Saturday 19th April 2014,
Darkstation

Orcs Must Die!

Charlie Österlund October 12, 2011 PC, Reviews 13 Comments

Overview

It seems like Tower Defense is the kind of subgenre that can merge well with a wide range of different mechanics and concepts. Last years Sanctum fused first-person shooting with towers, mazes and upgrades and a host of other indie-and arcade games have attempted similar permutations. The latest offspring is called Orcs Must Die; a third-person action game that bears resemblance to aforementioned titles but instead adds traps in place of turrets and though it isn’t very long and has no multiplayer modes to speak off, this is still a decidedly amusing and entertaining experience that will no doubt quench the thirst for Orc blood and it’s worth checking out even if you have grown tired of Tower Defense games.

Gameplay

Orcs Must Die tasks you as the apprentice of the War Mage order to defend rifts – gates that lead into the human world – from a seemingly never ending horde of pesky Orcs. This means that you’ll have to use all manner of traps as well as your own repertoire of weapons and abilities to fend them off; all while you’re earning cash to strengthen your defenses and as you complete levels you’re granted skulls that you can use to upgrade your vast assortment of traps and you’re always given new toys to play with every level.

Orcs Must Die Screenshots
The traps are undoubtedly the best thing OMD has going for it – everything from slow inducing tar pits to spike traps to spring traps and much more can be deployed throughout the levels and the effects of these can combine to dish out some serious damage.  You might send an Orc flying through the air by way of a spring trap and send him ferrying towards a deviously placed bed of brimstone, or you might create a lawn of tar pits and place walls on the sides that shoot arrows, effectively slowing down enemies while pummeling them with a constant stream of projectiles. There’s a nice bit of flexibility to be had and as the game wears on, the levels and waves become progressively tougher and you’re forced to conjure up good strategies to best win the day. Archers and mages are well suited on elevated positions and barricades can force enemies down pre-determined paths – mix these two strategies and you’ll rack up your body count significantly fast. Every kill you tally nets you with points which you can use in between waves to further fortify your position and later on you can even beef up your defenses with temporary perks and bonuses by way of weavers.

Orcs Must Die Screenshots
This might all sound very standard for a Tower Defense game, but OMD’s real hook lies in the fact that you yourself get to run around and shoot up Orcs with crossbows, swords and spells from a third-person perspective. Seeing enemies being funneled down a trap-cluttered maze while taking aim with your crossbow to shoot is a lot of fun and though the core action isn’t all that satisfying or immediate, it’s still fun to see the hapless Orcs being absolutely decimated by both you and your traps.

Before a level starts, you get to open your spell book and outfit yourself with different traps and weapons. You don’t get to wield everything, so picking what’s best suited for the time being is crucial. Once a level ends, your performance is graded from one to five by way of skulls, which you can then use to upgrade your offensive and defensive capabilities. However, most of these upgrades are incredibly minor and don’t necessarily make the difference between victory and defeat – for example, you need 14 skulls to invest in an upgrade that makes your archers less expensive and eight skulls to make spike traps reset faster. These are nice perks to have, but aren’t mandatory and do little to help even the odds.

Orcs Must Die Screenshots
Also a bit of a pain is the sporadic difficulty; some levels are an absolute cake walk whereas others tend towards punishing.  The three difficulty settings in the game also determine the amount of skulls you’re granted at the end of every level, and you might find yourself switching back and fourth between the three because of how uneven the level of challenge is throughout the game.

Graphics

Orcs Must Die features a rather goofy and cartoony visual aesthetic that makes the game look simple, yet appealing. Animations and effects are particular standouts and the frame-rate is always consistent, even when there’s literally thousands of Orcs filling up the screen at once. Music and voice-work on the other hand is repetitive and don’t add much to the overall experience.

Orcs Must Die Screenshots
Fun Factor

It should be noted that Orcs Must Die is best enjoyed in small bursts – there simply isn’t enough variety to accommodate long play sessions and if you’re not cool with this, then be warned. There’s also an irksome lack of any multiplayer modes and with a rather short campaign, the price tag of 15$ (or 1200 Microsoft Points) will seem a little steep for some. Still, the elegant controls and fun mash-up of third-person action and Tower Defense works, leading to a compelling enough game.

Orcs Must Die Screenshots
Overall

If you have no interest in Tower Defense games, then Orcs Must Die can safely be skipped; yet there’s something rewarding about raining hell down on legions of oblivious, intrepid Orcs using a garden-variety of traps and weapons. Sure, the game is tepid in some spots and the steep price and lack of any multiplayer options does sting a bit, but provided you haven’t grown tired of this tried-and-true formula then Orcs Must Die can definitely provide some hours of silly, unrelenting fun.

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About The Author

Swedish resident, born 95' -- aspiring video game journalist and drummer in a hardcore band. I began writing for Darkstation back in September 2011 and have since stretched my legs on the freelancing landscape. Open ended RPG's, tightly-paced shooters and nefariously difficult 2D-platformers are just few genres I hold dearly to my heart. If a game has an artistic vision and a great atmosphere, then I'll likely sing high praise about it. Also, I've poured more than 150 hours into Dark Souls -- yeah, I'm that guy.

  • Sdrgsr2gdfgdf

    YAY

  • Major9000

    7 is way to low. deserves a solid 8.5 imo.

    • http://twitter.com/iChuckler Charlie Österlund

      We don’t hand out increments, and this game isn’t nearly varied or content-rich enough to justify a higher score. But hey, it’s still a ton of fun ;)

  • http://mau64.com Michael P.

    I keep going back and forth if I want to buy this game. Might pick up Renegade Ops instead.

  • Logan

    Based on the trial, it seemed higher than a 7 in quality

  • Bcarlos908

    Bought this game completly at random, no research done and can say $14.99 well spent. Absolutly love it.  Its not to challenging nor to easy, and you don’t need to be a strategic master to advance in the game.  I would absolutly give the game a grade of 8 of 10 maybe 8.5 but not higher.  In short, fantastic game for the money.

  • http://www.darkstation.com Joel Szerlip

    Just based on the trial I can see your point Charlie on the review. To me even after the demo I had already had enough of the game.

  • Anon

    I came here via metacritic as the darkstation review blurb said “tepid in some spots with a steep price”, which I thought was an outright ridiculous statement.

    This is definitely high on my best $15 investment list. Sure, what’s given isn’t overwhelming (though trying to rank on the leaderboards can be said to offer some sort of shoddy multiplayer replacement), but it’s polished to an absolute gleaming shine. The single player is just excellent fun, and I would absolutely recommend this. What is the price point you’d expect from a game like this? $15 is perfect.

    • http://twitter.com/iChuckler Charlie Österlund

      You think a small selection of indentical looking stages and lack of any multiplayer options is a good proposition value at $15? Well, to each his own.

      • Anon

        Yes. You’re right, to each his own, but I had about 6 hours of a total blast out of beating the campaign on normal mode. The gameplay (subjective obviously) just put a smile on my face. You can tell they had decisions to make about where to spend the money, the cut scenes and similar looking (though all of them had a very different feel) levels obviously not ending up high on the list. After beating normal mode you have some very challenging stages, so the re-play value is there. I’ll leave it there, but if you’re looking for a fun single player experience, this was a total steal. IMO :)

        • http://twitter.com/iChuckler Charlie Österlund

          Yes I agree. It’s fun, but if you have a limited economy you should look elsewhere :)

  • Logan

    Bought this game several days ago, pretty far into it.. I would have given it a 9 if i reviewed it, it’s a great tower defense game.

  • ThatGuy

    Valid review, except the point about $15 being a steep price.  I would personally say 8/10

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