Overlord: Raising Hell PS3
Roughly a year ago, 360 owners were treated to a refreshing little strategy game bearing the name of Overlord, a game that can best be described as the illegitimate love child of Pikmin and Fable, bearing the strategic gameplay of the former and the tongue in cheek medieval atmosphere of the latter. The game was fairly well received and generally considered to be one of the few gems that failed to make it into the spotlight last year. Roughly a year later and the Overlord is back, this time on PS3 and with a few extras up his sleeve.
The game starts off with you, the new Overlord, being awoken from an eternal slumber by a handful of eternally loyal minions. After stretching your legs a bit and kicking the jester around in a few tutorials you’re ready to begin your mission. To regain absolute control over the land and rebuild your glorious Dark Tower along the way. The Dark Tower not only goes to serve as your home for the game’s duration, but also as the central hub where you can warp to any discovered point within the game, battle previously defeated foes in the dungeon and upgrade the Overlord in the forge.
You start off only being able to control a handful of minions, but as you complete some of the game’s many missions and recover various objects for your tower your minion horde will grow in size (eventually being able to control a maximum of 50 minions at once). Not only will your minion population grow but it will also diversify.
Starting off only being able to control Brown minions (the brawling class) you will eventually stumble across Red minions who can put out fires and attack from range. Green minions that are resistant to poison and become invisible when standing still. And finally Blue minions who are utterly useless at fighting non-magic opponents but can travel through water and revive dead minions. Using the diversity of your minion hoard is key to moving through the game smoothly. Badly managed conflicts will result in a high minion loss and a lot of frustration. Every minion can reap the spoils of battle an earn various upgrades to its weaponry and armour, not only is it a neat little touch that requires no attention whatsoever but can also be rather humorous when you see a minion walking round with a bra on it’s head.
Whilst the Overlord himself can also take part in the conflict, his attacks should only be considered an added bonus rather than something to rely on. His magic powers on the other hand can turn the tide of any battle. Starting off with basic spells that range from casting balls of fire, enraging your minions, slowing your enemies or shielding yourself from harm. Each of these spells will be upgraded and depending on your good/evil alignment will develop differently.
The good or evil choices are one of the more surprising parts of Overlord. Due to the game’s tongue and cheek representations of good and evil you don’t feel remorse for any wrongdoings or joy for being particularly nice either, yet initially it can be very hard to decide on a particular alignment since both benefit you in different ways. Which puts a much more of an honest spin on what can be a rather tired mechanic within games these days. The moral standpoint of you or the Overlord is sometimes irrelevant and sometimes boils down to doing something you’d rather not do, but will because of the reward. It’s refreshing to be given these kind of situations in a game, which in itself isn’t inherently deep in any way, and is intentionally satirical in it’s mockery of the fantasy genre which tends to have clean cut “goodies” and “baddies”.
All this is conducted rather smoothly thanks to some clever button placements. Changing minion types is as simple as tapping R1 to select the whole hoard or holding R1 and pressing the corresponding button to select individual types. Holding R2 will then send your selected minions into seek and destroy mode where they attack anything they can kill and retrieve any spoils on your behalf. Changing magic is equally as simple and is done by pressing one of the four directions on the d-pad. Press the square button and Bob’s your uncle you’re a magician. You move around the Overlord with the left stick and the minions with the right, L1 snaps your camera behind the Overlord and L2 snaps on to targets. Nice and simple and very effective.
Much of the 360 game has remained unchanged bar a few tweaks; I say tweaks because although they are a step in the right direction they aren’t necessarily executed to the best standard. The Minions A.I. has seen some improvements but be warned, they will still have moments of sheer stupidity that will undoubtedly incur your fiery wrath. A mini-map has now been added so that exploration is a lot easier, but a full level map showing objective locations (or at least general directions) is still absent. As such, finding the location of your next objective can leave you running around aimlessly. Certain camera issues have been addressed and the camera now (while a little rigid) performs adequately enough so that you won’t ever lose sight of your foes. This version of Overlord also seems to have turned up the bloom a bit. Everything now seems brighter, exposing low detail graphics and textures for all to see. Everything has this sort of haze glow effect, which while nice does seem to affect the frame rate. While noticeable yet tolerable early on, you will notice the game chugging along when more particle effects appear on screen, tie this in with a larger minion hoard and it gets to be rather off-putting. Unfortunately while many of the glitches and bugs have been addressed and ironed out, a few remain, one of which forced me to return to a previous save (thank god for the auto-save feature).
The additional content and tweaks make this the definitive version of Overlord. You get a meaty single player adventure with additional multiplayer modes to share the joy of being evil with others and ultimately extend the life of the game. It strikes me as ironic that the game is named Overlord when really the minions are the stars of the show. Their cute voices and quirky little antics will bring a smile to even the most miserable of Overlords. Tie this all up with strategic gameplay and satirical humour held back only by a few issues, Overlord yet again shines out as one of the few, refreshing titles on a console in its early life.