Overlord II Review

By Russ Fischer - Posted Jun 23, 2009

Overlord IIrevives the basic premise of 2007's Overlord -- you're an evil dude with a host of demonic little minions at your beck and call -- and significantly increases the density of jokes, detail and destruction. Is that a good enough reason to let evil run rampant once more? Duh.

The Pros
  • Far more destructive potential than the original
  • Boatloads of personality
  • Great variety of tactical play, stealthy attacks and all out destructive mayhem
The Cons
  • Camera remains a bit wonky
  • Discerning your next objective can be tricky
  • Minion AI still isn't great

Mix a Gremlins game in which you control the nasty creatures and a Lord of the Rings story that prefers Sauron's point of view and you'd have something a lot like Overlord II. (Or, to keep things in more game-centric terms, think Pikmin plus Dungeon Keeper as assembled in the heyday of Shiny Entertainment.) The sequel revives the basic premise of 2007's Overlord -- you're an evil dude with a host of demonic little minions at your beck and call -- and significantly increases the density of jokes, detail and destruction. Is that a good enough reason to let evil run rampant once more? Duh.

Evil-Doers Ahoy!!!

Overlord IIIn Overlord you dropped in as a full-fledged evil-doer. This time there's a bit of George Lucas influence, as you begin Overlord II as a child. An evil little child who quickly learns to control demonic minions, but still. After being cast out of your village for being evil (they're on point, these hicks) you'll spend a chunk of the early game taking revenge. Which is as good a reason as any to learn how to oversee a horde of giggling maniacs.

Controls haven't changed much since the first game. Most important, you have a few ways to send minions into battle: tap the right trigger to send one to the nearest possible target, or sweep a group forward with the right stick. Or hold the left trigger to target specific enemies or action points, and send minions with the right trigger. Quick, easily memorable button combos choose specific minions (brown ones are grunts, for example, while red ones throw fire) to throw at appropriate enemies. It's like a very light RTS, in a way, as you're constantly collecting life force to replenish your army, but combined with a third-person action game.

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Bump and Grind

Overlord IIAfter you've established your evil domain and begun to lord gloomily over your hometown, it's time to jump into the mission grind. Keeping pace with current gaming trends, you can choose one of two vaguely different paths: a dominating sort of evil road where you enslave folks rather than massacring them and an annihilation path where you, yeah, kill 'em all. Really, one road is only vaguely different from the other. Ours was the annihilation path, because that's a lot more fun. The game is very good at making things blow up and burn. (Not quite Red Faction: Guerrilla good, but what is?) When faced with the choice between using enslaved villagers to free an icebound ship or igniting a giant tar pit and, as it turns out, the entire village to achieve the same result, which would you choose?

Full-on assault isn't always the best course. You'll occasionally have the chance to possess a minion and lead a pack of assassins through the back door of an encampment or castle, and the stealthy missions are well designed. Triumph delivers some big, menacing and dangerous guards, then gives you the means by which you can take them down silently; it's satisfying stuff. Even in full-on battle, you'll have to take into account the personality of your four basic minions, and use them accordingly. Anything else just leads to a bunch of demonic corpses.

Minions can also ride creatures. Your brown grunts can leap onto wolves, spiders and other mounts, which gives them the ability to leap chasms and, more importantly, really swarm onto enemies. Crashing a pack of wolf-riding minions into a phalanx of human warriors is oddly satisfying.

It's Not All Roses...

Overlord IIThat RTS/action mix is occasionally clunky. The mini-map (missing from the original game) can be too small, even on the 'map screen'; your next objective can occasionally be difficult to discern; and the camera can be stubborn and irritating as a whiny child. The save system needs more mid-mission checkpoints and it would be nice to not have to wander through a gigantic tower just to upgrade spells and weapons.

That sounds like a laundry list of gripes, but each one is a small issue, and even together they don't add up to a massive strike against the fun, very playable fun, very playable action. Look to the game's exceedingly high quality of voice acting and the very ambitious, detailed visuals for reasons that the game succeeds in spite of a few weak spots. The minions are scripted in a lively yet malicious spirit and voiced perfectly. Exploring and attacking with them is addictive, because you really do feel as if you're controlling your own private Gremlin horde.

Don't Let Them Near Water...

Overlord IIMinions aren't the only characters to enjoy destruction. You can wade into the fray as well, and by gathering a couple basic elements you'll occasionally be able to forge new weapons and armor. And while they're fighting on the ground, minions will collect gear from fallen enemies and other sources so that eventually you've got a ragtag but imposing bunch of gremlins to throw at all the stupid humans. Frustration plagued the original game when your leveled-up minion with all the cool gear was killed; this time you can pay a small fee to resurrect him.

Disappointingly, your minions still aren't wildly intelligent. If you're leading a mixed pack of grunts, fire-lobbers and stealthy green killers, sending them into battle at once will result in a massacre of most. That's where the waypoint system comes in. You can set one point for red fire-lobbers that keeps them out of the fray, and another for green backstabbers, who will cloak themselves until enemies appear. There are just enough control options to ensure that you have the tools to defeat hippie elves and fat, complacent humans. Using them turns out to be a hell of a lot of fun and truly addictive in the most positively evil fashion.