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Overlord: Raising Hell

Make no mistake; this is a game about being evil. Not evil in ‘six axis of terror’ way. Not even evil in the traditional videogames ‘make moral decisions’ way - but classic, pantomime evil. This is about the kind of folklore evil that involves slaughtering sheep for no reason other than you can, destroying peasant farms on a whim and commanding minions with a lisp to make Gollum point and laugh. Oh the fun.

Overlord is about comedy evil, light and fluffy evil. The kind of black humor that makes you laugh with guilt and a slight tingling of shame. There’s a British heart lurking underneath it all, with a very English charm about it. The minions you command are the star of the show, grabbing up nearby debris and putting it on their head (battered pumpkins, pots, sacks, anything) while shouting in excitement and glee in their grunting language. You control the evil commander who directs them about.

But it’s not all about ugly creatures shouting unintelligible nonsense. That’s what nightclubs are for. Overlord is about its curious mix of strategy and action, where it mixes the tactical cunning of classic games like Pikmin and Lemmings with more traditional hacking and slashing. It’s a unique hybrid unlike anything you will have played before, as you’re forced to solve puzzles on the fly while waving your axe at gnomes, trolls and other creatures blocking your path. You could be escorting enough minions to clear a blockade in your path, another sees you splitting them up so they can scurry into troll respawn points and cause them to cave in. When different types of minions become available too, such as fire resistant types, your head will be spinning as often as your axe as there are so many brilliantly evil choices to make and so little time.

The question is, whether the unique mixture of traditional genres will create something fresh and exciting enough to draw a crowd. The Xbox 360 version came and went with merely a whimper, only a devoted few managing to stick with it long enough to unearth its charms (incidentally, moralistic decisions DO eventually come into play). Will it be the same story on PlayStation 3? Only time will tell.

May 7, 2008

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