Codemasters has commanded Triumph (and Climax) to make more Overlord, as you have no doubt seen in our Overlord II and Overlord Wii/DS news stories. Which is music - probably thundering kettle drums - to our ears. Overlord let us trample through scenic fantasy villages and set hordes of multi-disciplined and mischievous minions on fat halflings and skinny elves. The result was glowing appraisals of Overlord on Xbox 360, and the same a year later on PS3.
In an effort to get behind the evil exterior of Dutch developer Triumph Studios, we pinned down game director Lennart Sas to answer our questions most foul, covering Overlord II, Rhianna Pratchett, Pikmin and Blackadder.
Eurogamer: Despite being developed over in the Netherlands, Overlord had a very English sense of humour. Was that deliberate? What inspired that choice?
Lennart Sas: We set out to make Overlord humorous from the start. Conquering the world, burning villages, kidnapping maidens and the killing of innocent people would have become a rather grim affair without some light-hearted satire and humour. The stylised game world added to the mix. There's obviously a lot of different styles of humour to draw on, but we found that the English variant with its black humour and satire was the perfectly fitted to Overlord's fantasy parody. Culturally the English and Dutch are not that different, and here in Holland there's a huge following of English comedy - shows like Monty Python and Blackadder are aired in the original language and that's also reflective of the US too.
Eurogamer: Now that we know what to expect in terms of the humour and the delicious wickedness, how do you expand and improve upon that without going over the top?
Lennart Sas: We took the critique to heart that Overlord was not evil enough, with some of the choices offered as between good and evil. Now the choices are between lawful evil and chaotic evil, which usually translates to either enslaving the population or all-out scorched earth. Decisions, decisions.
In the time between the two games, our Overlord has been absent from the world (for reasons revealed at the end of Overlord: Raising Hell), and the lands are being conquered by a Roman-inspired Empire that, in many ways, resembles our own modern society with all its problems: corrupt senators, social unrest, and environmental destruction. For example, you can cause global warming that floods cities and will have a group of environmentalist elves after your ass in a futile attempt to keep you in check.
Eurogamer: Many people noted the Pikmin inspiration in Overlord. Is that fair? Do you think this series effectively fills that strategic action adventure void that Nintendo has left?
Lennart Sas: We used Pikmin as inspiration, of course - but also as games such as Sacrifice; games that involved a central character who controls hordes of followers. However, I feel our core mechanics and setting are substantially different, and the games differ much more than typical shooters strategy titles. So I say anyone claiming Overlord is a Pikmin clone needs to get their head checked.
Eurogamer: The minions were a key component of the original Overlord. How have you changed and expanded their role this time?
Lennart Sas: The minions are the stars of the show and they're now bigger, better, smarter, badder and, of course, funnier than ever before. They're also more destructive and can pull down scenery and buildings, as well as ride wolves and operate powerful siege weaponry in massive battles. Minions are also named to build a greater level of attachment to each member of your horde. If you become very attached to one minion that dies in your service, we'll give you a chance to resurrect him in the Minion Graveyard and fight another day.
Eurogamer: How do you add new abilities to the minions without over-complicating the controls?
Lennart Sas: All the new gameplay mechanics are carefully distributed over the levels, so throughout the game there is a much greater variation of things to do. In the first couple of screenshots you can see the difference from the snowy lands of Nordburg, as well as the minions on their mounts leading an attack. We have made sure that the levels do not require the player to do everything at once, so we can keep the controls easy to understand.
Eurogamer: Big boss encounters were also prevalent in Overlord. Are you continuing down that path of climaxing quests with big lumbering monsters? Which ones are your favourites?
Lennart Sas: One of our goals in Overlord II is to make the battles even more epic, with massive minion army versus Empire army confrontations. Next to these battles will be our signature boss battles. We don't want to give too much away, but have ensured there are many adversaries that prove more than a match for the Overlord.
Eurogamer: Our spies have told us that Rhianna Pratchett's writing the story again. How did you end up working together in the first place, and what is it about her style that's prompted so many developers to utilise her talents lately?
Lennart Sas: When we first announced that we were working with Miss Pratchett, some people suggested we hired her just for her name. The reality is that we pitched the job to six different writers we really liked, but Rhianna was the one who really "got" what we wanted in the game and created dialogue samples that worked perfectly. As a hardcore gamer and ex-games journo, Rhianna also understood that writing for games is different than writing for movies, which put her above some of the "Hollywood" writing talent we've seen popping up in the games industry lately.
Eurogamer: And while we're on the subject, can you give us a bit of an overview of what the story will entail this time around?
Lennart Sas: With the Overlord out of action, a new era has dawned, in which the Glorious Empire has risen and conquered the world. As the Glorious Empire spreads disgustingly magnificent cities, technologies and civilized cultures throughout the lands, it also mercilessly roots out anything to do with magic. The Empire holds magic users responsible for an event of thermonuclear proportions that destroyed the Dark Tower and the surroundings lands. Now minions, unicorns, and fairies alike are killed in arenas as entertainment for the Empire.
Meanwhile, in the barren North, the heir of the Overlord bloodline is united with a lost tribe of minions and soon finds himself at odds with the Empire and its ban on magic. Your first battle is a guerrilla campaign against the Empire while your powerbase, the Netherworld, is constructed. During your onslaught you will decide the fate of the populous, gather voluptuous mistresses, and unravel the forbidden secrets of the Glorious Empire. The shape of world to come will be determined by your evil will.
Overlord II is due out for PC, Xbox 360, and PS3 in 2009. Overlord: Dark Legend for Wii, and Overlord: Minions for DS are also due out next year.