Sometimes Evil is just plain fun. That’s readily apparent in Overlord: Raising Hell, Codemasters’ expansion to last year’s Overlord, and the first appearance of those fiendishly delightful minions on the PS3. While this outing wasn’t as fun for me as the my first Overlord romp on the PC, I still had quite a grin on my face as I wronged rights, brought injustice to the land, and made sure those peasants knew their proper, lowly place.
The fun begins as players don the boots of the titular Overlord, a hulking, silent brute awakened from his coffin by a grizzled old gremlin. The land’s heroes have all gone M.I.A, and it’s about time someone steps in and puts an end to all this peace and prosperity. With the last of his crumbling Tower’s mystical power, the Overlord sets out to bring the land back under his heel.
To do this, players enlist the aid of those wonderful Minions. These little impish creatures are the backbone of the Overlord’s army, and also the backbone of the game play itself. While the Overlord character is perfectly capable of fighting and suppressing the land, it’s much better to command his horde of critters to do it for him. These little guys do it all; they fight, they smash things, they carry heavy objects. At first players only control a handful of Brown minions, the main fighters of the Overlords army. As play progresses, access to Red, Blue, and Green minions is gained, each with their own strengths and abilities. Reds are ranged attackers, greens are terrors when attacking from hiding, and the blues can raise from the dead those poor minions who gave their all in the Overlord’s cause. In addition, the reds and greens can open up barriers engulfed in flame or poison, respectively, while blues can travel through water without drowning.
The game takes place in an over-the-shoulder view of the Overlord, with a phalanx of minions following behind. A quick command sends some or all of the minions out to attack, smash, or grab whatever is in their way. In addition to the simple “get ‘em” command, minions can be planted at moveable flags, where they will lie in wait to attack and ambush anything that gets too close. With a quick selection, the minions can be sorted and commanded by color for more efficient mayhem. Minions can also be directly controlled for even finer control in puzzle-solving situations.
As minions smash things, they often find weapons, armor, and miscellaneous goodies to wield. Of course, they don’t always use the best discretion. Sure, grabbing that pitchfork and helmet will increase the minion’s attack power, but they’ll also grab a pumpkin, bonnet, or even a dead rat to wear if the fancy hits them. Not the brightest, but they’re certainly loyal.
The Overlord can hold his own while his minions are busy, although combat for him is simply a matter of swinging a very large weapon and flinging a few opportune spells. Overlord upgrades happen as his minions find and carry back various bits of the Tower. In addition, several Forges are sprinkled throughout the land, allowing for creation of custom weapons and armor, each of which can be infused through the sacrifice of minions.
Minions aren’t infinite, however. As the denizens of the various lands are killed, they drop life force of various colors. This life force, in turn, can be used to summon the appropriately-colored minion. This really never seems to be a limiting factor, as there are plenty of places to find sheep and beetles ripe with lifeforce for the taking. The only time I found myself getting low on minions was when I dumped a few too many into the forging of a new weapon.
Play continues through several rather linear areas, as the Overlord establishes his control over the land, gathers his Tower items, and crushes all beneath his boot. There are several puzzle elements sprinkled about the game, although most of them are just finding the right minion for the job. Raising Hell contains all the content of the original game, plus an additional dungeon-like level for each of the original areas. These expansion levels are a decent addition, tending to focus on minion-control puzzles a bit more than the main game. Players who find they don’t like the controls in the PS3 version will be a bit put off by this, as some of the puzzles were a little more frustrating than they needed to be.
The controls take a bit to get used to with the PS3. After playing the PC version, with oodles of hotkeys at my disposal, the PS3 controller at first seemed a bit limiting. There’s a lot to do, with targeting, sorting minions and spells, and controlling the Overlord himself, and there are just not quite enough buttons to take care of it all. In fact, one glaring omission is the lack of any real camera control. A quick click of the shoulder button can fix the camera behind the Overlord, but other than that, there’s no way to swing the view exactly where it’s needed. The traditional right-analog control is used for minion control, and often during the game I found myself accidentally swinging my minions off to their doom rather than tweaking the camera. After a while I got used to it all, but I would have liked a slightly better system.
Overlord: Raising Hell looks decent, but it’s not the best-looking PS3 title by far. The cartoonish, colorful graphics are still here, and the humor is just as the original. I still found myself giggling as my minions darted about the countryside with gleeful abandon, smashing and killing. Just listening to the little guys is a blast. There is a lot of dark humor here, including several little things I missed in my first play. Unfortunately, the game just wasn’t quite as fun the second time through, even with the additional content. The first play became a little too long by the end, and adding several more levels didn’t help matters.
Still, Overlord: Raising Hell is a fun outing and certainly worth a try for those who missed out on the original. The minions are as fun as ever, and playing the bad guy is still a blast. Players who weren’t completely wowed by the original Overlord probably won’t find enough here to warrant picking up the sequel, but fans and newcomers wanting a slightly different take on the generic fantasy adventure should give this a look.