Clever level design, plenty of action and some gloriously crude humour make Overlord brilliant fun.
The first Overlord game cast you as an evil warlord in charge of a horde of minions who would kill, loot and destroy anything standing between you and world domination.
Overlord II delivers more of the same third-person action with strategy elements, but adds graphical polish and refined minion intelligence.
You begin as a child ostracised for your glowing eyes and magical powers – that, and the destructive gremlins that follow you everywhere. You’ll learn to command them as you take your revenge on local bullies and escape the Empire’s inquisitors. Fast forward a few years and, under the minions’ guidance, you’ve become a mighty warrior. Your physical prowess is handy in close-quarters combat, as you face everything from fluffy bunnies to giant yetis, but it’s your minions who see most of the action.
Effortless click-and-drag controls send your minions swarming lethally across the landscape. As well as attacking enemies and wildlife, they can turn cranks, break barricades, operate siege engines and even row a ship. They scavenge equipment and body parts from dead foes to gain power bonuses and natty outfits, such as masks made out of giant spider heads.
Brown minions are dirty little fighters who can also ride wild wolves. Later quests introduce red minions, who cast fireballs and extinguish fires, and frail greens, which can become invisible and are immune to poison. Last come the blues, who can swim and raise dead minions. The skills complement each other, so you can back up the browns’ brawn with red missile cover. Some levels require specific minions, such as a polluted wasteland that only the blues can survive.
Puzzle-like elements require clever minion control, such as swarming the soldiers manning a lethal ballista before it hits you. You can even possess a minion to access narrow paths and entrances. This is well used in a level that requires you to lead a pack of greens into an Empire fortress, using stealth and poison to overcome massive enemies.
After a hard day’s smiting, you can retire to the Netherworld to forge new weapons, resurrect favourite minions and dally with your mistresses and visiting supplicants. Your choices and play style affect your alignment – you can be Dominating or Destructive, with corresponding payoffs. The game’s longevity comes from its size rather than its difficulty. If you die, you can resume from the nearest Netherworld gate. This leads to flowing gameplay and means that even casual gamers can take their time to work out a winning strategy with a bit of trial and error.
If you feel that clubbing baby seals, terrifying small children and setting fire to elven eco-protesters are inappropriate subjects for a game, Overlord II is not for you. Although blood and gore are absent, the game delights in its bad-taste slapstick. Thanks to brilliantly paced gameplay, great graphics, clever puzzles and plenty of gratuitous violence, being bad has never been so much fun.