Blue skies and gently undulating fields hemmed by daffodil-spotted, willow-overhung brooks, populated with small, fluffy bunnies the colour of hearth ashes surround the still-in-the-process-of-being-built Codemasters studios. A faint smell of nearby landfill site is the only suggestion that these idyllic settings could harbour something more sinister. Something which watches those same gentle bunnies through squinted eyes, holding a shotgun, cigarette clamped between tight jaws.
After ten years, the new building is nearly complete. Everything smells shiny and expensive and QA have been thrust into the milking sheds which handily block off the worst of the prevailing eggy-ass winds. Sam Cordier is enthusiastically telling me how the extra money from venture capitalist Benchmark has been used to finish the previously roofless edifice, started in 2001, giving the developers space and purpose-built areas to create and show off their new raft of games coming this year or in the very near future.
Among these are the sequel to Overlord
- Overlord II
on the 360 - Overlord
's DS and Wii spin-offs, the highly-anticipated FUEL
and Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising
(eight years after its predecessor) which we journalists have been called in to have a peek at, as well as the F1 game being discussed only in hushed tones amongst the developers.
“1.5 million copies of 2007's Overlord
and the expansion pack from last year, (Overlord: Raising Hell
), have been sold to date”, says Sam with a certain amount of earnest surprise. “It turned out to be a sleeper; it got pretty good reviews for a new IP.” He started by asking out of the five of us who had played it before.
One hand is raised, the rest of us have done some research but haven't got hands on before, so he gives us a quick run through of its themes, plot and content while it loads. "The under-lying theme is parody, tongue-in-cheek humour”, he tells us. We all mentally check our internal dictionary under the word 'theme' and then decide to ignore it. “If you can make them (the audience) laugh you can get away with a lot including killing small, fluffy animals." My mind flicks back to the bunnies in the field, the ducks in the water.
The new Overlord
syncs with the ending of the last Overlord
, “Though if you've not played the last game it doesn't matter”, attests Sam. We see the offspring of one of the previous Overlord's mistresses, (the “Overlad” quips Sam, to the sound of tumbleweeds) starts the game as a foundling and outsider, bullied by the children of the village and watched over by the currently-masterless minions who test him for his evilness before helping to bring destruction and devastation to the small Nordic village, bashing in snowmen and setting off fireworks to burn down small huts.
As well as the youngster growing up into an almighty Overlord, a new power has arisen since the death of the first Overlord - one which resents and fears magic as the cause of the cataclysmic destruction at the end of the last Overlord's reign: the Glorious Empire. The Glorious (Roman) Empire has made it its duty to seek out and trap magical beings around the land to ensure that magic is restrained.