It isn't often that a game comes along that challenges my notions of just how bad a game can really be. Virgin's Overlord is a PC port of a game in which you try to colonize barren planets while protecting them from enemy forces. What appeared to be a very promising simulation and strategy game for the NES, ends up being a complete disaster, due to the many elements that all work against you, all at once, much too quickly.
6.5/10Some of Overlord's graphic elements are nice, but for most of the game, you'll just be staring at menus, icons, and meters. The pictures of the different ships and military vehicles that you see when purchasing them are big and colorful, and very well-detailed. The pictures of the different planets look nice, especially the starbase with the moving searchlights. When you're in the "Launch" screen, you get a view from above your planet, which I think looks somewhat impressive, because of how deep blue it is. The icons that represent the different screens are unique in the fact that they animate themselves every so often. For example, the "Launch" icon is a ship that sometimes fires up its rockets. These elements are somewhat impressive, and that's good, because for most of the game, that's all you're going to be looking at. The graphics in the battle scenes are less impressive. You get a bird's-eye view of the planet, with indistinguishable shapes that make up the land features. The enemies and objects are so simplistic that it almost looks like an Atari 2600 game.
2/10The single biggest problem with Overlord's sound is that it doesn't have that much of it. With the exception of the title theme, there is absolutely no music in the game, whatsoever. Most of your time will be spent staring at screens in complete silence, with the exception of the occasional sound effects that the icons make when they animate. The only time this atmosphere of complete boredom will break is when the alarm sounds if you come under enemy attack. There wasn't even any music or sound effects when I went into battle! The only reason I can think of to give this a score of 2 instead of 1 is that the title theme is kind of nice. However, there is no excuse for the near-complete lack of sound in this game, and those silly icon sound effects get old rather fast.
4/10Since Overlord is a strategy game, most of the time you're just controlling your cursor to point and click at things. It's easy enough to move around, but figuring out how to use it can be unnecessarily difficult to do. To cycle through some menu options, you have to place the cursor over an arrow icon, then hold down a button and press Up or Down on the controller. This, I find rather cumbersome. Why didn't they just make separate up and down arrow icons? During the battle scenes, control merely consists of holding down a button to make your bases fire on the incoming enemies. This is not very intuitive, and made me feel like I really didn't have that much control over anything.
3/10On paper, this is a very intriguing concept. You're attempting to colonize barren planets, while defending them from hostile alien enemies. The problem is, that's all there really is to it! While a great story is not necessarily required to make a good game, it would have certainly helped in a game like this that is so lacking in action. An interesting storyline could've kept a gamer glued to their seats, but as it is, there's very little motivation to keep staring at your population levels, when you know nothing interesting is ever going to happen. Even what few story elements there are make little sense. For example, if you equip your starbase with any military vehicles (and you'll need to), you'll get a message telling you that you broke some sort of arms treaty. Eh...arms treaty with who?? I do give the score some points for having an original concept, but it needed to be executed well for it to be great.
3.5/10I honestly don't know what to think of the challenge of this game. It's not very challenging to watch numbers rise and fall, or hold down a button to destroy incoming missiles. However, it is a challenge to make any kind of progress in this game! There is literally no learning curve, and the enemy has far too great an advantage over you. While I struggle to create and maintain 1 or 2 planets, the enemy has already created 5! My ability to create planets and build up my forces is greatly limited by money, resources, time, food, and fuel. The enemy doesn't appear to be limited by anything! You won't even be playing this game for very long before he magically appears on your home planet and starts attacking it. One time I tried to counter this by increasing the starbase's military strength to 99%, and the enemy STILL won!! And this is only the first of four scenarios. The difference in difficulty between the four scenarios appears to be in the number of planets, only. Otherwise, Scenario 1 is just as hard as Scenario 4.
2/10I really wanted to like this game, but unfortunately, I don't. There is just simply too much working against you and not enough to do. I have tried several different strategies, and eventually, they all led to the same results: My planets would begin to run out of food, the population would decline, the enemy would attack my base, game over! The machines and military equipment that you need to purchase in this game are far too expensive. They're so expensive that you either have to spend all of your money trying to maintain your planet's growth, or all of it on military strength. If you try to balance it, you won't be able to buy enough to sustain either. Spending too much on the planet's growth leaves you open to attack, but spending all of it on military means your populations will eventually decline into nothing. And as expensive as these items are, they often don't do what they're supposed to do! I bought a farm station for my planet, which worked great for awhile, then suddenly it seemed to quit working, and the food levels dropped. I thought maybe the population exceeded the amount of food available, so I bought another farm station. Logically, this should solve the problem, but it didn't. The food still kept going down. I bought another, and this STILL didn't help any. Finally, I bought a fourth one, and the food levels increased just enough to sustain what little population I had left. But by then, I was out of money, couldn't afford military stuff, the enemy attacked my planet, and that was it. The game's lack of user-friendliness, with its confusing icons and screens, isn't much of a help there, either. The battles could have been what saved this game, but they don't, because they are far too simplistic and boring, and I almost always lose. I tried playing this game over a period of 2 weeks, but every time, within less than an hour of playing, I got the same exact results, no matter what my strategy was. The sheer expense of items and lack of resources severly limit how much you can do. There's also way too much time spent just waiting for your population and money totals to rise, and there's nothing for you to do during this time.
Games like this aren't meant to give you instant gratification, I know, but I think they should be easily accessible in the beginning, and gradually increase in difficulty, especially when you have 4 different scenarios to conquer. As it is, I'm totally unable to get into this game and play it. It's hard for me to make a recommendation. The only way to play this game is to buy it (the ROM does not work correctly), and it's somewhat rare. If you're really into collecting NES games, or if you really enjoy strategy games, then you may want to pick this up if you find it. Playing it without a manual is going to be extremely difficult, but maybe you could stumble upon what to do to get the ball rolling in this game and make respectable progress. If you ever do, please let me know! Until then...
SCORE (not an average): 2/10
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