Game Review: Orcs Must Die!
Release: Oct. 5th, 2011 (XBLA) Oct. 12th, 2011 (PC)
Genre: Action Strategy
Developer: Robot Entertainment
Available Platforms: Xbox 360 and PC
MSRP: 1200 MSP
ESRB Rating: Teen
Website: Orcs Must Die!.com
Listen up PC gamers and 360 owners, the Orc genocide has begun! Robot Entertainment has brought us, Orcs Must Die!, an addictive and over the top tower defense game that sets players on the task of single handedly fending off an army of smelly, stupid Orcs. Aside from your trusty crossbow and sword-staff, you will also have a wide variety of brutally ingenious traps at your disposal to help you crush, skewer, smash, and blow up the savage green skins. Not only is this game loaded with content and variety, but it’s also one of those titles that is easy to pick up and start having fun with right away. The game makes a great impression, but is it really worth your hard earned cash? Well, pull out the shovel, and we will dig a little deeper.
In Orcs Must Die, you take on the role of a young and nameless ‘Warmage,’ trying to keep the legions of Orcs from entering the rifts (big glowing portals) that leads to your homeland. Story isn’t too terribly important, but basically, some rifts/gateways opened up between the world of monsters (Orcs, Ogres, Kobolds, ect.) and the lands of humans, dwarves, and elves, and that’s bad. An order of soldiers, known as the Warmages, bravely stepped through the rifts and swore to push back the monsters seeking to destroy their homes on their own ground. And, of course, you are one of the last Warmages still left standing to defend the rift towers.
The gameplay itself is both fun and fast paced, and you will have to think quickly as you sprint at full speed across the game’s twenty four towers, setting up last second traps, or hacking down baddies that might have made it past your assembly line of death. With the start of each level you will be prompted to choose which traps, weapons or spells you want to put on your action bar to use on this level. At first the choice is easy, but with every tower you successfully defend, you unlock a new trap, guardian (elf archers or paladins), spell, or other goodie to add to your spellbook, and you will soon have to pick and choose which would best suit your current strategy. You will then have as much time as you need to look about the tower, see where the enemies will be coming from, and set traps up accordingly.
Once you are ready, you press a button to ‘unleash the horde,’ and large groups of baddies start charging toward you and the rifts -often from multiple directions and locations- in three waves. Between each of the three waves you will have a short break (12 seconds I believe) to try and set up more traps with the money you earned from your glorious Orc slaughter. After the third wave, you are gracefully given another self regulated intermission to catch your breath (and trust me, you will need to, this game gets intense) and bolster the tower’s defenses before unleashing the next horde. Later in the game you will unlock ‘Weavers,’ who can give you some awesome buffs and help you specialize toward making your traps and guardians stronger, or buffing yourself with better spells and weapons. Each tower then ends with our young and comedic protagonist performing a victory dance to the beat of a rap inspired tune played with fantasy/medieval instruments that I can’t seem to get out of my head.
The thing I love most about this title, is its ability to blend the fun and strategy of tower defense and traps with fast paced hack and shoot em’ up gameplay into one seamlessly addictive experience. Just like in real time strategy games such as Starcraft, you really get the feeling that you are taking on an army all on your own, but you are also right down in the thick of things, personally delivering the pain to the masses and watching your cleverly placed traps spring into action and slaughter the poor bastards. The difficulty scaling is great, and I would highly recommend this to anyone looking for a fun challenge. There is also an impressive number of traps and abilities, plus you have an upgrade system that adds some great effects, and don’t forget the Weavers. Conquering a tower that has given you some trouble by changing up your strategy can be incredibly satisfying, and it has made me smile and laugh with glee on multiple occasions.
My only real complaints with this game are really just a desire for more, because the core game itself is so good. Aside from the awesome, and albeit lengthy, single player campaign mode, there really isn’t much else to do in the game. I would have loved to see a two player co-op mode of some kind, or perhaps the ability to construct my own towers and levels to share with other people in the Orcs community. But, these are features rarely seen in XBLA games. Cycling through the different spells and traps on your action bar with the use of the 360 controller’s left and right bumpers never seemed to slow me down once I began to carefully plan their placement, but some gamers might find it to be problematic; but if this is the case, there is always the PC version available as well. Aside from that, I could have stood to see some more story videos at the start of each level, although some players might have found it annoying. But there is always the skip feature…
This is an awesome game, and easily takes the cake for being my favorite title available on the XBLA (not counting the retail titles). I normally don’t get into strategy games, but this one caught my interest from the beginning and has me coming back for more on the fearsome hardcore mode. This is by far the greatest bang for your buck that you are likely to find on the game market today. I just hope they start working in Zombies Must Die next, because this formula is fantastic.
+ Addictive, fun, and strategic gameplay
+ Stylized graphics, good soundtrack, fun traps
+ Good length, high replay value
- No co-op or other modes aside from the campaign
Final Score: 9/10