Overlord is another game I picked up very cheap during one of Steam’s great sales. I recall getting the original, the expansion and Overlord 2 for about $10. I won’t buy a game just because it is cheap so there needed to be appeal and Overlord certainly has one. It is based closely on the gameplay in Pikmin where you control one character that has control over many more. In other words, it’s an RTS with the commander on the battlefield and lacks the ability to survey the battlefield from afar. I adored both Pikmin games and the promise of more sold me on Little King’s Story; so seeing Overlord cheap certainly made it worth a look. Like most games I buy cheaply, it took a while for me to get around to playing but I have now and I wanted to share my thoughts.
I’ve started by mentioning Pikmin and this will definitely be something that runs through the review. As far as this style of game goes, Pikmin is still the benchmark and it is hard to avoid the comparison.
Overlord takes place in a medieval fantasy setting with the usual sorts of monsters along with Halflings, Dwarves, Elves and of course the Humans. You take the role of an aspiring Overlord who controls goblin-like little minions. As the title implies, you are evil and if you have any doubts, your minion advisor is reminding you constantly from the beginning. Despite being evil, most of the enemies you must fight are quite naughty themselves and you actually have the option to be much nicer in comparison. There are always animals, elves and humans to murder but it is mostly more productive to just get on with the main game. You are also given a few annoying moral choices throughout the game but these choices effect very little outside of some gameplay advantages and a slightly different ending.
The Overlord title never quite fit for me as throughout the game your supposed power is tested by many enemies big and small. As you progress you unlock new minions your standard fighters who can equip weapons from fallen enemies, fire minions who hurl fireballs, water minions who can swim, resurrect minions and are able to defeat spirit or ghost enemies and the green minions who can survive poison gas and turn invisible. If you have any experience with Pikmin, you can probably tell that each of the minions are essential at different points in the game but you’ll mostly find the fighters to be the most useful. Along with the minions, you are able to upgrade your magic, health and the amount of minions you control. You can also upgrade your armour and weaponry. Unlike Pikmin where it is mostly insane to include Olimar in the fight, the Overlord can deal a fair bit of damage when he is powered up. Even though the Overlord can deal some damage, it is mostly better to keep him out of the fight as his death means a return to the last checkpoint.
Overlord does feature a little more strategic depth than Pikmin. The red (fire) and green (poison) minions in particular can be utilized very effectively. A usual strategy will be to position your red minions on a raised platform so they can kill enemies safely and from a distance. You can also use the fire minions to bring enemies to you while the green minions use their invisibility to ambush the enemy as they approach. These strategies are necessary in some situations but most of the time; minion blitzkrieg is the most effective. It is always important to make sure that the enemies you attack don’t have an advantage over the minions you use but after taking this into consideration, overwhelming the enemy works best.
One problem I always had with Pikmin and also with Little King’s Story was minion death. On Pikmin I hated losing a lot of Pikmin and I often lost progress to do parts again and get back my army. In Little King’s Story (which I still haven’t completed), the loss of even a few soldiers can feel devastating. In Overlord you never get that attached to your minions but there are plenty of moments (sometimes extremely cheap) where your army will be wiped out. Unless I completely missed it, Overlord does not allow you to save anywhere which means you rely on checkpoints and the autosave feature. As you can imagine, this is extremely frustrating sometimes and I quite regularly lost 10 to 15 minutes of progress and sometimes in situations where I never really had a chance. Even though I generally enjoy playing by checkpoints, the lack of the option is a strike against the game, especially since I was playing it on PC.
Typical for the genre, Overlord features multiple problems with path-finding and general minion stupidity. This is usually by drowning, getting surrounded by enemies or just getting lost. I often wrestled my control to get the minions where I wanted and I saw many minions die unnecessarily, sometimes by ignoring instructions of refusing to return when called back. As I progressed I became a lot less worried about minion death because it is actually quite easy to raise an army. I rarely had less than 20 of each minion despite some massive losses and once I realised I could be a little bit careless, I began to enjoy the game a lot more than I did when I was being incredibly careful at the beginning.
Not being someone that experienced the game breaking problems that existed when it was first released I generally enjoyed Overlord. The main thing about the game that I would criticise is how (lacking a better word) generic it is. It has many of the fashionable elements that developers are often putting into current games; RPG elements, upgrades and moral choices. Overlord seems to be craving all sorts of gamers and as such it doesn’t have anything that seems particularly unique about it. Pikmin does Pikmin a whole lot better, there are plenty of examples of better implemented upgrade systems and it is a lot more fun to be evil in games like Mass Effect. So there is nothing in Overlord that really stands out and this really goes against it. Ignoring the early problems, the game is best recommended as a decent weekend game and not as something you will ever come back to. I consider myself a huge Pikmin fan and I still had trouble getting more than mild enjoyment out of Overlord so I can’t say Pikmin fans will feel much different to me.
As for the expansion and Overlord 2? I’ve played neither enough to review thoroughly. My experience so far in Overlord: Raising Hell (the expansion) is basically a re-tread of the main game in a far more boring setting. Overlord 2 looks slightly better and has some nice new environments but I got to the point where it was already feeling like more of the same. I still haven’t gone back to either. They were all well worth the price I paid though.