Space Overlords follows 4 god-like creatures in a rampage across the universe, destroying cities and crushing opposition along the way. Although the concept should be a blast, unfortunately the execution lets the game down.
Space Overlords has a story mode which explains the back story of why 4 powerful deities are smashing their way through the universe although it feels a little convoluted. Millennia ago, overlords created the universe with each of the seven creators having a different input. One of the overlords, Kesedhian, went rogue, binding the rest of the Overlords before creating humans to serve her. Next is where I got a little lost and am still unsure why I am trying to wipe out all existence of humans from planet after planet. This is the first downfall of Space Overlords, the over-complicated story which is particularly unnecessary with such a simple game.
If the overly complex story was the only issue with Space Overlords, it could be forgiven but unfortunately, the gameplay is just as flawed. Any game in which you take control of an overpowered deity and smash planets should be amazing fun, I mean, how can it not be? Well Space Overlords somehow manages it.
The core gameplay involved being dropped on a spherical planet with the primary aim of most levels to destroy all buildings while avoiding death from the planets defences. Some levels have parameters to mix up the gameplay such as only doing damage with a special attack or a dash but the levels are all pretty much the same. You take control of one of four overlords of differing design, each of which have different speed, attack, defence and special stats although after playing all four, I didn’t feel it had much effect on the gameplay. Overlords can do basic 1 button combos, dash and perform a special if the meter is filled in order to crush buildings and opposition. The planets defences come in various forms from squads of military vehicles, trees that damage you for some reason and large orbs that rotate around the planet in no particular pattern that damage you on contact.
On paper, the game sounds like a lot of fun but in practice, this is just not the case. The first thing I noticed when playing the game for the first time is the total lack of scale. I never felt like I was a huge, hulking overlord that is smashing through cities like Godzilla, more like I was playing a table-top game in which I was an adorable toy smashing Lego. The gameplay itself is incredibly frustrating, not through difficulty but sheer annoyance of the way the game works. The overlords move at a sluggish pace and so does the camera, making it feel like you are trudging through treacle just to get from A-B. The terrain itself isn’t all flat but with no jump button, it doesn’t seem like the game recognises elevation, sometimes you can get up a ledge, sometimes you can’t, with no reason as to why. Throw in destructible environments and it soon becomes chaos, getting pinned between a killer orb and a building or more often than not, getting stuck on nothing! This is twinned with some awful hit detection meaning I found myself pummelling a turret with no effect and having to run back and forth to find the apparent sweet spot that allows you to land a punch. As seen below, I also managed to fall into the planet, all games glitch from time to time but in my playthrough of the first ten or so levels, this happened to me twice!
As well as the story mode, there are other features to the game such as a level creator and a 4 player multiplayer mode. The level editor adds nothing to the game, the options to pick from are very limited and there are only certain elements that can be customised. The multiplayer is a blast, playing with 4 friends trying to bash the planet to nothing while beating others creates and oddly competitive air and makes for a good party game. With only four game modes however, the multiplayer soon becomes tiresome and is more of a 1 time burst rather than something to go back to.
Space Overlords has an overall retro aesthetic but sadly the look comes across more as dated than retro. The graphics have a very tablet computer look to them rather than the latest console which could be forgiven if there is a lot going on onscreen but this is rarely the case. There is a distinct lack of texture and the environments all look the same, from desert to metal to forest with only the colours setting them apart. The sound goes for a retro 80’s feel with electric guitars and a very Animated Transformers feel to it and I found myself tapping along to it. The only issue with the sound is that it is on a very close loop and repeats far too often.
Space Overlords had amazing potential but just doesn’t utilise what could have been an fantastic idea. The first level starts off a lot of fun but sluggish controls, glitchy levels and frustrating gameplay soon suck the fun out of the game. The multiplayer saves a little grace but if you are more of a single player gamer, there is not enough good points to warrant picking this game up.