E3 06: Overlord First Look

Codemasters shows off its upcoming action RPG for the first time at E3.

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LOS ANGELES--Earlier today, during a visit to Codemasters' E3 booth, we were treated to our first look at the previously unannounced Overlord, which is currently in development at Triumph Studios for both the PC and the Xbox 360. The game is set in a warped fantasy world where the unicorns are rabid, seven former heroes have become as corrupt as the world-threatening evil that they once fought to destroy, and impish creatures known as minions believe you to be their overlord. In fact, the overlord in question has been dead for ages, but when the minions spot you, a powerful sorcerer, emerging from his castle at the start of the game, they decide to pledge their lives to you, effectively giving you the means to destroy the aforementioned fallen heroes and becoming the new overlord if you wish.

Our demo kicked off right at the start of the game, where we saw the sword-wielding main character encountering a small group of naked, brown warrior minions and later exploring a picturesque rural location with all of them in tow. Warrior minions will be happy to give up their lives fighting for you, but that doesn't mean that they wish to do without the benefit of any armor or weapons. One of the most amusing things that we saw during the demo was the way that the warrior minions ransacked pretty much every location they went to looking for items that they could equip. The result was a ragtag mob of minions sporting varying degrees of makeshift armor and armed with pitchforks and such. One of the minions even managed to find a chef's hat somewhere along the line, which afforded him very little protection but made him easy to spot in the crowd.

Anytime a minion picks up an item of worth that it's unable to equip, it'll bring it to you, meaning that you never have to waste your time running around and picking up items dropped by enemies that you've slain, for example. Most of the items that we saw collected in this way were the souls of fallen enemies, which can be used to summon additional minions at certain locations in the world. There were only five minions to control at the start of the demo, but that number was up to around 30 by the end, and we were told that the game currently has a limit of around 60 that might increase by the time the game is released.

Additional minion types that we got to see in action during our demo included red "fire" minions who were resistant to fire and could launch flaming projectiles at enemies, and green "poison" minions who were resistant to poisons and had a penchant for climbing all over enemies before poisoning them. The different types of minions reminded us of the titular pikmin in Nintendo's popular GameCube game, and we weren't surprised to learn that the two games' control schemes have more than a little in common with each other. The default setup on the Xbox 360 controller will see you controlling the overlord and the minions with the left and right analog sticks, respectively, and when you're ordering your minions around you'll use the right shoulder button to determine how many of them you'll send to a particular location, item, or enemy.

Although minions are quite capable of looking after themselves in a fight (as evidenced by the crazy chef and rock giant boss encounters that we saw them deal with), they're easily distracted, so at certain points in the game you'll have no choice but to do your own dirty work. All of the minions started dancing when they encountered a fiddle player during the demo, for example, and it was only after the musician was slain that they regained their senses. On other occasions it'll simply make more sense for you to use your magic than it does to risk the lives of your minions--using a fire spell to set fire to a field of tall grass that enemies are hiding in, for example.

We were very impressed with what we saw of Overlord at Codemasters today, both in terms of its gameplay mechanics and its delightful visual style. Stay tuned for more information on the game in the coming weeks and months.

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