With Triumph Studios’ darkly humorous action strategy title Overlord having gained traction on the Xbox 360 before being reborn and revised more recently on the PlayStation 3, it seems only natural that the tongue-in-cheek poke at classic fantasy should receive a minion-filled sequel with which budding Overlords can once again stretch their nefarious reach.
Here at Strategy Informer we were recently lucky enough to drag Lennart Sas of Triumph Studios kicking and screaming away from his desk and force Overlord-related answers to Overlord-related questions from his unwilling lips upon pain of letting our own gut-starved minions loose throughout the meaty-looking development team.
Wisely, he relented. His answers, sans blood-laced spittle and tear-strewn pleas for mercy, are as follows:
Firstly, stop whimpering, we won’t keep you long… and no, Jamie won’t bite unless provoked, or should we decide to plunge your fingers into this pot of spicy steak sauce.
Moving on. Many thanks for your coerced willingness to share a little information about the ongoing development of Overlord II.
Strategy Informer: Please bite down on this leather strap and take a moment between wails of agony to tell our readers a little about yourself and your assigned role within the creative team working on the production of Overlord II.
Lennart Sas: I'm Lennart Sas - Creative Director on Overlord II at Triumph Studios.
Strategy Informer: While the first game was clearly a playful jab at Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy and its resulting Hollywood blockbusters, how is Triumph approaching the game’s newly realised era in terms of its Roman Empire inspiration?
Lennart Sas: At the end of Overlord: Raising Hell, our dark protagonist was trapped in the Abyss by his treacherous Jester. In the vacuum left by his absence, the peasants of the world formed a new Glorious Empire heralding an age of logic, science and reason and other boring and sensible things. As it spread across the world the Empire started destroying anything to do with magic including the remnants of the Overlord’s realm.
We modelled the Glorious Empire after the Romans because their society is recognizable to many people - In many ways it resembles our own world with corrupt politicians and such. It creates a fresh new setting to conquer, in addition to the magical realms which still exist as the hidden magical sanctuaries. The Empire’s marvellous marble cities make a great target for The Overlord and his savage hordes to destroy.
Strategy Informer: Will the sequel’s gameplay motivation differ from the original game or will it once again involve building resources from the ground up with a resurrected Overlord intent on reclaiming his ransacked domain from the clutches of bloated do-gooders?
Lennart Sas: In the new world ruled by the Empire, the heir to the Dark Throne grows up as a misunderstood and hard to manage ADHD kid. He is soon contacted by the last surviving of his daddy’s minions. From the hidden Minions Burrows, the new Overlord emerges to harness the dark powers magic to fight the rule of the most despicable Empire and fulfil his dark destiny.
The Minion Burrows turn into a Hades-like Netherworld. He finds secluded magical sanctuaries to steal the remaining magic from fairies and elves alike. Minion Guerrilla attacks turns into a full-scale minion assault against the heart of the Glorious Empire. As the Netherworld Grows, it undermines the world above. Our new Overlord will have determined his new world. There are no good vs. evil choices this time, but the choices are between Domination and Destruction. Enslavement versus Scorched Earth. Nobody said ruling the world was a walk in the park!
Strategy Informer: Beyond its obvious action-based appeal, the first Overlord’s core strategy revolved around the unique attributes of its four minion classes. Will they all return for the sequel and will players be introduced to any new minion types and battlefield strengths along the way?
Lennart Sas: All the Overlord’s four minion types return: The Brown Warrior, the Red Fire-throwing Imp, the Green Stealth Assassin and the Enigmatic Blue Priest. Instead of adding more base minion types (which would make controls more difficult and blur the mines between the minions), we expanded what minions can do. First they are all stronger, more destructive and funnier then before. All minions have their key abilities adapted to new challenges the game brings. Minions are now able to do things such as riding mounts (including Wolves, Spiders and Dragon-like Salamanders) and they can control war machines.
Strategy Informer: Recent news emanating from the Overlord camp has confirmed the return of Writers’ Guild Award nominee Rhianna Pratchett as the sequel’s scriptwriter. Was securing her signature an important fact in Overlord II’s evolution?
Lennart Sas: It’s great to have Rhianna back on board again for the sequel. She’s a great person to work with and her witty writing is an important part of the Overlord Experience.
Strategy Informer: New narrative angles aside, will players still be nurturing their minion hordes by harvesting life force from unwitting sheep, innocent bystanders and unfortunate enemies?
Lennart Sas: In Overlord II There are new All-New domains to conquer. From the Icy Nordberg Domain, to the Beaches of Everlight, the Mysterious Sanctuaries, the Grim Wasteland (ground zero, where the Old Overlord’s Tower detonated) and the very heartland of the Glorious Empire. Each of these domains has its humanoid and animal inhabitants to dominate and annihilate. This time they include baby seals and killer pandas. Yes - the Overlord doesn’t fall for puppy eyes and doesn’t discriminate!
Strategy Informer: Also, will Pratchett’s widely-respected penmanship be utilised by Triumph and Codemasters outside the boundaries laid down by Overlord II?
Lennart Sas: It is always a great joy to work with Rhianna. At the start of the project, after the basic premise had been established she flew over to lay down the basics of the story with me. Then the (level-) designers work out this frame work and create the game play events. Rhianna writes the dialogue along side. All of this is an iterative two-way process. So the story is not written before or after the game is made.
Strategy Informer: The release date for Overlord II is currently pin pointed in 2009, but could you be more specific on an actual date? Also, is it likely that gamers will have the chance to try out a demo before the game is released?
Lennart Sas: I can’t be more specific about the date at the moment, but a pre-release demo on all platforms is in the works, so aspiring Overlords can have a taste of what it’s like.
Strategy Informer: Should prospective sequel players expect to delight in the same morbid and dark humour that punctuated Overlord or will it be scaled back? We’re betting the answer to that question will be that the humour is being amped up to reflect the game’s ethos of ‘bigger and better’?
Lennart Sas: Overlord wouldn’t work without the dark humour (in fact without the humour and satire the game would probably get banned!!). I think Overlord II’s humour is better then before going beyond the basic fantasy parody to something with more contemporary references. Example: Overlord II features an Environmental Activist Group of Elf hippies that tries to stop your onslaught with protests, clinging themselves to your Netherworld gates.
Strategy Informer: Will Overlord II once again rely on the intuitive thumbstick sweep system that directed minions to their targets in the first game? If so, are the controls being adjusted or revamped in any way to accommodate new features.
Lennart Sas: The control fundamentals are close to the original. In the sequel the controls are smoothed out with smarter minion AI, fiercer Overlord Melee Fighting and a new spell system which is closer tied to the Overlord’s Domination versus Destruction Choices.
Strategy Informer: Speaking of which, can you give us a quick run down of any such fresh gameplay elements presently being packed into the overall package?
Lennart Sas: Phew, where to begin… Game play additions include the minions’ abilities to control siege machines and ships. Enemies have become smarter too and some enemy types operate information lead by centurions, creating more challenging and epic battles.
The Netherworld replaces the Overlord’s Dark Tower. The player’s dark domain is now much more alive with minion cultures and new features include a minion graveyard, were later in the game the player can resurrect his favourite minions
The Overlord is able to possess minions to go on infiltration missions, were minions are able to dress up as enemies. All of this results in a much more rich and epic world-conquering experience.
Strategy Informer: The original game was dependant on just two following game cameras, one close in and almost directly behind the Overlord, and one raised up and slightly further away. Will those choices be retained and/or expanded?
Lennart Sas: Our aim is that the player shouldn’t have to worry about controlling the camera in Overlord II, although the height can now be manually adjusted. The game will now automatically pick the best height for situations, so you now you can get instant sweeping views on a big battle fields are going up close when you possess a minion to go on an infiltration mission.
Strategy Informer: Can you fill any gaps with regard to multiplayer accessibility in Overlord II? Oh, and can PlayStation 3 owners look forward to snapping up a procession of gameplay-related Trophies during the new adventure?
Lennart Sas: We have changed the multi-player front end to make it easier to find players for some co-operative of head to head Overlord action.
Strategy Informer: As the returning development studio, was there anything missing from Overlord that the team was keen to see implemented in Overlord II?
Lennart Sas: The original Overlord was a unique game with no direct competition; this means that creatively there was lots of uncovered ground to explore for the sequel. With such a rich concept, there were almost too many ideas and we had to shift to piles of them to create a coherent experience.
Strategy Informer: Triumph has been working on the Overlord series for quite sometime now, do you think that this will continue, or do you have another project in the cards that will put Overlord aside once the second edition is released?
Lennart Sas: Triumph’s focus is now on Overlord II, too early to talk about future projects, in the Overlord series or otherwise!
Strategy Informer: Finally, feel free to use this as a platform to shamelessly plug your own product. Why should gamers be tempted by Overlord II as opposed to other high-profile releases pencilled in for 2009? What does Triumph’s latest game have that others do not?
Lennart Sas: The original Overlord was the only game that allowed you to conquer the world as an evil despot controlling a horde of destructive minions. Its success proved there were plenty of gamers secretly dreaming about world domination. Now Overlord II is back, with an all-new world to conquer, with new minion antics displayed in a new and improved game engine with high production values. Both the players of the original game as well as newly aspiring Overlords will enjoy Overlord II.
Strategy Informer: Many thanks to Lennart Sas for not passing out from the pain, and we’d like to express our marginal regret for subjecting him to the rusty iron maiden… but, frankly, his stubbornly heroic reticence left us with no choice. What’s a maniacal despot to do?
Overlord II will be released on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Games for Windows.
Related series extensions Overlord: Dark Legend will be released on the Nintendo Wii, while Overlord Minions will forge its own brand of bloodletting on the Nintendo DS handheld.
All the aforementioned Overlord titles are expected before the close of 2009.