In most games you play the hero, running around and saving the day one good deed at a time. In others you play the villain, causing havoc and chaos to the game’s population. Others are somewhere between, not quite the hero but not quite the villain. War for the Overworld falls into the last category. Yes you do play an evil dungeon overlord but you don’t do anything inherently evil in the game which isn’t a bad thing but kind of disappointed me. The aesthetic may be off but I still had a lot of fun with my time with the game
The story for War for the Overworld is almost nonexistent. Pretty much all you’re doing throughout the game is taking over the Empire’s, aka the good guys, territory. You play as an Underlord, which is a fancy way of saying dungeon master. You’re awoken by your boss, the unnamed narrator, and are tasked with building an army to fight against the Empire. Your quest will take you all across the Empire’s lands and to other Underlord’s realms.
That’s pretty much all there is to this game’s story. It was a little disappointing that there wasn’t more here. I feel the game would’ve benefited from more of a narrative to give the player a reason to spend upwards of an hour in a mission. It might be that I’m just bad at this game and took way too long to build armies for my assaults on the quest objectives but the story got really bland really fast. The only reason I was able to push on was because of this game’s solid gameplay and witty narrator.
I would describe the gameplay in War for the Overworld’s as a mix of dungeon building and real-time strategy. In a normal game you start off with your dungeon core and a few basic rooms unlocked with the goal to complete the objective of the map, whether it be taking your enemies’ cores or accumulating a certain amount of points. You start by digging out tiles for your rooms to expand your domain. After you have a few basic rooms set up and have some minions under your command more rooms and tools become available to you. Some of the rooms include a Barracks that your minions can train at, a Beast Den that recruits beast units for you, which don’t have to be paid, and a Torture Chamber where you can either kill prisoners for your necromancers to raise or convert them into a minion for your dungeon. As you dig through the map you might find artifacts or neutral rooms and units. The artifacts in this game vary from giving all your minions extra experience to finishing all the traps that are queued up for construction. They’re not usable right away though as they need to be researched by your cultists at their altar, which leaves them open to be stolen by another player.
The most enticing thing about War for the Overworld is that you can take over enemy rooms and items as your own. If you stumble across a neutral room, and if your territory is connected to it, you can claim it for your own. The neutral units that you can find are either roaming minions that will join you or the Empire’s units. The Empire units are usually found guarding an important area of the map and have a lot of different kinds of rooms and resources ripe for the taking. If you happen to find the gateway that spawns the Empire units you can also claim that for yourself which spawns unique units for you.
You control your units through either a rally system or by directly taking control of them. The rally system is what you would expect from a strategy game. You can assign units to squads and you place rally points on the map and your units kill anything that stands between them and their destination. The game automatically sorts your workers, intelligent units and your beasts or you can make your own squads. Intelligent workers are your normal minions which include Cultists, Gnarlings and your Empire units. These units need to be paid for their services and require a tavern to eat their food. Beasts on the other hand, the Oculus and the Skarg to name a few, don’t need to be paid and don’t mind eating raw food. Workers are just that, the do basic work like digging and claiming tiles for you.
The possession spell is the most interesting feature in War for the Overworld. This spell allows you to take direct control over a unit. Your camera transitions to a first person view and they really make it look like you’re looking through the eyes of what ever unit you’re controlling. If the unit has different vision, like a spider, you see the world how they would. I can appreciate what the developers were trying to do here but it makes it hard to see what you’re doing. The first person camera is disorienting enough without the added effects. This caused me to get lost a lot while trying to navigate my dungeon or track my target while fighting. Honestly this was the feature I was looking forward the most in this game and I barely used it while playing. I always felt I could control things better from the top down view and just let my minions fight or work by themselves.
You unlock additional spells, traps and rooms through the sin system. You gain sins passively and then use them to unlock skills the in the games three different trees. The three skill trees in the game are Wrath, Sloth and Greed, each having their own skills associated with them, but you can unlock all but the last row for each tree in a game. The final row has special Hero type units that you can summon, but you can only get one of these per game. These units are extremely powerful and can turn the tide of battle. The downside to them is that it takes five minutes to summon them and another player can stop it.
Magic spells and traps also play a big part to building your perfect dungeon. Spells include your basic fantasy spells, like lightning or healing, to spells that turn prisoners and unwanted minions to solid gold. Spells cost mana to use which regenerates quite quickly but you have to be careful how many spells you use because certain spells and all traps reserve a portion of it. There is another type of spell in the game called a ritual. Rituals require prep time and cast time and sometimes require sacrifices. Some rituals include a spell that converts all your mana to gold in thirty seconds or a spell that fortifies all your walls automatically. Traps aren’t that different from what you would expect and include doors, turrets and floor traps. There is some interesting traps like the Midas door which drains gold from what ever is attacking it and transfers it to its owner until it’s destroyed.
The maps in War for the Overworld are just the dungeons themselves and doesn’t feature an actual overworld and I feel this was a huge missed opportunity for the game. I liked going into the world above and spreading chaos in Dungeons 2. It made me actually feel evil because I was able to see my corruption spreading into the world above. Staying underground the whole time and not being able to assault towns and villages really takes away from the villain vibe. On the other hand they really focused on the dungeon building aspect of the game and this really shines in the special game modes.
Along with the War for the Overworld main campaign this game also features modes such as sandbox and scenarios, skirmish, The Crucible and the My Pet Dungeon radon. You can lump the sandbox and the My Pet Dungeon add-on into the same category. The game gives you a plot of land and tells you to go to town. The only difference being is that in My Pet Dungeon enemies won’t spawn unless you make them. The Crucible mode is basically a horde mode. You build your dungeon up to withstand wave after wave of increasingly difficult enemies for a spot on the leaderboards. Finally the skirmish mode is just what it says it is, up to four players battle it out to be the last Underlord standing.
The audio in War for the Overworld is a mixed bag to me. The music on the one hand is pretty dull and unmemorable but is to be expected given the setting. The narrator on the other hand was a thrill to listen to. Along with giving you important information about your dungeon, such as being attacked, he also has some really amusing remarks that he likes to throw into his dialogue. The narrator made those dull story missions entertaining because you pretty much never know what’s going to come out of his mouth next. I really wish there was more I could say about the music but like I said it’s really unremarkable. Even after playing the game earlier today I have trouble recalling even a single track from the game.