PS3 Demo–Overlord: Raising Hell Underwhelms

There were two games I was upset were unavailable on the PS3 when I purchased the system. One was Bioshock, the other was Overlord.

Though Overlord didn’t get the greatest reviews on the Xbox, conceptually, it is one hell of a great idea. We’re all sick of playing happy, blonde, skinny elves with noble hearts and idealistic warriors whose do-gooder attitudes make them about as much fun as cardboard boxes. Today’s discerning gamer demands variety. We want to be evil, dammit, and destroy the world!

I was happy to see that the Overlord series is coming to the PS3 in the form of Overlord:
Raising Hell.

It looks like it’s going to be the original Xbox release with all the content and hopefully a few updates. I was happier to see that there was a free demo on the PS3.

It’s great that developers are allowing us to play these free demos because I would sure hate to waste my money on a piece of crap like Overlord. While the concept remains good, this game, like many a PS3 hopeful, sucks (see Viking, Haze, Iron Man). It belongs on the PS2. The camera is cranky, the control of minions is clunky, and the graphics are just plain mediocre. In an era of overall masterpieces (GTA IV, Metal Gear Solid 4, and Resistance: Fall of Man) and graphical wonders (Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune) this type of subpar game is just simply inexcusable (again, see Viking, Haze, Iron Man, etc.).

If developers insist on re-releasing on a different platform, they should at least take the time to get it right. This one is mailed in.

Thankfully, some developers are giving us a free sampling of the shit sandwiches they are peddling, and, since most of us prefer turkey or roast beef, we get to not waste our money buying the final product.

I hold out hope for the PS3 Overlord, but I’ve learned my lesson with Viking: Battle for Asgard (god I’m sick of games with :colons: in their title, is that required now?). I certainly won’t be waiting in line to pick it up on the release date.

Check it out yourself. It’s free, and if you’re a nerdy loser (you are, since you’re reading this) like me, you’ve got the 30 minutes to download, play, and be disappointed. Maybe the developers are playing a cosmic trick on us: only a truly evil Overlord would subject people to something this bad.

Let me just give you one final frustrating example of what is wrong with this game. You are allegedly an evil bastard. You come upon a farmer who has been tied up as a scarecrow by some Halflings who took over his farm. He begs for your help. Your minions go destroy his farm (good, er, I mean, evil!) and kill the halflings, but when I tried to kill the scarecrow farmer as well (I am a merciless and evil overlord, right?) I could not cut him to shreds. Lame.

On a side note, I wonder how the free demos actually work out for sales. They certainly can’t help bad games. I’m assuming in the future developers will realize this and junk games will no longer have free downloads, just like crappy movies never allow critics to review them before the release date.


More Sword: Heavenly Sword Addendum

Eugene was kind enough to lend me his copy of Heavenly Sword, and I played through the entire thing in a day. Eugene’s excellent review was thorough and spot-on, so no need to rehash the entire game in my own post. I would like to touch on a few points, though.

Sixaxis? More Like Sixasskiss

In just about every post I’ve made — or conversation I’ve had — mentioning the topic, I’ve railed against the PS3’s Sixaxis controller. At its worst (e.g., Ratchet and Clank’s laser-cutting connect-the-dots tasks), it’s almost pushed me to quit otherwise great games. At its best (Folklore’s system of yanking souls from defeated enemies), it’s been tolerable but unnecessary.

Over the course of playing Heavenly Sword, I underwent a transformation not unlike Winston Smith’s in 1984. My loathing of the Sixaxis wasn’t far off from the hate Winston initially harbored for Big Brother, the fascist figurehead of Oceania.

But just as Winston “won the victory over himself” by the novel’s end, Heavenly Sword helped me achieve my own sort of enlightenment. I learned to embrace the enemy. I loved the Sixaxis.

Though most of Heavenly Sword’s combat is hand-to-hand, there are some extended sequences in which you must use projectiles, like arrows or cannonballs. In these situations, you can just aim your weapon, launch your missile, and let it land where it may — Sixaxis-free.

Or, if you prefer, you can be the projectile: time slows down, and you get a first-person view of flying through the air. It’s like a camera shot from a Sam Raimi movie. During flight, you tilt your controller and guide the missile toward your intended target. If you’re really good, you can aim for specific body parts.

The Sixaxis controls in these sections are fun because the developers were smart enough to try a novel approach to game design: eliminate frustration and add forgiveness.

During the most difficult projectile weapon sequences, your character isn’t personally under attack. Because your only opponent is the clock, you can concentrate solely on your shots. And, for those sequences when you are under attack, the clock slows down enough during missile flight that you don’t have to worry too much about getting annihilated — at least not until your attack is over and the camera perspective returns to third person.

The slow motion adds another advantage. Because the flight of each projectile takes so long, you have plenty of time to compensate for minor steering errors along the way. It may not be realistic for a cannonball to curve upward at the last second, after skimming along the ground for hundreds of meters, but it sure is fun. And if, at any point, you realize that your shot has gone too far off-target to recover, you can bail out and shoot another missile, immediately.

Though Heavenly Sword didn’t make a huge impact on the gaming community as a whole — and Sony has already scrapped plans for a sequel — I hope some developers will internalize what did work about the game’s use of the Sixaxis.

Other Thoughts On The Game

The voice acting and character animations were fantastic. Presentation counts, as these aspects alone got me emotionally invested in a story that was decent, but lean and predictable.

I loved that Heavenly Sword was start-to-finish combat. There was no platforming, where you had to worry about falling off a ledge or restarting your game twenty times to do a single jump. And there were no braindead-easy puzzles to solve or quests where you had to backtrack and fetch a certain item before moving on.

The length was perfect for me. I can’t argue with anyone who feels it was too short, but I loved being able to blast through it in a single day. I played through an entire videogame, and yet it didn’t even blow my whole weekend.

My one gripe about Heavenly Sword is that the boss battles were boring, compared to the regular combat. Each boss battle — including all three segments of the final boss battle — consisted of nothing more than finding a successful attack-defend-attack pattern and sticking with it. The battles against waves of regular enemies were more challenging, diverse, and fun.