Overlord: Raising Hell

July 28, 2008

Originally released on the Xbox 360 and PC, Overlord quickly drew attention to itself for its tongue-in-cheek wit, and outside of the box gameplay similar to Pikmin. After a successful career and an expansion later, the PS3 is lucky enough to get the complete package and extra dungeons in one game that features a few tweaks to presentation.

Raised from the dead, you are the Overlord, a Sauron wannabe who finds his tower in ruins and his peasants less than respectful. What you do have is the undying affection of your faithful minions who will die for you while making you laugh all the while. These imp-like creatures follow your commands like a flock of cockroaches, enabling you to take down your enemies, drive fear into the locals hearts’ and help you rebuild your tower to your suiting.

From your dark tower you start out with a minimal set of brown minions and teleport about the countryside gaining life-force for more minions, power-ups, tower upgrades, and eventually the use of different types of minions. Each minion type represents a tactical combat strategy and a puzzle element in one. For example the blue minions serve as healers during combat and are the only minion type that can go through water while reds use fire-based attacks and can walk through the same unscathed. As you progress, your tower goes from ruins to luxury with your dungeon for refighting past enemies and an armory for upgrading weapons; just toss more than a couple of your willing minions into the smelting pot and you can upgrade your helmet.

Overlord’s controls are unique in that it has you controlling your group of minions to solve puzzles, ransack villages, collect loot and generally destroy everything in your path. Mostly a hack-and-slash with a small dose of strategy involved, you move your minions around using the right analog stick while moving yourself with the left. Not having the right analog to move the camera around was my biggest issue to get past as I had to effectively use the L1 to maintain an over-the-shoulder view. As you gain more types of minions the controls begin to get complicated, as you order one group to stay, one group to advance and others to try to sweep around behind the enemies to climb on their backs, your fingers definitely get a workout trying to maintain all of that at once, but it is more than gratifying seeing a swarm of minions widdle down an enemy effectively.

Like a twisted version of Tolkien, Overlord is teeming with humor and quick-wit that pokes fun at nearly everything available to it. Crass comments are always available from your trusty mentor-minion Gnarl or your mistress of the tower that encourage you to be as evil as you can be. Similarly the visuals take an almost cartoonish feel that begs not to be taken seriously, with absurd looking peasants and colorful environments that make it pleasing to look and listen to. The graphics mostly hit the mark, but it is almost blaringly apparent that the polish from a year-old 360 title doesn’t quite clear the bar set by games designed with the PS3 in mind.

Multiplayer similarly seems like an after thought. It is nice to have head-to-head, co-op Survival and contests available, but the online play doesn’t really take off and offer anything new to die-hard online gamers. The true reason to play is the single-player mode, hands down.

Despite my nits against the game, it is a solid, seriously fun and blatantly funny game that works on so many levels. Where else are you going to find this style of gameplay? If you already own the game on the 360/PC with the expansions you don’t need to upgrade to Raising Hell. Even with the addition of a mini-map and a smattering of new areas, the core game is essentially the same. But if you haven’t played it before, the PS3 version is now the best one available and should be checked out.

Score: 4/5

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