I recently had some time to sit down with the forthcoming Overlord 2 on the Xbox 360. This is (unsurprisingly) the followup to the successful Overlord which was released quite some time ago on the next generation consoles, as well as the PC. In the first game, the Overlord was killed at the end of the game but he was fortunate enough to have a son.
His son was about to fall into the hands of the ruling Empire (the good guys) but luckily he was rescued by the minions who recognised him as the new Overlord. Years pass and once again the new Overlord has his own Dark Tower which is the base of operation from which the gamers launch a campaign of chaos against the girlie goodie Empire.
Triumph Studios took feedback from the first Overlord and have made key changes to the strategy title. The choices are no longer just about good or evil because as you are a ruthless malicious Overlord (from the beginning) the choices are more about how evil you wish to be ! You can enslave or destroy at will.
There are also changes to the gameplay mechanic with a newly developed spell system which adjusts to how you play the game. If you are a dominating overlord then the spells adapt to subjecting the population to your evil will. If you manipulate towns of slaves then you get more benefits over a long period of time, however if you just destroy a town for an initial kick then you get the treasure and the souls of the slain as well as their houses.
The core gameplay is basically much the same as before and you control the Overlord in a third person style with the left stick and you move the minions around the environment with the right. Similarly, just as before you can either get involved yourself with spells and melee attacks, or just let your hordes of minions deal with the situations … for you, via your commands.
Additionally, like the first Overlord, you get the control of four types of colour coded minions. Browns are the best melee fighters, Greens can walk through and disable toxic areas, Blues are the healers of the pack and the Reds are the long range fire lobbing minions with resistance to fire. The minions can now also climb on top of other creatures which adds another layer of abilities.
This means that you get other contextual commands at hand to open more options for your minions. Red minions can ride fire salamanders which are described as living flamethrowers and they are capable of shooting concentrated fire blasts as well as digging into gnome holes to flush them out for the easy kill. The Green minions can ride spiders to climb walls and cast webs on enemies to disable them. Browns can ride wolves to form a more potent group of melee fighters … this also means they can travel faster, jump gaps and knock over enemies while causing serious bite damage. The healing Blue minions are the only ones unable to mount creatures for further attacks.
The developers also added a new Minion Champion character who can leads groups of 10+ minions into battle. This time around the minions also have individual touches to their persona to try and get the players to bond a little more with their followers. Later in the game this is emphasized by the fact that you stumble upon a minion graveyard which means you can resurrect your fallen commanders.
Minions can now be disguised which has benefits in the heat of combat, they can sneak past key positions in the environment for example to infiltrate certain positions. A good example would be one of our demo levels which we experienced. You start by herding a group of minions into a tent to wear their new clothes then they travel over a guarded bridge. The enemy guards mistake the minions as friendly troops and lower the bridge, letting the minion forces slaughter them in cold blood. If this is well implemented in the final game then it will certainly add a nice edge to the gameplay.
The bosses have also been adapted to be more immersive and epic in nature and are set to be tied into the story more than before. We can’t give too much away at the minute, but from what we heard off the record it sounds much improved than the situations experienced in the first.
We are quick to be assured however that while the game has received considerable overhauls in various areas that the humorous tongue in cheek nature of the game has not been changed. We encounter the gnomes, a race of creatures set to break and steal things when possible and they are even willing to do so on the Overlord and his forces as well! The Eradicator agents fight for the Empire and steal the magic from anything that gets in their path. Again these are just several key instances of humorous and interesting new characters added to the mix. This is further aided by the fact that the script is handled by Rhianna Pratchett, a very talented writer with the ability to handle a wide range of story telling across the board.
The engine has been noticeably overhauled and Triumph have stated that both Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 versions will have optimal running engines due to performance analysers which help the technical team figure how how each set of hardware is handling the scenes, then they can adjust and tweak to suit. The PC version is obviously coded to scale to specific hardware on offer from individual machines. So while we have yet to play with the finished product, the “in work code” we have seen is certainly very promising indeed. The polishing and tweaking with the engine is sure to answer the critics who complained about performance.
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