The original Overlord game was an interesting foray into an untapped area of gaming that, while it had its problems, ended up making up for them with some truly unique methods of gameplay. The sequel keeps a lot of what made the first one so unique, but also fails to capitalize on the idea of improving a lot of what made the original rough around the edges. There are new game features such as minion upgrades and riding mounts, but the streamlining of the single player game and the focus on linear progression really mar the exploration aspect found in the first game. Still if you can get past the fact that Overlord II feels more like a re-imagining than a sequel, you will still find plenty of evil good times packed away on this DVD.
You begin the game as a brand new Overlord, which if you finished the original (yes that means spoiler alert ahead) it makes sense as the original one met an untimely demise. The game actually starts off rather clever as the minions observe you as a child, and decide if you are the right material to become their new Overlord. Once again you will slowly progress and become more evil as the game goes along, but this time around you are actually fighting against an even more evil faction, so it kind of makes you the good guy in a sense. The witty British-style humor is still present, and the game doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is a good thing because most of the cut scenes border on the ridiculous side far too often.
This is actually one of the setbacks. There are times when it feels like the game is simply trying too hard to be funny. There are cut scenes and dialogue that seem so far-fetched that it borders on just being preposterous. Don’t get me wrong, it is extremely hard to make a game genuinely funny anymore, and Overlord II does a nice job of setting the mood time and time again. However, there were far too many times where I was shaking my head because the game felt it was better to make a terrible joke, as opposed to no joke at all.
Minion control is still the main focus of the game, and love it or hate it the same control scheme is still present. Controlling minions, your character and the camera simultaneously is still a chore, even with the refinements they have made. This is further frustrated by the AI, which has been improved, but my browns still decided to go for a swim more often than I would have liked. Path finding has definitely been tweaked as your minions will now spread out and cover more ground, as well as bringing you life force and gold, in a more timely and effective manner. This is where the game is made or broken for just about everyone; micromanagement.
Even with the improvements made to the AI the minions still require a healthy amount of babysitting. You can still lay down checkpoints for them to guard and select them individually with the d-pad, but if you are new to the series this can be cumbersome at first. It also doesn’t help that your hulking avatar is truly a weakling in battle. For being the almighty Overlord, you sure will buckle quickly when it comes to fisticuffs. You can upgrade your armor and weapons at the expense of your minions and gold, but this time around you can also upgrade individual minions. This new mechanic gives you purpose and a direct relationship with specific minions. If they die in battle you can also resurrect them, but it will cost a hefty penny, especially if they were high-level.
In another effort to customize your troops, these little havoc-wreakers can now mount various animals to speed up and increase their attack range. Minions will also pick up items in the world to use as weapons and armor making them much more personalized. The relationship between you and your minions has been greatly increased this time around, but I can’t help but wish the controls had received the same kind of attention. As it stands the game still feels like a polished version of the original with a lot of the same qualms.
Outside of simply roaming the world and wreaking havoc you can also purchase a host of upgrades for your evil tower. This also encompasses collecting your trophy women again, and keeping them happy. This is also a new feature of Overlord II; choice. This time around the game leads you to believe that you have a choice in the way certain things will play out. Whether it is favoring one of your female companions more than the other, or simply choosing to enslave everyone as opposed to killing them, the choice is entirely up to you. The problem is that these decisions rarely, if ever, actually affect the gameplay at all. Most of the time they are played up as some huge dilemma, when in actuality they are nothing more than just another bullet point for the back of the box.
Overlord II is an extremely linear game, completely eliminating the open feel of the first outing. There is rarely a time you will find yourself off the beaten path, which really does a lot to remove the sense of freedom you had in the original. This is not all bad though; in fact more structure is what the first game needed, but when you nix it altogether it is hard not to notice. This makes the game feel more like an action title as opposed to the mix of genres it truly is. You can revisit old areas (which the game suggests you do) but enemies do not respawn, and outside of a few hidden items there isn’t much motivation to return to them.
Multi-player returns to the series, but unfortunately like the first one it will not likely be the focus of your time. The co-op and competitive modes are both present, and the inclusion of split-screen out of the box is a treat for sure, but if you plan to play online all I can say is good luck. Both the PS3 and 360 servers were nearly empty as of this writing, and I cannot imagine that changing in the future. This game just does not translate as well into multi-player, and I wish the development team would spend a bit more time polishing the core single-player experience and just forego the online portions altogether.
On the visual side Overlord II retains the same fairytale look inspired by the first game. Everything is dark with lots of muted colors. I really think the overall look really suits the game, but at the same time it is very drab and boring in a lot of areas. There are also hints of slowdown when the action heats up. This is never game breaking by any means, but still extremely noticeable. Music is almost forgotten because it rarely stands out and the voices are done well enough, but some overlapping issues can be frustrating; I recommend turning subtitles on so you don’t miss anything.
Overlord II is one of those games where you just have to realize, it is what it is. Fans of the original are likely going to have a good time with it, but if you did not care for the first game this one will do little to change your opinion. The single-player game is a solid romp that is interesting from beginning to end, just don’t expect a huge leap over the previous game. Multi-player is still a bore for the most part and the presentation is simply passable. Overlord II is a unique game that straddles the line between action, RPG and strategy, and it does it well enough to make a splash. I truly hope the developers continue the series and really flesh out what makes this title so much fun. As it stands this chapter feels more like a re-imagining of the original game than a full-fledged sequel.