PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.



Arun Subramanian

Overlord exudes humor from many angles, not least of which is the fact that the moral choices you make vary only in how evil they are.

Publisher: Codemasters
Genres: Action/adventure
Price: $59.99
Multimedia: Overlord
Platforms: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PC
Number of players: 1
ESRB rating: Teen
Developer: Triumph
US release date: 2007-06-26
Amazon UK affiliate
Amazon affiliate
Developer website

With all the games that have popped up recently attempting to simulate moral decisions (ie. Knights of the Old Republic, Fable, etc.), it seems as if a splinter to the "games as art" mentality has been birthed. These kinds of games have elements that are attempting to make the player think about the consequences of their choices and actions. Though this is an interesting dynamic, it can sometimes seem a little heavy-handed. Enter Overlord. This is a title that exudes humor from many angles, not least of which is the fact that the moral choices you make vary only in how evil they are.

Before Overlord, Triumph Studios, located in the Netherlands, was only responsible for the Age of Wonders titles for the PC. While those offered straightforward, turn-based combat in a fantastical setting, they weren't particularly renowned for their sense of humor or personality. But with Overlord, Triumph has not only made its first foray into console development, but has also made a splash with a title that retains the fantasy setting of its previous games, while significantly changing their personality and formula to enjoyable effect.

Instead of the stuffy, Tolkien-esque fantasy realm that has become second nature to fans of fantasy books, RPGs, and the like, Overlord imbues its world with an over the top, almost spoof-level humor, similar to the 2004 title The Bard's Tale. What adds to the sense of humor is the notion that you have moral choices to make, but those choices aren't between shades of good and evil, but rather between evil and very evil. That said, the mayhem is kept somewhat removed from reality, a concept helped by the setting. Certainly this title garners its rating for crude humor and cartoon violence, but there's nothing on the same playing field as, say, Grand Theft Auto, for example.

As with any evil leader worth his salt, much of the game is experienced by having your minions do the dirty work for you. This is where a good deal of the title's personality comes in. The minions are, by and large, fairly amusing in both their voice characterizations and their actions. And as in Pikmin, there are various types for you to command, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Further, the total number you can have in your party at any given time is limited.


Overlord shares its irreverent spirit and approach to evil, if not its setting or gameplay, with the 2004 PC game Evil Genius, in which you played the sort of madman villain from any given James Bond film. In both games, there's a sense of glee with respect to the lighthearted nature with which a shaky sort of moral fiber is approached. It seems that if the choice had been made to make the violence and despotism of the game extremely realistic, it might have been more disquieting than fun. This is an example of a game that doesn't take itself too seriously, and asks the player not to either. It is not attempting to change the landscape of gaming in general, nor is it likely to be construed as an "important" title. It's simply fun for the sake of being so, akin to a popcorn movie that will be enjoyed by the people to whom the form and source material appeals.

Critical reception of Overlord has been fairly positive overall, with most of the criticisms having to do with various technical issues like the camera and the utility of the control scheme during some of the more difficult battle situations that arise in the game. To be fair, though, as previously discussed, this is Triumph's first console game after a series of PC games. Certainly the PC keyboard allows for more robust control schemes, and I would imagine the experience of designing for a game controller for the first time to be a challenge. Such issues will surely be sorted out with Triumph's next title. Quite tellingly, nobody seem to question the title's charm and sense of humor. There isn't really any fault to find there.

What ultimately makes Overlord so intriguing is the way in which it's something of a mashup. In the way that particulary good DJs can make their own songs by collaging together bits and pieces of other things, the developers have brought a lot of established conventions to the table and created something unique. Obviously, the fantasy setting has been done many times before. Present here also is the moral choice dynamic that affects the look of the character and the outcome of the game, in the manner of Fable, although Overlord uniquely only lets you go from bad to worse. Further, there's the resource managements aspects of different types of underlings, in the manner of Pikmin. Yet again all these elements, and many others, come together to make for an experience that hasn't quite been seen before.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.


Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.


'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.


The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.


'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.


1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.


'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.


The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.


Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.


15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.


'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.


20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.


Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.


The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.


Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).


Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.