Getting Stuck in the Infernal Abyss
While Overlord II added some new features, the core of the game is, thankfully, the same. While the possession feature definitely adds to the game, and the ridable creatures add some charm, there are a number of features that add little to nothing to the game, or serve to tamper with some of the formulas that made the first game so great. The addition of towns to conquer, while a nice notion, does nothing to enhance the game. The average town trip involves blasting through the town and finishing the objectives. You're given the option of either enslaving or killing the townsfolk, however the dual-use spell for accomplishing this is slow, tedious, and generally not fun. The bonus "trophy" type quests of "enslave or kill 100/100 townsfolk" for each town is laughable, as the monotony of hunting down every single fleeing person throughout the village is irritating at best, infuriating at worst. Thankfully, this does not detract from my overall impression of the game as it's entirely optional, but it's worth mentioning as a useless new feature.
There are a few gripes that come about every so often in terms of the level design, as well. Often, I wasn't quite sure where I was supposed to be going next. This was especially true in a level which has you sailing around in a minion-controlled ship. At one point you're tasked with hunting down the ship of the hippie-elves, another fine example of an infuriating mission. Generally, though the levels don't appear to be as clean-cut as the original game, though it was also noted for some confusing missions, but I do miss the polish some of these levels appear to lack, despite their lush graphics and eye candy. Additionally, a common complaint I have for games is definitely an issue with Overlord II. Checkpoints (tower portals, in this case) are so far between, you feel compelled to play for "just another 1 hour 43 minutes" to make it to the next checkpoint so the last hour is not lost. I blustered through a few parts such as the gladiator arena, thankfully, in a single try. I would NOT have been happy having to play through that part a second time!
One that that has definitely not changed since the first overlord is the bugs. Obviously the input code was very much recycled. Not a bad thing by itself, but at least fix the known bugs! Early in the game, I got the familiar bug where my overlord endlessly sends forth his minions as though I was holding the button to do so. This bug happened periodically in the first Overlord game as well, though I can at least say, I only experienced that one once in the new game. The framerate also suffers at times. My test copy was for Playstation 3, and I strongly suspect that the PS3 port is not the ideal one given the games history as a DirectX game. Still, I remember some ugly framerate issues on the original game on my PC copy, so I have a feeling there's some overall performance issues with the engine. (Editor: the mouse sticking issue happens very frequently to me, but the game runs fine at 2560x1600 on my GF9800GT on max settings, pity about the PS3 version.)
One great weakness of the game is the new "tower." Designed as the haven where your evilness dwells, spreading his chaos and darkness, as well as harboring his mistresses, and upgrading his abilities. While the Dark Tower layout of the original game was slightly lacking in design, the new one features far too many separate rooms, separated by an annoying number of transitional cutscenes. Would it have been so difficult to put everything in a single room this time? It's easy enough to overlook, as most of us don't spend the majority of our play time lurking in the tower, though one of the most loved features of the tower, the fighting arena in which one can face select battles and rack up life essence, the "currency" for buying more minions, is gone. Additionally, where the first game gave you a very clear upgrade path, and a feeling that you could buy everything and become an all supreme overlord, the sequel muddles it a bit. More currencies in the form of this magic stone, or that magic stone have been added, but seem to be more randomly scattered in the corners of the game. Additionally, forge stones, when found, add new items to be crafted in the forge, albeit at a massive cost, though it's not nearly as absolute and guaranteed as the "smelters" in the original game that you are guaranteed to recover on your travels. The result is the feeling that upgrades are always just out of reach, dampening the fun of being an all powerful cliche manifestation of evil.
Finally, the one other thing I lament greatly in the new game is that it seems the great humor and parody of the original game is somewhat lost in the sequel. With the original references to the halflings of "Spree", the parodies of classic heroes, classic fantasy themes including the succubi that invaded the inn, off comments characters or gnarl would say that seemed to parody stories and games of the fantasy genre, the new game appears largely devoid of such parodies, short of the return of the hippie-elves. Sure there were bland parts of the original that took themselves far to seriously as well, but the giggle-a-minute approach of the original has been replaced with a story that attempts to become more serious, with most of the humor being sardonic yet obvious. With, of course, the exception of a few scenes involving baby seals, the very stiff Roman themed "Empire" seems to have overtaken a good bit of the story.
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