Crispy Gamer

Games for Lunch: Overlord II


Developer: Triumph Studios

Publisher: Codemasters

Release Date: June 23, 2009

Systems: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3, PC

ESRB Rating: T

Official Web site

0:00 I liked the first Overlord game just enough to never play it again after the first hour. Will this one hold up better?

0:01 A quick update download, a longish loading screen and a bunch of logos. The title appears in a flash of electricity as a bunch of little goblin-ish henchman dance to string-heavy sword-and-sorcery music. What sounds like a goblin chorus joins in with some chanting as I reach the menu. Cute.

0:03 Lots more loading before the new game starts. "Once upon a time there was an ending. And we minions searched high and low for a new Overlord. We were like fleas without a dog, maggots without a carcass, pimples without a face. And on Midwinter's eve, in the town of Nordberg, we found a beginning." Impressively decent writing...

0:04 My character is a tiny, misshapen, humanish thing completely ensconced in a thick winter coat. I'm brandishing a club and getting pelted with snowballs thrown by off-screen attackers. After them!

0:05 I knock down my child attackers' snowman defenses with my club and chase them down a snowy lane. The animation is kind of choppy -- I blame the overly detailed world. Everything is rendered with harsh edges and deep textures. A lot of random bits of speech from the kids are overlapping.

Overlord II

0:06 I use my lightning magic (I have lightning magic?!) to light some convenient rockets and destroy a house. Why? Because I'm eeeeevil, that's why.

0:07 Now that I've proven myself to the chattering minions, six of them come out from the shadows and join me. The right trigger sends them out to pester the poor kids or destroy a bunch of empty boxes. I like the animation here ... like watching the Looney Tunes Tasmanian Devil.

0:08 With the minions' help, I chase the kids into a barn. I seem to have lost three goblins in the process. How'd that happen?

0:10 A little girl shows me to the children's secret hideout, chattering all the while in a depressingly lovesick way. "I think I like you." You just met me! Sigh.

0:11 I use the right stick to "sweep" my demons over a bridge, around a wall and into the hideout. This takes me way too long to figure out.

0:13 I'm back to six minions now ... I guess the three I lost got found again? The children said something about running off to "The Hut," but I have no idea where that is.

0:14 I light another rocket to blow up the wall of the snow fort. Why couldn't I do that BEFORE I scared the kids out of the fort? Walking down the lane now, my minions snack on a cute little bunny hopping down the way.

0:15 The demons infiltrate the hut and steal the kids' clothes as a disguise. They sing a cute little gibberish song as we continue towards the big, flashing, yellow arrow on the mini-map.

0:16 With the disguises, the very drunk guard lets us into a big party going on past a big, locked gate. There are people milling around who kind of jump away when we get near.

0:17 I walk around the open-air market stalls, using my minions to destroy stuff pretty much because I can. When the minions find beer in a case, they swig it a down. Fun to watch, but not very productive.

0:20 I ignite yet another rocket to light a Christmas-like tree on fire. I get 10 Gamerscore points for "causing mayhem at the Midwinter party." Suddenly, cannonballs start flying in from all sides. The lovesick girl from before leads me down a path. The partiers are running around screaming now. "I''m too pretty to die." The writing has gone downhill fast.

0:22 In the past two minutes, the little girl has said "Hey, let's take a look" roughly a million times while leading me to this ridge.

0:23 "Bring out your magic users, Nordberg, so they may be cleansed," say the invading Sentinels. The village elder swears we don't have any magic users; then he sees me standing there. "Well, maybe we do have one..." He throws me down to the Sentinels and the game tells me to make a break for the wilderness. There are Centurions in the way, but my minions make short work of them.

Overlord II

0:25 I'm having a bit of trouble controlling my minions. The main problem: The right analog stick is used for camera control as well as minion control. Game doesn't seem to know which one I want at any point.

0:26 "Path block," say the minions. "Our Master would find way to break it." You know, I'm getting a LITTLE tired of hearing about what your master would do. I am your master now, OK?

0:28 I use my minions to take over a Centurion catapult and fire it at an advancing phalanx. The catapult boulder flies with lovingly realistic physics, but it seems unnecessary. Now we're off to Minion Burrows, a fact that causes the minions to throw up a "Yaaaaay!" that sounds like Kermit the Frog.

0:29 I come across a half-dozen wolves in cages, which my minions quickly free and start riding. Sure, why not.

0:30 Man, these minions are ruthless. Anything they come across goes down in an orgy of destruction. Of course, right now that just means a bunch of empty cages are getting destroyed. One of them isn't empty, though ... it has a big brute of a Yeti who joins our party and breaks down a big stone wall.

0:32 As we bound over some ice, the Yeti falls through, sinking down into a icy cavern. I fall with him, getting frozen in a big block of ice. In a cut scene, a minion elder examines my frozen form. "This is the last hope for evil? He's a little short. Fire up the dragon." I'm thawed out and "raised in the bowels of the earth" while, up above, the Glorious Empire comes to power. "Everyone's happy, and those that aren't are killed and tortured." Heh. Before you know it, I'm all grown up and it's time to "Let loose the minions of war. Because evil always finds a way!" Huzzah!

0:33 Oh, wait, I'm still not the Overlord yet. First I must be tested "as the beetle is tested by the dung pile." Huh?

0:34 If these minions say "Follow! Follow!" one more time...

0:36 The Yeti is back, now as "Nature's punching bag," aka a way to test my minion attacking skills. This is one long-ass tutorial...

0:39 I knock over some scaffolding to make a bridge to the ledge where the Yeti jumped. This all feels incredibly scripted and tired.

0:40 A minion sings a song of triumph over the Yeti: "Begone you beast, and make it fast. For if ye don't, will kick your aaaaaaarrrrrr." This last bit is cut short because another minion hits the singer with a snowball. THANK YOU!

0:41 Now I'm gathering "life force" by clubbing some incredibly cute baby seals. Man, they're really hammering home the "evil protagonist" thing. "Die, smelly furball!"

0:43 OK, I'll admit it, clubbing baby seals is fun. No wonder it's illegal.

Overlord II

0:47 Now I'm flattening hunter-filled igloos to stop them from interfering with my seal-thumping. The minions do a good job, but when I get involved directly with my club/magic, things go much faster. The overly detailed smoke from the fire is getting in the way of my view...

0:48 A bunch of enviro-hippy pirates enter. They are "protectors of all creatures and nature" and vow to "protect the fluffy ones." The portrayal is so over the top it's not even funny. I mean, the pirate is wearing a rasta hat.

0:49 "Perhaps all he needs is a hug. All creatures of the mother goddess are beautiful ... especially the cute ones." OK, I know these characters are meant to be annoying, but I don't like games that set out to annoy me...

0:54 Pirates defeated, I stumble on another igloo-filled hunters' camp. The fact that they're reusing set pieces like this so quickly does not fill me with hope for the remainder of the game.

0:56 Apparently I'm working my way back to Nordberg, the "sleepy, snowy little town that was going to hand you over to the Empire!" Oooh!

0:59 A rather confusing boss battle against more hippy pirates commences. The Yeti is on their side, I guess, but my minions take out the wooden supports he's standing on. In the end he jumps on the pirate ship. "This noble beats belongs with us. ... now let us away. Set sail for the sanctuary."

Would I play this game for more than an hour? No.

Why? An interesting concept, but so far it seems more focused on crafting incredible environments and cheesy, bad dialogue than actual interesting gameplay.

This column is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.

Read Scott Jones' review of Overlord II.

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