Overlord II Review
I liked the original Overlord, it was a solid and very enjoyable adventure game that this industry needs more of. In the world of infinite first-person shooters, games like Folklore, Fable, and Overlord are an unfortunate rarity. Their contrasts of dark and bright worlds, good and evil intentions are a breath of fresh air. Overlord took that concept and offered you the ability to take control of dozens of little minions and we liked that. There were some faults, but they weren't so big to really detract from the overall experience. Unfortunately, the sequel isn't anywhere near as good as the first game, and that's thanks to a technical issue with the game engine that I'll actually preface this review with.
When I first played Overlord last year, I had forgiven it for its imperfect framerate, because it was still somewhat tolerable. On the other hand, I cannot say the same for Overlord II. You see, I'm getting pretty fed up with lazy developers who, three years into this console's cycle, still cannot release games with proper framerates. Because Overlord II does more by allowing more minions on screen, Triumph Studios forgot to tweak the game engine for smoothness. What you're left with is a game with quite a bit of slowdown that'll eventually give you a headache. And to add to all of this, the game camera is pretty nutty, so coupled with the poor framerate, this game is not easy on the eyes and thus it's simply hard to enjoy.
The game follows the events of the first game, and this time around you take control of the previous Overlord's son, who, if you completed the first game, was kidnapped and taken away to Nordberg, an empire that's bent on banishing any known magical species. You'll get to briefly control the Overlord as youngin in the beginning of the game, and then later as a full grown character. You will still attempt to conquer the game's empire by utilizing the same minion-controlling concept of the first game, too bad you won't have any fun doing it.
Beyond the frustrating technical issues, there is also the problem of linearity, where the game offers little to no scale of exploration and is just a straight-through adventure that doesn't have a lot to offer you. Next are the controls, which felt slow. The action is never responsive as your character will perform the action a good while after you hit the button. That, in turn, makes the combat feel lackluster and completely withdrawn, making it feel almost useless.
It's a shame that Overlord II feels like such a step back for the franchise, because this is really a franchise with a ton of potential behind it. And ultimately, it's been ruined (at least for now) thanks to lazy developing. It's also a shame because the story is rather good, and the little subtleties in the game make for an amusing background, one that is fairly full of mocking and parodying.
I may have already ranted about the game engine and its setbacks, but I've yet to mention the rest of the graphics. Once again, much like the rest of the game, despite promises of improved visuals, you'd be hard pressed to find any notable differences between both games. I was able to forgive the original game for its lack of character details, and overall average texture detail, but this time around there is no excuse. Overlord II is simply a lackluster looking game with a pretty color palette, and that's about it. Where as developers are supposed to be harnessing the strengths of these consoles by now, Triumph has done no such thing with their sequel.
The audio is okay, but the constantly repeated audio bits of the trolls and other NPCs do get annoying sometimes. The voice acting isn't bad, but it's also not very memorable, either. I do like the soundtrack, though, as it's quite fitting to the theme and style of the game. On the other hand, I do think that the sound effects are rather dull, and often times you can't even hear them - don't know what happened there during development.
All in all, this is a major disappointment to me, because I genuinely liked the first Overlord game, and really found it to be quite innovative, unique, and fun. This sequel fails to make any notable strides in improvement, and in fact fails so hard with the broken game engine that it feels downright frustrating to look at and play. If you liked the first game like I did, I suggest skipping over the sequel - this isn't even worth a bargain bin price. What a shame.
7/23/2009 Arnold Katayev