Overlord was a fun game, pretty linear and it had some interesting madcap moments. Codemasters are back again with Triumph Studios and hoping to strike it bigger this time around. The truth is, the game is good but not great. It has some issues that prevent it from being top of the class.
It is a typical fantasy start, taking elements of the heroes' journey prevalent in so many other fantasy games/novels and so on. You are the young heir to the original Overlord's great power and in a very Fable-esque way, you work up from your childhood of being bullied to the lofty heights of Dark Master of the Netherworld and beyond. It's clichéd and sometimes fun, nothing special and Rhianna Pratchett proves she can't hold a candle to her father.
If you've played Overlord, well, welcome back to a similar kind of game. It seems a little more open this time around, the Netherworld is a lot bigger and there's much more to do. It's still controlled in the same way with the game being a 3rd person action/adventure with a dose of sometimes forced humour. There are a few new game mechanics, possession of Minions adds a new level of tactical control and there's also a Minion graveyard where you can buy back slain favourite Minions, for a price of course.
The weapon forging is back, slightly beefed up and the quest system offers numerous rewards as you progress through the campaign. The problem is, I didn't really get into Overlord II as much as I could have done. The been-there and done-that vibe from the first game is definitely prevalent in this one even more so. It didn't help when I was playing the Overlad, Fable 2 beat you to it and was much more fun.
Controlling the Minions is largely the same. They can move levers, wheels, lifts and even take over enemy emplacements once you've killed the enemy of course. Minions, Brown, Green, Blue and Red are all back - they have similar powers to Overlord and for example - Reds can suck up fire and throw fire balls. Blue are healers and can cross water, Browns are fighters and Green well, they're your sneaky assassin types.
There are camera issues, the camera can get stuck and you can sometimes find that you can't quite get the angle you're after. Combat has been smoothed over and it a lot better. There are some surprises in store for the diligent explorer and there is a whole new upgrade system for your Netherworld fortress as the game progresses.
Minions can now ride mounts, like large wolves and each of these has a puzzle element to it. Wolves can jump quite far and are essential to getting your minions to hard to reach areas.
What you have is a quest based mostly-linear, rpg-action game with third person controls. It's a decent control system though, it works most of the time and barring those camera issues - it isn't at all bad.
The game features some nice cartoony graphics, they're created with an eye-bending design now and then and there are some pretty outlandish characters. This adds to the overall feel of the game and with bright and vibrant colour palettes and design, it's a nice change from the browns and greens of the Quake style fps. There's a good use of texture, shadow, light and all those lovely bells and whistles that we have come to love.
It's well animated and humorous, the Minions are the true star of the show and the cut-scenes make good use of the game's animation engine.
The physics system isn't bad, objects have certain physical properties and react like so when blown sky high. There are some nice rag doll effects and there are definitely a few puzzles that require use of blowing things up.
Good and bad, when it's good, it works nicely, when it's bad you'll be highly frustrated. Minion pathing is better than in Overlord, it still requires some tweaking. Enemy AI does a fairly good job of being challenging and sometimes gets stuck on the scenery when the AI loses the plot.
It's what I was expecting, nothing more or less. A good soundtrack.
Good sound design, some nice ambient and spot effects with some really meaty weapons sounds. The ambient sounds of the various levels all add to the different themed atmosphere.
It's adequately performed for the most part, but thanks to the forced writing and a lack of comic timing some of the jokes come across as cringe-worthy and flat for the majority of the game. There are some good ideas here, let down by poor execution both in terms of writing and the voice actor's performances.
Once again there's no true co-op in Overlord II and whilst there are some new mp game modes and a revisit of the old, they aren't enough to really interest us. A lack-lustre implementation of split-screen and online play serves to compound the problem with freezes online and frequent disconnects, during the games that we played.
Versus is there as well, with modes like Pillage and so on, again, it doesn't really grab us for any length of time and only adds a slight replay to the whole package. Cooperative modes like Survival and Invasion are about the best you'll get out of the whole mp experience and that's about it.
The first game was fun; the second is about the same. It's not going to win any GotY awards nor is it going to win any kind of awards for innovation and action either. It is a good game but could have been so much better with an expanded mp component and some thought in the actual story/character writing. It all comes off a little too 'edgy' at times and rather than making us laugh, it made us want to skip the scenes. The problems that were there in Overlord haven't really been fixed for 2 and that's one of the greatest crimes against this game. If it was fixed it would probably be an awesome title.