IGN Review of Overlord: Raising Hell
Overlord: Raising Hell is a somewhat fun adventure/puzzle game weighed down by a number of technical issues. Developed by Triumph Studios, this quirky title originally hit the 360 a year ago and was followed by an expansion pack that introduced several dungeons (among other things) to the mix. Now, Overlord is making its way to the PS3 with both the original content and the expansion content included on one Blu-ray disc. Although there are a handful of interesting elements to Overlord that gave me a flicker of enjoyment, I just couldn't get attached to the experience.
In case you're unfamiliar with the premise, let me fill you in on what this game is all about. Overlord: Raising Hell puts you in the large metallic boots of a dark warrior, awoken from a deep slumber by a host of eager Minions wishing to carry out his will. With the aid of a wise old Minion, Gnarl, you guide this Overlord on his quest to reclaim his dark glory.
The gameplay mechanics are very similar to that of Nintendo's Pikmin. Although you have a fair amount of control over the Overlord, your real power stems from the strength and abilities of your goblin-like Minions. These Minions come in one of four varieties, each with a set of special traits that give them an edge in certain situations. For example, Red Minions are born of fire and can lob fireballs at your enemies. They're also immune to flame and they possess the ability to absorb environmental fires in order to clear a path for you and the rest of your Minions. On the other hand, Blue Minions can revive those that fall in battle, making them crucial support units.
The overall structure of the game is pretty straight-forward. Your isolated dark tower is the central hub for all your activities. You can train there, forge and upgrade your armor, decorate it (with the help of your mistress) and use it to warp to different locations throughout the world. Generally speaking, you work your way through each environment, battling monsters, solving a few simple puzzles and grinding for gold and Lifeforce. Lifeforce, by the way, is the "currency" used to summon more Minions, and it's color-coded to match your Minion types. It's also used to infuse into your weapons and armor to improve your statistics.
Overlord does several things well. The premise is obviously fun because you're playing as an evil character, just not too evil. I'd say the experience is more on the mischievous side, because you can still perform honorable deeds, just with a darker tone. This is clearly one of the game's strengths, though you can go all-out-evil if you wish to do so. It's your call, and the game does change depending on what course you choose.
Some of the voice acting and music has a certain sense of charm to it as well, but it's nothing too extraordinary. I'm particularly fond of the main theme, which pops up throughout the game. Perhaps more enjoyable is the feeling of controlling your Minions, which can be quite rewarding when done properly. It shifts the focal point of control away from your character and that's always an interesting mechanic to experience.
But that's about all I can say in Overlord's defense. The game runs very poorly. Framerate is often an issue and I found most of the game's animations to be cheap and unconvincing. Loading times are also noteworthy because they're obnoxiously long, especially considering their frequency. And when compared to other recently released PS3 titles (Metal Gear Solid 4, perhaps?) this game looks borderline embarrassing. I wouldn't say the single-player campaign ever became "unplayable" due to these technical issues, but it's certainly an annoyance.
More problematic are the stiff and unintuitive controls. Moving your Overlord and Minions around is far from broken, but I felt like I had to fight the system as opposed to having it work with me. Especially when attempting to micro-manage four sets of Minions and issue them different commands -- locking onto moving targets is a colossal chore. It's hard to argue that these controls feel natural.
And I can't forget to mention that the multiplayer chugs. It's awful. Online is far better than split-screen but either option is sincerely lacking.
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