Set the demos downloading before I went to bed, gave them a whirl today.
The Darkness: Ok – so that is what my 360 is capable of? Finally some real eye candy. These guys really put money into making the places and things you were going to see a lot of look really, really sweet. And I like the concept.
The demo starts out with “your first death”, you come too in the back seat of a car and while the credits run you sit in the back seat as your buddies drive along and get into a little road rage. The first playable level starts with you in a cemetry. They’ve thrown in all the graphical technologies and the game world is wonderful. The choice of a morbid/dark setting may have given them some extra scope there but nothing on the 360 has impressed me like this yet.
I didn’t quite get how you and the darkness are hooked; the darkness is some kind of evil, multi-headed serpent thing that draws power from the darkness, can shoot tentacles out to kill, knock out lights or pick things up; You can summon a minion to scout, kamikaze or shoot for you. Theres a bunch of other powers, too, the only other I saw is this creepy weird “arm” mode where it you switch to one of the heads and you can crawl up walls, through vents, etc, and you’re much harder to see so you can ninja-kill enemies you’d otherwise encountered.
Unfortunately, all the beauty, the smoothness – the first Xbox 360 game I’ve played that had a really smooth and steady framerate – were let down by a lack of challenge in the demo. On my first pass of the second level, my minion, which is supposed to die if it goes into bright lights, rampaged the entire level for me leaving me nothing to do but work out the trivial puzzles. On the second try (sans minion) I would just knock out lights and I was essentially invincible.
There was some fun in the variety of combinations you could use to kill people or get around obstacles, but unless you set out to find the most elaborate ways to complete levels, the demo leaves you with a sense all the depth is artistic.
I would probably have bought the game after the first demo level, after the second I might rent the game at some point, but unless I read something about awesome later levels, I’ll pass.
I’d give it 5/5 for the visuals, effects, animations and smoothness, but being unsure as I am about whether you would want to play thru it all, 3/5.
The Overlord: has been heralding itself on TV as a game in which you are evil. Its in the style of over-the-shoulder gauntlet, run around hack and slash. The intro and build up are all very nicely “cute evil” styled. The minion acting as your guide serves you a tutorial by showing you how to beat the tar out of your evil-jester. And then you are taken on a trip to recover the power source for your evil tower.
The world you land in is WoW-esque, think Aldrassil; blooming greenery, big fluffy sparkles in the air. Your guide suggests you not inhale it. Nearby are comicesque sheep that spring too and fro, basically there to provide some easy kills. Ok. Killing sheep needlessly is evil. You pass the sheep and reach your first task. Farmer Bob’s farm has been taken over by halflings who’ve stuck a pitchfork through the sleeves of his shirt and put him in the field as a scarecrow. Since then, the pumpkins have apparently begun talking to him. He begs you to help him get his farm back from the halflings.
Having seen the TV adverts, and liked the concept, and finally reaching my first play option, I immediately tried to kill Bob the farmer, for being weak; kill the farmer, enslave the halflings, and burn down the farm I reckon.
Instead, the game directs you to (and doesn’t let you do anything but) splatter the pumpkins, batter his house a bit. Which provokes him to say “I’d rather have no farm than it be in the hands of those evil halflings”. WTH? I have no beef with evil halflings.
The second task you are assigned is to free some villagers of a nearby town who have been kidnapped and put to work in mines by the halflings.
On the one hand, I’m glad this game turned out not to be genuinely promoting of evil; but but the adverts had gotten my hopes up. My short experience of this game was about as evil as a fairy’s tea party.
The game is a visual treat. I really liked the styling and found movement and gameplay all smooth and fun. I’d have liked this game if it hadn’t been for the adverts. I guess they’re selling “Shrek” style evil entirely tounge-in-cheek, and I missed it.
A key part of gameplay are your minions. A bunch of little goblin-type creatures whos aim in life is to keep you alive and do your bidding. And the game is very much about management of your minions.
Someone should have told the dev team this.
The screen is typically very cluttered with everything being larger-than-life in order to accomodate lots of pretty details. You move with the left stick, and you move your minions with the right stick.
The first head-scratch for me came when the game neglected to tell me how to control the character, since the camera is one of those “if you turn, maybe I’ll follow you” types. When you are “sweeping” (controlling) your minions, the camera stays with you but pans to keep the minions more-or-less on screen.
If you want to turn your camera – i.e. most of the time – you have to press left-shift and use the right stick.
The minions have a whole bunch of animations and sound bytes and behaviors that enlivens the gameplay, but the lousy camera control considerations mean that whenever you have to send them off on more than a simple task, you’re going to resent the fact that your 10 NPC minions appear to be having fun while you’re stuck back here with the stupid 360 controller. The first such example is a fallen log crossing a little stream on the far side of which is a small hill with some destroyable urns you need to send your minions to smash up. This short distance is well into the haze range, and its really difficult to tell what your minions are actually doing.
The effect is relatively small it just takes away from the smoothness of the game. Even I was able to get the hang of the control system (more or less) within a few minutes of play, if not comfortable. Definitely something younger players would enjoy. I wouldn’t play the full game because I’d just lose patience with it too much – 3/5. (Younger players would probably go 4/5, its very Disney and blithely entertaining)