"Overloaded on Overlord II" by Troy H. Cheek on Sep 21, 2009
A year or so back, I got addicted to a game called Overlord by Triumph Studios, published by Codemasters. Or maybe it was by Codemasters and published by Triumph. I forget. Anyway, this was the type of game I like to call an evil minions game. "Evil" because you rape and pillage and generally act in an uncivilized yet fun way. "Minions" because you don't have to do it all on your own. Instead, you send your little helpers out to do it for you. My favorite evil minions game is still probably Dungeon Keeper II. Hmm. I wonder if I can get it to work under Windows XP?
Anyway, Overlord was fun and I eventually finished it several times just to get the different endings. While you always play as evil, you can play evil but ends justify the means or you can play evil and ax crazy. (The fact that you can actually use an ax as a weapon is coincidental.) You also have the choice of which of two mistresses you want to keep in your tower with you. Buy your mistress enough trinkets and she will be your special friend.
Later, I picked up Raising Hell which is the not-sequel to Overlord. It's more technically an expansion pack as it adds several missions and a new story line to the original game. In Overlord, you defeat several fallen heroes and set yourself up as the new Overlord of the land. In Raising Hell, you defeat a rival evil power from another dimension. In doing so, you get trapped in that hellish dimension, leaving behind your minions and your mistress. Your pregnant mistress.
Overlord II flashes forward a few years. Without an Overlord, the tower fell into disrepair, its old magic was scattered across the land, and the minions wandered off. The mistress gave birth to a son who was given to the people of the good town of Nordberg to raise. I guess she was trying to break the cycle of violence or something. Of course, giving a child with glowing eyes who can shoot lightning from his fingers to a town which hates and fears magic might not have been the brightest idea. Eventually, the kid draws the attention of the minions. They take him and raise him as their new Overlord.
While all this is going on, the Empire has risen. The Empire is apparently dedicated to getting rid of all magic in the land, ushering in an age of science and understanding which will make humans safe from tyranny by otherworldly creatures. This unfortunately includes the Overlord and his creatures.
So far, I've played Overlord II about 75% through. I've managed to locate and retrieve all my minions. (Minions, by the way, are "goblins" or "imps" according to some of the dialog in the game. They look a lot like gremlins from the movie of the same name.) I've managed to locate and rescue all three (!!!) of the mistresses. Like the original game, if you buy your mistress enough nice things, she will become your special friend. The three mistresses, by the way, don't get along with each other.
Each mistress has an affinity with a certain animal type. Your minions can ride these animals into battle. Brown (melee) minions can ride wolves. Green (poisonous) minions can ride giant spiders. Red (flame) minions can ride salamanders. Each mistress has an affinity for a different animal. If you make a mistress your First Mistress, she'll make sure you have plenty of her animals available at some point later in the game. I haven't gotten that far, but I believe I'll go with the wolves. Even with their mounts, the Greens and the Reds just aren't as effective in battle as the Browns.
If you buy just the right combination of nice things for your mistresses, they at least try to get along with each other. This results in them all trying to be your special friend at the same time. This feat gives access to a powerup which is otherwise not available in the game.
I've also managed to completely subjugate my childhood town of Nordberg. Of the 100 people, I've turned 98 into mindless drones and killed two. I'm not sure how I killed the two. Minions sent after non-combatants (shown with green circles over their heads instead of red) should just hold them in place until the Overlord can saunter up to them and lay the mental whammy on them. In two cases, my minions decided to kill them instead. I don't know if I did something wrong or if this is a bug.
I've mostly subjugated the elven town of Everlight, which should be the end of those pesky elves. In the original game, elves were nature spirits and old and wise and generally boring. You were doing them a favor by ending their immortal lives. In the new game, elves are nature-loving (and I do mean loving) hippies who speak like stoners. I've not seen any dwarves, aka drunken beards with tempers, but they have been replaced by (or possibly mutated into) gnomes, which are tiny little drunken beards with tempers who hop around like demented yippy dogs. You get a special reward for exterminating 1000 of them.
Given that some of the actions in the original Overlord game resulted in the death of all elven women, elves should be extinct now and dwarves should still be around. Go figure.
While I vaguely remember the original Overlord game as mildly taxing on my computer, Overlord II brings my graphics card to its proverbial knees. Part of the problem is that I'm playing at a much higher resolution thanks to my new monitor. The other problem is that this is the same GeForce 8600 GT graphics card as I was playing on way back then. For Overlord II, I tried the highest settings, which created a very beautiful but unplayable slideshow; medium settings, which looked nearly as good but was still unplayable; and low settings, which didn't look as good and was playable only as long as nothing interesting was happening. I eventually activated custom settings and turned pretty much every option to a minimum or off. It actually looks better than the low settings (I suspect that sometimes applying shading or other options half-heartedly looks worse than not at all) and only bogs down in the busiest of action scenes. Those of you willing to pay more than $100 for a graphics card probably won't have this problem.
Anyway, the original Overlord was well worth the money. The expansin Raising Hell was less so. Overlord II is again well worth the money. Go out and buy it today.