The original Overlord developed by Triumph Studios and published by Codemasters released in 2007 for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 and Microsoft Windows was a huge sleeper hit. It took an innovative and fresh approach in creating a darker Fable-like world that incorporated unique gameplay elements as you loom and devour townships with hordes of minions to do your evil bidding. Slaughtering sheep and setting grass on fire to flush out enemies was a welcome departure from the standard RPG being offered at the time for consoles. Fans of the series appreciated the high production values and the wicked sense of humor presented. And like most great titles, it was the smaller attention to details that made it great. Not that it didn't have issues, but surely those shortcoming would be addressed in the sequel. Wrong!
As with any follow-up, you want to keep the aspects that made it great while improving and expanding it's core mechanics. And with a few exceptions, Overlord II has largely failed.
Like the original, you use the RS (right stick) to control the camera and direct your minions and the the LS (left stick) to move your Overlord through the terrain. Unfortunately, the scale seems almost smaller in this game. Instead of creating a larger more open world, it feels cramped and heavy handed as you drudge through to find your next target marker. The level design is confusing and frustrating as you try to control your evil horde and target objectives. This coupled with the wonky camera and poor AI makes the game frustrating. Not because you're doing anything wrong but because more times than not you are competing with a poor targeting system and unclear objectives. There is also little value in upgrading your armor and you can easily complete the game with only upgrading your minions. Just don't count on them to retrieve gold and treasure for you. Your faithful are as stupid as a drunk supermodel as they neglect to target loot and upgrades to give to their master.
Now you do get the chance to pummel the empire and citizens with catapults and board ships to not so distant islands. But the best addition is that your puny friends can now ride wolfs, spiders and fiery salamanders to access a limited number of areas, so you can't say the developers didn't at least try to include new gameplay elements, but these fall short in the limited range they can explore and the booty they retrieve.
I hope you like load times, this game has them everywhere. I could forgive an Xbox title for this due to the limited hardware but with the muscle of the current consoles, there is no excuse.
The sound bits are consistent with the original. You hear the banter of the minions and the epic orchestral soundtracks. But look closely and the characters dialogues sync up like a bad foreign subtitle. Explosions are flat and frankly uninspired. If not anything, the game is consistent in that the shortcomings permeate every area.
I have been flamed on this one but I ask you to put in the original Overlord and compare the two. Clipping, frame rates and general detail on everything is substandard. Even when you walk through banners in your tower they just hang there and let you pass. The cut scenes are fairly well done, but the editing is horrible. You get a few seconds, then fade to black and another appears to pick up where the last left off. This happens countless times and only confirms my suspicions that this game was not given the proper resources of talent to fully realize it's potential.
I know that based on their track record Triumph Studios is capable of a much better, polished game. And for whatever reason they have failed to build on what could have been a great property. If you doubt my criticism of the game, please go rent it and try to find a multiplayer game. You will have to try several times, as nobody is playing and I traded mine in just as soon as I completed it. Do yourself a favor and buy the first Overlord used for 15 bucks or so.
I will also play the Wii version developed by Climax Studios just to see if the game is worth a second look.
For all you haters, check out my gamertag: gunfart just so you know I completed the game.