"Overlord Overload" by Troy H. Cheek on Apr 28, 2008
I had intended to call this article "Overloard," being a portmanteau of "Overlord" and "overload" with a hint of "lard," but a quick Google search shows that about 1500 people think that's the way you spell "overlord" in the first place. Even "Overlard" has a couple hundred fans. Somehow, it just doesn't seem funny to do something deliberately when hundreds of people are already doing it inadvertently.
Last week, I rediscovered an old dieting strategy of mine which works wonders. I'm down a whole belt notch. The name of this strategy is "Buy a new computer game." I realized late Sunday that I hadn't eaten a full meal since lunch Friday. The game I was playing is called Overlord, a third-person action-adventure game developed by Triumph Studios and published by Codemasters for the Xbox 360 and PC. I have the PC version. It came out back in June of 2007, but I just discovered it recently.
I wasn't even looking for it. My girlfriend, Kitten, was complaining that her "evil minions" game (Bullfrog's Dungeon Keeper II) wasn't working on the Windows XP notebook computer she "borrowed" from me a few years ago, even though said notebook easily surpasses the recommended specifications. The problem is that 1) games often don't care for the integrated audio and video components found in many notebook computers and 2) 1990's DOS/Win95 games don't really like Windows 2000 or XP. If I recall correctly, I had to track down a patch just to get it running on my 2000 desktop, and even then it was a challenge sometimes to finish a level before the next crash.
However, I'd read that Overlord had won some kind of "Year's best" award and had some similarities to Dungeon Keeper II. In fact, some considered it the spiritual successor to DKII, making it a de facto Dungeon Keeper III. Since it had just been released in the last year, I figured it would work well on XP. That cinched it. I immediately went to the nearest computer store and stole a copy.
Well, according to Microsoft legal, the RIAA, and the MPAA, I stole it. Actually, I bought a pre-owned copy. By buying it used, I did not buy it new, meaning that I cheated the creator out of a potential sale. Failing to buy something new is, according to the previously named entities, the same as stealing. It keeps the company from making money selling it to you. You dirty thief!
As I was buying a bare game PC DVD, I asked about activation codes, maps, manuals, and other items that I might need to play the game. Anti-piracy measures can get a little weird sometimes. I was assured that all I needed was to have the game DVD in the drive when I played. I was also assured that I didn't need a printed manual; there would be a copy of the manual on the DVD or, failing that, available online. I went home assured. It did indeed install and run without problem as long as I had the DVD in the drive. However, after upgrading to the latest patch, it claimed the DVD wasn't in there, so I reverted back to the original version.
Yes, you have spells. As a basic Evil Overlord, you have magical powers, combat skills, and the general evil kickassedness of Sauron from The Lord of the Rings movie (or the Witch King of Angmar if you prefer the book version). And, yes, you can end up with a high-powered flaming mace that literally knocks your opponents off their feet. How cool is that?
However, I don't play evil overlord games just to fight enemies or cast spells or get my own hands dirty. I play them so that I can command evil minions. The evil minions in Overlord are little gremlin-like creatures. Though fairly weak individually, you can send them out in groups, direct some to attack from behind, or just point the lot of them in a general direction and let them wreak havoc. I'm up to commanding 30+ at a time, but I understand that eventually I will be able to take as many as 50 with me on a mission.
The missions so far have been, well, not that hard. Perhaps I've played too many computer games. There are clues everywhere, if you take the time to look and don't just go barging in to bang heads every time there's a challenge. Of course, my court jester does call me "Cautious Crusader." Then again, there have been times when I'm obviously supposed to be setting up traps or using some elaborate strategy, and instead I simply throw 20 minions on the rock monster's back while I pound on its knees with my mace.
If I'm the evil overlord, why I am fighting monsters? Well, it seems that while I'm evil, my chief opponents are also evil. Actually, we're all fallen heroes. I apparently died defeating the previous evil overlord, while the surviving heroes took the spoils of war and were spoiled by them. The hungry Halfling is now a gluttonous slob, the formerly energetic elf now wastes his time in slothful slumber, the virtuous paladin has been overcome by lust, the thrifty dwarf has been overcome by greed, etc. The former evil overlord's minions revived me to be their next leader, and since I owe nothing to my former comrades who left me for dead, I took the job.
As far as playing the game, the default is to be not so much evil as chaotic good. Defeat the fallen heroes and the people will beg you to take their food, gold, objects of power, etc. Sure, there's some collateral damage, but no more than that left by heroes during your average dungeon crawl. However, there's also the option of going completely evil. Kill people instead of freeing them. Choose to retrieve gold instead of rescuing trapped miners. Kick your cute and sassy girlfriend out of the tower in favor of her wilder sister. I'm playing through this first time as good as I can manage. So far, my corruption level is only about 1%, which I picked up when a shepherd didn't like my minions eating his sheep. My minions took him down offscreen before I even knew what was happening. I'll try playing next time as completely evil. I understand that as you get more and more corrupt, your appearance turns more and more evil, you develop nastier powers, and people begin to fear rather than worship you.
Minions range from the basic brown (best all around fighters) to red (immune to fire and can lob fireballs) to green (immune to poison and voted most likely to jump on an enemy from behind and poison them) to blue (immune to magic, can damage magic creatures, can swim through deep water, can heal dying minions, but the weakest fighters of the lot). Once you get them all, there's a lot of juggling to decide how many of what kind to take on a given mission. I always find myself short of reds during a perfect opportunity for long range fire attacks, am always short on blues when I need something retrieved from the other side of a river, always just out of greens when my path is blocked by poison gas, and always lacking browns when I need to just pound an enemy. And I've finally learned that sometimes it's best to just leave the minions over in a corner and go whack on the latest creature myself.
By sacrificing minions in the forge, you can imbue your weapons and armor with special abilities. I like forging my weapons with lots of blue minions, which provides knockback. One good swipe and the dwarf is lying on his back helpless for a few seconds. This is all the time my reds need to lob a few fireballs into his beard, which is usually enough to finish him off. I also forge with reds in my weapons for that extra fire damage. Okay, I do it just because a flaming mace is cool. Green minions mixed into the armor allow me to regenerate hit points. Any minions sacrificed while forging my helmet increases my will and allows me to control more minions.
Minions are created in my dark tower using life forces that I've collected by killing other creatures. While I can collect life from aggressive animals and evil creatures, I can also slaughter sheep, townspeople, fairies, etc.
The best part of the game is that my minions will scrounge through the remains of battle and equip themselves with whatever weapons and armor they find. Smash a pumpkin patch and you'll see minions wearing hollowed out pumpkins as helmets. Take on Halfling cooks and you'll see them wearing cook hats and wielding meat cleavers.
I played a few days and, near as I can figure, I'm about halfway through the story. Once I finish, I'll try playing again as evil as I can. After that, I'm not really sure I'll want to play it again. I'm pretty sure I remember all the tricks and puzzles and the like.
Maybe then I'll give it to Kitten. Officially, I bought it for her in the first place.