Micah Kolding

Overlord: Dark Legend

Release date:

6-23-09

Publisher/Developer:

Codemasters

It is a dark time for the land of Greenvale, with halflings and bandits ransacking the villages and the ineffectual lord gone on another fruitless quest to restore his once opulent wealth.  In his absence, his youngest son is reaching maturity, an event hardly celebrated in the tired and empty castle but for a curious gift from a dubious creature named Gnarl. This ancient, eldritch beastie introduces the young lord to an army of "minions", mindless, goblin-like monsters eager to fight and die for their new Overlord's wicked causes.  Yes, this new sovereign is prepared to restore glory to Greenvale by any means necessary, including, but not limited to, rescuing children from a witch, squashing rotten pumpkins, and pretty much doing whatever else his puny subjects tell him to do.

How does one describe Overlord: Dark Legend? The back cover declares this game to be a "twisted fairytale".  Perhaps you've encountered this phenomenon before, that weird little subgenre that likes to have Red Riding Hood turn out to be a werewolf and never seems to realize that the original source material is at least eighty-five times more disturbing than their own "twisted" versions. If you can imagine a few dashes of the Brothers Grimm lite mixed in with a predominance of pretty shameless Lord of the Rings imagery, then you got a fairly good idea of what this story looks like. And if you're not underwhelmed yet, then prepare yourself for the most overwhelming glut of underwhelmingness you have ever spun in your Wii.

This game has a few good things going for it, like a moderately engaging premise and several fairly clever mechanics, but these attributes are absolutely buried in weakness, mediocrity, and flaws. The first disappointment comes from the graphics which, even during cut scenes, are a leap back to a previous generation of consoles. From there you will be introduced to the gameplay, which grants you a rich and intricate selection of powers and options that you will never, ever use. Your character roams the countryside with an army of up to four different types of minions, a system evocative of a much easier version of Pikmin. These minions will smash objects, kill enemies, and resolve "puzzles" of such little innovation that the constant instructions you receive from Gnarl should feel like an insult to your intelligence. If you die more than twice, it's probably the game's fault.  If you haven't reached the game's surprisingly lame ending inside a long weekend, then that probably means you're spending too much time on side quests for the sake of money you will never spend. The game isn't even decent enough to offer you an "save" option, instead forcing you to rely on the elusive wim of the autosave. This, along with a gag of dubious tastefulness wherein the minions can don what appears to be a sombrero that somehow comes with a big, honkin' mustache, represents the height of the "evil" that this unfortunate game promises so disingenuously.

Overall, Overlord is a scenic tour of Disappointmentville with stops at Boredom Park and the Historical Museum of Mistakes Games Shouldn't Be Making Any More. It may be worthy of a rental if you really, truly have nothing else to play, but it cannot otherwise be recommended. Avoid it if you can, seek a more worthy outlet for your inner megalomaniac, and may the games continue to spin vigorously in your Wiis.

Our Score: 5/10

About the author:

Micah Kolding is a teacher, writer, and cartoonist from Davis, California. His sharp and satiric edge has appeared in the likes of The California Aggie and The Sacramento Book Review, as well as on stage.

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