As anyone who has talked to me about the fantasy genre can attest, I have a strong dislike for elves. I may even have stated it once or twice on this website, although in truth I cannot remember, so if I have then you will have to indulge me for a moment.
Elves are, more often than not, snobby little androgynites who hide up trees and refuse to fight the big bad Devil King until all their allies have been smashed to pieces by him. They enter the fight at the last moment, using their immortality and nascent sword-fu to drive off the great evil while also being extremely condescending to their allies.
‘Oh, if only you’d listen to us, humans. We’re ever so old and wise, we know what’s best for you all the time. Actually, good thing so many of you died, you keep chopping down all our trees and killing the animals. Humanity is the real villain here.’
As a result, the realisation that one of the first enemies in Overlord 2 is an elf was delightful.
Allow me to get out of the way very early a concern I had with the game prior to playing it. In the original Overlord you certainly looked the part, but the missions were hardly very evil. While the motivation may have been villainous, the end result was you liberating a bunch of fantasy characters from a bloated and complacent group of heroes.
Overlord 2 starts out with some proper evil: The Overlad (the cutest little villain you’ll ever see) bashing some bullies over the head with a big stick and ruining the fantasy genre stand-in for Christmas. Fast forward a few years and you find yourself presented with beautiful areas teeming with life, and a cavalcade of withered homonculi with which to destroy them. Everything is so much more evil this time, from the bully bashing to the life force tutorial which sees you clubbing baby seals to death and allowing your minions to wear them as a hat.
When taken out of context this might seem a little bleak. When seen in the game, however, it’s charming and sweet, largely due to the writing. Don’t get me wrong, the visuals are outstanding really, from snowy wastes to ostentatious elf caves and the arrestingly beautiful Netherworld (your new Dark Tower) the scenery does it’s job well. It constantly reminds you that this game is not a serious discussion on the causes of evil in humanity, but a light-hearted romp through a fantasy kingdom created solely for you to smash things up.
It is the writing, of course, that really brings this home. I am loathe to say that there is something very ‘Pratchett’ about the writing as I don’t think that gives Rhianna as much credit as she deserves. Her surname will always be associated with the phenomenally successful works of her father, and while the style of writing maybe similar, it is important that people realise she is a talented writer in her own right. With Overlord 2 she has created a witty pastiche of genre clichés: from hideous overweight fairies to hippie elves, everything is turned on its head to genuinely pleasing effect. To help the mind transition into the mindset of the Overlord, however, the Good Guys are a little evil themselves, but nothing compared to what you can do.
If you played the last Overlord, you’ll know more or less how this one works. You command a mob of impish minions (coming in four different flavours, unlocked throughout the story) and hack and/or slash your way through the world, looting and pillaging as you go. You may pop back to your hub on occasion too, upgrade your spells and armour. For what it’s worth, this is pretty much the same but with a bit of a touch up around the edges. The new elements are much more exciting.
There are two evil paths you can take through the game: domination or destruction. Largely decided by how you treat the blundering peasants, this action effects how you are rewarded. Play the longer game and dominating the commoners will provide you with a steady stream of cash, weapons and cannon fodder. If you want a more immediate reward, however, then slay them all and loot to your heart’s content. There’s no correct way to play, but with such obvious choices it will be hard for your inner villain not to take control. Me, I chose domination, building an entourage of enslaved elven women to take some of the burden off my loyal minions. I nearly care when a minion perishes, but I mind little if an elven wench is crushed by a giant salamander.
And that’s exactly how it should be.
The minions are delightful things and, despite my evil bastardry, I often get upset when I see them splattered by the Roman equivalent of a rat catcher. They have loveable personalities, right down to them singing as they trot along behind you. They’re like sinister, venomous children, but they’re yours! And now, thankfully, you can revive your favourites inside your Dark Tower, for a cost. There’s a much greater emphasis on the minions this time around, they even have names, and it helps characterise your little army.
There’s not much more to say about this game really, not without heading into spoiler territory or chancing a bit of repetition. Essentially, this is the game the original Overlord promised to be: evil, charming, evil, witty, and decidedly evil. It has the odd problem with linearity and a slightly subdued mouse-sweep system, but nothing that even begins to dent the enjoyment you’ll get from this game, and if multiplayer is your thing then you won’t do too badly there either. Largely duels, but with some clever scenarios to help shake things up a bit, specifically one mode that lets you take to the seas in minion-powered boats.
It’s charming, well-written and, above all, evil.