In Overlord, you take the role of a recently unburied mysterious figure, who has inherited the powers of a long dead emperor. Upon being woken up from your dirt nap, you’re told by a mysterious creature who bears a striking resemblance to what one would assume a Yoda/Gremlin’s love child would look like how to use the “Overlord Abilities” and that there are nefarious doings a foot. Nefarious doings? Oh boy!
Your job is to reconstruct the previous Overlord’s tower of evil to not only enhance your abilities, but increase your evil-cred at the same time. Just how do you do this? You do what any self-respecting evil overlord would do and go out into the surrounding villages and take what you need – by any means necessary.
This is where Overlord truly becomes unique. Sure, you could take your battle-axe and just wipe out the innocent villagers, but that would be far too easy. Overlord gives you many options in how you want to go about acting out your evil plans, for instance, you can use your powers to set a farmer’s entire field a-blaze, or smoke out enemies from their hiding place. The firepowers we were able to experiment with in the demo were made even cooler due to the fact that the fires we started spread into other areas realistically, for instance setting a field on fire will result in most objects near it (trees, bushes) going up in flames as well. While fire was the only spell we were able to play around with, Codemasters promised many more by the time the game hits shelves this summer.
By far the coolest way to go about any task is to use your evil minions. Anyone familiar with Nintendo’s Pikmin games will feel right at home controlling these little gremlins. You use your minions as your Swiss army tool of evil — doing things, you don’t want and going places you can’t. After summoning your minions from portals placed throughout each village (you’d think the heroes that destroyed your tower would have made sure to hit these up too), you can use the right trigger to send the minions somewhere or the right thumbstick to “sweep” the entire group of them manually. Watching the minions do your bidding is quite funny as well, as they aren’t the smartest in the village – we watched as one got a pumpkin stuck on his head and couldn’t get it off. Aww, the little minions of evil are so cute!
Perhaps this is one of Overlord’s strongest traits – it’s dark sense of humor. It would have been easy for the developers to just create another Oblivion like fantasy story filled with elves, dragons and magic – and in a sense, they did, but it comes off as incredibly fresh because it pokes fun at itself and other games in the genre. For instance, that evil Yoda/Gremlin looking thing who told us how to use our powers had to do a mic-check when he began talking to us using the “Tower Heart” and the enemy armies told us to sit still while they got the aim on their bow and arrows straight.
Overlord is shaping up to be a uniquely satisfying experience due to it’s mix of genre standards. You have the action of Gauntlet, the puzzle solving of Pikmin and the atmosphere of Oblivion and World of Warcraft. It’ll be interesting to see the finished product when it hits store shelves this summer.