Overlord: Dark Legend
Reviewed by Brandy Shaul
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2009-08-01 Wii Adventure T (Teen) Climax Studios / Codemasters

Even though it's set in a time before the events of the original Overlord, Dark Legend is not so much a prequel of the original two titles, but is actually a separate entity from beginning to end. Shared are the basic gameplay mechanics of controlling an army of minions and destroying everything in your path, but a new control system designed specifically for the Wii, along with a new story and new cast of characters creates an experience that is wholly separate from its predecessors.

Dark Legend focuses on a nameless young lad who has been abandoned and/or mistreated by every member of his family, and for that matter, most everyone he has come into contact with. The lad's father, Lord Gromgard, has, over time, lost control of his castle and allowed shame, famine and utter poverty to sweep over the lands.

In an effort to reclaim glory for his castle, your father sets out on fruitless quests, eventually abandoning you forever on your sixteenth birthday, leaving you under the watch of your evil twin siblings Lord Grenville and Lady Gerda, who wish misfortune upon you at every encounter.

Bitter Halflings have ravaged the fields, stealing some crops and poisoning others in response to the way they are literally looked down upon by humans, while the elves and the dwarves are forever at odds as to which way of life is superior. Lord Grenville and Lady Gerda have taken sides in the debate, the snotty and arrogant Grenville siding with the equally elitist elves, while Lady Gerda finds support with the dwarves, and their lifestyle of bottomless drinks and never-ending parties.

In short, the world you know has gone downhill in a very bad way. Being that the game begins on your sixteenth birthday, you are left a mysterious present containing the Overlord gauntlet, which leads you through a secret corridor in your castle to the rest of the Overlord's suit of armor. Now equipped in more familiar attire, you are left to take revenge on your siblings and the many species of fairy tale creatures that populate the countryside while forcefully gaining control over the land.

Helping you are the same four minion types found in previous Overlord titles: Brown (melee fighters), Red (ranged fire breathers), Blue (swimming healers) and Green (gaseous users of stealth). Unfortunately, properly controlling minions, and even controlling yourself in Dark Legend takes a lot more practice than I would have expected.

While all of the basic commands are present here, the control layout is a bit counterintuitive, in addition to being incredibly complex. Every single button on both the nunchuck and the Wii Remote has a purpose; some actually control two or even three commands depending on whether or not they are being used in tandem with another button. Needless to say, the learning curve here is high, as it will take even the most experienced of Wii players a considerable chunk of time to perform most actions with any semblance of flow.

Controls for basic movement are mostly mapped to the nunchuck, which the exception of sending minions forward, which is controlled with the Wii Remote (a combination of pointing at a forward location on the screen and pressing the B button). Using your own sword or axe for a melee attack presents you with perhaps the most flawed of the control options, but depending on your reliance on your minions, this may or may not become an issue.

While you can always resort to simply pressing the Z button to swing your weapon, to utilize the Wii's motion controls, you can also swing the nunchuck; unfortunately, doing so often causes the Wii Remote to shift position as well, which is an obvious negative since it should be firmly aimed at whatever it is you are wishing to attack, and forcing you to re-aim allows you to be pummeled by the enemy.

Regardless of these issues, after the initial acclimation period, the game returns to form with a truly humorous storyline and all of the intricate details that make the franchise shine. Your minions will find and automatically equip random objects left in your wake of destruction, causing you to eventually have an army of creatures wearing fruit baskets and leaves, among other random objects, on their heads, all the while screaming out grammatically incorrect phrases of worship to the Overlord: "Is all for da masta!"

A few changes aside from the basic control layout have been added to Dark Legend, such as the ability to now select one minion out of your group and literally throttle them (by shaking the remote) to renew your health or magic, or to be transformed into an explosive projectile of death which can be tossed like a grenade at enemies in the distance.

Other, more subtle changes come in the overall appearance of the game, which is less crisp and menacing than in other offerings, presumably because of the Wii's family-friendly nature. Minions still look very much like gremlins, and the voice actors from prior games have returned to give them life, but the overall landscape is much more focused on the humor and absurdity of it all than destruction and doom, regardless of the fact that it is a teen rated title.

That being said, while the story in Overlord: Dark Legend is a new one, the gameplay is relatively unchanged (which the exception of the aforementioned alterations). In the end, if you play games to be impressed by the graphics, you can find a much better looking title on either the 360 or the PS3. However, the storyline here is exclusive to the Wii, and is just as funny and engaging as its siblings' in Overlords I and II. It all boils down, then, to whether or not you wish to experience said story enough to pay $50 for the same gameplay that you can find elsewhere.

Special thanks to David Saba and Codemasters for providing a copy of this title.