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Tag Archives: valve

A second game I’ve been trying to play lately is Overlord, which, despite its lack of hype (that I’ve heard of, anyway), is actually a pretty great game (then again, it came out almost six months ago). I’ve been told by my fellow blogger that it’s extremely similar to Pikmin, which I, of course, never bought.In short, you play as a dark overlord (who would guess?), and you do battle by sending in your minions, who are a little like demonic gremlins, to fight for you. You have a huge axe you can fight with too, but according to your advisor, you’re too good for that.

An appealing part of the game is the number of uses for the minions, and the awesome ways in which they’re applied. Aside from fighting (which can get pretty awesome, what with your minions jumping onto your enemies’ backs and pretty much riding them around), the minions can do things like move large obstacles out of the way (which will require x minions to do depending on the size of the object; this makes for the revelation of new areas pretty smooth as you can command more and more minions at once), turn big wheels to open doors or drop drawbridges, and fit through or across small areas like tunnels or coincidental bridges made of small tree branches.

Your minions also pick up random stuff that can help them along their way, ranging from makeshift weapons (like pieces of fences, if I remember correctly) to pumpkin helms. That’s right; if you tell your minions to attack random things (which they will sometimes do on their own if they’re in the area) — like pumpkins — they’ll do crazy stuff like put them on their heads, even if it doesn’t help them one bit. That’s one of the things that really brings them to life: they’re not just mindless creatures who obey your every word and only your every word (although they are quite loyal) — they like to have some fun, too.

You also have a huge castle that you can customize with enough money — a nice perk, but (so far for me) has served no super-meaningful purpose.

And the last thing I’ll mention is paths. Lots of games have been adding this lately to dynam-ify storylines — you can choose your character’s personal path through the the actions you perform. In most cases, your actions end up deciding whether you’re good or evil in the end (Dark Messiah is an excellent example of this), but since Overlord‘s whole concept is pretty much based around being evil, you get to choose between evil and really evil.

As you might guess, killing innocent people leans you towards the really evil side. Every time you kill someone who would otherwise befriend you, you get their life force, and 1 life force = 1 more minion you have available to summon. You also get some decent cash from their pockets.

The disadvantage to doing this, as your advisor states, is that to rule an evil empire, you actually have to have people to rule over — so killing everyone isn’t too much of an option. I have yet to complete the game, so I’m not sure of the gameplay differences between the two paths yet, but I’m sure there will be some.

One last thing, because I know you’re waiting for it: graphics. They’re very decent. If you’re talking about sole graphics, they’re up there with Half-Life 2, but that doesn’t take into account physics, the actual use of the graphics, and the cooperation between the two. And some unrelated things could use some work.

For instance, you can set fields of dry grass on fire once you get the appropriate spell, and the trees in that field will switch to a dry and burnt model when the fire spreads to them (which all is very cool to see happen), but the trees just swap from one model to the other, and the instant change is very noticeable. At least cross-fade between the models or something.

Definitely not something to cry over, though — from the first time you set foot into non-evil lands, you can feel the happiness vibes emitting from everything from the sheep to the swaying grass — one of which you will slaughter and the other of which you will set fire to.

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So here was my day:

12:00a – The Orange Box is released. I am asleep, but have already paid for and preloaded it.
4:00a – I wake up inadvertently from excitement! I shower and get all my get-readying for school over with.
4:25a – I start playing Portal.
5:30a – The four alarms I set in fifteen minute increments start. I had planned to wake now, but I’m already up (and thinking with portals). Alarms get turned off.
7:00a – I beat Portal! I check out some of the bonus levels I unlocked, as well as skim over the achievements section. Man, there’re still a lot of things I can do!
7:10a – I start playing Half-Life 2: Episode Two.
8:00a – School. I have fun watching my friends’ faces when I tell them that I woke up at 4am to play Portal — and that I beat it before school. I love emotion! I also casually inform anyone who would eventually play Portal that the cake is a lie — including my physics desk. I am also the least tired I remember being for quite a while throughout the day — an odd occurrence, considering my operating hours for this day.
3:30p – I nervously show some family members how Portal works. I want to play Episode Two! That’s what I get for showing them the trailer.
4:00p – Back to HL2:E2.
8:30p – Episode Two: beaten.

This was pretty much my favorite day in quite a while. The following are rants about the awesomeness about the games involved in it.

Portal is awesome. Let me say that I’m not totally new to this concept — I’ve very repeatedly played with similar systems in Prey (with the custom portal-creation mod) and Narbacular Drop (the game from which Portal evolved, created by a group of students from Digipen who now all happily work for Valve), but Portal combines the slickness and meaning of the former with the portal-focused gameplay from the latter to make an — I simply must repeat myself — awesome game.

I’ve said before that I’m a huge storyline guy, and although no trailers do this one justice, the intricacy of it is really something to take into consideration; it’s much deeper than you’d imagine, even after playing completely through it. At first you’re just like, “Oh, so I’m this test participant for this awesome portal stuff, that’s cool”, but it gets so much more intricate — to an amount that I actually do not know at this time, but is sure to be hinted at upon the arrival of Episode Three (yep, you guessed it — Portal takes place in the Half-Life universe, and this is actually apparent during play of Episode Two; a matter which surely will be delved into further along in the episodes).

As for Episode Two: JEEZ VALVE, FINALLY!

Now that that’s out of my system, I can say that it’s actually a pretty good game. You can really tell how much work they put into the engine — maybe not through huge, blatantly noticeable things, but small things, like how when you’re in a cave the light reflections look much, well, shinier, and how (I love this) when you spin to face another direction really fast, your screen actually blurs — it sounds trivial, but it’s a pretty awesome thing when you notice it for the first time (if you came into my room when I noticed it, you’d just watch me spinning around in circles really fast for about two minutes straight).

There isn’t a whole lot of new stuff in it (a new car and a new type of mine come to mind), but the storyline actually starts to connect more with that of Half-Life 1 (notice I only said starts to — there are just a few things mentioned about some memories from the original Half-Life that could have to do with your future success), as well as Portal, as I mentioned already.

I hate to leave Team Fortress 2 out of the party, but I’d already played it in beta, so I’m not as super-excited about it right now. Make no mistake, though: The Orange Box is a purchase well worth the money if you’re any sort of fan at all of Half-Life or its relatives. Come to think of it, I think most people would enjoy Portal despite their gaming background.