Previews

Overlord

No more Mr. Nice Guy in Codie's fantasy

Do you secretly desire to be evil? Is it your twisted dream to drown kittens, refuse to give up your seat for the elderly and 'forget' to send your mother a birthday present?

The central character in Overlord is exactly that kind of person - self-centred, selfish and warped - although his heinous actions have eventually caught up with him. Ten years ago he was defeated by seven courageous heroes. His tower of evil was destroyed and he was cast into a pit of despair to be left to rot forever.

But it's true what they say; you just can't keep a good villain down. With the help of some idiotic, but totally loyal creatures, the 'minions', you're reawakened - the evil Overlord is preparing for vengeance.

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While Overlord's plot sounds deadly serious, this action RPG is actually based on the humour of Terry Pratchett crossed with classic '80s monster movie Gremlins. Being able to control an army of up to 50 minions who live only to pillage and destroy is silly, outrageous and above all, a fresh and fun idea bound to raise many a twisted smile.

You begin the game with only three followers, but killing the first crop of enemies yields soul energy that can be used to create more. The brown minions you start off with are the standard foot soldiers. They're average at hand-to-hand combat, but their overwhelming numbers usually see them through. Most importantly, they're really skilled at destroying and pillaging. By using the Right thumbstick, you can sweep a pack of them into the nearest Halfling house and watch it collapse around their tiny ears.

Brown minions are also upgradeable. Whenever they find a new weapon or piece of armour, they'll automatically pick it up and use it. For creatures of so little intelligence, they're pretty good at improvising. You'll often see minions wearing saucepans or pumpkins as helmets and wielding pitchforks or kitchen utensils as weapons. Occasionally, you'll even come across special items like a chef's hat or a Halfling king's crown that the brown minions will also happily wear.

A minion's life-expectancy is pretty short, so you might as well let them enjoy it. Because they're so ridiculously loyal, you can instruct them to attack the biggest monsters, then sit back and watch them get squashed, smashed up and torn into tiny pieces. Thankfully, they can always be replaced, provided you have enough soul energy.

You still have to be fairly tactical about how you command the minions. Sure, you can have a laugh watching them get slaughtered, but it's even better to use them as a distraction while you sneak up to attack the enemy from behind, or seize the opportunity to charge up and unleash a devastating magic spell.

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Tactics play an even larger role later on, where green, red and blue minions come into play. Green minions act as ninja assassins and are best used to sneak around enemies and attack them from behind. Red minions are immune to fire, and their ability to throw fireballs makes them good for attacking at medium range. Blue minions are weak in combat, but act as support troops, being able to resurrect fallen allies if they reach them in time. The control system for selecting minion units is very similar to Fable, with each group colour-coded with the Xbox 360 controller face buttons. Moving them around is very intuitive too. You can sweep them around manually using the Right thumbstick. And whenever they bump into an enemy or destructible object, they'll immediately go ape and attack it automatically.

Graphically, the game also bears a dramatic resemblance to Fable, particularly the bright and colourful peasant villages and the dark and mysterious Elven forest.
At this stage in development, the PC version looks markedly sharper than the Xbox 360 title, but we're hoping this will change as the game moves closer to optimisation.

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