Overlord II Review (Xbox360)

Were we to be suddenly imbued with limitless power and an army of obedient minions, we’d like to think that we’d use these newly discovered resources for good, but deep down we know we’d love to further our own private diabolical scheme for world domination. In reality though, we’re forever condemned to a wan, skinny frame with no devastating, omnipotent powers to speak of. Sigh.

Fortunately, we have the vicarious thrills of Overlord II to cater for all our nefarious, malevolent whims with massive scope for enacting indiscriminate acts of destruction and mortal violence upon the powerless everyday folk. Much like the first Overlord in fact, which brought about the premise of utilising your minions as a weapon in your rise to power, ravaging the simple peasant villagers and pillaging the spoils.

The overlord is so damn hard, he can smack a colossal Panda square in the chops and get away with it.
While the art design in the game is undeniably strong, the graphics don’t quite measure up to the vision.

Overlord II tells the story of an entirely new overlord, opening the game with a prologue level where your ostracised ‘witch boy’ is taunted and cajoled by the other children in the snowy village of Nordberg. Discovered by your minions - a horde of cackling little gremlins - you’re finally raised to your awaiting seat of power in the hellish depths of the Netherworld. You become the titular evil overlord, clad in cool armour and imbued with dark powers.

And that’s the basic set-up for the sequel, which pits you against the Romanesque Glorious Empire who have driven all magical creatures from their borders. Suffice to say, you’re not particularly welcome either so it’s up to you to cause total mayhem to either dominate or destroy all who oppose your burgeoning reign of terror and wipe out the Empire in the process.

Based upon the game’s new tyranny system, you’re given the binary choice of either dominating the population, subduing and enslaving them to reap rewards and benefits gradually throughout the game, or simply wreaking havoc by destroying whatever happens to be stupid enough to get in your way. Destruction brings about instant gratification and there are plenty of ways to tear through the towns and villages trashing everything in sight using those cheeky, mischievous minions of yours, whereas domination requires a little more effort to subdue and recruit the weak-minded peasants to your cause. Your overall choices have little impact on the outcome of the game, so however you choose to progress is given minimal weight or importance. It’s really all about those devilish little minions more than anything else anyway.

Your minions come in four different flavours, each possessing a distinct ability that you can put to good use. Brown minions are your all-purpose brawlers who will mercilessly fight and break anything you tell them to. Reds are fire minions that can throw fireballs to burn away obstacles, but are rubbish in a close quarters melee situation so need positioning accordingly. Greens are your trusty covert assassins, who can don disguises and infiltrate their way into any area and finally your blue minions are able to heal fallen members of the horde and can pass through otherwise inaccessible enemy barriers. They can even swim a bit too. Handy.

Yet, Overlord II is essentially more of the same kind of stuff you’ll have already encountered in the original game, with a few tweaks and refinements applied to the overall formula. Most significantly, your minions have been given slightly more advanced AI, meaning that they’ll execute your commands perfectly pretty every time, although the odd instance of one of the little buggers getting lost is still a problem. But the little scamps can also mount up and ride on the back of wolves and other creatures and operate war machines like ballista catapults, which goes some way to making up for the intermittent glitch here and there.

They’re also quite amusing to watch, slavishly following you around cackling and putting things on their heads, collecting weapons and other paraphernalia that make them stand out as individuals. Every single one has a name too, so if your favourite dies in battle while carrying out your devious plans, you can go to your Netherworld palace and resurrect them using the minion graveyard.

While the minions are undoubtedly the stars of the show in Overlord II, the man himself is a force to be reckoned with too. You can forge new weapons, helmets and armour to enhance his developing abilities, and upgrade his health and magical power by gathering spell stones. Controlling the overlord ultimately boils down to simply using square/X to launch spells and X/A to swing your axe or sword, although there’s no particular need for you to ever get your hands dirty as the minions pretty much do all the work for you. Whether they’re clubbing fluffy seal cubs or smashing through enemy encampments, you can stand back and watch as the faithful horde perform your evil bidding.

Like the first Overlord, you can simply send in your minions with the right trigger, or ‘sweep’ them to wherever you want using the right analogue stick. Some areas can only be reached via sweeping them into position, but you can easily call them back at any time. Overlord II is still the same great marriage of action and strategy that Overlord was, allowing you to get stuck in if you like or stand and watch things unfold before you as the minions do their thing.

Minions can now ride on the back of wolves and other tamed creatures, which is a nice touch.
Your obedient posse look funny in the various disguises, accessories and other costumes dotted around the game world.

Whatever the case, the game provides some genuinely enjoyable moments during what you soon realise is a rather linear experience. What’s more, the very same issues that marred the original Overlord still manifest themselves here, with the same irritating camera and visual limitations putting a dampener on the sequel. This should have been looked at as an opportunity for developer Triumph Studios to fix these fundamental problems from the first game, so it’s disappointing to see that by and large they still exist.

Overlord II initially appears to be a worthy sequel, but the reality soon dawns on you that it’s not really all that different to its predecessor. Bugs and glitches still pervade much of the game, with graphics and animations that are rough and unrefined. None of these issues break the game, but they do make for a sequel that fails to be what it potentially could have and should have been. That said if you missed the original game, then Overlord II will be a pleasantly fresh gameplay experience well worth the time and effort. If however, you did catch Overlord the first time round, then you may find yourself feeling a little let down by the sequel.

Top game moment: Watching your minions rip through an army of centurions, while maliciously cackling away.