Friday, 13 January 2012

Orcs Must Die!

Developer: Robot Entertainment
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Released: October 2011

Orcs Must Die! is a quirky blend of tower defense and third person shooter. You play as an apprentice warmage defending portals (rifts) from the orc world to our world. Each stage takes place in a different castle protecting a different rift. The warmage must place traps, cast spells, and use all the weapons at his disposal to prevent the horde from reaching the rifts, while trying not to be overwhelmed by his overconfidence.

The game was well received, with reviews averaging out in the mid eighties on the PC, and a bit lower on XBox Live. Critics loved the unique defense and combat system, the length of the campaign, and the over-the-top humour. The main criticism was the lack of co-op, which reviewers thought would be a blast.

One patch has been released to fix a couple of minor issues. There are two DLC packs: Artifacts of Power ($2.50), which adds two weapons and two traps. The second pack is Lost Adventures ($4), which contains five newer, more challenging levels with new enemies (on those levels) and a new trap useable anywhere.

First off, the Apprentice is hilarious. He's an overconfident, self-absorbed, stupid ass who somehow managed to be the only warmage of a once-great order to survive the orc horde blitz, and now must defend the rifts alone. He's hilarious. His endless supply of one-liners will keep you laughing through the entire game. He occasionally gets introspective and thoughtful but ruins it for great comedic effect. Whenever you clear a level, he does a little dance and victory pose. The orcs also get their own funny lines, like "I wish I did better in school", implying that the smart orcs don't get the crappy job of charging head-on into the warmage.

The variety of weapons and traps is huge, and you can upgrade each trap by spending skulls (earned as a rating for how efficiently you clear each level). From your very large selection, you must strategically select only a few to take with you for the duration of each mission. Personally my favourite weapon is the Alchemist's Satchel from the Artifacts of Power DLC, which allows you to lay down and remotely detonate flasks of acid to melt large groups of orcs at once. At a certain point you also earn the ability to contact the Weavers, who will sell you upgrades to specific features, but force you to choose a certain upgrade path to follow, disabling the other possibilities. One of those upgrades increases the amount of money you earn for killing orcs with traps -- that one's kind of a no-brainer.
I also really enjoy the Guardians -- a "trap" class that's actually human defenders. They're the only "trap" that can be damaged and destroyed by the enemy, but to compensate, they're extremely efficient. Some levels can easily be completed with only archers, and you later gain access to heavy-hitting melee paladins.

The amount of gameplay is also pretty impressive: there are fifty campaign missions, plus five in the  
Lost Adventures DLC. It's enough to keep you going for quite a while.
One minor mechanic that I really appreciate: the crossbow is your default weapon, and is carried with you on every single mission. You can score headshots with it if you aim well, which will instantly kill most enemy types and deal a lot of damage to the bigger ones. I like that nod to skilled players, rewarding accuracy in a game type that normally doesn't feature it as an option.

My only real criticism would be that the gameplay doesn't offer that much variety -- each level is pretty much the same thing again, just with more enemies and options available as you make progress. You can pretty much ignore this problem by playing the game in shorter sittings. I couldn't play a single session for nearly as long as I could in, for example, Skyrim or Team Fotress 2.

Orcs Must Die! is definitely worth its $15 price tag. I usually don't like tower defense games because they often turn into just sitting around waiting for the enemies to die, but with the blend of third-person action, Orcs Must Die! is a lot more fun and engaging. It gets especially intense when you have to monitor multiple paths at once. I'm not sure whether I'd recommend the DLC, since it doesn't add that much to the game -- but on the other hand, it's not very expensive. So, play this game! It's awesome.


  1. Sounds like fun! I might have to check this game out. Thanks!

  2. Plus, Steam has a demo for it, which I downloaded and will be trying out! I love demos as they are so rare nowadays yet really help me when wanting to buy a game.

  3. This is avery good game, I recommend it.