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A Brave New World

Geldon Gets Gamefly

Following the advice of the Internet's most valuable resource, the anonymous heckler, I have begun my new Gamefly account. Frankly, I put it off for too long. I can't afford to shell out on too many retail games and when I do I usually only play them for a few days and then never boot them up again. I had a Blockbuster gamepass, but their selection was abysmal, the best games nearly always being out. We'll see how Gamefly compares, but immediately I can see that its selection is better and dropping a prepaid envelope containing the game I've bored of sounds like something I can do.

In the meanwhile, my recent purchase of the PC game Overlord is vindicated by the knowledge that Gamefly simply does not offer PC games. (Although, technically, I could have rented the XBox 360 version.)

Overlord Oppressions Impressions

Overlord, a tongue-in-cheek game that has your dark armored figure plodding through a fantasy land trailing a horde of gleeful gremlins, is surprisingly open-ended. I expected the game to force me to complete certain quests to unlock the next area but rarely has this been the case. Instead, the only limiting factor is what types of creatures you have at your disposal, and I unlocked all four in about 6 hours of play. The game feels as though it's only a quarter complete. Thus, Overlord is even more open-ended than a Zelda game, where areas are blocked off by access to one of several tools. Although, to the average Zelda game's credit, Overlord does not offer the mobility of wide open fields but rather predefined paths through lush hand-crafted environments.

Were the open-endedness of where you go next not enough, there's also good incentive to revisit old areas, as the loot and creatures will respawn upon the next visit, and a rather impressive economic model drives this. Accumulating loot allows you to expand your tower with (so far) cosmetic additions or (more practically) forge new pieces of your overlord's equipment. Life force points translate directly into how many creatures you have at your disposal and come in the very same four kinds: brown, red, green, and blue. Life force points are easily harvested to the point where you would have to be pretty sloppy with the lives of your minions to ever truly run out. However, you can also sacrifice your creatures to upgrade your already forged equipment. As a result, you've got some incentive to go back to grind gold and life force in what's essentially a level-less game.

The majority of the charm of the game has to do with the creatures who perform the mischief you command with sheer enthusiasm. These little guys have considerably more character than Pikmen, tearing apart rooms, grabbing loot, and gleefully throwing themselves in harms way. What's more, they seem to have a tenative grasp of the English language, giving them an avenue of communication that bolsters the illusion. It's hard not to enjoy having a gremlin horde at your disposal.

The Overlord himself is not merely a spectator. He can actually inflict damage by executing a simple weapon combo that varies depending on which of the three weapons he is currently using (axe, sword, or mace) and carries a decent punch. He can also cast four different types of spells. Each type has three levels of power that have a varying effect but consume more and more mana. Still, despite the Overlord's apparent talents, if you value your health bar you'll keep him out of the middle of the fray and let the minions do the work. Besides, it would be a rather boring game if controlling your Overlord was all you could do, and the control of the minions is what boosts this above being one of those poor 3D fantasy games I've discarded many a time.

My greatest complaint about the game would be that Blues and (to a lesser extent) Greens seem unnecessary and difficult to use. The Browns, the very first of your minions, possess both the greatest offensive and defensive power. The Reds are useful because they are your only ranged fighters and can perform one-sided attacks on foes that can't reach them. Greens are not very useful because they're weaker than browns and can only do good damage if you can get them on the back of your opponents. The Green's capacity to hide in guard mode is not very useful in my experience. Blues are pathetic, offensively and defensively, their only real boon being the ability to transverse water and resurrect their fallen comrades. Resurrections would be great but the interface is too awkward to get it done consistently. Often, my attempts to ressurrect fallen minions end up in accidentally sending my Blues into melee, where they are easily and rapidly killed.

If I had to say one overreaching complement about this game, it is that they put a lot of work into it. Overlord is a complete and polished game and such a thing is somewhat a rarity in the PC gaming world these days. Unfortunately, as I get deeper in the game, I've found myself having to struggle with a forced requirement of taking along the less useful minions. The interface is somewhat console-hobbled, built around a buttoned game pad controller, and consequently it's harder to direct four types of minions than I wish. However, the thing about interface issues is your have the capacity to adapt to them, and perhaps in time I'll learn my way around this awkwardness.
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