I’m sorry. I tried to give Overlord 2 a chance, I really did. Maybe I shouldn’t have gone into it straight after abandoning the first game in a fit of tedium. Maybe I should have left it a while so that the wounds could heal. Sadly I wanted to get both games done so that I could delete them from the Steam account and never look back, so I started Overlord 2 with the dull mediocrity of the first game still seared into my cerebral cortex. Overlord 2 is no different, alas.
Oh, it started well enough. After events that took place in an expansion pack for the first game that was far too dull to play through, the sequel kicks off by introducing you to the original Overlord’s sprog. This leads to an excellent mayhem-filled tutorial where the kid wrecks snowmen, a snow fort, a treehouse, and then enters a town accompanied by minions dressed up in parkas and mittens to ruin Christmas. It’s honestly one of the best tutorial sequences I’ve seen in a game, but sadly it acts as a bit of a handicap for the rest of it since the quality plummets precipitously after it ends.
As soon as the tutorial finishes it’s business as usual. Overlord 2 is a sequel that takes no risks whatsoever: it is the original game except with shinier graphics and a few new gimmicks. Minions can now use mounts which let them travel to places they wouldn’t normally be able to get to. There are possession pillars which allow you to directly control minions for infiltration sequences, which would have been a nice break from the regular gameplay if some of them didn’t go on for over an hour. Finally, minions can now crew a boat for the Overlord to sail around in.
Wait, what? A boat? This is one of the most random additions to a game I can think of. I mean, you think of evil Overlords, you think of death, fire, mayhem, destruction, that sort of thing. You don’t think of sailing round and round an island playing Kiss Chase with an elf boat. This was another little vignette that took me over half an hour to finish, mainly because the boat code is horribly bolted on to the main game and is terribly awkward as a result.
Yet another dose of boredom was provided by the spider queen. This was a bossfight that took me nearly an hour to finish. Nearly an hour. Ten minutes of that was spent making sure I was doing it right, because I couldn’t believe that the developers intended for this bloody thing to take so long, but the rest of it was all spent jumping through a series of hoops so that I could get it on the ground and attack its weak spot for mass… uh, for almost no damage at all. I ended up having to repeat the process ten or fifteen times before the boss died, and at no point during this marathon was I in any danger of actually dying. I was more worried that my computer would bluescreen and I’d have to go through the whole deathly slog from the beginning than I was about dying. It’s a bossfight that fails on almost every conceivable level, and is not at all unremarkable when compared to the other bosses in the game.
Everything else in the original that made me hate it is present and correct: the pointless lair upgrades, the stupid fantasy parodies, the decision to have a good/evil alignment bar in a game about an evil Overlord, the strangely clunky minion control issues, Triumph’s bizarre fascination with fat people – the list goes on and on. This is a fairly good indication that they think the original Overlord was working as intended, which makes me hate it even more since it wasn’t – as I thought at the time – a reasonably good game struggling manfully against some unfortunate design flaws but was instead a completely intentional exercise in mediocrity, and I’m going to judge the sequel even more harshly because they haven’t done anything with the concept. They’ve just made the first game again with some more stuff, and I didn’t like the first game that much to begin with.
Note from glorious space-year 2013: Overlord 2 did not do that well in terms of sales, which I suspect is one of the things that prompted Triumph to go back to their roots and begin the development process for Age of Wonders 3. So it’s not all bad news.