What started as a dark comedy game is spreading out this summer into an evil empire. Originally available on the Xbox 360 and PS3 the overlord series will return again later this year, back again on the aforementioned consoles and for the first time Wii and DS owners will be able to take on the role of a fantasy tyrant as well. Both games spin off and add to the Overlord story and we were lucky enough to score an interview with Associate Producer Dean Scott for Climax Studios, the developers of the Nintendo versions of the Overlord series.
DHGF- How does the Wii game tie into the Overlord timeline?
Scott- It’s set before the events of the original game. It’s not a direct prequel in that the Overlord in Dark Legend is the one that’s in the first game, but that’s how the chronology goes. We’re setting up the idea that there’s an Overlord bloodline and a series of Overlords that exist throughout time. Look, it all makes sense. Trust me.
That means, of course, that we can’t meddle too much with the established Overlord lore. We can’t just invent purple minions and then genocide them all off so the first game makes sense. So it’s the same four minions types with the same basic ability types. We’ve just added stuff in where it was logical to do so.
DHGF- Overlord used nearly every button of the PS3/360 controller, how does Dark Legend take advantage of Wii’s motion control while still remaining faithful to the gameplay of the original game?
Scott- Great Wii games are built around the controller. That is your big advantage over the other platforms. That is where you can do the things the other consoles can’t. We use the possibilities of the Wii controller to connect the player more to the role of being the Overlord. In a game about commanding a legion of destructive little maniacs, it makes sense that we make that control direct. So using the pointer, the player is able to send the minions very precisely. Attack that enemy. Turn that wheel. Break that pile of stuff. It’s a very natural interface.
We also use the pointer so the player has full 360 degree control over where their spells are fired. We also give the player FPS-style camera control. It’s all about using the Wii Remote to empower the player, so they feel more involved in the experience.
We also have a new feature wherein the player can snatch up a minion from his horde, and hold it up for a good look at it. The minions loot all kinds of hilarious equipment from the environment, and if your minion is rocking a sombrero and a handlebar moustache you want to see that up close for the maximum LOLs. From that position, a flick of the nunchuk causes the Overlord to crack the minion in the face with the butt of his weapon, killing it for a health or mana return. Or he can shake up the minion by waggling the Wii Remote, shaking and throttling the minion into a cackling, frenzied state where he becomes a suicide bomber and sprints off to explode at a target.
All good wholesome family entertainment.
DHGF- Overlord had great moments of dark comedy, however the majority of the games released on the Wii are more of the family friendly sort. Are you worried at all that there might not be an audience for this style of game on the Wii?
Scott- We hope there is. Can we sit down and prove that in a spreadsheet for you? No. We are passionate about making a quality game that makes the most of the system both technically and terms of control. Regardless of the content, we hopeful that it we hit the quality bar we want we will find our audience.
I take your point about their being a lot of “family” focused games on Wii. But I don’t think that’s healthy for the console long-term. Wii Fit has been a massive success, but to a certain subset of Wii gamers, that’s all the console is. It’s the Wii Fit machine and maybe a bit of Wii Sports. It’s great that Nintendo has broadened the market, but now we need to retain those new gamers. And we only do that by opening their eyes to what is really cool about videogames, and what they’ve been missing out on. Giving them a controller they weren’t afraid of was a masterstroke, now we have get them to realize playing Mario Galaxy is better than watching Friends. Then we’re really in business.
DHGF- As a follow up to the previous question, has there been any compromises made to Dark Legend to make the game more accessible to a younger audience?
Scott- The original game was rated a TEEN by the ESRB in the States, as is Dark Legend. In Europe the picture is slightly different, with the original’s 16+ PEGI rating now a 12+ for the Wii game. We looked at what we’d need to change to get a slightly lower rating for Europe, and it was really only the minions drinking alcohol and peeing that got us into hot water. That didn’t seem like a massive compromise to us in return for us potentially widening our audience.
In terms of the humor and content, it’s unmistakeably Overlord. We’ve used the same script writer as the original game and Overlord 2. The same voice actors. The dark tone is the same. Nobody is going to play this and feel like they are playing Fisher Price: My First Overlord.
DHGF- Why the change in tone from fantasy to fairy tales?
We needed a new parody hook to hang it all on, narrative wise. Fairy tales are a well understood theme, you don’t need to spend hours explaining to people what a gingerbread man is. And when those gingerbread men turn out to be as creepy and vindictive as ours are, people immediately get that this game is twisted and different. And it’s funny because of it. Just because you recognize some of the characters in our game, doesn’t mean they are going to behave anything like you expect.
We wanted an entirely different theme from the Xbox 360/PS3/PC games, because this is its own game. It’s not a port, it’s an all-new Overlord adventure.
DHGF- Many third party developers struggle with the motion controls for the Wii, resulting in games that are frustrating to control. Do you think this will be an issue in Overlord Dark Legend?
Scott- I really hope not, because we understood the significance of making the whole game revolve around the controls. Gamers pick it up straight away, you’ll see that yourself when you get code. Your grandmother that’s only ever played the bowling on Wii Sports? That’s a different story. That kind of player is going to need time to adjust. But that’s the price of having a game that’s got depth of gameplay. You can’t just have it so “Ëœshake input = game plays itself’. We’re confident we’ve got the balance right. We weren’t going to gimp what Overlord is because we thought people wouldn’t understand it otherwise. Overlord is cool because it’s Overlord. And we’ve made it so it works really intuitively on Wii. But at its core, it’s a gamer’s game. It’s not Super Cel-Shaded Pony Stroker 5.
DHGF- Will there be a multiplayer mode in Dark Legend?
Scott- It’s a tricky thing to reconcile in our universe. My own personal view is that in a universe where there is this one character trying to become the single, all powerful force, you can’t just break those rules for a multiplayer mode. “Oh yeah, there’s this other Overlord called Dave as well.”Â It just didn’t seem to sit right. We tried a bit of co-op, but nobody wanted to be a minion. They die too easily. In the end, we took the view that if we added a mode that didn’t really enhance the experience, well, we were probably doing more harm than good. So we took the decision to cut it, concentrate on making the main game rock. And hey, if anyone has any smart ideas as to how to make it work in a logical, complimentary way… well, let’s hope there’s a next time for that.
DHGF- Will Dark Legend have the same four types of minions as Overlord?
Scott- Yeah, to fit the chronology as I mentioned before. You have brown combat minions that like to get in close and crack heads, the fire-aligned reds that sit back and range attack with projectile attacks, the stealthy, ninja-like greens and the magical, healing blues. The blues aren’t much for fighting, but they can bring dead minions back alive and swim, so everyone has their uses. They all have different effects when shaken up as well with the new throttle mechanic.
DHGF- In the original Overlord the game used a tower as sort of a hub to access other areas, will Dark Legend use the tower as well or will there be something different for the Wii game?
Scott- We’ve retained the Tower, as it’s a key piece of the Overlord experience. That’s where you go to forge new weapons and armor and upgrade your minions. It’s where Gnarl, the minion master lives, and he’s always good for some sarcastic advice. You can also teleport to different parts of the world from there, so yeah, its function is what Overlord gamers would expect.
DHGF- Is there anything else you would like to share regarding the development of Overlord Dark Legend?
Scott- It’s worth pointing out that the Wii and indeed the DS game were developed in the UK by Climax Studios. Not Triumph Studios who are making the Xbox 360, PC and PS3 versions. Those guys worked really hard, and they deserve the all the credit. Triumph will get enough praise for their own game, I’m absolutely sure.
Do I also get to be a proper marketing whore and say the game is out end of June from all good videogame retailers and probably also some bad ones? Well I just did anyway. Sorry.
Just to clear it up for our readers, the release date for Overlord Dark Legend is currently scheduled for June 30th. Certainly looks like they’ve taken time to make the game for on the Wii, but until it comes out I’ll be busy playing Super Cel-Shaded Pony Stroker 5. Check back tomorrow for our follow-up interview on Overlord: Minions.