Very few days go by in which I don't say to myself, "Holy mother of crap, it'd sure be nice to have a horde of screaming minions at my side ... and be evil." So naturally, Overlord appealed to me from the outset.
Developed by Triumph and published by Codemasters - one you may not have heard of, and another you may have learned through trial and error to avoid at all costs - Overlord nonetheless has all the trappings of a game of the year title, as selected by people who think games should be fun first, engaging second and meaningful only of there's room left over. Which, admittedly, is not usually The Escapist's bag, but there's something special about sarcasm that breaks all barriers.
After playing about a dozen high fantasy games, full of orcs, elves and dwarves; watching twice as many movies of the same ilk; and reading twice as many books, a game in which one of your first missions is to raid a hobbit village, send your teeming horde of minions through the little hobbit holes, set fire to Bag End and slaughter the unwary little bastards as their high-pitched cries for help fade on the wind opens up a whole new place in your heart. Or, if you regularly read The Onion, spend time at Something Awful or played the crap out of TIE Fighter back in the day, reopens and airs out the spare room where you enjoy such pleasure, invites you back inside and makes tea.
While it may take a palate slightly elevated from that of the lowest common denominator to truly savor the irony of turning the standard rules of fantasy on their end and, in effect, gallivant around in Tolkein's world as Sauron, Overlord is nevertheless one of those rare games almost everyone would enjoy. To be fair, it's not an everyday game, but when the stars align and your mood and that of the game are in sync, it's the best game in the world.
Overlord begins as you've been summoned from some great beyond to reoccupy the throne of ultimate evil, which has laid empty since a fellowship of heroes sacked your evil tower. Your quest is to find these heroes and kill them. The catch? You might discover they're more evil than you are. As is traditional for Xbox 360 games, Overlord offers a number of Achievements, one of which awards you points for finishing the game with a corruption level of zero, meaning you've been nice to your followers and haven't killed indiscriminately. And while this may sound like the kind of game that makes you think a little more than you might care to, Overlord doesn't hit you over the head with its nonlinearity. It's just there. You can play how you want. Big deal. Go kill some hobbits.