Overlord: Nitpicks

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Mar 17, 2009

Filed under: Game Reviews 46 comments

The major nitpick I have with overlord is the lack of a map or compass, which is either inconsequential or maddening, depending on how good you are at navigating mazes without a clear directional landmark or point of reference. One of the developers from Codemasters stopped by and confirmed that Overlord 2 will have an in-game map. And the people rejoiced.

My other nitpick might be a little unfair. I usually have suggestions to go along with my nitpicks to indicate what I thought would have made the game better, but I don’t have any definitive answer here. It’s possible that this “problem” is just an inherent property of this type of gameplay.

First, a very broad overview of the gameplay:

For the most part Overlord is a game of mild action and strategy: If you want to do well, you’ll conserve your units by deploying them wisely in battle. Each foe you meet will have a weakness that you can exploit with one of your minion types. Use the right minions, and you’ll do well.

For example: You can fight trolls by sending your browns (warriors) in directly and then taking your greens (sneak attackers) and attacking from behind while the troll is busy with the browns. When he gets ready to leap up in the air and do his ground stomp, recall the whole group quickly, as anyone still fighting him when he comes back down is dead. Keep your reds (ranged attackers) back and don’t let your blues (healers) get anywhere near the fight. Repeat as necessary.

Losing a few units due to a blunder makes your army smaller, and you can only replenish lost units at fixed locations in the world. If you lose too many, your forces will be weaker and you will take additional losses in combat, thus exacerbating the problem. Losses form a feedback loop then can wipe out your army and oblige you to backtrack (hope you don’t get lost!) to the last spawning area to rebuild your forces. Imagine a FPS game where you do less damage the lower your health bar gets and you’ll see how this affects gameplay. (Note that I don’t consider any of this to be a a flaw, it’s just how the game works. RTS games have this same positive / negative feedback loop, and there’s no way to “fix” it without ruining the game. That is the game.)

Each unit type requires a type of energy. You need red energy for red minions, green energy for green minions, and I’ll bet you’re clever enough to figure out what sorts of energy you need for blue and brown. You get this energy for killing certain types of foes, and if you run out of given type of energy then you’ll have to grind / farm for it. If you manage to build up enough of a surplus, you can sacrifice the excess minions to forge armor and weapons imbued with additional levels of awesomeness. So wasting guys is a bad thing.

This is all fine and good and fun. But the game became frustrating for me when it would change gears into puzzle mode. Here is one of the many puzzles in the game:

<strong>Left:</strong> A giant serpent rises out of the water.<br />
<strong>Center:</strong> A crank which requires a dozen or so minions to turn.<br />
<strong>Right:</strong> A nest with a few eggs in it, and a couple of nasty birds to protect them.<br />
<strong>Foreground:</strong> Myself and a few of my 25 blue minions.
Left: A giant serpent rises out of the water.
Center: A crank which requires a dozen or so minions to turn.
Right: A nest with a few eggs in it, and a couple of nasty birds to protect them.
Foreground: Myself and a few of my 25 blue minions.

The goal is to turn the crank. The lower area is flooded with water, so only the extremely fragile blue minions are useful here. (All other minion types drown in water.)

I send my blues to turn the crank, the serpent comes up and pretty much insta-kills 80% of them. I pull them back and replenish my forces from the nearby spawning point. I figure I need to fight the serpent and kill it first. Perhaps they will do better if they’re actually fighting and not turning the wheel, so I send them in along the ground to attack the base of the serpent.

Boom. The entire party is wiped in a couple of seconds. Dang. Replenish. I’m now down about 40 blue energy, which is a huge loss at this point in the game.

I try sending a few up to turn the crank, and while the serpent is distracted killing those guys I send in the bulk of my forces to attack him directly. This takes a few tries to get the timing just right, and I burn through another 30 blue energy.

I finally get my guys into the right spot and they get in a few hits before they die. I can see that sending the guys up to the crank is so dodgy that it can’t be part of the solution. So I try hit & run tactics. I lose another 20 blue energy. I’m running quite low by now.

And now I can see they are doing almost no damage. With all of my efforts, I’ve knocked a pixel or two off the serpent health bar. This is clearly the wrong way to go about this.

I realize those birds must be part of the solution. I send a single minion to grab one of their eggs and run towards the serpent with it. The birds give chase. Halfway there they stop following and run back to the nest as my blue runs into the jaws of the serpent. I try again, they stop following again at exactly the halfway point. It’s like they won’t run past the steps leading up to the crank.

Just to speed this up: I try a lot of different things, running different places with the eggs. I try dropping the egg near the serpent, thinking that (since eggs sort of “pop” after a while) perhaps I need to trick the serpent into eating an egg?

More blue minions get gobbled up. Isn’t this guy about full by now? I’m down to my last 20 blue energy (from over 140) and I’m really frustrated. I finally give up and look online. I discover that my initial idea of carrying the egg was the right one, it’s just that the birds don’t follow you reliably. Sometimes you have to run back and goad them on, and even then you can usually only get one of the two of them to follow.

But if you lead the bird to the serpent, the two will fight. The bird will do a tiny amount of damage before the serpent finishes it off. It takes many, many trips (the birds and eggs will infinitely respawn) to finish off the serpent. Even once I had the answer I had to sit there for a while doing the same thing over and over until I won.

Most of the major boss fights and puzzle sections of the game work this way, and the trial-and-error becomes longer and more expensive when you’re dealing with puzzles and you don’t even know which minion type you’re supposed to be using. Since guessing wrong will generally obliterate your forces, puzzles will rapidly burn through a lot of your hard-won energy. You can’t tell what you’re doing wrong, and even when you get it right it doesn’t always feel like the right answer.

On the left is a huge slug.  I think I was supposed to lure it through some fire traps to kill it, but by accident I discovered it couldn’t go up these steps. So I parked my red minions there and had them very slowly bomb it to death with their piddly little fire attacks. It was cheap, but it probably took about the same amount of time and saved me the losses I would have incurred trying to do it right.
On the left is a huge slug. I think I was supposed to lure it through some fire traps to kill it, but by accident I discovered it couldn’t go up these steps. So I parked my red minions there and had them very slowly bomb it to death with their piddly little fire attacks. It was cheap, but it probably took about the same amount of time and saved me the losses I would have incurred trying to do it right.
I killed several bosses when they got themselves caught on the scenery and I let my reds slowly needle them to death rather than looking for the “real” solution, simply because finding the real solution would have been so expensive in terms of energy.

Once a puzzle is solved, you generally have everything you need to know to beat the guy with minimal losses. You can either re-load the game and do the entire dungeon all over again, or go farm for a while to replenish your lost energy. Either way, you’ve found the answer to the puzzle and now you have to pay off the energy you sank into it. You can pay this off by resetting and replaying previous content, or grinding.

The puzzles themselves were interesting, but the vagueness and the attempt cost prevented me from enjoying them. Most boss fights were set up so that doing the wrong thing would instantly wipe out your entire army. And even when you get it right, you’re not always sure if you’re doing the right thing or not because even the correct answer can be costly and repetitive. Eventually I found myself turning to Gamefaqs whenever I hit a puzzle, which was a waste of good puzzles. A puzzle that takes several attempts to figure out is a good one, but here attempting a puzzle is an ongoing tax on fun and drains the reserves you’re trying to build. The better the puzzle, the worse the drain.

I’m not saying that the puzzles should be removed, or that you should be able to replenish minions for free. The former would make the game more homogeneous, and the latter would break other parts of the game. I apologize for bringing up a complaint without offering any solutions. (Although I think making sure the “right” answer works flawlessly and effectively when the user hits it will help.) Not all puzzles were annoying in this way, but the ones that did annoyed me enough that I wanted to go over it in detail. Most of the complaints about the game seem to be clustered around this part of it.

And now I regret ending this series with the nitpicks instead of leading with the nitpicks, since I’d rather end on a happy note. It was a fun game – one of the best so far this year, and certainly the most innovative – so I’d hate to leave you with a bad impression.

Fun. Innovative. Charming. Unsatisfying puzzles. Solid writing. Cute minions.


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46 thoughts on “Overlord: Nitpicks

  1. krellen says:

    Re: the serpent and the Blues: I managed to get my minions to turn the crank by sending a bunch to turn, and having the rest run around the serpent and confuse him. I lost like twenty getting that to work, but once the crank was turned I could get through the gate and just kill the serpent myself. Much easier (at this point I had armour with +regeneration, so I considered personal health loss to be a minor inconvenience compared to minion loss.)

    My nitpick was the spotty spread of minion gates; how my solution to something would require, say, Greens, and having only a Brown and Blue gate available to me. That was what annoyed me most (often these solutions ended up being “come back later after you’ve finished the puzzle that gives you the minion you need”, which is staple, but annoying.)

    But I’ll concur that, overall, this is an excellent game.

  2. Snook says:

    Much like Krellen, I just swarmed the crank with my blues and got through it fine by confusing the serpent.

    The thing that annoyed me most was in the Ruborian Desert. The sand worms were tricky, and often would obliterate your entire force.

    Actually, scratch that. Most annoying puzzle: capture Jewel. I spent a good hour trying to goad her into the portal. It was a pain in the ass and in the end I was hoping I’d get to slit her throat, but alas, no such satisfaction.

  3. MikeSSJ says:

    You could have just waded into the water and taken out the snake yourself – I’m pretty sure there are stairs around that area.

    Of course, for this, you’d need upgraded armor and weaponry (at least some regeneration would be nice). That’s how I dealt with most of the “bosses” in the game – I just beat them up myself, the exception being Khan and, to some extent, the Wizard.

  4. Mari says:

    I’m going to have to look into this game. It sounds fun and delightful and rumour has it that I can get it for PC.

    Re: your puzzle nitpick – I have the same issue with a great many games to a lesser degree. I’ve generally come to the conclusion that I don’t particularly enjoy puzzles except in puzzle games where they are the challenge. And I’ve pretty much gotten over my qualms about looking up the answers on gamefaqs. I’d probably feel more compunction about it if designers didn’t frequently tie important things to the puzzles.

    Designer: You want to get the uber-armor of awesomeness? Then successfully complete every puzzle in the game! Muahahahahahah.
    Me: (reading through a walkthrough at Gamefaqs) OK.

    The same goes for collection mini-games. I just don’t have any compunction whatsoever anymore about printing out a checklist with the item and the area it’s found on it. I don’t want specific directions, but a gentle hint is great. Especially considering how often these items are to be found in places that you can access once and never again return to.

    I figure people that enjoy the puzzles or the “pixel whores” (wander over every square inch of the screen hitting the “pick up item” button on every screen people) are welcome to do the things on their own but I’m satisfied with cheating from their hard-won experience.

  5. Zach says:

    As I recall, in the little hallway immediately behind where that first screen shot was taken, (or somewhere nearby) there is a little hallway filled with infinitely respawning little blue bugs, almost as if the developers knew that serpent puzzle would cost you lots of blue minions figuring it out and they wanted you to have a generously infinite supply of blues while you solved it.

    Incidentally, my solution to that puzzle is to send one blue minion in, with the rest of the hoard about 3 seconds behind. The first one gets eaten, and the rest turn the crank during the long minion-eating animation. Pull them back before he finishes, repeat. You loose maybe a half-dozen minions, tops, one per cycle, but they’re expendable. That’s why they’re minions. Those stupid birds just aren’t worth the trouble.

  6. Nathon says:

    Maybe special casing out the puzzles is the best option. Bonus rewards of energy for solving them in under n tries with no penalty for failure? Locking your energy when you enter puzzle mode and unlocking it once it’s solved? It sounds like a big factor is that there’s no real indicator that you’re doing the right thing. Maybe adding that would help. This sounds a lot like pikmin.

  7. Sheer_FALACY says:

    I’m pretty sure that serpent puzzle was buggy or broken. It was obvious that the birds had SOMETHING to do with it, except they didn’t actually follow the egg well enough. Sometimes you’d drag it to the serpent and it’d keep following your minion, and all you’d end up with is a dead minion. I got through it with lots of tries, finally using a bunch of guys as distractions while others turned the crank. And no, no stairs in the area, not til you opened the door anyway.

    I don’t remember any other puzzles being quite as frustrating as that, and certainly not any boss fights.

  8. Jeff says:

    Odd, like the other two I didn’t really need birds or anything. I somehow got through this puzzle without really using my brain. “Onwards my minions, to your doom!” (I had the PC version.)

    If this is after you’ve unlocked the arena, that would be why. I killed lots and lots of things in the arena, because it was amusing, and I fully decked out all my available minions through it at all times.

    Perhaps it’s a PC thing as well? I can’t recall if Shamus is on PC or console for this one.

  9. wererogue says:

    I remember that first puzzle – it was the only one that really kicked my arse, and it took me *ages* (and a lot of minions) to figure it out.

    But I didn’t find losing the minions “a drain on fun”. It was frustrating, and eventually, when I beat it, extremely rewarding. I thought “oh, ok – now why didn’t I think of that sooner?” There are actually quite a lot of the bird puzzles where they’ll lose interest if you run off too fast with their egg.

    I also loved how most of the puzzles in the game could be solved in more than one way – while a lot of them had obvious, colour-coded solutions, some you just had to work out however you could. I came up with 5-6 strategies for killing giant slugs, and only one of them was using the flames. I think contrary to the post above, an indicator telling you “you’re doing this puzzle right” would really hurt the feel of the game.

    While the minions are obviously the best part of the game, to *really* enjoy some bits of it you have to take the uncaring overlord role and just push them into the meat grinder.

  10. A fan says:

    Shamus. there are many times when I agree with your opinion, but this time is not one of them.The snake puzzle, you encountered the birds earlier in the game, you were explained what to do with them (the egg part) and you haven’t thought that they were implied somehow?The solution is (as I’ve found out the second run through the game) to make the birds chase you (you need to run in circles around them, otherwise they lose track), go to the serpent, and WHILE the snake is busy with them, run quickly with your minons and turn the wheel.After 3-4 times the bar fells up and the wheel is turned.And if the snake doesn’t attack the birds, but your minions, that’s bad for him, he keeps losing health because of the birds (which if you do as I say will be 3-4 around the snake, not 1-2).After that go around and attack the beast with all your forces.
    Having a boss traped in the environment, never happened to me, and you ussually don’t need to do anything, but attack him with your forces (no puzzles involved, except the ending boss).Are you talking about the expansion?Oh, and having a regenerating armor and a sword with huge damage also helps :)
    I agree with the map and scatered minion wells, though.
    A real problem would be the Jewel puzzle.You are supposed to block her way with your minions, but there are many times when she simply runs through your mob…

    1. Shamus says:

      A fan: This is a common reaction to complaints about difficulty.

      Adam: Man, level 1 was brutal.

      Bob: You’re daft. Level 1 was a cakewalk! Level 6 was the real challenge!

      Adam: What are you talking about? Level 6 had an easy trick and you could breeze right through it.

      As the rest of this thread shows, the solutions were pretty scattershot, and nearly everyone had a very different experience. That’s actually a really good thing in a game. There were twenty different ways to approach the puzzle, eight of which were good and the others would kill you. If you hit on one of the right ones early, the puzzle was “easy”, if you worked through most of the wrong ones, the puzzle was costly. With experimentation puzzles, just because something is easy or hard for you doesn’t mean it was too easy or hard.

      I think the problem isn’t with the individual challenge level of the puzzles, but with the attempt cost.

  11. Abnaxis says:

    What I find interesting is just how many different ways people are getting around this puzzle, none of which really seem to be bugs. Turning the crank while it eats a minion? Wading in and taking care of it yourself? Maybe you don’t get the “I finally got it!” rush, but at least you’re not locked onto the rails too tightly. I kinda like the idea of there being many solutions that work with varying degrees of success, more like and optimization problem than a puzzle per se. It’s more like real life then.

    Of course, I haven’t played the game so I don’t know if that is true or not. Maybe they <meant to do all that, or maybe the game just needed a bit longer to polish the puzzles up.

  12. Steve S says:

    Er, you can save just before trying a different tactic on a boss, right? If you get too badly hurt, you just reload and try something else, what’s the problem?

    If not, well, that’s just unforgivable – I don’t have the time these days to waste on replaying a loads of easy stuff I’ve already done just to get another *attempt* at something.

    I’ll certainly agree that once you’ve figured a trick out (e.g the birds thing) then it’s the height of rudeness to make you do it over & over again until the initial sense of smug satisfaction you get turns rapidly into grinding tedium…


    “Losing a few units due to a blunder makes your army smaller, and you can only replenish lost units at fixed locations in the world. If you lose too many, your forces will be weaker and you will take additional losses in combat, thus exacerbating the problem. Losses form a feedback loop then can wipe out your army…”

    Sounds awfully like any decent drinking game to me (once you start losing…you tend to keep losing!), which is a fun mechanic precisely because of it’s unfairness, but only when multiple people are involved. Otherwise what’s the point?

    You’re right that most strategy games do rely on this unfairness, otherwise there would be no game, but most players know when the ‘ok, I have no chance now’ point is, and will re-load accordingly.

    If for some reason people re-loading after losing too much ‘resource’ offends you as a game designer, the solution is fairly obvious, (and effectively the same in a multi-unit game like this as when you’re controlling a single character), which is regenerate/heal/resurrect/whatever *after* you win a major fight.

    That way, you can get the thrill of scraping through by the skin of your teeth and almost dying whilst not remaining so depleted that the next fight is a guaranteed loss, forcing you to re-try the last one even though you survived it.

    Both are equally valid approaches in my opinion, as long as they don’t waste too much time, or force repetition of non-challenging content.

  13. krellen says:

    Snook, @#2, wrote:
    The thing that annoyed me most was in the Ruborian Desert. The sand worms were tricky, and often would obliterate your entire force.

    I lost a large chunk of minions to the first one, but once I found out the bombardier beetles exploded and could be herded, I just started parking my minions, taking one to egg (haha) on a bug, and systematically blew up all the sand worms. I think I lost a total of three minions after the first sand crossing. When you can help it, always use Browns for this, by the way: their toughness allows you to make more mistakes in herding than if you used the other colours.

    Re: Jewel. I had no problem herding her. I just ran around eliminating the raiders first (so they wouldn’t ambush my little minion groups) and parked a group of five on each of the four side routes she could take. She always runs around to the central corridor again eventually, so after slowly plugging each path, it was easy. But I, like Shamus, was playing on the 360; maybe the PC version has bugs?

    Puzzles overall: One of the things I liked about the game is that none (or only very minor puzzles, as with the toxic blooms, fires, and water paths bits) have a single “correct” solution. They seem purposely set up not to guide you towards the correct solution, but rather to give you the tools to devise your own solution. The fact that most of the true puzzle portions of the game can, in fact, be solved in a myriad of ways is one of the strengths of the title.

    So kudos for you for finding a place to fire-bomb the Mother Slug, Shamus. I think you did it right.

  14. Dys says:

    Yep, I’d say the real point here is that there is no ‘right’ way. The right way is whichever way works.

    As far as I remember I would send in one minion to be eaten, and have the rest mob the snake while it was eating. The blues don’t do much damage, but at that point I had a great many of them and they burned it down over a few repeated sacrifices.

    I don’t even remember how I fought the slugs, I’m pretty sure I just brute forced them, though perhaps greens are immune to their poison damage? Vague recollections. But one of the lovely things about Overlord is that almost everything CAN be brute forced. Minions are cheap :)

  15. Clint says:

    I agree — the game definitely has a bit of a Pikmin feel to it, although of course with a darker atmosphere.

  16. SolkaTruesilver says:

    Wait.. That’s it?

    That’s the whole Overlord review? An introduction, a general overseeing of the storyline about the feelings, and a nitpick about the puzzles?

    Aww.. I don’t know if I should be disapointed of the shortness of the review, or heartened that you liked the game so much. You were much more vocal (and entertaining) when talking about Fable 2, Shamus.

  17. They could very easily solve the problem, Shamus, by giving you a set of puzzle-specific minions to work with when the puzzles come up. Those minions infinitely respawn (up to a certain max which is all you’re allowed to have at one time), but can’t leave the area of the puzzle, and you can’t bring your standard minions INTO the puzzle, they get routed around it somehow.

    Problem solved.

  18. LintMan says:

    One nitpick I had with Overlord was that the “get the bomb beetle/bird to follow you to the right spot” and “get the indestructible serpent to swallow the bomb” procedures were often tricky for me to pull off the timing correctly, and you you have to do them so many times that it became a pain in the butt.

    Pulling off a complex tricky manuever once or a very few times is fun, but more than that, and I’m just thinking “Enough! I get it already!”

    In World of Goo, there was one level with the slingshot and virus gooballs where it was the same problem. I figured out exactly how the solution needed to work, but the execution of it was a fiddly pain, and I ended up just short and had to redo the whole level over. Gah.

  19. LintMan says:

    Also Shamus, you imply there’s no way to fix the first part of your nitpick, about losing minions and needing to go back to the respawning area to get more.

    I can suggest a fix: Why can’t they just let you summon more from where you are, say, only if you’re not in a battle? The backtracking is the unfun part, to me, and it doesn’t add much to the game, I don’t think. Someone might suggest this is insufficient “punishment” for losing them in the first place, but a) I really don’t play games for the punishment and b) you’re already being punished because you have to pay out valuable energy to create the new minions. The people who want to be “punished” further can stick to making corpse runs in their MMO’s. :-)

  20. Daniel says:

    Just wanted to chime in and say that due solely to your (mostly) positive opinions of Overlord and the (mostly) positive comments of your readers, I ordered Overlord. Looking forward to giving it a go later this week.

    Thanks to you and your “minions” for helping me to find a new game I otherwise would have completely overlooked.

  21. Adeon says:

    Yeah the wheel thing bugged me to. It is easy enough to just have your minions rush the wheel and refill every time the serpent kills a couple without taking many losses but the fact that this is much much easier than the “correct” solution irritated me.

    Personally though the thing that bugged me the most was the giant slugs. For the other enemies there was an obvious strategy that would work with minimal minion losses but for the slugs the only tactic I found was to turn on Berserk and have my minions bum rush it which almost always resulted in the loss of some of them. The other giant monsters had predictable attack chains which could be spotted and avoided but the slugs are just nasty. Even situations like the sand worms where you almost always lose the minion luring the beetles (the idiots run in the wrong direction after dropping the egg) it didn’t bug me as much because there clearly was a survivable strategy if the minion AI would behave.

  22. Kobyov says:

    Energy Fountains! By the puzzle, you could put a fountain of the correct type of energy for the puzzle. Then depending on the difficulty, you cap it at different amounts (say easy you could get 75% of your initial value, medium 50% and hard 25%). This way it doesn’t screw up the rest of the game, but just puts a cap on how much losses you can take from a puzzle. And you also get a nice hint about which minions you should be sacrificing.

  23. DanK says:

    Overlord is a brilliant game – even moreso when played with a minimap (though I *still found myself getting lost, even with the minimap). Have you played the extra content (Raising Hell expansion), Shamus? It adds a bunch of extra quests (and for the ps3 version only it adds the minimap).

  24. Patrick says:

    I am sure that many others have figured out this trick and that many probably consider it very grindy (I don't particularly mind grinding) but I though I would share it anyway.

    If you are having problems running out of energy for your minions or coming up with enough energy to sufficiently upgrade your equipment try farming for energy in your battleground (or whatever it is called ““ I forget at the moment). In the bottom of your tower there is a place where you can go and pick an enemy and fight a preset number of them with whatever minions you can summon. Just go and pick whatever beetle drops your required energy kill them all and then reset. For the beetles 25 (I think) spawn and once you get enough minions you can usually do without loosing many at all. This way there is no waiting and no running from area to area just lots and lots of energy.

    I found some better and worse strategies for dealing with the different beetles but once you get about 25-30 minions I usually took in all browns and just tore the place up re-loaded and did it again.

    Hope this helps.

    Shamus, I agree with almost everything you have said in your reviews of Overlord. I picked it up as part of a Steam weekend sale. I wasn't expecting much. I only bought it because it was so cheap and it looked like it might hold my attention for a couple of hours. In the end I was overjoyed with the game. It's a very fun, very funny, entertaining game that is definitely worth a look.

  25. Miral says:

    I’m with Zach (#5). I lost quite a few minions initially fumbling around, but since there was an infinite-blue-energy source nearby (hallway with respawning bugs) along with a minion gate, it really wasn’t much of an issue. Whenever I started to run a bit low, I just farmed some bugs for a little while (you could get quite a few in a single run through the tunnel, so it doesn’t even take very long).

    Most of the puzzle-bosses are like that — there’s usually an infinitely-respawning source of the appropriate energy type nearby, so even if you totally mess things up, all it costs you is a bit of time to recover.

  26. Sydney says:

    It’s interesting the dichotomy here. Some people say “The puzzles are fine, because once you solve them, it just takes time and you’ll get through”. Others say “The puzzles are flawed, because even once you solve them, it takes time to get through”.

    It’s possible that this isn’t so much a flaw in the design, as it is an indication of another “builder/competitor”, “only-died-once-per-level/had-to-die-once-per-level” situation. Some people think they win the moment they see that the checkmate will come in six turns, and start enjoying their win right then. Other people are unhappy that even once they see the unavoidable checkmate, they have to wait six turns to actualize it – they aren’t enjoying the inevitability of victory, they’re waiting for victory.

    Interesting. For my money, part of the Evil Overlord experience is reveling in the fact that Victory Is Assured. I belong to the “All I have to do is repeat what I’m doing, and you are Doomed!” camp. I love having an enemy beaten, but beaten so that he has time to know it.

  27. Tom says:

    You’re spot on about the puzzles having too high a cost for even attempting them – reminds me of the infuriating health bar of the Gobliiins games. Personally, I preferred the more freeform, optional puzzles of Overlord – where, for example, you’d come to a ridge overlooking several Big Bads with a poison or explosive pod dispenser – you can always just ignore that, charge in and slaughter them the hard way; the more thoughtful approach is entirely optional for anyone with a decent sized horde. Those were more fun and less disruptive of getting on with exploring and progressing the plot than the very obvious, mandatory setups where the developers flat-out say “You ain’t going no further till you solve this puzzle, and solve it our way.” A few of them were good, for example the bit where you’ve got to blow open a door but can only use the bombs the enemy is throwing at you, but that’s the sort of thing that should be done as an optional puzzle – there really should have been the option to simply batter the door down very slowly under fire; redirecting the enemy fire itself should have been an optional, sneaky way of avoiding moderate losses for crafty gamers, not the only possible way forward.

    It’s annoying yet tolerable in Overlord, but this mindset in the designers drove me to despair in Black and White (Which, coincidentally, shares its principal voice actor with Overlord, Marc Silk – I’ve not checked to see if there were any common designers as well) – not least because the B&W engine was the gods’ gift (if you’ll pardon the phrase) to emergent gameplay, but then they crippled any and all opportunities for this in every single level by having the computer cheat and get a sufficiently unfair advantage to repel any attack made by players trying to follow the game world’s rules themselves; the only way to win was not to exploit the emergent nature of the world more craftily than the computer, which would actually be fun and satisfying, but to gain your own unfair, rule-breaking advantage by solving the fixed-solution (and usually dull, tedious and buggy) scripted puzzles that were roughly bolted on.

  28. Anaphyis says:

    The Mandatory Sewer Level was painfull in multiple aspects. Several passages can only be taken with blue minions which however are weak as hell – you might as well go alone, which I was forced to do on various instances.

    As for the puzzle, I simply placed a bunch of red minions on the ledge by the birds. Because they respawn ad infinitum until the puzzle is solved, they gave me a steady supply of blue life force. Then I simply send up blues to the crank handle, the serpent takes out 2 or so, the others are on their way and replace the fallen ones. Pretty easy once that worked.

    The desert level was worse for me because it took me a long time until I figures out how to kill those damn sand worms.

    The puzzles were all fairly solveable as far as I’m concerned. Took long enough to be a challenge but not too long to be an annoyance. If there is any nit to pick, it’s that the minions pretty much become pointless later in the game. They’ll get slaughtered by the dozen, it only pays to take browns and greens unless a puzzle requires the other types and with a 500 brown charged Unobtainium game breaker sword, your character is powerful enough to deal with anything anyway.

  29. Daemian Lucifer says:

    What?Thats your nitpick?The puzzles are too hard?Come on!There are dozens of ways to solve every one of them,and if the way you are using is too hard,it just means that it doesnt suit your style of gameplay.

    The really annoying part you didnt mention is the pathfinding.You find an object halfway in the dungeon,let your minions cary it to the begining and then….they never return.Its not like the algorithm is bad,they can find their way to the begining,its just that…I have no idea whats the problem.So,you have to go half way through the empty dungeon,crawling behind your slow minions,and then walk them back through the same half of the empty dungeon,just so they dont get lost.I remember that while doing the serwant quest I ended up with having just 7 out of 15 minions available while the rest stood idly near the portal.

    1. Shamus says:

      Daemian Lucifer: I never, ever said the puzzles were too hard. In fact, I burned through a couple of paragraphs making sure that I did NOT say that or leave room for anyone to walk away with that impression.

  30. Coyote says:

    So, Shamus, would this be a must buy game, or one I should wait for the price to drop/buy used?

    1. Shamus says:

      Coyote: The price has already dropped quite a bit – people are saying you can get it for $20 – $30. Assuming it sounds like something that interests you, I’d say that’s a really good deal.

  31. Jeff says:

    Hm… actually, I think my brain-dead approach may have been a result of playing with the underground battleground too much.
    I’m pretty sure I grabbed the best equipment available at the earliest possible moment simply from killing masses and masses of creatures.

    …so I guess I beat the puzzles by grinding and then brute force, although I never got tired of letting my minions kill things. :P

  32. Kaneohe says:

    On both my plays through Overlord, I found it much easier to just handle most of the combat myself. This approach requires much less minion management, making it easier to conserve life essence. You still need them to turn wheels, carry stuff, and reach certain places – but taking on the enemy yourself really makes your life much easier. By the time you have the third tier of armor, you’re virtually unstoppable.

    Try brute-forcing it. It works.

  33. Kayvan says:

    I had a similar experience with the first rancor you face in KoToR: the game wants you to put poison or something in its food pile which it eats. Naturally, I did not see this solution, and proceeded to throw my low level party at the beast to no avail. Finally, in search of a better option, I set all the mines I had picked up by that point (several dozen) in one spot, got big baddie’s attention, and walked him into the mines. Granted it worked, but the solution they were looking for was certainly easier.

    It seems some of your problem (and most of mine) is the developers expecting the player to see what they want them to see, and develop what may be an easy solution. The problem arises because that’s a hard line to toe: on one hand, the player can be completely stumped by an otherwise easy puzzle, but could later walk all over another, more difficult puzzle, because something just ‘clicks’.

    I imagine the only way to balance that is to only rely on a relatively simple moveset to solve all the puzzles, so the player can at least be on the right track. That seems to be where Portal, for example excelled. Aside from the writing, of course.

  34. SimeSublime says:

    I got the game for free with my new graphics card, and reached the serpent puzzle last night. I did it by luring the birds across, then turning the crank whilst they were fighting. Then walking over with browns to finish it off from the platform on the left of the screenshot. As for tracking problems, the birds seemed to move fine, but I could only get one of them to follow me to the serpent at a time. That bought me enough time to get a quarter turn or so out of the wheel, costing me about 5 or 6 blues all up(the serpent always ate the egg-stealer, and the other birds occaisionally got one of the swarm on their way back to the nest). Of course I lost more browns fighting the bugger, because the blues are lousy healers. I send them to a fallen corpse, and for some reason their AI defalts to:
    1. Stand by nearby banner and do nothing. Meaning if I have an ambush points for greens, then blues are useless.
    2. If no banner, join melee.
    3. If there’s no banner to linger at, and nobody to fight, and there happens to be a dead friend lying there, consider picking him up before he vanishes.
    That’s my biggest problem so far.

  35. JKjoker says:

    i like the game but i hate how it kills your guys with no mercy even tho they cost a lot, you spent 45 minutes raiding thing so that they would pick up items and the closest replenish point is 5-10 minutes away, they could at least drop the color ball when they die sometimes so you can resummon them (also the blues could work with a little more haste, they are so useless i ofter consider not summoning them, only the sight of water makes me summon more than 3)

  36. illiterate says:

    my copy of overlord arrived a day or so ago, haven’t had a chance to play it yet.

    i laughed out loud when i opened the package and found.. a map.

  37. William says:

    It’s interesting to note how few people realised that your strongest ‘piece’ is yourself. Especially once you’ve got yourself some good armor\weapons.

    I’m sure plenty of people have played games where they reached the final boss and discovered he was rediculously powerful, and then they wondered why he didn’t just pop in half-way through, or even right at the start, and kill off the hero personally when said hero didn’t stand a chance.

    I guess now the answer is clear; taking part in the fight personally never even occured to him, even when his minions were getting slaughtered by the truckload! :D

  38. Dev Null says:

    I got through this by sending a single blue to attack the monster, waiting a few seconds, then sending the rest in. The snake would eat the first one, and the others would do some damage while it swallowed its meal. Then you’d pull the rest back – losing a few more – and go get yourself back up to maximum blues to do it again.

    The main trick was to park 5 reds on the ledge overlooking the bird nest. They rain continuous death down on the neverending supply of birds, which drop blue energy when they die. Whenever you start getting a little low on blue energy, you just sweep through and pick up all the ones your reds have been racking up while you were busy playing serpent tag. It was still slow and somewhat frustrating, but I didn’t end up low on resources at all.

  39. Maldeus says:

    The thing about Overlord puzzles is that when you beat them, especially if you beat them using something other than the “correct” method (for example, on this puzzle, I knew the birds were supposed to be a part of the solution, and having read this already, I actually knew what the solution was, but decided to instead go with ‘distract the serpent and then zerg the wheel’ method, which I came up with myself), you don’t feel like a guy sitting on a couch playing a computer game who just solved a puzzle. You feel like an evil overlord who’s just employed a cunning strategy to outwit enemy forces.

    I had two problems with the game. First, the lack of a map has gotten me confused a couple of times so far, and I’m sure it will do so again. Second, you can knock down your minions, your jester, and every peasant in the gameworld, but not your abducted servant girls. Your Overlord will even do the kick animation, but they won’t be kicked down. I probably take far too much satisfaction from knocking down that jester (and I burst out laughing when I got the “Suppressor of Free Jester Speech” title) and assorted peasants in Spree/Heaven’s Peak, but since you’re already letting me do it to everyone else, why not let me do it to what are arguably the most entertaining targets in the whole game? Yeah, a whole paragraph for a tiny problem, but it irks me every time I see them all standing around my throne that I can’t knock any of them down, when it would’ve been so easy to put that option in. Also, I want to be able to sit on my throne, and look out onto my Dark Domain. And it would also be nice if I could officially, in game mechanics, name my domain Evilstan, even if it was only referred to as “the land” or “your domain” by the in-game characters.

    A particularly awesome method of killing this serpent (though you have to have already completed the puzzle without killing it);

    1)After zerging the wheel, get two or three browns, and the rest of your horde greens.
    2) Post your greens just outside the serpents killzone, then wait for them to stealth.
    3) Sweep a single brown minion just past the greens, and wait for the serpent to try and kill it. Whether or not it succeeds, you should get the same result for the next step.
    4) Instakill.

  40. Rodrigo says:

    mmm a solution to that could be, for example, some platform to auto replentish minions you lose in puzzle areas?maybe some way to regain the energy lost by them in those areas? a stone that returned to you the energy of each dead minion, whenever you reached a puzzle area? that wouldn’t be a perfect solution… i mean, it probably would be a bit game breaking. but you’d still have some sort of punishment, i mean the minions you regained wouldnt have their whole decked out gear… and it wouldnt keep you from finishing the puzzle.
    just a thought, that.

  41. Jeff says:

    Uh… dude, that rancor wasn’t a puzzle. It was part of the stealth tutorial.

  42. AlexanderRM says:

    I know I’m a bit late, but I just got through the wheel part and it turns out the solution is to just send your blues to turn the wheel. I only lost two minions to the serpents “long minion-eating sequence” before they finished. I have no idea how it could have eaten yours so fast, Shamus.
    Wasted quite a bit of time and lost by best blue minion trying the egg thing. What you didn’t mention there is that the eggs are on a timer, so after a certain period they turn to egg yolk and the birds head back to their nest, a period which is most certainly NOT long enough to get it over to the serpent.

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