You know a game is going to be good when it lets you terrorize children. For anyone who’s gone through the harrowing experience of being a camp counselor, or has been around kids for more than three seconds, this is no doubt the game for you. Overlord 2 does something right that not many games can anymore. It’s pure fun. In fact, it’s so fun that I have no problem saying that it is one of my favorite games of the year. While I can concede that it is not perfect by any means, I can’t emphasize enough how well the game does everything it sets out to do. It gives you a good time, and that’s all I ask out of my games.
The premise of the Overlord titles is to give the player the distinct feeling of power over all they see. The second entry begins as the iconic Minions of the series have sought you out to be their new Overlord. The tutorial features the previously mentioned “child scare tactics,” and is as enjoyable a level to familiarize a player with the game as I have seen in awhile. In the course of about half an hour, I scared the snot out of some kids, took their clothes to disguise my minions, destroyed a town square, essentially fought the Roman Empire, and was aided by a Yeti. If that isn’t cool enough to get you hooked, then perhaps you need to find yourself a new hobby. The look, feel, and overall direction that Overlord 2 takes itself in was unexpected, but a welcome one at that.
Speaking of the visuals, I have to say that I’m impressed. The decidedly (for the most part) dull color palettes from the first game are replaced by some truly vibrant and colorful set pieces. Snow flakes flutter down to blanket the earth. Water ripples around you as you and your minions vengefully pursue some innocent baby seals to slaughter. Houses and trees can be set alight with the use of some basic magic. In fact, the graphical style of Overlord 2 is overtly similar to that of Fable 2’s. This is most definitely a good thing, as the art style of Fable 2 was the only thing I liked about it (Note to haters: yes, I didn’t like Fable 2, but I have nothing against the series. Looks wonderful, and an idea like that should be much more fun than it is.) Overall, Overlord seems to have settled into it’s look quite nicely, and has me genuinely excited for the next game.
When looking at a game with as dark a sense of humor as is expressed by Overlord 2, it is important to observe the characters in the game, and the emotion that they convey. Trust me, emotion is something this game comes chock full of. I found myself constantly grinning like a fool at my Minions antics. When they had just plundered through a town and frightened all of the people in it, they began to sing a song in delight. After drinking a few pints of beer from a destroyed bar, they proceeded to relieve themselves on everything in sight. Make no mistake, the Minions are the stars of this game, and rightly so. They enforce the theme that this game is meant to be fun, and doesn’t take itself too seriously. In fact, the importance of Minions led the team to fix one of the biggest problems I had with the first game. In the original Overlord, many times you would find yourself having painstakingly upgraded one of your minions, only to have them be killed and lost forever. Many an expletive were shouted in turn, and the game left untouched for weeks at a time. With the sequel, Codemasters have instead offered a much more promising alternative. This time around, favored minions can be resurrected for a price, with all of their previously earned experience, abilities, and items. A true godsend, after my experiences with the previous game.
Moving on to gameplay is where Overlord 2 really shines. A game about destruction, mayhem, and fun has to control a certain way to make the player feel like they are truly in control. That is most certainly the case here. Thanks to an intuitive and simple control scheme, players are instantly able to direct their minions with ease. Even with a horde of angry demons behind you, you will have no problem making them do your bidding. Movement is confined to two buttons. Hold down the R trigger to have them rush out and go berserk on whatever they happen across, or use the right stick to “sweep” them along a specified path. Either way, it’s heaps of fun. The game also features a surprising amount of strategy and depth, especially once you have obtained all of the various types of Minions. There’s nothing quite like having all of your plans converge at once into a beautiful opus of destruction.
It is also in the gameplay aspect that the game hits its first snag. Breaking up all of the wonderful moments that make up Overlord 2 are certain segments when you take direct control over one of your Minions. Leading other lesser minions on what are basically mandatory stealth missions interrupts the winning formula established by the other aspects of the game, and sours an otherwise fresh and thrilling experience.