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The primary gameplay of Overlord 2 is the minion control. You send your 4 types of minions around to solve puzzles, kill enemies, and generally extend your rule. This works fairly well with your little minions rushing forward with the click of the mouse. The sweep mechanic doesn't seem to work as well as it did in the last game. This makes a few parts of the game much harder than they need to be. There's one big problem with the minion control though. They have slightly better survival AI, but their behavior is apparently gutted. They no longer automatically pick up life force, gold, and equipment. You have to order them to do so, and even then it doesn't always work. It's just an absurd level of micromanagement that wasn't in the first game.
You still have the same 4 types as the first game. There are mounts for the browns, reds, and greens though. Then again, these are barely implemented and don't feel like much of a real addition to the game. It also feels like there isn't nearly as much of a use for the greens and blues. Even the reds feel neglected. Combat just boils down to simple rush tactics with the browns able to handle everything.
Another odd thing to get the axe was the spell system. It's just gone. There are only three real spells. The only one you'll even use is the Evil Presence spell which is so weak that you'll only use it when it's plot relevant. I really miss the fairly rich system in the last one.
The personal arena is also gone, which removed a fun challenge. Part of the joy in the last game was gathering strong minions and dominating old enemies.
One nice addition is the level of detail that is in the new game. Towns are actually guarded by your minions once they are captured. The enslaved workers generate gold and life force for your evil empire. The forge has a number of named options for armor and weapons. The minions even have names now and can be resurrected in the barracks. It's a neat addition, but seems inconsistent with the high death toll that the game requires later in the game.
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The puzzles are alright but unfortunately very repetitive. You'll fight the same groups of elves and imperial troops throughout the game. Other enemies require no skill. It's all just repetition and random clicking. The combat gets very boring near the end. This is a real shame considering the little novelties they did add. There are neat diversions as you use war machines and ships in the game. Some of the boss fights are still good too and the general gameplay is still fun. The bad just outshines the good.
For example, there is also a terrible puzzle for the two conquering missions in the game. To conquer a town, you have to hunt down all 100 people and either kill or dominate them. This is as fun as it sounds. It's a mindless chase that requires several trips, yet you have to do it to get 100% for either path.
Some puzzles are also just unfair. The now famous spider puzzle is ridiculous considering the ineffective sweep controls. You have to send green minions riding spiders along the wall to trigger various pressure plates in a timed challenge. There are a few other puzzles that are just annoying and poorly made. They really drag the game down when you come across them.
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The multiplayer present in Overlord 2 is fairly interesting. There are 4 modes. There's a standard arena mode and an invasion mode. There is also an interesting zone attack mode similar to the Battlefield series. You have to capture and defend zones to gain bonuses and win. There is also a plunder mode, where you have to get gold while also protecting your treasury from possible raids by your opponents.
These modes are interesting, but there might as well not be multiplayer. I couldn't find a match when I last tried and I have heard others reporting the same problem. The possibility of a rage quit also seems to make most of these matches against random opponents hard to actually finish. If you have another friend with a copy, then it would probably be fun. You shouldn't buy it for the multiplayer though.
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The graphics have seen a big improvement. The minions, enemies, and creatures are much more detailed. The environments are much more lush and active. There is also more variety. You will go through snowy landscapes, jungles, and huge cities. The whole thing looks very crisp and it is a real plus.
On the whole, the game just looks a lot nicer. It has taken on a more realistic outlook though, since there is no where near the same amount of cartoony fantasy characters as there were in the last one.
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The story itself is standard fantasy. The new Overlord is trying to rebuild his father's empire and must conquer 4 areas through a series of missions. The end has you ultimately face the emperor and there's a little twist. The "surprise" ending feels a little tacked on though. Regardless, there are 2 big problems.
The first issue is the comedy. Overlord was a funny game because it featured a lot of subtle dark parody of the fantasy genre. There were bloodthirsty unicorns, cannibal hobbits, crazy dwarves, and a zombie plague spread by STDs. That's all gone. The main parodies are just the Elves and the Romans. The Elves are standard PETA characters trying to save the animals you want to slaughter. PETA jokes have been done to death and this game beats the dead horse into the ground (drawing further objection from animal lovers). It just becomes annoying. The Romans are minor parodies of the Romans, but the comedy just isn't there.
It just seems odd to abandon the comedy of the first. There are still fantasy cliches to parody. A pirate section would have been perfect considering the addition of boats. There's some of the old comedy left. The minions sing along with the theme song and hum movie themes during various missions, you wreck a boat because a busty woman distracts the Overlord and Gnarl, the villagers are clueless, an attempt to drop someone into a pit is foiled when they can float, etc. It just doesn't feel like the old game though.
The second issue is the evil aspect. You still just aren't very evil. They switched it to a matter of enslaving or killing the town populations to make your actions more evil, but it misses the mark. You are still fighting annoying PETA members and an Empire that is more brutal than you can ever hope to be. I don't see why they won't just give you a truly "good" enemy. It would be alright to be a real villain, and it would open up more fairy tale ideas to parody.
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The listed requirements are a 3.0 GHz Pentium 4 Processor, 1 gig of RAM, and a 256 MB video card. I was using my XPS with a 2.6 GHz dual processor, 3 gigs of RAM, and an Nvidia 8700M GT card. I was able to put everything fairly high with minimal slowdowns. I had a fairly standard rate of play. It surprisingly didn't lag much in the snow or jungle levels. Things did start to chug along during larger battles. It is processor intensive too.
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I don't know what to think about Overlord 2. I was often frustrated with it and all the missed opportunities. When I finished the game though, I realized that it was just fun overall. It's a unique experience and there hasn't been a game like it for a long time. If you liked the original Overlord and it's expansion, then I'm sure you'll find this game to be worth your time.
Overall, I just wish they would have done a bit more. The comedy has suffered this time. Several fun features have disappeared. The enemies are repetitive and the puzzles are frustrating. On the other hand, they added more little missions, made combat feel epic at times, added more environments, made the minions more personable, and created another 12 hours or so of Overlord gameplay. It's a mixed bag, but it's the best one we're going to get in this genre for awhile. You can always give the demo a swing too.