Fusing elements of Sacrifice, Pikmin and wicked British humour into its deliciously dark premise, Overlord is one of the most adorable new games of recent times. Released in 2007 on 360 and PC, positive feedback was in plentiful supply, with the monumentally evil Kieron Gillen happy to dish out a well-deserved 8/10 for Triumph's strategy-adventure. A year later, the tweaked, beefed-up and generally refined Overlord: Raising Hell appeared on PS3, and scooped another creditable 8/10.
The warm reception helped convince Codemasters to commission a sequel, and following the game's announcement we travelled to Triumph Studios in the picturesque town of Delft in the Netherlands to get a first look at the follow-up, due for release this spring. You can read our Overlord II hands-on preview for an overview, but while we were there we also sat down with creative director Lennart Sas to discuss clubbing seals, minion-bowling and why he's not bothered about the Pikmin comparisons.
Eurogamer: Why do another Overlord? Why not another Age of Wonders or something new?
Lennart Sas: The primary reason Triumph took on to do the sequel was that we all felt there was a massive amount creative opportunity remaining in the concept; stuff that we feel people want to play. The original Overlord was a unique game with no real competition and so, creatively, there was lots of uncovered ground and ideas to explore for the sequel.
Eurogamer: For those who missed out on the original, can you sum up what they missed, and why they should be excited about the sequel?
Lennart Sas: The original Overlord was the only game that allowed you to conquer the world as an evil despot directly controlling a horde of destructive and funny critters, the minions. The central Overlord character, controlled from the third-person perspective, directly orders the minions, of which there are four races: the Brown Warrior, the Red Fire-throwing Imp, the Green Stealth Assassin and the Enigmatic Blue Priest.
Overlord II features an all-new world to conquer, with new minion antics displayed in an improved game engine with high production values. Overlord II is more epic in feel, with larger battles; the minions have mounts to ride and can control immense war machines and even set sail in ships. Both the players of the original game, as well as newly aspiring Overlords, will enjoy Overlord II.
Eurogamer: Some would say you've hijacked Pikmin's mechanics and replaced them with evil cackling minions. Fair assessment?
Lennart Sas: There's no denying that there was some inspiration from Pikmin, but we also took a good look at games such as Sacrifice and games that involve a central player character who controls a horde of followers. However, I feel the implementation of the core mechanics and the settings are very different and all of these games differ far more from each other than typical games in the shooter or RTS genres.
Eurogamer: Does the reissue of Pikmin on Wii (out on 6th February) bother you in any way? Or do you think it will help when the Wii Overlord comes around?
Lennart Sas: Personally I'm greatly looking forward to Pikmin on Wii and see how they make use of the Wiimote. I think the Wii is in great need of more gamers' games, and the market as a whole will benefit with quality games appearing. Overlord: Dark Legend, a standalone Overlord game for Wii, is very much a gamers' game and Climax, the developer, is focusing on making the most of the Wii controller for control and minion direction.
Eurogamer: What would you say were the strong points of Overlord 1, and what were its weaknesses? In what ways have you addressed them?
Lennart Sas: The key features for Overlord are the minion gameplay, the Overlord world-domination theme and the overall style, which is a combination of the visuals, the humorous script, the voice acting and audio. With the original Overlord we spent a lot of time proofing the concept, which meant that there was less time for fine-tuning than we originally planned; the absence of a mini-map an example. In designing Overlord II, we haven taken the critique to heart and planned time to both evolve the concept and allow more time for polishing.