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8 Reviews

Overlord

Oh good lord

Behold: I am the Overlord. Ten feet tall and armoured from head to toe, my pale eyes glow stark against my black, featureless visage. Wherever I travel, destruction follows. Enemies are crushed beneath the swarming onslaught of my minions. I am the scion of darkness. I am the God of hellfire, and I bring you... your bags, Miss. Anything else, dearie? Oh, bless.

This is not the fantasy roleplaying game we were promised. It was supposed to be fairytales gone wrong, a moral choice between evil and more evil, with the ingenious device of an army of semi-autonomous imps to do your dirty work for you. It was supposed to be Black & White, if slapping your monkey was ever encouraged. It was supposed to be Dungeon Keeper, if the keeper moved out of the dungeon to wreak havoc topside.

Instead, the fires of evil burn lukewarm. In your mission to turn the world towards darkness you'll travel through a Tolkienesque fantasy world filled with halfling encampments, human cities and elven forests. The remit is destruction and parody: turning the fantasy tropes on their head by making you a villain rather than a hero. But there's no wit here that reaches beyond farts and vomit. The setting is never anything but convenient imitation, and you'll commit more heinous acts letting the trucks crush your amphibian friend in Frogger than you'll manage here.

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The wider world of fantasy fiction is filled with enigmatic evil. A lighthearted, cartoon-styled game of scarring babies, slicing younglings and possessing souls would be welcome. Overlord isn't it. Its convictions are weak, and its malfeasance tepid.

Take, for example, the siege of Castle Spree. Under attack by raiders with some magical back-up, my mission, as I have no choice but to accept it, is to investigate. Seeing smoke and being quietly disappointed that someone is starting fires who isn't me, I find a way inside and, after watching a short cutscene, meet some humans who have locked themselves behind a gate for protection from the villains. The real villains. Not from me.

A bossy woman named Rose tells me she's been helping plague victims from the nearby city, and trying to stop the spread of the plague. The raiders have taken her luggage, however. Can I help her find it?

Naturally, I say no. I am the Overlord, Destroyer of Worlds! I smash the gate, kill the wretch and bring pestilence and suffering to all those who lie before me.
I ride upon my chariot of savagery and sow my poisonous seeds all over this once fertile land. I spawn a smoking orb of nothing and watch, laughing, as the puny humans gaze upon their ruined domain within.

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Except, I don't. I can't. If I want to progress, I have to help her. So off I sulkily go, killing raiders, breaking crates and looting corpses. Or at least, I order my minions to do that.

Those minions are Overlord's big gimmick. Given your stature and inability to walk up even slight inclines, there are a lot of areas in the game you simply can't reach. In these instances, you send your gleefully enthusiastic homunculi to do your bidding, either with a simple point in the direction you wish them to charge, or by directly controlling their movements with the sweeping motions of your mouse or analogue stick.

The result is that the minions are essentially extensions of yourself, with just about enough intelligence to expedite otherwise dull tasks. The simple hack and slash combat is more fun, more tactical, as you're able to attack with a band of psychotic goblins rather than with swings of your own axe or sword (which remains an option). Direct minions towards dropped items or treasure and they'll gather it together, keep the weapons and armour for themselves, and excitedly carry the loot back to you.

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