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X3F hands-on: Overlord

Somewhere, deep down, we had a feeling we were going to like Triumph Studios' Overlord. The screens we'd seen looked polished and the trailers exuded a certain charm that piqued our interest from the beginning. As such, we were eager to try out the demo that was released on Xbox Live Marketplace earlier today. After a few run-throughs of the fairly short demo, we think we've reached a fair assessment of what the game has to offer. So, is Overlord the game of your (evil) dreams? Read on to find out.

Gallery: Overlord

Overlord puts you in the shoes of (get this) the Overlord. It seems that the previous Overlord was overthrown by wretched and "so called" heroes. In the process, your tower has been ransacked and sits in disrepair. As the new Overlord, its your job to rebuild your evil empire, whilst commanding the fear and respect of the innocents and smiting the heroes that brought about the downfall of your predecessor. Like all evil Overlords (especially those of video game lore), the best way to go about this is to have your minions do the work for you.

The demo starts you off with 5 minions. Like good minions, they follow all your commands to the letter, they bring you any treasure the find, and they're willing throw their lives away if need be. You control your minions in two simple ways. You can target an object (enemies, obstructions, innocents, etc.) and set your minions upon it by pulling the right trigger. If you wish your minions to perform a more complicated task, you can manually navigate them using the right stick, Pikmin-style. Your minions will destroy anything in their path, move objects, and return to you with any loot they find.

Of course, you can do things yourself as well. As the Overlord, you can engage enemies using your melee weapon or magic spells. In the demo, you are given access to a simple fireball spell. Honestly, setting fire to a field of wheat and hearing the dying screams of demonic halflings is one of the most satisfying gaming experiences we've had in a while. We're hopeful that the other spells in the game will have similar environmental reactions.

Aesthetically, the game is very pleasing. A fellow Joystiq blogger accurately described Overlord as a cross between the aesthetics of Kameo and Fable. The visuals are definitely sharp and heavily stylized. They aren't necessarily the best the Xbox 360 has to offer, but Overlord is no slouch either. The music takes on the appropriate fantasy bent, reminding us a great deal of Fable. We particularly enjoy the juxtaposition of the lighthearted music as frolicking sheep are slaughtered by your minions. The sound design is decent as well, as your minions make lots of delightful little sounds as the murder and pillage. We particularly like hearing them quip, "For yoouuuuu!" as they hand you whatever treasure they've unearthed. Of course, it's possible that clips like that could get grating after a while, but we enjoyed it while we played.

All in all, we feel our time with Overlord was well spent. The gameplay is intuitive and fun. The graphics are polished and the sound is decent. With a decent single-player campaign and the promise of Xbox Live multiplayer, Overlord may just be a sleeper hit this summer. We look forward to the retail release later this month.

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