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Overlord: Raising Hell

Has the charm of delightful hobbits got you down? Tired of those brash stumpy dwarves? Well you sir, are in luck, because no longer are these fantasy races your friends. In fact, it’s come time to loot and pillage, perhaps even burn and ransack the villages of these and other creatures. No longer will you find yourself allied with these folk, here in the world of Overlord: Raising Hell everything has been turned upside down and it’s your duty to rain fire and brim stone over it.

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What’s Different?Overlord: Raising Hell is the same game as Overlord, which appeared last year on the 360 and PC, plus the DLC that was released later.You are the Overlord, an evil man on a quest to reclaim the powers you’ve long forgotten. Of course reclaiming said power is going to require stepping on a few toes here and there. Fret not, because no aspiring Dark Warlord goes into battle without some friends. Over the course of your adventure the Overlord will find a handful of different minions to command on a whim. Controlling these minions is the core mechanic of Overlord: Raising Hell. Sure, you can equip yourself with various armors and large blunt objects, but what kind of fiend does his own evil bidding?

The minions come in a variety of colors, all having different strengths and skills. There’s much more to Overlord: Raising Hell then summoning a legion of minions and sending them blindly into battle. Traversing this world is a dangerous job, and for every task there is one type of minion better suited to handle it. Some are adept fighters, while others have poison immunities or the ability to restore fallen comrades. While each minion types’ skills vary, they all have one similar trait, mischief. When minions aren’t actively being given orders, they’ll find their way into trouble, destroying objects, bringing you treasure and finding weapons. Watching your minions run amok rarely gets old and busting up people’s homes has a charm all of its own.

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“Watching your minions run amok rarely gets old and busting up people’s homes has a charm all of its own.”With a large number of minions on screen all doing their thing, conflicts can become fairly hectic. On the whole Overlord creates a reasonably simple system for commanding large amounts of minions, with each type being mapped to a different face button, allowing you to command only a certain type or the entire mob. Shoulder buttons are used for calling and recalling, with different press types signifying one minion’s action or many. You’re also given the ability to set waypoints for groups of minions so you can position them strategically for the next situation, whether that be putting your Reds in a place where they can lob fireballs or maneuvering your Greens behind a large enemy. Positioning and sending separate groups can often become tricky; I found myself on a number of occasions moving the wrong waypoint or intending to recall certain minions and then recalling them all accidentally. This problem most likely has more to do with the game’s auto targeting then the actual button mapping. Whichever way the Overlord is facing is where you will target, and sometimes with multiple characters in the same general direction you’ll find yourself locking on to the wrong friend or foe. While this issue can be frustrating it in no way ruins Overlord, but the complexities of the controls seem better suited for a keyboard and mouse. With a mouse the auto targeting could be easily fixed with a pointer selecting friends and foes.

Since there are a number of different minion types and each has their own skill sets, you’ll be spending a long time learning how to use them effectively. Acquiring and learning minion uses, takes a considerable amount of time during the beginning of the game, which makes the early sections of the game all feel like a long tutorial. This constant learning process made Overlord difficult to get hooked on, on one hand it was exciting to be constantly accruing new minions and skills but on the other side you feel burned occasionally that you are just getting the hang of one type when you have to be learning a new one.

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Now being an Overlord could be pure chaos if you so choose, but you are given opportunities to be less despicable or even generous. Throughout the game, most objectives can be completed in either a Benevolent or Corrupted manner. Based on the choices and actions you take, NPCs will react to your character in different manners. If you kill a random peasant unprovoked, then the people might fear you or even retaliate against you. These are the choices that you’ll be faced with, and from these choices you’ll craft your own personalized story in Overlord: Raising Hell. While having this ability to tailor the story to your own desires is great, it creates a much less focused narrative. However, in spite of the games’ narrative it has some truly great dialogue. One minion who acts as your guide and advice has a great deal of devilishly over-the-top phrases, which will keep a smirk on your face.

Since the dialogue is one of the games strengths, you’d hope that its delivered in a manner befitting. It most definitely is the strength of Overlord’s audio. Villagers sound terrified and bewildered, minions sound curious and malicious; its all very fitting without feeling forced. Sound effects however are somewhat hit and miss, while none of them sound bad, a good deal of them sound a bit hallow. When the Overlord’s sword comes cracking down on an enemy, the crack is nowhere near as satisfying as it should be. Lastly, the music is sparse to begin with but it does help set the mood no matter the environment you wind up in.

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The world of Overlord is populated with a variety of locales, including villages, strongholds, caves and mountains. Some of the environmental and creature design is wonderful, with a few particularly weird boss characters coming specifically to mind. On the other hand some bits of the presentation look off, specifically many of the Overlord’s personal animations. His run always looks stiff, and perhaps it’s because people don’t normally run in full armor but its distracting at first. The best bits of animation are all minion related, hand in hand with their pillaging is some appropriately mischievous animations. Overall, Overlord has the look of a PC game on console, which it is. It looks solid, but you can tell its resolution should be cranked a few more notches.

Overlord: Raising Hell is most definitely one of the most inventive games on the PS3. It blends a number of genres into a great package topped off with some great humor. There are some issues with the design, making it somewhat prohibitive to get into with the controls and the pacing in the early games’ sections but if you can get through that there’s a lot of fun to be had. If you want something a bit different and rather evil, definitely check it out.

8 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in April 2008. Get in touch on Twitter @_seankelley.

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