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Overlord Title

Overlord – Xbox 360

Overlord Box ArtPlatform:  Xbox 360

Release Date (NA):  June 26, 2007

Developers:  Triumph Studios

Publishers:  Codemasters

Genre:  Action/Adventure

Nerd Rating:  7 out 0f 10

Review by:  Variand

 

Evil always finds a way

Showing the peons who's the boss

Showing the peons who’s the boss.

The life of a hero is tedious.  Calls to adventure, crossing thresholds, finding ultimate boons, and returning to save the day is a never-ending process on every Hero’s Journey.  The worst part – most people don’t even seem to really care after you’ve saved their meaningless, pathetic lives, and will only reward you with hollow thanks and expectations of future rescue.  Haven’t you ever wanted to just bash open their doors, ransack their houses, set their crops on fire, murder their livestock, all before bludgeoning them to death as they scream for mercy to teach them a lesson?  If you have, then you’re one sick bastard…and my kind of person!  So I’ll share with you Triumph Studios’ Overlord, a game that will let you exercise some of those demons – and by exercise, I mean let it off the leash to run amok.

In Overlord, you play – you guessed it – an Overlord, and you rule over a dilapidated evil tower.  It seems the tower was recently invaded by 8 Heroes seeking to end the reign of the previous Evil Overlord.  They succeeded, and now the minions, ever the loyal servants to any Overlord, have awakened you from the crypts to fill the roll.  You’re quickly brought up to speed on the situation – the heroes conquered the tower and spread out the artifacts which gave the tower, overlord, and minions their power.  Now it’s your job to find the heroes, all of whom have fallen to one of Christendom’s 7 deadly sins, and exact vengeance upon them, as well as recollect the artifacts taken from the tower.  And of course, in classic Overlord fashion, why get your hands dirty dealing with such lowly creatures when you have your own lowly creatures to do that for you.

Playing the game

Do you even lift? No, I make my minions do it for me!

Do you even lift? No, I make my minions do it for me!

The majority of the gameplay involves you, as the evil overlord, leading your minions to your next goal and directing them to do your bidding.  Easily and aptly compared to an evil version of Pikman, you’ll find yourself walking to a goal and pressing the send minion button.  Battling enemies (or attacking defenseless villagers) is handled much the same way.  While the minions will implicitly interact with whatever is in front of you, lock-on and quick switch controls allow you to keep your minions going to the right targets.  If path-finding becomes too difficult for your simple-minded hordes, you can manually lead them with a direct control system, referred to as “Sweeping.”  If you’re more of the hands-on sort of Overlord, you can jump into the battle yourself, taking mighty swings at your opponents.  But be warned, you’ll often find yourself underpowered and not able to go up against tougher enemies until you’ve spent some time upgrading your armor and weapons.  This is not an issue as minions are cheap and plentiful, and are all too happy to be either a meat shield or cannon fodder for your evilness.  Use them – they are nothing to you, and they are most happy when dying for their master.  In fact, upgrading your armor and weapons to maximum power can cost the sacrificed lives of thousands of minions, and they’re more than happy to jump headlong into a smelter for you – though some prefer to embellish it with a flip.

Even though your minions are happy to die for you, this does not mean you should just wantonly throw your minions at anything.  You’ll find that if you do not use them wisely, you’ll lose a lot of minions, and could run out.  This would mean you’ll have to go harvest more from the life sources of dead things, like enemies, sheep, and villagers…or worse, you’ll have to do it all yourself and stain your magnificent armor!  Later in the game, when you can start upgrading armor, you’ll want as many minions as possible to use to make yourself more powerful, so they are worth saving whenever possible.

The blues' brains seem to live on another plane of existence.

The blues’ brains seem to live on another plane of existence.

There are 4 types of minions, and some dungeons require the use of a specific type, so do not waste the specialty minions at all.  Send in your basic brown berserkers for most situations, unless it calls for fire-resistant red flame throwers, water-resistant blue revivers, or the poison-resistant green backstabbers.  These specialty types are a bit harder to come by, and should be used either sparingly or strategically.  And do not be afraid to lay a trap using the handy Grouping/Waypoint system.  Place your greens, who turn invisible when placed in a stationary waypoint, just on the inside of a bottleneck, place your reds on a ledge with a large area of view, and hold your blues back to rescue any that might be killed.  With a solid defense laid, send in your browns to harry the enemies into giving chase, and call them back.  Enemies will stumble into the trap and be destroyed with very little casualties.  There are several larger, more difficult lieutenants that will require you to put a little more thought into the usage of your loyal minions.

Minions

Gnarl is the oldest, and seemingly smartest Minion.

Gnarl is the oldest, and seemingly smartest Minion.

These little guys are the real stars of the show.  They are packed full of personality/charm and are shamelessly uncouth.  They are not an orderly military force, but instead are loud, unruly, little vandals who love killing and causing general mayhem for their Master.  They respond quickly to the Overlord’s calls and commands, and good game design allows their simple intelligence (both from a character and AI perspective) to perform the actions you implicitly order.  Plus, you’ll just love how they will pick up and use anything they find as armor or weapons.  It’s almost endearing to have a horde of minions wearing jack-o’-lanterns for helmets.  These repurposed items will actually increase the strength of your minions, so be sure to allow them to scavenge the field after any battle.  Of course, they only use the items that are not useful to the Overlord.  Things like life force orbs, gold, and health/mana potions will be happily delivered to your feet – these guys just LOVE to give you presents, no thanks required.  And if they upset you in any way, give them a sharp boot to the face; you’ll find this is the only way to shut the Jester up!

Story

Even the unicorns now crave blood. Everyone's going evil!

Even the unicorns now crave blood. Everyone’s going evil!

The story itself is best described as simply quaint.  The tale is fairly linear with nothing very original as far as real plot goes; however, the premise and the way it’s delivered is unique.  Instead of finding and fighting off the evil villains, you’re the Evil villain exacting revenge on your enemies while rebuilding your power!  There is nothing in the story that will break immersion for most players, but there isn’t much, until the end, to grab you either.  You’ll have the standard plot twists and character developments, but what will keep you invested in the game is the humorous way it’s presented.  The story is mostly told in a dark and campy manner that will have you chuckling or rolling your eyes through most of the game.  While the story is not a shining feature, its polished execution does not hinder the game as it takes you through a number of greatly varied environments, introduces you to the next grotesquery of a Fallen Hero, and allows your minions free rein to cause mischievous chaos.

Moral Choices

The tower darkens to reflect the corruption of the Overlord

The tower darkens to reflect the corruption of the Overlord

This game came out as the “Moral Choice” style of game design was becoming a standard practice, and as such, it has a morality system implemented.  In this case, however, it’s referred to as “Corruption” or “Tyranny Level.”  This differs from other games in the way that Corruption is a one-way street, and only offers a few story decisions to reduce it.  You start out with 0% Corruption and increase it by doing evil things, such as killing innocents, keeping resources to yourself instead of sharing with townsfolk, showing cruelty instead of mercy, or destroying cultural treasures.  These will have an effect on not only the appearance of the Overlord, but also the Evil Tower itself.  As you sink further into corruption, you’ll grow large black spikes, your armor will darken, and you’ll radiate an evil malevolent aura.  Your tower will have dark, ominous skies, and the floors become hard, cold slabs as opposed to the whitewashed stone of the uncorrupted.  Corruption aesthetic changes are applied throughout the story based on major plot choices, and while some corruption can be gotten at any time, there are several that are story driven and can only be made once.  So decide early if you’re going for full corruption or not, and stick to it.

But why be good?

Only the finest "maidens" for the Overlord

Only the finest “maidens” for the Overlord.

I can understand the argument of the completionist, but let’s face it, if you are playing this game for fun, GO FULL EVIL!  The developers did a good job giving so much more reward and fun for being a corrupt and evil tyrant.  For those of your who have played D&D, you’ll understand when I say 100% Corruption is like playing a Chaotic-Evil character, as opposed to 0% Corruption being Lawful-Evil.  You’re still evil, but it’s what kind of evil that matters.  As described before, in most cases you will only get the thanks and adoration of the people for being uncorrupted, with little to show for it but some shiny armor.  Where if you play as a fully corrupt character, you get all the goods, and even some extras.  Example:  Being nice to the people of Spree will net you nothing more than free sheep to kill (more minions) and free beer (short power boost for minions).  On the other side of the coin, going in and ransacking the place will net you free sheep to kill (more minions), free beer (short power boost for minions), weapons/armor drops (more powerful minions), lots of souls from dead villagers (even more minions), and a quest in which you steal the loose women of the town for you own servants.  I’m sure these women were meant to be for a harem, however, the game was aiming for a Teen rating from the ESRB, and I don’t believe human trafficking will ever be allowed for a T game.  So Overlord is actually more fun for those looking to get crazy and play a game differently than the rest.

It could have been worse (meaning better)

38

Mistress Rose is introduced to Gnarl.

While the game was a brilliant gem that not many saw coming, it does have its share of areas that could have been better.  With a linear storyline and rather simple, straight-forward gameplay, Overlord offers little in replay value.  The gameplay itself rarely changes either.  It does try to introduce new challenges throughout the game, but they are too few and too short-lived to be truly engaging.  And it was for many, as it was for me, a game that nearly scratched that itch for the type of game with the tower rebuilding mechanics; something so well-received and requested that it became a major focus for the sequel.  Character customization was lacking as well, with only three choices in armor, ranging from spiky to REALLY spiky, and only 3 weapon types.  And the tower was just as bad.  The tower offers several customization areas, but only two or three choices in each.  Many of the outside choices can only be seen on the main menu, which is a flyby of the tower that does not even show all of the tower, so you’ll never see the Tower cap outside of the preview screen.  While there is a brilliance in the game’s simplicity, it does leave you wanting more.  The lack of depth may leave core gamers wishing for more varied gameplay.  Overlord’s online multiplayer was also a disappointment, as I was never able to play it because not enough people were online to find a match, though they did fix this with a free DLC for local split screen multiplayer.

Rebuilding the Tower

Rebuilding the Tower.

The mistresses were not horrible, but they could have been more developed.  They felt forced and obligatory, and were trivial to the gameplay, offering little more than aesthetic differences in the tower’s personal chamber decoration.  While they do play a necessary role in the story, they don’t do much else except nag you to leave YOUR tower.  They could have done so much more for gameplay, like quests, minion bonuses/aesthetics, and even add more to the story with the possibilities or different romantic subplots (BDSM dating anyone?).  And while we’re on this matter, why can we only have 1 mistress?  When the Overlord just took 10 women from the town to be his “servants“, why wouldn’t he have multiple mistresses as well?  (The real reason is for plot, but no spoilers here)  It only makes sense that the Evil Overlord would embody all of the 7 Sins combined, so why wouldn’t lust and greed play into that?  Apparently the developers believed that Evil is monogamous?  I know I’m not the only one to ask this as Overlord II allowed multiple mistresses and gave an achievement/trophy for getting all three – though they were still a bit needy.

While the game was ultimately aimed for the teen demographic, I often wonder what else they could have done if directed toward a more mature audience.  Would it have turned into the irreverent ridiculousness that the satirical Postal series possessed, or would it have become something more dark and twisted?  Or was it perfectly situated with a T rating for its own brand of campy humor and cartoony presentation?

A hope for better things to come

Why don't more developers give you in game representations of your accomplishments?

Why don’t more developers give you in-game representations of your accomplishments?

Overlord showed that it was okay to be the bad guy, and better yet, that it wasn’t always that great to be the good guy!  Where most games offer you simple gear or loot that is equal for being good or evil (or indifferent), Overlord set out to show you a reality.  Thanks might be nice, but they don’t help you get a bigger horde.  Adoration might make you feel warm and fuzzy, but it won’t get you that totem artifact to make your minions stronger.  I personally would love for more games to come out where you play as evil characters rather than just having an ultimately pointless choice to be a hippie or an asshole (looking at you, Mass Effect).  What about you?  Leave a comment and let us know what you think, and tell your most evil deed!  (Keep it PG-13 people).

Written by Variand

Variand

Agree or Disagree with something? Want to request a review a specific game? Just want to troll? Leave a comment, Twitter @Variand, or email me at Variand@NerdBacon.com. Or feel free to find and frag me on Xbox Live (GT: Rukhan), PSN (Variand), or Steam(Variand99).

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