Codemasters had its very first gamer's day yesterday in San Francisco, where it showed off its lineup of games for the year. In between all the racing games and shooters, there were not one but three different versions of Overlord--none of which was a port. All are scheduled to be released on the same day in June--which date exactly we don't know yet, but Overlord is bound to show up on at least one of your favorite gaming platforms.
Overlord II (PS3 / Xbox 360 / PC)
We recently had a chance to check out Overlord II at the New York Comic-Con (embedded below for your convenience), but last night we got to see some new areas and new features that have been added.
The overlord in his new icy underground lair.
Overlord II is a sequel to the first game, in which you wreak as much havoc as you possibly can as the budding new overlord. To help you achieve this are your minions, which come in the same four flavors of wickedness: brown, red, blue, and green. They function just like in the original, where each color has a specialty, whether it's hurling fireballs or the ability to swim. You'll also have an arsenal of new spells so that you can get off your lazy overlord butt and jump in on the action a bit more. In our demo last night, we explored a gorgeous snowy landscape, complete with a yeti who, oddly enough, behaves very much like Donkey Kong. We were told that everything that is cute and cuddly can be destroyed as we watched the minions approach an adorable white seal. Pandas will also be featured in the game, so animal-rights activists might want to look the other way. We watched as the overlord raided an igloo camp like it was built out of Styrofoam and freed angry-looking wolves that were kept in cages. After freeing the soon-to-be mounts, the minions will hop on and go for a ride. Before we knew it, the entire army was on mounts, ready to take on anything. Another cool feature that comes with the mount is the ability to jump, so you can send your slaves to the other side of a stream to bring down a drawbridge. You'll never have to get your feet wet.
The game is full of parodies--the more obvious one is of the Roman Empire. We saw minions dressed up as centurions, using catapults to launch giant boulders. We were told that at some point you'll be on a ship, with your minions lined up neatly, rowing in beat with a drummer. If you want them to row faster, just beat the drummer (that's one way to get things done). There are also minion-only side quests to take on, if you want to spend some quality time without the overlord getting in the way. Since the game is really about your little gremlin slaves, there is a slight possibility that you'll get attached to a particular one donning an attractive hat. When your minions die, they are sent to the graveyard so you can mourn their passing or resurrect them from the dead. You must, however, sacrifice a minion of equal or lesser value to bring back your favorite.
If you've played the original Overlord, the controls should feel familiar. We didn't get any hands-on time with this one, but from what we saw, it seems to be coming along really well. The environments look great, and with the updated engine that now includes physics, you'll be able to watch in satisfaction as your minions destroy everything in their path.
Overlord Dark Legend (Wii)
Management games have always worked better on a PC because of the mouse, but now with the Wii, you can direct your minions with precision and hack your way through farm animals without breaking a sweat. Overlord Dark Legend is a prequel to the original Overlord, going back to when the overlord was 16 and trying to find his true evil self. The first thing we noticed was that there was a cartoony look and feel to game, making it more comical than it already was. There will be references to popular fairy tales that fit in nicely with the dreamy and magical environment. To add to the personality and charm of the game, your minions will be sporting a variety of goofy-looking hats as they obediently follow you around.
"Say that to my face, squirt."
From what we played, the game retains the comical feel of its predecessor, and it all seems very familiar except for the controls. The camera is still a work-in-progress though. As of right now you use the C button to reset it behind you, but if you hold it you can pan around with the Wii Remote. You melee with the Z button, and the remote is reserved for your minions. Using the B button, you can target and send a minion off to go do something. The A button will reel the minion back in, and if you use the A and B buttons together while pointing up, you can pick up a minion and throttle its neck. Shake the remote until the minion's eyes bug out, and then let go and watch it become an explosive projectile. Poor minion. At least they come in handy when you need to blow up a road block.
To get a feel for the controls, we messed around in the charming countryside, sending minions after large bugs. We eventually wandered into a lovely narrow canyon, passing by spawn points occasionally to call up more minions with a quick press of the A button. Using the pointer, we would point at an enemy or large obstacle and fire the trigger button. Each press of the B button will send an additional minion, so you can easily send a couple one way and fire off a few more down another path. The D pad is used to select minion types, so you can gather all the brown ones, for instance, and send them off in one direction.
While Overlord Dark Legend can't compete visually against Overlord II on the Xbox 360 and PS3, it still looks mighty impressive on the Wii with its charming and colorful visuals that give off a warm and magical glow.
For some gameplay footage, check out our latest video from New York Comic-Con.
Overlord Minions (DS)
Overlord Minions takes a different approach by letting you control one of each minion type with your stylus on the Nintendo DS. You play as the overlord, but your presence onscreen isn't necessary since the goal here is to get your minions through each level. The stages are designed to be played in short spurts, making the game easy to pick up and play. We had an opportunity to see it last year at Codemasters' HQ, but last night we were able to get a feel for how the game is going to work.
Always causing trouble.
Depending on the level, you'll have access to two to four minions. You can control all of them at the same time by swiping your stylus over their icons to the right side of the touch screen, or you can control them individually by picking one and leaving the others behind. The levels are like a maze, with obstacles and puzzles in between the starting point and the finish line. Keeping in mind each minion's talents--for example, the blue minion can heal and travel across streams--you can plan a careful strategy to get to the finish line.
Everything is stylus driven, and to get rid of enemies, just slide your stylus through your minions, and they'll claw their way to victory. Most of the game is focused on puzzles, however, and the story is told through still art in between stages. So far things are looking pretty good. The gameplay is fun and different from the series, and it looks nice on the DS.
Side note: If you're a fan of the humor and the writing, you should be happy to know that Rhianna Pratchett, the original story writer, is back again for all three Overlord games.
Let's face it, we all have the urge to boss little monsters around and this might be the best way to do it. Look for all three Overlord games when they ship sometime in June.