Returning to an old review to update my thoughts on being an “evil” overlord.
With the announcement of a possible sequel to the Overlord series by Codemasters, I got the inspiration to completely update my original review of Overlord 1 and 2. Both reviews were pulled today and I updated Overlord 1 and it’s expansion to my current standards. You’re free to rate whether the review was helpful or not on Steam. Original rating for Overlord 1 review was: 4 out of 29 people found it helpful (14%). One of my least popular reviews, to be sure. I’ll bet this review will probably be liked just as much. (Spoiler: no, no it wasn’t).
A Paladin’s Steam Review: Overlord & Overlord: Raising Hell. Frustrating Gameplay & Conflicted Themes Doesn’t Make One Evil.
- Genre: 3rd Person Tactical RPG.
- Developed & Published by: Triumph Studios and Codemasters
- Platform: Windows only.
- Business Model: Base Game + Expansion.
- Copy Purchased by Myself
Most of my playtime is present in Overlord: Raising Hell
How evil can you get? Discover how corruptible you are in Overlord, the twisted fantasy action adventure where you can be evil (or really evil). In the game’s seriously warped fantasy world, players will become the Overlord and get first-hand experience of how absolute power corrupts absolutely.
To me, this paragraph is describing another game entirely. It’s one case of marketing that I could argue negatively affected my impression, and eventual review, of a game. I did create a review several years back but I’ve returned after several years to make it informational and useful to you, the reader. So, let’s begin.
Overall Story Thoughts
Overlord is a quirky cartoonish game sure, but a dark twisted fantasy adventure where you get to be really evil? I disagree. It’s true that people who do evil deeds don’t feel evil or in the wrong when they’re doing them. But…well…let’s talk about the story. In the game, you’re setup as some sort of evil Overlord, tasked with bringing darkness and ruin to the world along with the help of your minions. So, you go out into the world and destroy people who are more evil than you and bring peace….and prosperity….to the land. Ok, that’s one way it ends. The other way the story ends is that you create a land ruled by fear and your power’s corruption and devastation of the lands. But all it does is affect the ending cutscene, not the game itself. Well, it doesn’t affect it that much. I really don’t like games that set me up to think that my in-game actions will affect the world when all it really does is affect the end cutscene.
This game doesn’t really let you be an evil overlord during the course of play. Part of which is to be blamed on the more comedic, cutesy tones present throughout the story. You can’t just randomly kill people if you wish, only in special circumstances. While you can set fire to wheat fields, slaughter sheep and destroy all the kegs of beer you can see, they just regrow back as soon as you leave. I get that it needs to be that way for gameplay reasons but it’s hard to feel evil when you know what you’re doing isn’t really harming anyone. If anything, I just feel more like a destroyer of boxes than a ruler of all that is dark and evil. I can’t even make children cry at the sight of me! I mean, c’mon. What is this…
All that said, it does make for a decent time as more of a comedic/light fantasy story than a dark tale of power & corruption. Characters are two dimensional and stereotypical but the interactions can be somewhat amusing at times. Especially between the Overlord and the town citizens. All typical fantasy creatures can be found here. Drunken Dwarves, Ethereal Elves, Portly Halflings, Dumb Trolls and more are in this world, serving the part they play in most any other fantasy genre. You get to see a decent variety of locations too. But there wasn’t much that surprised me.
You control up to 100 minions and an unnamed overlord at the same time. The overlord gets a melee attack chain and the use of spells but he should generally stay out of the fight. Otherwise, you’ll wind up running out of health and mana extremely fast. So, you’ll be playing most of the game through your four types of minions:
- Brown melee minions that will generally make up the cannon fodder of your army.
- Red fireball throwing minions that are immune to fire.
- Green poison immune minions that will backstab enemies.
- Blue minion reviving ones that are immune to water and have weaker attacks.
It’s a decent variety of minions but the game lacks in tactical decision making. Just send swarms of minions at your enemies and recall if you notice a big telegraphed attack coming. That’s really about the sum of the combat. Most of the time you’ll be losing minions because the controls didn’t respond or you didn’t see a hazard in time. That or they become stuck on doing whatever activity you “assigned” them or in the terrain. The sweeping function doesn’t help matters either as it has the same issues. It’s more tiresome than enjoyable to deal with these controls when multiple types of hazards/enemies are present in a level. One last thing: I was fighting the camera more than I felt necessary for a 3rd person game which doesn’t help the already frustrating gameplay. You have very limited control over it.
PC Settings & Multiplayer
I never did get a chance to experience multiplayer because the servers were shutdown after Overlord II was released. You can play online through Hamachi but the community has no doubt suffered. There is a split-screen mode though, that’s rather unusual for a PC-centric title. Graphics settings are solid. Resolution options, AA slider, V-Sync, Texture/Debris/View distance sliders are here as well. FOV is missing but you probably won’t need it. Audio sliders are present as well and it supports up to 8.1 speaker systems which is nice. Mouse and Keyboard function well enough but I think controller is the preferred control scheme. Even with a controller, the game feels like it’s fighting me the entire time. The game is getting on to be 8 years old now and it is rather disappointing that the framerate doesn’t stay consistent. I noticed even on my current machine that it would fluctuate between 50-60 fps during the first level. I don’t think it’s enough to be a deal breaker but I wonder how bad it would be to play some of the later levels again.
Overlord: Raising Hell Expansion Thoughts
It’s not worth it. Half of it is challenge levels with a minor amount of story attached and the other half of it is maps for the now non-functioning multiplayer. Unless you really enjoy the mechanics of controlling your minions and want to challenge yourself to a new level of frustration, this expansion is a pass. Oh and keep in mind that the original game won’t launch if the expansion is installed. Not a big deal but something I should mention here.
I don’t recommend Overlord or Overlord: Raising Hell. While there are glimpses of really fun gameplay, it eventually gets worse over time. Frustation set in long before the game ended and there’s a constant sense of repetition and I want this to end already that plagues the latter half. It just becomes a long grind. Between that and the quirky controls/minion behavior, it leaves a lot to be desired. Additionally, there is a ton of backtracking. The story itself is…ok. Its not awful but its not very memorable either. It seems at odds with itself on whether you’re a good guy or bad guy. Outside of smacking minions around, destroying some buildings and killing a few people, you don’t really feel like a true Overlord to me. You just feel like an anti-hero who’s a jerk when all I’m doing is defeating corrupted heroes, saving the townspeople from starvation and being a generally good guy. It’s a decent enough 3rd person “RTS” game but I think it could have been much better given more attention to its gameplay.
Thanks for reading!