Thursday, July 03, 2008


I just now finished playing Overlord on my PC and I have to say, I understand now why I was able to get my copy for only $10 at Amazon. It was only worth that much.

In this game, you play the new evil Overlord. You have armor, four spells, and the best part, evil minions.

The minions were great. I laughed at them a lot, especially the first time they swarmed over a herd of sheep and cut them down. I also laughed at the brown minions the first time I realized one of them was using a dead rat as a helmet. Seriously.

The game itself tries to be a send-up of fantasy games. Instead of playing the interpid hero setting out to defeat the forces of evil, you are the forces of evil setting out to destroy the heroes. Only in this case, the heroes have become corrupted and evil themselves. So in some ways, it's more evil fighting lesser evil.

The plot, if it can be called such, seemed slathered on at the last minute. While I was playing through, you could tell that the developers tried to come up with a story to tell. It wasn't until the very end that I realized what that story was. Unfortunately, by that time, I was so frustrated with the game I didn't care. If they had taken a bit more time to develop the story and actually tell it, maybe it would have made the game better.

But what really annoyed me was that this was yet another game that had obviously been developed for console and then imported to PC. There are a lot of them out there. The thing is, the developers at Codemasters didn't take the time to actually rework the controls to make it playable on a PC. Instead, they found rough equivalents for the controls and left it at that.

A few examples: the lack of a true save feature. The only way to save your progress is to go back to certain checkpoints and teleport back to your tower. In a real PC game, you can just hit escape and then save your game. Or even just hit one of the function keys to quick-save your game. This is particularly useful when you're trying to fight your way through a difficult level, such as the Ruborian Desert level. Such a save function isn't possible on a console. I get it. But I'm not playing on a console. I'm playing on a PC.

Another annoyance was the "sweep" maneuver. I had to hold down both mouse keys and move the mouse around if I wanted to directly control where my minions went. Instead, I wound up twitching the mouse back and forth as my minions tried to follow my directions. The hinky camera didn't help as it had difficulty tracking what I was doing. I suspect that in the console version, this works much better. Clearly Codemasters didn't take the time to think through a better alternative.

Finally we have the asinine aiming function. Once again, the developers seemed to forget that PC players would have an actual mouse with which to aim their characters. Instead, I have to point my Overlord in the general direction of what I'm aiming for and then hit "shift." At least a third of the time, this resulted in me locking on to the wrong object, which is a bit disconcerting when it happens in the heat of battle. Again, a function that was clearly designed for console players falls short in the PC port.

Why am I harping on this so badly? Because a good PC port can be done. Bioshock did it. So did Knights of the Old Republic. But unfortunately, so long as certain developers remain lazy, I'll have to be wary of bad ports.

Shame, too. This game had a lot of promise, but weak storytelling and lazy importing made it a bargain bin game. And it fits there. It really does.

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