Crap. I was supposed to save that last bit for the end. Maybe I should have used a spoiler tag. Ah well. Just pretend like you don’t know how the series will turn out and I’ll make like I didn’t say anything.
The gameplay in Overlord II is much improved over the original, fixing my various gripes and polishing the established gameplay. The game is a much improved version of an established formula, so why don’t people dig it? I think the main problem here is that the designers did a poor job of introducing newcomers to the series. I’d point out how stupid this is, but I just did the same thing. Let me back up…
You play as the Overlord, a towering guy who looks like Sauron and sounds exactly like the main character from GTA III. In the game you command groups of minions: amusingly mean little imps who will obey you without question. They come in four colors: Brown (damage absorbers) Red (ranged attackers) Green (damage dealers) and Blues (healers). Most of the game revolves around managing these groups to get the most out of them in combat. Sometimes you’ll be fighting waves of hapless wimps, sometimes you’ll be fighting organized forces, and sometimes you’ll be fighting a single large foe. Each one requires a different approach.
Your Overlord also has some melee prowess and a few magic spells, and you can generally improve the survivability of your forces if you don’t mind placing yourself in harm’s way. (But if you’re risking your own life to protect your underlings, then I have to wonder just what sort of Overlord you are. What is it about this whole “evil” thing that’s confusing you?)
The original game lacked any sort of map or compass, which led to players becoming frustrated by the occasionally labyrinthine areas. Now you get a nice in-game map. The original game had occasionally frustrating areas where you might see your forces wiped out several times and still have no idea what you’re doing wrong. In the new one the transition from “combat strategy mode” to “puzzle mode” is much cleaner, and it does a far better job of teaching you how gameplay elements work before expecting you to use them under pressure. The gameplay adds a bit of depth without adding too much complexity by introducing mounts for your minions to ride. The strategy gameplay is more interesting, the puzzles are more fun, your tower is cooler, the controls are better, the interface is better, and the changes to the story undercut the entire point I’m trying to make about this one being better. Still, this is one of those sequels that will ruin you for the original.
As an aside: The game has SecuROM:
To my knowledge this is the standard garden-variety of SecuROM that just… I don’t know… mildly inconveniences hackers? It’s not tied to online activation or phoning home or anything insidious. Still, it’s there and you should be aware of it. I wouldn’t have noticed it if not for the dialog that popped up when I tried to play without the CD.
This is a console port, but it’s a graceful one. I have a USB controller which is the functional equivalent of the current-gen console controllers, and I was able to set it up to behave exactly like the Xbox. It feels like I’m getting the best of both worlds: The clean controls of the console version and the higher resolution of the PC version. (I’m not actually all that into high resolution for the purposes of gameplay, but it does make it much easier to make comics.) Startup time is short. Load times are brief. I’ve plowed through the game twice and had one crash.
I’ll get into the gameplay in a later post. Try the demo if you’d like to play along at home.
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