PAX East 2012: Orcs Must Die! 2 Multiplayer Hands On

It was announced a few days before PAX that a sequel to the popular Orcs Must Die! would not only be released this summer, but would be playable at PAX. We were fortunate to have already scheduled time with the fine folks at Robot Entertainment, since this booth became one of the hot spots on the Expo floor, as everyone wanted to get in on the action.  Keep on reading for all the (spoiler free) details.

Let’s get the biggest news out of the way first: Orcs Must Die! 2 allows for 2 player co-op.  You will be able to select either the traditional War Mage hero from the first game, or a Sorceress who will be recognizable for those that played the first game to completion.  The two characters will have spells and traps that are unique to each character, so coordination between the players will be necessary in order to finish the levels successfully.  Some of the traps are similar in function: the War Mage’s tar pits are back from the first game to slow down the advancing orc hordes, while the Sorceress has freeze traps that will immobilize an orc completely, making them more vulnerable.  Even with these similar traps, some strategy must be considered (the tar pits are always active, whereas the freeze traps are triggered, and have a cooldown period).  During gameplay, you will be able to see where your co-op partner is planning to place traps (if they are walking around in trap  placement mode, you’ll see the image of how they’re setting it up on your screen); this should allow for easier communication between players on how to set up traps (should the dwarven bomber be facing this way? No? Oh, OK, like this!).  While the difficulty balancing is still being worked on, my conversation with Justin Kortoff, Robot Entertainment’s Community Manager, revealed that the orcs in co-op won’t just be super-HP varieties of the single player orcs; they’ll simply be more powerful orcs (so where you might only see light armored orcs in single player, you’ll see medium and heavy armored orcs in multiplayer).  One final note about the multiplayer aspect: there are no plans to have head-to-head multiplayer options for release; the team is focused on providing a proper co-op experience first.

There are a few differences between the two characters for Orcs Must Die! 2.  The War Mage plays similarly to how he did in the first game; the exception being that the trusty crossbow from the first game has been replaced with a blunderbuss.  I didn’t play with the War Mage, but the gun seemed more than capable of taking down the orc hordes from close to medium range.  The Sorceress has access to a few more magic spells than the War Mage; I had access to spells that would charm orcs to fight for me, or raise undead brutes to crush the impeding waves.  The Sorceress has more mana available, and also can bring an item that recharges her mana quickly for a time (before removing mana completely during a cooldown period, which might be unfortunate depending on the situation).  Her primary weapon is a staff that blasts out magic missiles.

New characters and playmodes didn’t get all of the love and attention for the sequel:  the ragdoll physics in the game have been updated as well. The example that was explained to me was the in the first game, once an orc went ragdoll (for instance, being launched by a spring trap), they would not trigger subsequent traps until they stopped ragdolling.  In the sequel, this is no longer the case, so an orc could be ping ponged from trap to trap, activating each one appropriately.  Trap placement has been improved as well, particularly around elevation change areas such as stairs; traps can be placed on a diagonal, which fixes the issue of gaps on these areas from the first game.  Traps will also be upgradable multiple times, rather than just once as the current game allows.  The example explained was that the War Mage’s arrow wall trap could eventually be upgraded to include fire arrows.  The upgrade will be linear, but that’s still good news in making more powerful and deadly traps.

This is good because the orcs will be beefier too.  I saw everything from basic orc types and flyers, to huge elementals.  The level I played was the most difficult available to play, and by the final round, my co-op partner and I were certainly put to the test.  Despite what was likely my poor play, we did manage to complete the level (barely), largely due to what I felt was a slightly overpowered charm spell that worked on ANY opponent, turning the big baddies into allies 8 seconds at a time.  Still, the action was just as fast and frentic as the first, and I once again was amazed at how well the game plays to both types of gameplay styles: tower defense in the trap setup, and shooter.  I tend to gravitate more towards shooter style, but was watching other groups play that were very smart in their trap layouts, rarely even having to engage the orcs directly at times.

I had played through a bit of the first, and found that the sequel was just as approachable (even on the hardest difficulty).  The story does take place a few weeks after the first one ends, so it would behoove everyone to play through the first game (which can often be found on sale for less than $4 on Steam and OnLive).

Orcs Must Die! 2 will be releasing on Steam in the summer, and those that own the first game will receive bonus content in the sequel.  The team will also likely release the game for OnLive as well, citing the ease of porting between Steam and OnLive, though no official release date was provided for that platform. Keep it locked to Platform Nation for more about this game as we get closer to the summer release time.

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