GC 2008: Overlord II First Look

We check out an early work-in-progress version of Codemasters' recently announced Overlord sequel.

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While we were visiting Codemasters' headquarters in the UK last week to check out the publisher's lineup for the 2008 Games Convention, we were offered a first look at the recently announced Overlord II. Triumph Studios' Overlord sequel won't be at the Games Convention in Leipzig this week, but we'll definitely be keeping an eye out for it at future events because we came away from our brief demo impressed with what we saw.

Overlord II is set between 50 and 100 years after the events of the first game and will cast you as a direct descendant of the original game's titular tyrant. In the years since the departure of the last overlord and the arrival of this new one, the empire has become much more powerful and is using its newfound military might to hunt down all magical creatures that it thinks could conceivably pose a threat.

The overlord's world, then, is a very different place now. We're told that in addition to the picturesque countryside that was ravaged in the first game, there are now snow-covered and tropical regions to explore. The environments that we saw for ourselves looked a lot like the aforementioned countryside, which wasn't surprising given that the version of the game we were looking at had very few new visuals in it. Rather, it was a build of the game designed purely to showcase new gameplay mechanics, character behaviors, and the like.

Our demo got underway in a large empire city that looked a lot like something the ancient Greeks or Romans might have built. Columns of white marble, decorative fountains, and wandering peacocks made for an environment in which the overlord and his minions looked extremely out of place. It wasn't long before their presence riled up a local senator and a small group of centurions.

After dispatching the enemies with little trouble, the minions set about terrorizing the town, and in the process, showed off the greater destructibility of the new game's environments. By destroying a handful of columns, the minions caused an entire building to collapse, and in doing so, they opened up a new route through the level. At this point, the controls used to command the minions appeared no different from those in the first game--the horde was simply being swept around the level with the right analog stick while the overlord was controlled with the left. We got to see a new feature in action at one point though, when the overlord placed a banner on the ground and all of the minions rallied to it to adopt a defensive stance. If you're familiar with Overlord, you'll know that this promises to be a really useful addition in the sequel because the little troublemakers can get a little carried away at times and have little interest in self-preservation.

Later in the demo, when confronted by a large group of centurions carrying large shields, we got to see minions riding mounts for the first time. Like weapons and armor, mounts are found strewn all over the world and are equipped simply by moving your minions toward them. The brown, red, green, and blue minions under your command will each get a different species of creature to ride. On this occasion, we only got to see the brown minions riding wolves. While mounted, the minions not only moved more quickly but were also able to jump and were powerful enough to break though the defenses of the centurions making intelligent use of their shields.

The real showpiece of the demo was a heavily defended castle that, ordinarily, the overlord and his minions would have had no hope of being able to even get into, much less take over. In Overlord II, though, minions will be able to disguise themselves as centurions (and other enemies, presumably), using armor and weapons scavenged from the battlefield. The minions are far too short, of course, and could never look anything like the centurions, but the fact that they get away with it so effortlessly really plays into the series' humor. Interestingly, you'll be taking direct control of a single minion during these sequences, rather than playing as the overlord and controlling all of the minions as one.

Once inside the stronghold, the minions were able to commandeer a catapult-like siege weapon and launch huge boulders at centurion patrols as they passed across a bridge below. Earlier, they'd had to dodge those same boulders simply by listening for the whistle of their approach and then avoiding the shadows that they cast just before impact. Siege weapons will purportedly be a regular feature of the game, which suggests that epic battles much larger than anything in the first game will be featured as well.

The demo ended with a huge teaser; the overlord and his minions were on a battlefield facing a truly massive army of centurions, led by commanders and accompanied by large troll-like champions. And that was that. Needless to say, we're anxious to see what was going to happen next, and we'll be sure to bring you more information on this promising sequel just as soon as it becomes available.

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