2007 saw the release of Overlord for the Xbox 360 and PC, putting players in control of evil incarnate and laying siege to the countryside with the help of little, Gremlin-like abominations called Minions. The awful little buggers would jump onto enemies backs, rip them apart, and wear their shoes as hats. It wasn't anything special, and it was little more than the flip-side of Nintendo's Pikmin, but it was original enough to get it by, sporting a lengthy campaign and good amount of laughs for fans of fantasy. With the release of the sequel, Overlord II brings the concepts even further, reminding gamers of exactly how fun it is to be evil.
Whereas Overlord presented players with a twisted, warped view of Middle Earth, Overlord II bumps the time-line up a few years. The Empire, obviously modeled with the Romans in mind, are taking over the world, and have placed a ban on magical creatures. In their way stand the Elves (portrayed as tree-hugging hippies), a few resisting towns, and the king of evil himself, The Overlord. Players actually start off playing the Overlord as a child in the city of Nordberg, where most of the town spends their days throwing rocks and snowballs at the "Witch Boy." Led by Gnarl, the Minions break into the city and free the child before the Empire is able to capture him, freeing their soon-to-be master.
Just as before, Overlord II plays a good bit like Pikmin. The main difference between the titles is the motive; while Captain Olimar was busy leading the Pikmin on a quest to save his life and fight evil creatures, the Overlord lead his goblin army against mostly peaceful creatures. Brown, Red, Green, and Blue Minions stand by his side, each with a penchant for tyranny, and each with their own assortment of special (color coordinated) abilities. The Overlord, too, has destructive powers at his hand, and is a much stronger being than he was in the last title. Using both weapons and magics, he's fully capable of taking down foes in combat. His power is not all encompassing, though, and he will quickly fall in combat if not aided by the Minions. His combat prowess leads to improved gameplay over the last title, and really helps create the feeling of being in control of a powerful magical being.
There are, however, a few issues. Camera troubles plague the title, and make selecting opponents a chore. Beyond that, it seems as though the developers, out of obligation to flesh out the experience, felt the need to add new gameplay mechanics. A noble goal, that's for sure, but most of the additions work against the rest of the game. Being able to control a Minion, for instance, likely started off with the best of intentions. Early in the game it's fun to jump into their disgusting flesh and wander around, seeing the world of Overlord from a lower perspective. Later, when controlling Green Minions in a lengthy stealth mission, the mechanic becomes nearly intolerable. Overlord II is built for causing destruction, not sneaking around sewers, and the mechanics aren't in place to make it work as well as it needs to.
Other objectives that should be interesting, such as raiding cities, becomes tiring quickly, and Triumph Studios should have learned from the Den of Evil in Diablo II that there's nothing less entertaining than hunting down the last remaining enemy for a mission. Boss battles, too, are much more complicated than they need to be. An encounter with the Spider Queen in particular isn't as difficult as it is guideless. They simply drop the Overlord into a room with the boss and give no good clues as to how to approach the battle. The missteps continue into the multiplayer, which feels about as out-of-place in Overlord II as they did in the original. While there are plenty of game modes, none really seem all that entertaining, instead feeling slapped on and wholly unnecessary.
It's fun to be evil in Overlord II. Collecting wenches, decorating the dark tower, buying weapons, and upgrading magics all work towards making the main character seem as powerful as possible. In the end, it's a better game than the original, but not by as much as would be hoped. The gameplay issues are problems that shouldn't have made it into the sequel, and the troubled spots crack through the otherwise polished exterior. It's a sequel made for fans of the original, but the grip won't likely grab anyone else, and it might take a third installment for Triumph to truly convey what it's like to be evil. Hopefully they're able to make it work.