the game.

There are also lots of loading screens between game sections that slow the game down, especially at your main character's base; the Tower. Wandering around your dark fortress with its lava flows and minion guards is initially very impressive. It soon loses its lustre when a trip back to your base to upgrade troops or build some new item or other can take two or three loading screens and minutes of walking to and from the right location. A quick menu to enable the game to continue would have been very useful.

As well as the single player story section game, some co-op and versus maps are available to play on Live but I have yet to find anyone to play with.

Beyond all these problems, there are flashes of how great the game could have been. It is through the antics of your minions with their Gollum-like voices that a lot of the charisma in the game is evident. I laughed out loud when I sent a few brown minions towards a pack of wolves they can use as mounts and heard one of them coo "Good Doggy!" Sadly, any charm in the game is ruined by its other flaws.

In summary, Overlord 2 may be good for a brief laugh if you can pick it up cheap somewhere. However frustration rapidly sets in and you won't want to play it again.

Overlord 2 PC: The controls and the graphics
We had Overlord II running smoothly on a 3.5 GHz Core i7 with 6 GB RAM and a Geforce GTX with maximal detail on at 1,920 x 1,200, so you get nice light and shadowing FX, some really nice textures and things like reflections in the water - and the 50fps frame rate never missed a beat. If you set the video options to low quality you’ll have to tolerate yucky, washed-out textures and less detail, with fogging in the no-too-distant distance. So the game looks a bit nicer than the Xbox 360 version, but suffers from the same fiddly controls and dopey camera, and this can be a right pain to fiddle into a usable position in the midst of a fight.

Minimal system requirements
OS: Windows XP / Vista
DirectX 9.0c
CPU: Pentium D with 3.4 GHz or AMD equivalent
Graphics card: Geforce 6800 / Radeon X1800XT
DirectX 9 compatible sound card
2X DVD-ROM drive

Recommended system requirements
OS: Windows XP / Vista
DirectX 9.0c
CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo or Athlon 64 X2
1.5 GB RAM
Graphics card: Geforce 7950 GX2 or Radeon HD 2600 XT
Creative Soundblaster X-Fi sound card
HDD: 4.5 GB
2X DVD-ROM drive

TCP/IP mode requirements (2 player mode)
Broadband internet connection required
512 Kbps recommended for hosting
TCP/IP network

Best Bits

- The amusing antics of your minions.
Worst Bits

- Tedious, linear gameplay.
- The awful, awful camera.
- Fiddly controls.
- Lots of loading screens.

by: Jason Rainbird

Copyright © Gamecell 2009