Overlord

Forget all those business and tycoon games: Overlord will likely end up the best management game of the year. You start as an evil-but-vanquished overlord tasked with reconquering your empire. A team of Gremlins­-cute minions follows your every command—and does almost all the work. With a sweep of your arm, you can send them to swarm across your enemies and raid their treasure. And they magically know exactly what to do, whether it's killing a firebug, opening a gate, or smashing everything in sight. You just have to stand back and take credit for having the good sense to send them in.

Of course, just like in real life, your employees do what they should, except when they don't. The minions vacillate between amped-up 13-year-olds, who'll do anything as long as it's violent, to addled 2-year-olds, who don't know enough not to drown themselves. The tactics are dumbed down to match this mushiness, which means you'll suffer through a lot of basic obstacles and "find a crank to open a gate" puzzles. And while you can always wade into the fight yourself, your lug of an avatar seems too sluggish for the trenches.

Still, watching other people do your work is addictive. Think of yourself as the middle-manager: You're just following the strategy you're given, and as long as your team doesn't screw up, you can sit back and watch as everything just works out.

Beyond the game: While Overlord sells itself as a game about "evil," lawful-good players can spare the innocents on their way to power. But you can also play a tyrant by killing all those sweet English peasants who've helped you along the way. This gives you a choice between being loveably wicked, or disturbingly, sociopathically evil.

Worth playing for: Though it's an also-ran to Fable, Overlord offers a lush setting with witty dialogue and great foliage.

Frustration sets in when: Driving your horde through tight, winding spaces requires annoying micromanagement. And while it's easy to replace minions, harvesting the materials to spawn them is a bore.

Final judgment: If you want something done epically, you have to do it yourself.

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