Overlord Updated Hands-On - It's Good to be Evil
We take a whirl through a near-final version of Overlord for the PC.
Overlord, the latest game from Age of Wonders developer Triumph Studios, is in a peculiar genre of games that encourages you to be as evil as you want, which is perhaps best represented in Bullfrog's old Dungeon Keeper series of games. Overlord puts you in the role of, well, an overlord who has recently been reincarnated after his destruction at the hands of seven valiant heroes. As you come back to life, you're tasked with rebuilding your castle, which was ransacked by the heroes, as well as wreaking vengeance upon those who killed you.
Our counterparts at GameSpot UK recently wrote a lengthy preview on the Xbox 360 version of the game, which we encourage you to read if you want details on the basic aspects of it. In short, you--as the Overlord--will be tasked with rebuilding your castle, which is accomplished by finding items that were looted from it. You're also tasked with reestablishing control of the kingdom by eliminating races that rule over the peons that tend to your fields, as well as eventually finding and killing the seven heroes that have scattered across the land.
You do all this by controlling imp minions of various sorts. Your minions are going to do the hard work that you require, such as destroying barricades, attacking enemies, raising gates, and so on. You start off with only five minions to your name, but you will eventually be able to control up to 50 of the little guys. As you pillage the towns or villages of the countryside, your imps will find new equipment for themselves and eventually upgrade their attack capabilities. Although you can only control soldier minions initially, you'll eventually unlock fire archer minions, healers, and so on.
All of this should be familiar to anyone who tried the recently released demo of the game. The default mouse/keyboard control scheme is fairly awkward compared with that of a gamepad because it often forces you to hold down both the left and right mouse buttons to sweep your minions across the screen. (The game works fine with an Xbox 360 controller plugged into your computer, so that's obviously going to be the preferable input method.) But what's perhaps more annoying is the fact that the configuration menus for graphical options and keyboard bindings are located in the start menu. If you want to tweak your graphics or rebind a key, you'll have to exit to Windows and do it there; it's impossible to perform these simple tasks from the in-game menu.
That said, assuming you can get the graphics set up to your liking and have a spare 360 controller lying around, you should be able to have a perfectly good time with the PC version of Overlord. After breezing through the content in the demo (which sees you rescuing the humans of a town named Spree from the clutches of evil halflings), we proceeded on to the main meat of the game. This is where you and your horde of minions enter the town of Spree to speak to the civilians within it. There's no role-playing-game-style dialogue menu or anything like that; rather, you simply walk up to a peon, and he or she will either say something to you or a cutscene will play if that peon wants you to take on a new quest.
Spree winds up acting as something of a quest hub for your overlord, with a half-dozen or so quests getting dropped in your lap when you first arrive. But many of those quests are initially impossible to attempt, thanks to walls of flame that block your path. However, you are capable of chasing down food that was stolen from your peons and taken to the halflings' burrows. With our minions in tow, we charged into the Hobbit-esque dwellings and recovered the food from the cooks deep within the structures. It was then that we were given a choice right out of an RPG: We were asked to either give the peons back the food or steal it for our own minions. Performing evil acts, like stealing the food, boosts your powers. But being decent and letting the peons have their way will keep them happy, which in turn will eventually boost the amount of gold you can take from them. Either way, you win!
Playing on, we eventually managed to take on the first of the seven knights, a grotesque halfling named Melvin Underbelly. While most of the halflings stood at about half the height of our overlord, Melvin had apparently taken on the habits of a glutton and ballooned to many times his original size. He attacked us by doing massive belly flops, rolling around and attempting to smash us. He quickly dispatched our minions, forcing us to take our overlord in for some rare combat. After analyzing the pattern, we were able to avoid Melvin's attacks and wear him down. Thus, we eventually destroyed him, which led to freeing our second type of minion, the reds. Red minions are capable of absorbing fire into their bodies, allowing us to uncover many new paths in the world.
While it's apparent that Overlord was developed for the Xbox 360 first and foremost, it seems like it should wind up being a perfectly fun game on the PC, assuming you have a compatible gamepad to use instead of the cumbersome default controls. The game is scheduled to ship later in June, so stay tuned to GameSpot for a full review.
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