A Paladin’s Review: Overlord II. Evil Found A Way To Be Fun.

Review of a RPG 3rd Person Strategy Title from Triumph Studios for the Windows platform.

It’s another full blog review from A Paladin talking about Overlord II.

This was supposed to be a Steam review but I typed way too many words and decided to make it into the full blog review you see now. Complete with pictures and links! I’ll admit, after playing this game, I’m a little less skeptical of the news about the next Overlord title. Especially since they seem to be ditching the combat in favor of a more isometric combat system. It’ll be interesting to see what that eventually becomes. Anyway, without further ado, here’s my review of Overlord II.

A Paladin’s Review: Overlord II. Evil Found A Way To Be Fun.

  • Genre: 3rd Person Tactical RPG.
  • Developed & Published by: Triumph Studios and Codemasters
  • Platform: Windows only.
  • Business Model: Base Game.
  • Copy Purchased by Myself

In my review of Overlord I, I took issue with the conflicted themes presented by the game. It constant insisted that I was an evil Overlord spreading evil across the land. But it was in stark contrast to the game mechanics and story that I largely felt made the Overlord more of an anti-hero than anything else. Overlord I failed at its objective of treating you like a Lord of Evil in my mind. However, Overlord II didn’t.

Overall Story Thoughts

You are the new Overlord. The story starts with you being scouted and tested as a Overlad by Gnarl. Eventually, it leads to you being banished from the mountain village where you grew up, doing lots of damage to the town’s betrayal and going into The Netherworld. After you grow up, your job is to strike out from The Netherworld to the lands above. To set the lands in darkness and/or to conquer the minds of men. To find the one ring, to rule them all and in the darkness bind them.

Uhh…hold on one second, this explanation of the story sounds off. Let me grab the notes I have…(rustles through paper)…AHA! Here it is. Whoops. It uhh, hehe, isn’t this. My bad, back to the review of Overlord II.

Ok, so there is no one ring and the overall plot is a bit odd. You go from town to town, dominating or destroying everything. Putting down a few rebellions and finding out what happened to The Tower Heart of the past game. All the while the Glorious Empire is constantly trying to stop you and/or take over the world. It then concludes in a rather long and drawn out siege of a castle. Culminating in a fight against a great, monstrous evil. Yeah, unfortunately the game doesn’t quite stick the landing with the ending. I would have rather fought a more “good-guy” bad guy such as some Holy Knight or a Julius Caesar character (to fit the Roman-esque theme they were going for). Someone who was actually trying to defend their people or ideals rather than their own selfish desires. Ok, maybe Julius was a bad example but I think you get the point I’m trying to make. Ultimately, I feel like they missed out on what could have been a really solid ending.

Hello My Minion.

Hello My Minion.

Evil Morality: Domination VS Destruction

Unlike the first title which gives you a choice of letting people live or destroying what little you can, Overlord II presents you with two choices. Do you wish to dominate and control all? Or do you wish to destroy and kill everyone, leaving nothing behind but fire in your wake. (You can also combine the two aspects if you want). The domination style of play is the biggest change & addition from the first game. Now, instead of just letting people live carefree, you can subjugate them under your iron will. They’ll either fight for you, enhance your minions with armor, mine for gold or life energy periodically while you’re in the town. Your spells, of which you have three of, are changed to slow/subdue multiple enemies, boost your minions in fights and create minion missiles. Domination is more about the long-term benefits and depending upon your minions more than the Overlord’s pure strength.

On the other side of the coin is destruction. Good for those that want instant gratification and depend more upon the Overlord’s power. Instead of subjugating those that you have conquered, you can now kill them. You can destroy buildings and people for a short term boost of gold and life energy. The game will leave villages in a permanent ruin for the rest of the game if you go this route. Your spells are flavored for destroying single targets quickly, releasing shockwaves to knock back enemies and consuming minions to heal you and provide protection for a short time. It’s not the playstyle I prefer but it’s just as fun. Regardless of which morality of evil you decide to go with, the game doesn’t punish you for it. After all, you’re the dark lord of evil. What you say, goes.

So very cool.

This is the view from your bedroom. Can’t complain.

Overlord II’s Themes

There’s something that Overlord I & II can teach developers about consistent theming. While it is true that domination is just a slightly different take on keeping people alive, it’s the distinction that matters. There’s a benefit for both the story and the player. Your Hub World is now called the Netherworld, a dark place of lava flows and floating rocks. When you conquer cities, you also get to see your minions patrolling/guarding your new subjects. When you find new maidens to take as your own, the game doesn’t force you to choose between one or the other. You get to keep all of them. The choice then becomes who’s the first maiden, aka the one who you can buy upgrades from and see wandering around your bedchamber and throne room.

There is a graveyard & naming system for the minions that really tries to make you care for them this time around. For me, it doesn’t really work as it becomes way too expensive to keep reviving dead minions. Additionally, the inability to see their names outside of the minion barracks makes it hard to feel invested in them. Often times, you’ll lead missions that gets many minions killed and you won’t realize that you’re favorite little Zod drowned. Yes, I actually had one minion named Zod.

That all said, it’s these little touches and more that I probably forgot to mention that give you the sense of becoming a lord of darkness. While the corny humour is still present, it feels restrained enough to compliment the dark themes at play. In this case, less is more as the times that it tries to be funny actually work, rather than backfire and become tiresome. Overall, it’s a great thematic improvement to the original title.

You get to command a ship several times to boot. Instant win for me.

You get to command a ship several times throughout the campaign, even take over one. It’s really fun.

The Combat System

The four types of minions make their return in this sequel and are mostly unchanged from Overlord I. Browns are your versatile fighters, Reds are your archers, Greens are your Poison/Assassination masters and Blues are your healers. The main addition are mounts for browns, reds and greens. Browns can ride upon wolves which increase their attacks, allowing them to jump across gaps and knock over enemies, especially enemies with shields. Reds get salamanders which turn them into mobile flamethrowers. Greens gain spiders, which allow them to climb walls and stop enemies with their webs. Blues don’t get mounts but instead are given a new “blink” ability that allows them to run past enemies sight unseen. I mostly used this ability for puzzles as its use was pretty limited in fights. There were also apparently “commander minion item” where if a minion grabbed a special item after certain quests, they could lead their own units into battle. But these items were really easy to miss. I didn’t even realize it was in the game until I looked at the wiki. It’s a shame because I wish that mechanic had been better implemented.

As the fourth Overlord, you once again command the four types of minions into battle against a surprising variety of new enemies. And this time, you can actually move your camera around, which makes seeing your enemies a lot easier. The Empire will attack you with soldiers, legionaries, archers and bombers. Some soldiers will form into one shielded unit, requiring you to have mounted browns or attack them from different angles. Then there’s fire-breathing Salamanders, charging Unicorns, thuggish Trolls/Gargantuans that can sweep through your armies, fairies that enchant your minions and Eradicator Agents that can suck up minions like a vacuum cleaner. There’s a lot of variety to keep you on your toes and if you don’t respect them, they’ll flatten you. As I found out multiple times to my anguish/anger.

As a whole, the combat fluctuates from reasonably challenging to borderline-ridiculously-spammy. Some enemies are a little too quirky for my taste and can flatten armies in seconds. Which I can’t really decide if I like or not. But what I do like is the pacing of the combat. Not only does it have a diverse range of enemies and fights but it also has stealth sections. Multiple sections of the game require you to take control of a single minion and lead the army without the Overlord’s body and complete the objective with what minions you have. This stealth aspect really adds a nice change of pace to prevent the RTS-esque fights from getting too samey or overdone. It’s also pretty forgiving as there aren’t any instant failure states. I really enjoyed these sections and they were a welcome addition.

To get the blues is an exercise in frustration as the save-points are really spread out in this level and htere are multiple places you can fair, requiring you to do them over and over again.

Auto-save points can be an issue at times. One memorable example was the level for unlocking the blue minions. The save points were few and far between and you had to repeat sections multiple times.

Boss Fights

I will give some credit here, Overlord II really tries to spice up boss fights. But they mostly come off as really janky, tedious or not satisfying to win against. There’s the three bosses you need to defeat in order to make your respective minion’s mounts friendly which tend to be gimmicky fights as you try and figure out the solution to defeating them. Then you have a few other bosses relevant to the main story that use multiple enemies or special powers to try and trip you up. These are probably my more favored boss fights but still, I wouldn’t say any of them were truly satisfying to beat. Just a relief to finally be past them and on your way to the next part of the story. It just shows the weaknesses of the combat system and if this is the best that can be done, well, maybe it’s time to try something else. I might be overly harsh on them in this review as they aren’t unbeatable or truly aggravating, I just wish they were better.

Still from a bossfight, towards the latter half of the game.

Still from a bossfight, towards the latter half of the game. It’s…ok I guess.

PC Settings & Multiplayer

Visually, this game is much better than the previous. Lush forests, sunny beaches and cold mountain villages really spice the world up. Most of the settings for Overlord II (Video, Audio & Controls) are changeable in the game’s launcher. There’s options for pretty much every custom visual setting I can think of. Most are on/off switches with Texture Detail, Debris Detail, Shadow Detail, View Distance and Particle Detail having sliders. Separate audio sliders are included (in-game) for sound, music and speech with support for up to 8.1 surround sound. Controller and keyboard + mouse are supported with key remappings for both. Controller is, in my opinion, the most optimal. Overall, the game is well optimized with consistent framerates and good looking visuals. Outside of the one crash I experienced, (towards the end of the game), the game seems relatively stable. I didn’t get a chance to experience the multiplayer because either the servers are down or no one is playing the game.

It's Great To Be Evil

It’s Great To Be Evil

Final Thoughts

Overlord II enhances everything about the first game. It brings a more consistent theme, new minion abilities & spells, lusher environments and a feeling of being a true Overlord. It doesn’t quite stick the landing though. The story’s last chapter is drawn out and the ultimate bad guy you get to fight is disappointing. The combat is better this time with subterfuge, new enemies and different tactics/spells that can be used. But it’s still….janky at times when I don’t think it should be. There’s a good amount of content though, you’ll definitely get your fill of each place the game can take you to. The replay value is a bit weak especially with multiplayer not functioning. Ultimately, this Overlord game was actually a fun time despite my problems with the combat system. The combat is improved enough that I can recommend it. With the caveat to expect frustration while dealing with some of the more eccentric bosses and monsters. Still, evil did find a way, to be fun and enjoyable. So, kudos to Triumph for that.

Oddly enough, Overlord II isn’t on GOG.com, despite Overlord I + Expansion being on there. No idea why. I’m also surprised that it didn’t get any DLC or expansions.

Thanks for reading!


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