Though it admittedly doffs its cap to Nintendo’s wonderful Pikmin, Overlord II is precisely the kind of inventive title we should be crying out for in this sometimes derivative day and age.
This sequel has opted to consolidate rather than innovate though, with most of the facets that made the first game such a lark simply emboldened upon here. Minions, basically nameless cannon fodder in the original, now have more of a pronounced personality – right down to their own gruesome names! The Brown minions specialize in pinning down enemies and riding cool-looking wolves. The Blue minions can heal, resurrect, and swim, but unfortunately arrive too late in the game. The Red minions shoot fireballs and can get past burning obstacles. Finally, the Green minions can turn invisible, allowing them to use a nasty back-stab.
A welcome antidote to the many grey and brown levels we so often see today, Overlord’s various islands are also bursting with so much color they’re liable to melt your eyeballs. Rough ’n’ ready it may be, but it’s undeniably charming in its own garish way as you conquer the Roman-esque ‘Glorious Empire’ in the name of all that is evil and depraved.
So you see when Overlord II works, it’s a bundle of fun. Though more advanced commands can be fiddlesome (admittedly mostly due to the dire pathfinding AI), the sheer sadistic pleasure of cackling as your demonic army swarms across the landscape clubbing seals, razing buildings to the ground and wiping out legions of haughty do-gooders is palpable. Likewise, the charming Fable-esque world and genuinely rib-tickling dialogue rarely miss their mark.
When you’re not involved in the main quest, fun little sidelines include gnome genocide, the forging of powerful new weapons and armor for your minions, the resurrection of well-loved servants and even the opportunity to curry favor with your peasant trollop girlfriend by kitting out your Netherworld pad with decor fit for a tyrant!
So why such an average score then? Put simply, the shoddy programming annoyances that plagued the original Overlord return in triplicate here. Whether it’s the terrible AI of your minions (a couple of which are always getting stuck or dying somewhere they shouldn’t), the constant frame-rate and clipping issues or the infuriating pathfinding there’s always some kind of mechanical problem to sour your fun. And it’s such a shame, because under the manifold bugs lies a devilishly original and charming game. Maybe next time, eh?
Jun 24, 2009