Overlord Dark Legend review
An Overlord of too little, and an Overlord of freezing
Originally released for the NES in times when the geezers of the gaming community were young, and then later remade in the wonders of 3D for the Xbox360, Playstation 3 and PC, Overlord was somewhat of a cult hit, reviewers gave it mixed opinions but it still managed to gather a fair fan base, most of whom fell in love with the game's immature yet dark and funny humour, as well as the adorable minions; the Overlord's faithful servants. What was perhaps the main charm of the game was the fact you never really had to do anything, your minions would do everything and between watching them break stuff, watching them break stuff, watching them kill things and having to occasionally think for yourself when you had to direct them to the next 'puzzle', Overlord was a lot of fun.
As such it's no surprise that there's been some more unrest among the fans with the release of the sequel on the 'next gen' consoles; Overlord II, and of course the prequel on the Nintendo Wii; Overlord Dark Legend.
So what's the verdict? Read on.
Overlord Dark Legend is somewhat of a prequel to the original Overlord, you play the role of the Young Lord, son of Duke Gromgard, a quiet fellow who likes to dress like he thinks he's a Jawa from Star Wars and apparently has evil running through his blood. On the Young Lord's sixteenth birthday, the Duke sets off on a quest to bring glory back his kingdom of Gromgard, having lost it on an 'epic quest' many years before. The poor young lord is left with his brother and sister, Lord Grenville and Lady Gerda, essentially making the Young Lord our 'Cinderella' of this tale. On his birthday he receives a mysterious black gauntlet in a parcel with no name attached, and shortly after discovered the gauntlet can unlock a sealed room in the castle, in which he finds the armour of the Overlord. He comes into contact with it, and he's no the Overlord. Shortly after Gnarl the Minion Master awakens from his deep slumber and proceeds to acquaint the new Overlord with his powers.
From then the game proceeds to twist many known fairy tales as the Overlord sets off to expand his kingdom, from turning Little Red Riding Hood into a demonic wolf, to making the Gingerbreadmen psychopaths, Overlord Dark Legends certainly lives up to it's name, and many of the twists are actually amazingly humorous, certainly enough to keep you wanting more.
Story: 4/5 (It's not too much of a grand story as it is simply amusing, but it keeps you interested until the end)
From the posh rooms of the Castle Gromgard, to the peaceful fields of the areas surrounding it, Overlord Dark Legends doesn't rest in creating tranquil settings for you to unleash your malice upon. Unfortunately the art design far surpasses the tech here, and whilst the art direction is as wondrous as the game's humour, the NPCs have static facial animations, shadows seems to go from solid to a pile of Lego blocks and the frame rate likes to drop from time to time. Furthermore the textures tend to be rather blocky a points, as well as the animations. Only the Overlord himself remains pretty consistent in graphical appearance, and good animations throughout the game. Another issue is the lack of variety in enemies, the designs of most fail to impress when compared to the environments, and they tend to be the same over and over again.
Graphics: 3/5 (It's certainly pretty, but it's neither consistent nor breathtaking)
The music in the game is certainly well done, from the jolly tunes of the town, to the ominous theme of the Sinister Woods, but there isn't any standout music in the game. The music fits and helps the tone, but it's certainly not going to have you entranced like the tunes of Zelda. Voice acting on the other hand is very well done, characters sound perfect and the dialogue itself is genius, several NPCs even have alternating lines which is a nice touch. Overall the sound work in the game is solid, it's not going to 'wow' you, but it ain't going to annoy you either.
Sound: 3/5 (Good. Nothing more, nothing less.)
Now this is where Dark Legends really shines, the control system in the game is fantastic. The Overlord's controls are mapped to the Nunchuck, you can swing your axe with either a flick of the nun-chuck or a tap of the Z button, tapping C button will center the camera behind the Overlord, mean whilst holding it down will keep it behind him at all times, and of course movement is mapped to the analog stick. The only controls relates to the Overlord himself which are on the Wiimote are his spells, you use the + button to bring up the spell menu (Which is done in a manner similar to Twilight Princess's inventory) and once a spell is equipped you press down on the D-pad to use it.
Minions are controlled with the Wii remote, when the cursor is over an objected which can be interacted with by the Minions you can press B to send a single minion to it, whilst holding B will send them all. By holding the B button down in general the cursor changes to a triangle and you can 'sweep' it across the screen, and your army of Gremlin imitations will go and interact with everything they can that you swept. The - button is used place Guard Markers (Which I'll explain in game-play) and to toggle between minion types you use the left and right buttons on the D-pad. You can also throttle minions by pressing A+B and holding the remote vertically. The 1 and 2 buttons open your general menu and map respectively.
Overall Dark Legends utilizes a brilliant control system, and hopefully future Overlord games on the Wii (Should there be any) will expand upon it.
Controls: 5/5 (One of the best control systems on the Wii)
Dark Legends gives you a free-roam world to explore with a handful of a side quests to gain more gold and items, but ultimately it's a very A to B experience. Furthermore when you take away the sugarcoating, all you're ever really doing and traversing the land to Point X whilst breaking anything in between you and there, then doing something at X with some more breaking an minor puzzles in between, and then you get Y. Then you repeat a few times. If anything the Control system is the saving grace here, and the ease at which you can send your Minions to do things for you is what prevents the game getting repetitive.
The basis of the game play in Overlord is that your minions follow you, and when you wish to you send them to interact with objects in your path, whether that be by killing them, breaking them, moving them, and so forth. You have four different coloured minions, whom you unlock as you progress through the game. Brown minions are strong fighters but have no other benefit, Red minions can put out fires and attack a long-distance using fireballs, Blue minions can heal other minions and move through water and Green minions are capable of assassinating enemies, cloaking themselves and passing through poisonous things. You have to alternate between minions, using them to deal with environmental hazards as well as enemies and to some degree there is some strategy here. Adding to this are the additions of 'Guard Markers', flags that you can put up with - button and then allocate a number of minions to. They remain at the marker and attack enemies close to it, and if you wish you can move markers along with all attached minions, which leads to some strategic placements, which mainly come into play during boss battles or fights against lots of enemies. Although ultimately that's all there really is to the basics, there's a bit o variation but in general environmental hazards are only used occasionally, and the 'Throttling' mechanic is so underused there's no real point explaining it. As you go through the game you increase the total number of minions whom can accompany you, and using 'Spawn Pits' you can summon minions in any amount up until you've reach the current max. You can also trade in minions for Health and Mana using their respective pits.
Speaking of spells, the Overlord is in fact capable of casting magic. As you go throughout the game you'll gain relics that let you cast new spells, ranging from launching lightning, to changing enemies into sheep... yes you did read that right, one spell lets you turn enemies into sheep. Unfortunately the spells aren't implemented all too well, the very first spell is arguably the most powerful and far too powerful at that, and once you've gotten a complete roster, it's practically the end of the game, which unfortunately also applies to the highest number of minions you get.
Another nice mechanic is the ability to use gold to buy new armours, axes and 'level up' the minions, although because of the prices and the sheer amount of gold you get from practically everything, you can be pretty much fully upgraded as soon as possible, which for the Overlord is right off the start of the game, and the Minions as you unlock them.
The level design is basic, each area is made up of paths and slightly bigger 'room' areas where fights will typically occur. Throughout environments you'll encounter enemies as well as a LOT of breakable items and treasure chests. Some areas such as the Castle or Towns are free of enemies (For the most part anyway) and are packed with NPCs and the occasional Story characters whom will either give you quests, or be part of a quest. Most of the Side-Quests involve going to the more open areas and locating particular things that need killing, whilst story-based quest have a tad more variation, but typically come down to traversing a linear area with a few 'puzzles' (That really amount to no more than sending Minions up to an object) and battles, with boss fights at the end of them typically.
The combat in Dark Legends lacks any real strategy to be honest with you, only fights with infinitely spawning enemies, and bosses require any real tactics and they generally don't amount to much. On the one hand you are meant to feel empowered, on the other hand it's far too simple, and far too easy with far too many minions at your disposal, and no real penalty unless you let dozens and dozens die.
Gameplay: 3/5 (For what it's meant to do, it does it alright)
None. The game is incredibly easy, and whilst Overlord games should be somewhat easy, this game requires no skill whatsoever, no any real tactics. The whole game feels like a Tutorial and a lot of the more complicated and interesting mechanics appear once in the game and then simply don't come back. The world may be free-roam, but it's still pretty boring and loses it's appeal all too quickly. Another major issue is the length, assuming you don't spend too much time wandering about murdering sheep, the game has a very short single player and the side quests will take you little more than an hour at most. You can get all the optional upgrades right off the bat assuming you collect enough money (Which isn't hard considering even the pumpkins in this game are loaded with cash) and there isn't any other replay incentive aside for the fun and the environments, but Zelda has it outclassed at both.
Another major issue regarding the length is that the game practically ends right after you've gotten your minions and spells maxed, which is also the time the game gets fun. The game feels like bit of a game that follow the tutorial and eases you in, and then ends before the real game starts.
Lasting Appeal: 1/5
Now to cover some other issues, first and foremost the length. As I mentioned Dark Legends is far too short, lacks replay value and ends right after it gets fun. Secondly the difficulty, this game is far too easy (Even for an Overlord game) and you become way too overpowered, and just as the game steps up to challenge you, it ends.
Now however the most prominent issue; the game has freezing problems. I saved this for last just to show how much of a pain it is. The game is solid, it's fun and despite it's flaws it'd be worth having if you could get it cheap... if it wasn't for this bug. The game has frozen on me during every play session, sometimes two hours in, sometimes ten minutes in. If it wasn't for the game's rather clever Autosave system I'd be vastly annoyed, and this only serves to further break up the 'fun factor' which is ultimately the real thing Overlord games have going for them, and I'd honestly say this is a game breaker.
The Final Verdict
Overlord Dark Legends is a fun game with brilliant controls, decent game play, a nice story, great humour and some pretty environments but it's ruined by a complete lack of challenge, ridiculously short story with no replay incentive and several glitches ranging from graphical faults, to outright freezing and unfortunately these glitches are very consistent in ruining what would otherwise be a relaxing and fun experience.
If you see this game real cheap then by all means pick it up, it's fun and has some real nice ideas that will hopefully be improved upon in future games, but as it is this is a somewhat fun game, ruined due to a variety of issues.
My final verdict; 2/5, the game is fun but it's ruined in the end by a few glitches. if you somehow find a now glitched up copy (I've heard the complaint from several people now so it's obviously not just me, but it may not be all copies) then the game's score goes up to a 2.5/5, it's a nice bit of fun but it's not going to occupy you for very long.
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