Pathways|PC In the Lab. Fusing a Student-Chemistry Bond
by Richard Rapp
For generations your family, the Dynasty of Mark, has reigned as the absolute rulers of the galaxy of Epsilon, a galaxy now under seige from other-dimensional beings. A mishap during an experiment in hperdimensional propulsion has permanently linked your world to four others, worlds inhabited by heavily armed, warlike races. In a desperate bid to protect your rule and your world, you decide to strike before being struck. You can only hope you have acted in time.
So begins the saga of Overlord, an intriguing new strategy game from Virgin Mastertronic. As the dictatorial ruler of Epsilon, you have total control over the economic and military resources of your world, and you will need all of these resources, plus a good sense of strategy, to overcome your four adversaries. To defeat them requires nothing short of total conquest; you must capture every planet in the disputed solar system while preventing your opponent from doing the same--no mean feat.
The difficulty of your campaign depends upon which opponent you choose to challenge. Wotok is the weakest of your foes, while rorn is nearly invincible. In addition, the number of planets in each system increases with the strength of your opponent; Wotok's system contains only 6 neutral planets, while rorn's contains 32. The wise player will follow the game manual's advice to make frequent use of the save-game facility, especially in longer games.
Unlike adventure games, where you scrounge for necessary clues, Overlord deluges you with information. The challenge becomes picking out the facts relevant to the current situation. With so many factors to be considered, it can be quite a complex task.
The game designers have done an excellent job of creating an interface which allows you to manage such complexity. Almost totally graphical, with an icon to represent every possible action you can take, the interface rarely calls for typing. The only time you touch the keyboard is when you name a ship or planet. Though at first intimidating because of the many options available, the interface is mastered with a little practice, and soon the focus shifts from remembering what all the icons do to deciding how to use them most effectively.
Overlord's graphics are well drawn and effectively used. Animation abounds in this game; almost every screen contains animation of some kind, and it both entertains and conveys necessary information. In the 256-color VGA mode, some of Overlord's graphics are just short of stunning.
Sound card support has not been overlooked in Overlord. The game supports Ad Lib, Sound Blaster, and Roland sound boards, and uses them frequently. Many objects and actions in the game have a particular sound associated with the, and all major plot developments are accompanied by an appropriate sound or piece of music.
Very much like a fusion of Sim-City and Risk, Overlord gives you the economic balancing act of the former and the strategic considerations of the latter. Moreover, it does this without being just a rehash of either of those games; Overlord has a style all its own. Random events add exitement and complicate your best-laid plans, while your relentless computer opponent seeks to destory your holdings.
The creators should be contratulated on their superb attention to detail: Overlord is a marvel. No major flaws mar this game. Its structure gives you the greatest number of options with the least amount of complexity, its dramatic pacing draws you into the game, and its excellent graphics and sound provide a feast for the eyes and ears. The only inconsistency I could find is that when you finish preparing a ship for flight on the cargo bay screen and switch to the navigation screen to lanuch it, the game doesn't assume that the ship you just outfitted is the one you want to launch. In every other part of the game, the last object accessed becomes the default for future actions; this approach can save several clicks of the mouse button, an important consideration in a game requiring as much time as Overlord. And when Rorn's beating down the door to your home world, you want as few steps between thought and action as possible.
In a class by itself, Overlord is more than just a war game, though it will certainly appeal to fans of that genre. It is more than just an economic simulation, too, though it's one of the most entertaining simulations that I've seen. Simply put, Overlord is a game for those of us who don't want to put our minds on hold just because we're playing a game.