Overlord : Interview with Lennart Sas
- Lead Designer and Director at Triumph Studios -

June 2007

English version
Pour la version française, cliquez ici.

XCN (Xbox Community Network), with which Xbox Gazette is affiliated, has been able to ask some questions to Lennart Sas from Triumph Studios, about their game Overlord.

XCN : How would you describe the genre of Overlord?
Lennart Sas : At the core Overlord is an Action Adventure/RPG. We have added many things to the core gameplay with the most important thing being the direct control over a pillaging Horde of Minions. This leads to lots of mayhem and destruction, but also opens the door to some interesting tactics. So Overlord isn’t easy to squeeze into one box, but we’ve tried hard to make sure the controls are easy to pick up for everyone who plays action games.

XCN : RPGs are usually a pretty po-face genre. What kind of atmosphere and feel did you want to capture with the game?
Lennart Sas : Overlord doesn’t feature your average run of the mill fantasy story. We have created a twisted world where nothing is as it seems. We have fat tyrannical Halflings. Paladins overcome by lust, Greedy dwarfs and unicorns trying to gore you with their horn. The game’s writer, Rhianna Pratchett, has made sure to write everything in a fantastic satirical tone. As you explore the world is described by your minions, who cuss and curse at things such as prancing lambs and the idyllic landscapes.

XCN : Oblivion has really raised the bar for RPGs on Xbox 360 – do you feel you are competing with Bethesda’s game?
Lennart Sas : Oblivion is a fantastic game, but it’s an evolution of the traditional RPG. Overlord takes inspiration from sources outside of the RPG genre and brings many new things to table, most notably your Minion Horde but also your Dark Tower. They are different games, but I do think that if you enjoyed Oblivion on the Xbox 360 then you’ll love Overlord as well.

XCN : Because Overlord gives you some freedom over your actions it has been compared to Fable. How would you address those comparisons?
Lennart Sas : In Overlord you play a Dark Lord so the choices vary between Evil and Really Evil. These “corruption decisions” play out at a different scale than Fable. Fable is a great intimate game, where you the worst thing you can do kill some NPCs, but in Overlord your evil doings start by killing peasants and go up from there.

XCN : What’s the backstory of Overlord, and what is the player trying to achieve ?
Lennart Sas : Total World domination is the goal in Overlord! You start out in a ruined tower, which has been looted by a bunch of heroes and now it’s up to you to rebuild the tower, defeat the heroes, and stamp evil’s authority back on the land.

XCN : Overlord’s tagline is “Be evil or be really evil”. How much choice will we have about just how bad we behave and what kind of things can we do?
Lennart Sas : The first choice you are faced with is killing peasants for their lifeforce, so you can spawn more Minions. Next to stealing their souls, your minion can also wield their items, like pitchforks and pickaxes. From there, there are a number of choices that the player must make, as well as ‘hidden’ corruption events to trigger.
You can also play the game through corrupt or uncorrupt – which give different highest level spells, different upgrades for your tower, and of course different Achievements and endings!

XCN : Will we see a visible indication of how bad we are? Will our character’s appearance change?
Lennart Sas : As you become more corrupted, your appearance becomes darker with demonic spikes growing out of your back. The looks of your tower changes too (including the upgrades you choose to buy) and peasants flee or drop to their knees at the mere sight of you. Achieving 100% and 0% corruption are both challenging – complete every evil act in the game, or tougher still, keeping your naturally destructive minions in check!

XCN : Overlord lets you command Minions – how does this system work?
Lennart Sas : The Overlord is controlled like most other 3rd person games, but unlike those games you are followed by a Horde of Minions. You can “send” these Minions by pulling the right trigger. This causes them to dash forward killing, smashing, looting, collecting or pushing depending on what they come across. The minions are smart enough to automatically pick up dropped items from dead enemies, but will only do that when the coast is clear.
You can also “sweep” the Minions as a group using the right stick. This causes the minions to respond directly to your commands, running in a close formation (like a flock of ravenous & destructive birds). With sweeping you can quickly trash a house, overrun an enemy or collect weapons and lifeforce scattered across a battlefield.

XCN : What are some of the cool things you can get your Minions to do?
Lennart Sas : Minions are extremely loyal, and they will act on your command no matter how life-threatening it is. For example, Minions can pick up bombs and carry them to the enemies, jump at the back of rock giants to bring them down, running into buildings trashing and looting the contents. Minions can even be sacrificed to replenish your own health or mana. And if you want a magic sword or piece of armor you’ll have to chuck in a few hundred minions into the molten metal to get that magic effect!
There are four types of Minions to do your bidding. You start with brown Minions - the strong melee fighters - who have the ability to carry any weapons they find. Ranging from Pumpkin hats and pitchfork to pristine golden armour and weapons they’ll become ever more formidable and destructive.
After the browns you will have to locate and secure the loyalty of the three other lost minion tribes. Next are the Reds, who have a ranged fire attack and fire immunity, the Greens who are very stealthy with a deadly backstab attack, poison immunity and the ability to ‘cloak’ to ambush foes. Lastly there are Blues, who aren’t terribly good fighters but they can resurrect fallen Minions in battle and have the ability to damage magical creatures.

XCN : Aside from the Minions, the character you play is pretty powerful on his own. What kind of things can he do?
Lennart Sas : The Overlord wields mighty two-handed weapons. His armour and weapons are custom forged at the tower. Secondly the Overlord can support his minions with an array of powerful spells, ranging from a simple fireball which can sets the scenery and peasants on fire, to infernos, shock shields, enemy mind control spells (which can set enemies against each other), and Minion upgrade spells such as Legion of Terror.

XCN : It’s pretty obvious that Overlord has a good sense of humour, but how far are you taking the gags?
Lennart Sas : The tone of the game is satirical with jokes being made on the many fantasy stereotypes. We didn’t want to work on a grim turn-off of a game, so we’ve made sure to make it a real laugh. Overlord is intended to make you smile (or grin a grin of pure evil) while playing!

XCN : A lot of the laughs come from the Minions - what are some of the funniest things they get up to?
Lennart Sas : Minions have many special animations and voice lines when they interact with their environment. Minions can get drunk and subsequently empty their full bladders. They also make funny remarks, for example as a ghost elf tells the sad tale about the destruction of the great Elven forest, Minions can’t contain themselves and start interrupting the elves by making nagging remarks.
But funniest of all has to be the things that the Minions pick up and use as weapons and armour. You may not notice immediately after the fight with some rats that one enterprising Minion has turned it into a furry helmet!

XCN : What can Xbox Live members expect from the Overlord demo?
Lennart Sas : For the Xbox Live demo we decided to include the very start of the game. This introduces the basics of the minion gameplay and backstory as recounted by Minion Master Gnarl, initiating you in the ways of evil. There are farmlands to raid, a magical tower object to retrieve, Halflings to roast and a fat troll to kill.
But, we can only give a hunt of what you can expect in the full game. Three more minions types, all the minion upgrades, seven heroes to fight, loads more lands to explore, the “Guard Marker” opening up lots of tactical opportunities, a cool Dark Tower, a Dungeon, a Forge, Mistresses, Spells, and Multiplayer!

XCN : Do you have any plans for multiplayer modes in Overlord?
Lennart Sas : Overlord features three online head to head game modes:
In Slaughter, rival Overlords compete to score the most kills on the opposing Overlord and their minions which bonuses for taking down the level’s population count also (or use them to kill your opponent).
In Pillage its not about killing, but about looting! Whoever gathers the most loot (or steals it off the other Overlord or their minions), wins.
Finally Survival sees two Overlord and their hordes co-operating as the angry inhabitants of the world join together to take you down. Work together and stay alive as long as possible against an intensifying swarm of enemies.

XCN : Do you have plans for any downloadable content for Overlord?
Lennart Sas : Downloadable Content has been part of the plan and we have some cool stuff currently in development. We plan to have a number of extra multiplayer levels as well as an extension of the single player campaign where you get to face a new type of enemy threatening your domain.

XCN : Many thanks for your time!

Related links :

- Overlord review

- Overlord videos

- Overlord official site

- Other Xbox 360 interviews

Max73, Xbox Gazette, June 28th 2007

Thanks to : Lennart Sas, Triumph Studios , XCN