Developer(s) – Triumph Studios
Publisher(s) – Codemasters
Director – Lennart Sas
PEGI – 16
Released in the early period of the seventh generation of gaming, Overlord puts the player in the shoes of a demonic tyrant on a quest to expand his power wherever possible and to hunt down each of the heroes who had destroyed his predecessor with the help of his army of minions. It’s an action-adventure RPG relying heavily on real-time combat and unit control comparable to Nintendo’s Pikmin. During the seventh generation, I spent a great deal of time playing this game as it was one of the most unique titles around at the time In my opinion.
Graphics – 7/10
The conceptual design of the game was very heavily influenced by the writings of JJR Tolkien and the Middle-Earth mythos. The setting and characters are seemingly ripped straight from The Lord of the Rings Complete with dwarves, elves, trolls, and even hobbits; albeit they’re always referred to as halflings In the game. The elven habitats are also quite reminiscent of Warcraft III. In terms of the technical side, the graphics were pretty much above average compared to what was being showcased at the time, but as a fan of Tolkein’s work myself, I was quite impressed with how good a job the developers made to perpetuate elements of such and combine them with the dark fantasy elements which I will soon elaborate on.
Gameplay – 8.5/10
The game is an immersing action-adventure RPG centered around combat to defeat oncoming enemies, puzzles to solve in order to progress through each level and complete each set objective, raising, developing and modifying an army of minions and creating and customizing a base of operations in the form of a huge dark tower, again reminiscent of Barad-Dur from Middle-Earth; the overlord himself ostensibly being a carbon copy of the Dark Lord Sauron.
This all gives the game all the enjoyability and variety in Gameplay that players can come to expect of a typical game within the genre and it makes for an insanely enjoyable experience. But I would above all recommend players finding and playing the Raising Hell edition released on the PS3 as it comes with additional side quests to complete.
Controls – 9/10
The third-person combat mechanics are simple to get to grips with, as well as general movement; although additional mechanical are implemented during combat, or doesn’t feel too much like a mixture between turn-based and real-time combat that the Final Fantasy series has unfortunately adopted over the last few installments. The only minor gripe I had with the controls was that the minions can be a little awkward to control at times which can make it easy to accidentally lose minions in some pretty calamitous ways. But after a while of playing, it doesn’t pose too much of a problem In the end.
Lifespan – 7/10
The game also has a more than adequate Lifespan, requiring an average of 30 hours to complete to 100% counting the Raising Hell quests. Whilst it is a fairly long-lasting experience, the main issue that I took umbrage with to a small extent was that because the game has a fairly linear progression, it made it feel as if everything to do in the game, especially the objective of having to build the tower, would’ve worked far better if it had been part of an open-world game instead. I’m not entirely sure whether or not that was addressed in Overlord II, as I’ve only played it briefly, but nevertheless, it’s worth investing the required amount of time in the original title.
Storyline – 7/10
The story of Overlord is that the new overlord, elected by a group of minions to rule them, is out for revenge against the warriors who dispatched the previous overlord, whilst expanding his newfound power and growing his minion army. Although it can be simply summed up in its basic premise, what makes the game’s story particularly interesting is the use of dark fantasy and black humor as I alluded to earlier. The minions provide a level of comic relief that certainly wouldn’t be found in Lord of the Rings, segregating it somewhat from the writings that inspired the game’s conceptual design. There are also minor plot threads introduced that deal vaguely with the aftermath of war and what it means for the people of the land the overlord wishes to conquer, but the comedy certainly outweighs any message of moral ambiguity.
Originality – 9/10
Despite the fact that this game certainly had its influences in terms of both Gameplay and conceptual design, and that it seemingly had its fair share of detractors as a result of which, it regardless provides a level of uniqueness to the fantasy/dark fantasy genre that was a breath of fresh air at a time when the PlayStation 3 had not long been released and there was a certain level of dissatisfaction with launch titles like Ridge Racer 7 and Lair. It was exactly the kind of game the PlayStation 3 needed at the time before many other great games were subsequently released on the system and ostensibly not very many games like it since have been released.
Overall, Overlord is a unique, immersing, and fun title with a wicked sense of humor to match. It’s as wonderful and fantastical as the books it drew influence from and at the same time provides a gaming experience that has never truly been seen again since.