Thursday, September 6, 2007
I finished Overlord a couple weeks ago, and it is great. It really is a complete game in as many aspects as I can think of. There are a number of things to do, a number of things to collect, and it's all attainable, and everything fits really well into the narrative.
One of the hooks of the game is that it lets you choose which path you want- you can be evil, or more evil. The difference is largely in whether you want to be a feared, powerful and respected overlord, or whether you want to be backstabbing, cruel, and otherwise feared. But though this may sound serious, the game has a rather lighthearted approach and even when you're choosing the more evil path, you're generally being evil to other evil characters. So you don't have to feel so bad.
The other major aspect of the game is the minions that you control. You have an army of these creatures at your disposal. The game makes it clear that they're in it to serve you- they live and die at your whim. They are always cheerful, and often delighted with the tasks that you call them to do. They run into battle with cries of "for the Overlord!" and shrieks of glee. Whenever they find life force or gold they pick it up and set it at your feet, saying "for the Master!"
What Overlord does so effectively- and what makes it so great- is making you feel like you're the all-powerful master of your castle and minions. The instruction is done by a senior-type minion named Gnarl, and even though he's instructing you, he makes it clear that you come first. He may be in charge of the castle, but you're the boss. He's also a really amusing narrator- whenever you find a new spell or upgrade he'll say "Oooh, and object! I like objects!" He explains that the minions will automatically pick up and equip anything useful they find- and sometimes useless things, too. He apologizes for them: "their brains really are quite small."
The minions do everything for you. You don't have to (and can't) dirty your hands lifting up any tower objects. Send the minions to do it- it makes them so happy. Getting low on health? Sacrifice some minions in a blood pool. The game makes sure to pick the least-armed ones, and they run up and dive into the pool, to their doom. But there's always more minions, so long as you have been collecting life force. And you'd better collect that life force (or use the exploit) in order to power up your armor. You sacrifice minions of different types in the forge to power up your weapons or armor in different ways.
They each have their own way of attacking, too. Brown minions are the strongest and run into fights, using their bare claws if they have no weapon. Reds are weaker, but are immune to fire and throw fireballs. Blues can go in water, raise dead minions, and are immune to magic, but they're pretty worthless in a fight. Greens are immune to poison, and when placed on a guard marker, they turn invisible and jump on the back of your enemies, causing massive damage.
The game gives you frequent upgrades to your health, mana, spells, and minion count. When you start out, you only have brown minions, and you find the other 3 kinds soon enough as you play through the storyline. It's always a treat to find a new upgrade, and inside the tower there's a place for everything.
Your tower is one of those little touches that shows how much care the developers put into the game. It has three levels- the throne room; upstairs, which is mostly trophy-type rooms; and downstairs, which has the armory/forge and dungeon. When you start, your tower has been looted and practically destroyed. As you play, different areas will get repaired and become accessible. It's always exciting to see what new areas or features will appear next. You will eventually be able to purchase decorations for your throne room. There aren't many choices, unfortunately, except to purchase or not purchase each type of decoration.
Your throne room also has a jester that you can kick around. He lists off your accomplishments in the game by calling you different titles. For instance, if you decide to let the townsfolk have the food, he'll call you "Quieter of the Grumbling Stomachs." He has a lot of amusing ones, such as "Appreciator of voluptuous assets," and (since you hit him a lot) "Bullier of Jesters" and "Suppressor of Free Jester Speech".
I went through the "good" or "less evil" campaign (really, just a couple choices that don't really alter the rest of the game) first, then I played a new game taking all the evil choices. This is definitely the way to go, because the evil campaign has much more options. If you're sufficiently evil, the nearby town will sacrifice 10 maidens to you, and if you chase them all down, they will appear as scantily-clad servants in your throne room. You also end up with more upgrades in tower decorations. Another great, small touch is that in the tower, the color of the sky will change from a bright white (when you're good) to a dark purple (when you're evil). Your character's appearance, too, will change from a glowing silver armor with bright red cape, to a dark gray armor with gnarled spikes and a cape so black that it has a heat haze and emits red particles.
The bosses are each based on the seven deadly sins (I loved the movie Se7en), and all are former heroes that have given into a particular evil desire. One of the points of the game is said by the Wizard: "The good... they don't know how close to evil they really are." They had all banded together to defeat your predecessor and went home victorious, only to fall prey to temptation. One gave into gluttony ("have some more food- no one would deny a hero!") and became a gigantic, hideous, spherical monster. Another swore off fighting and gave into sloth ("rest up- you've earned it!") and a gigantic tree grew around him and made his nightmares real. All are cautionary tales in how desire becomes obsession and turns heroes into villains.
I've been trying to get all the single player achievements- I've got all but Tower Collector, which I was trying to get the second time through but missed the one object that you can't go back for (d'oh!!!). It has a multiplayer as well, but I haven't given it much playtime. There are some multiplayer achievements that it looks like it would take a good number of hours to get; alas, I'm not that interested. I played one round and was winning, so the other guy disconnected. Jerk. I'd really like to get all the achievements, but it doesn't look like I'm going to be able to without spending a serious amount of time.
I definitely recommend downloading the demo to see if it's up your alley. The demo was enough for me to get me to purchase it, and I'm glad I did. It's a polished, fun gameplay experience that is well worth the $60.