Are you tired of playing in the same happy fantasy world, populated by jovial fat halflings, pointy-eared do-gooder elves and beer-swilling dwarf warriors? Are heroic knights getting you down, got too many Paladins in your local area defending the towns folk from rampaging hordes of the dead and damned souls?
Of course you do, otherwise you wouldn't be reading this. Or perhaps you would and you're attempting to spy on the layers of evil contained within...an Evil Overlord can't be too trusting these days.
So here we are almost at long last, only a few glittering weeks away from the release of Codemasters dark romp through a fantasy landscape, Overlord. The chances are that people are going to compare this to Fable or Pikmin and I think that would be an unfair comparison, since after playing the PC demo of the game I longed to take up the dark lair of Dungeon Keeper II.
Overlord is a third person action/slash adventure through a fairly twisted fantasy landscape, there's not much to be garnered about the final levels of the game only that it has a similar vein of humour to the seminal Dungeon Keeper and is laced with dodgy accents, fantasy clichés and loveable gremlin-like minions with their own personalities.
The demo is an excellent introduction to the core gameplay mechanics that make Overlord a cut above the rest of the fantasy fare we've sampled so far. After awakening from a long slumber your hero or I should say, anti-hero (that's you) finds that his master is dead and he's the new Boss of Darkness™.
The Tower of Evil has been ransacked and the heroes have carried off all of the possessions of the previous master, including something known as the Tower Heart (the source of the Tower's power) - after a short introductory scene you are free to take a wander around. You are presented with two choices, get right into the smiting or learn about the fine points of combat and minion control.
This is what makes Overlord fun, you're able to raise an army of minions, brown only in the demo (warriors) who will follow your commands and attack, ransack and cause chaos where you left click. You can target with left shift and send them out with a left click or just left click to send them in that direction. Holding down the left mouse button will send all of them out.
Right click or holding the right mouse button brings them back. You can also hold down both mouse buttons and sweep the mouse around; your minions will follow your mouse movements and trash anyone/anything that they come across. They will also pick up useful items (weapons, armour and so on) either using them or bringing the loot back to you.
In the demo you have a fairly short introductory level that allows you to experiment with some of the abilities, like the fireball spell. Massacre Halflings (always a good time) and recover your Tower Heart. The demo is laced with dark humour, comedy and a decent chunk of gameplay that you'll either love or hate. I was firmly on the side of love since I found the controls and the combat system easy to use.
The animation in the game is excellent with the minions taking the prize, these creatures are horribly cute and they have tonnes of personality. Watching them in action brings a gleam to my Evil Overlord's dark heart for a moment as they run back with lots of gold, prostrating on the ground and fawning. Oh yes, Megalomaniacs are going to love this game.
The models and graphics are likewise very good, they have an eye for the bizarre design and the Overlord himself seems to be based on a version of Sauron except the helmet is slightly different and he's armed with an axe not a massive magical mace. The special effects are well done and the game is packed with nice lighting, shadows and various other bells and whistles.
The fantasy landscape is well designed, it feels linear at the moment since it is a demo, but the look and feel of it makes my Overlord's skin crawl so the developers have gotten that right I think. I want to burn their verdant landscape to ashes, slaughter their sheep and raise an army worthy of M...myself.
The AI of your minions seems to be fairly decent as well, they follow your orders explicitly and they don't get on your nerves (apart from the Jester, but I kick him a lot so it's all good).
It's a little too early to tell if the full game is going to keep the fun factor up, by the feel of it - it should. There are other minion tribes to find and unlock, with their own special powers and role to play. There's the Corruption of your main character to consider and how he'll treat the general populace. Slaughter too many and you might miss out on vital tribute: like gold for instance.
We'll find out more about Overlord fairly soon when we get our copy to review, until then check out the PC demo or the Xbox Live demo and prepare to unleash the true heart of Evil when the game ships later this month.