Overlord Dark Legend

Captain Olimar and his vegetable army have been noted for their absence so far on Wii, but elsewhere in this console generation the Pikmin concept found an unlikely home on Xbox 360, PC and PS3 with Codemasters’ Overlord. It’s a cross between Pikmin’s gameplay and the fantasy world of Fable, and now it’s heading for Nintendo – presumably before Miyamoto manages to create a remote-powered version of the real thing.

The title character in the original game was a Ganondorf sort of figure, the kind of evil boss you’d normally battle at the end of a heroic quest. The Overlord’s sinister tower destroyed by do-gooding knights, the aim of that game was to restore evil to the land and once again cast a dark shadow over some irritating peasant villagers. The Wii version is a prequel, charting the anti-hero’s rise to power as a budding Overlord. The Pikmin comparison becomes clear once you get control of your first minions – horrible little goblin creatures that you can send to do your dirty work.

The minions swarm around the Overlord and can be herded in different directions. Smaller groups of minions can be split up and sent off to accomplish simultaneous tasks. In the original, this was done with a combination of the right stick and buttons. Using the remote’s pointer function could make this process a little faster on Wii. Like the veggie men that inspired them, minions come in four varieties. Browns are the all-purpose ones, greens are immune to poison, reds can harness the power of fire and blues won’t drown like the others when dropped in water. Starting to sound even more familiar yet?

You can only spawn a certain number of them, depending on how much of each color’s life force you have, and life force is harvested by killing things. Some minion types are more effective in certain situations – to open a path through the levels you’ll often need to have a specific number of minions to lift a log, work a piece of machinery, smash down a wall and so on.

One major difference between Overlord and Pikmin is that Overlord gives you the option of being either quite evil or extremely evil. You can opt to inflict only a little light torture on the locals, in which case they’ll be thankful you’re a merciful demon and reward you with offerings. Or you can use your red minions to set them on fire and burn their crops, so the survivors will run in terror and maybe loose the occasional arrow at you from a safe distance. It’ll be interesting to see how well this works on Wii. Derivative it may be, but the original was a good game and the puerile antics of the minions always ensure there are plenty of laughs. One to look out for some time next year.

Oct 22, 2008