Overlord, then. It’s packaged and sold as “Pikimin crossed with Dungeon Keeper”, or perhaps just “Pikimin for assholes”; the basic premise of the game is that you wander around with an army of little imp-like minions expanding your evil empire. Now, it’s worth noting that any game that has me playing an evil dick overlord is going to get a high score regardless of quality, because that is how I roll.
Overlord is not going to get a high score.
Yes, it seems that despite being a towering hunk of Sauron-y brutality, the Overlord in question is in fact all about saving people and helping them out. How the hell did this happen? It’s like that Kate Beaton cartoon with the Musashi duel – you need to remember to put two things into your game about an evil overlord.
- An Overlord.
It seems like it’d be pretty hard to forget one of them, but this is what Triumph Studios has done. Oh, the game says you’re evil, and you get to carry out some petty larceny and property damage, but every single quest involves defeating somebody evil-er than you. Instead of deposing the Lords of the Land and installing myself in their place, I am instead reduced to feeding the hungry and fetching people’s luggage. This is not the destructive rampage I was promised.
The game does precious little to endear itself to me past that point, at least in terms of ambience. The thing is set in this “comedy” fantasy world that pokes fun at established fantasy tropes in what I’m sure the writer thought would be a terribly clever way. And indeed, it might have been, had I not seen it done several thousand times already. As it is it just feels old and tired after just a few minutes. To add insult to injury every character in the game is voiced by the same three people putting on a hilarious range of accents, from “West Country” to “Southern Yokel”.
I want to kill them.
The developers have spent a lot of time on the minions – as you’d expect, what with them being the game’s flagship feature – and to their credit they are reasonably entertaining, at least to start with. The basic warrior minions in particular scoop up random items they find lying around – helmets, severed arms, bits of slug – and use them in combat; excellently, this actually increases their combat efficiency. The wry smiles these neat touches provoked soon disappeared, however, to be replaced by a creeping sense of frustration and eventual ennui over the minion control system, which somehow managed to be both blunt and fiddly at the same time. Completing a puzzle turns from an amusing minute-long pastime to a ball-aching slog completed in spite of control issues, bugs and extremely sketchy minion AI. There’s one in particular near the end of the game (at least I hope it’s near the end of the game) that took me forty-five minutes because the game was breaking its own rules.
What else is there. Boss battles are tedious, mainly because the bosses are programmed to dispose of minions with great efficency but can’t hurt the Overlord worth a damn, which ensured they all ended up with me doing nothing but chip away at the boss’s health bar for about five minutes. The tower customisation features are nice but pointless considering I barely spent any time there. Having to go out and acquire minion life-force is tremendously annoying at the end of the game since a single mis-step can cause the entire army to die instantly thanks to an exploding bug or a flamethrower or whatever; I ended up putting the minions on guard somewhere out of the way while I cleared out the bad guys myself, which I’m fairly sure isn’t the way Overlord is supposed to be played.
Overlord perhaps isn’t as bad as all that. I certainly had a bit of fun with the first half of the game, and I’d say it was worth the £2 I paid for it. But at the end of the day the real problem here isn’t the bugs, or the voices, or the theme, or the control issues: the real problem is that Triumph Studios gave up on the Age of Wonders series to make Overlord. That’s a trade-off that, in my opinion, really wasn’t worth it.