Orcs Must Die Review

By Darryl Kaye on October 11, 2011

When developers are thinking of a name for their game, they have numerous options. They might try to come up with something catchy, something that sounds good for the theme or even something that's off the wall. But when Robot Entertainment got around to naming their newest game, they decided to go for, well, all three. Orcs Must Die is a game that couldn't be about anything other than killing Orcs, and the good thing is, that's it's also rather fun.

It's important that things should be put into perspective before too much attention is put on the killing. There is a tale to be told and it's that of a young War Mage whose sarcastic master dies, ironically, by tripping up a step. He'd been fighting Orcs for years, worrying about the day his young apprentice would have to do something other than tie his own shoe lace, but that day came much sooner than he'd anticipated.

Fortunately, you're the person who inherits the body of the young War Mage and it becomes your job to fight back the hordes of Orcs who're hell bent on capturing Rifts in order to expand their realm.

At its core, Orcs Must Die is a tower defence game. The Orcs will charge (almost) mindlessly from their entrance into the level towards the Rift that you're trying to protect. It's your job to stop this from happening, but while most tower defence games have you placing towers to achieve this, Orcs Must Die allows you to take the stage as well.

The tower-placing concept is still there, but they appear in the form of traps. Since the dungeons are all in 3D, the traps can be placed on the floor, the walls or the ceilings. This means you can have squares in the dungeon that get affected by numerous traps - it allows for plenty of carnage.

Traps range from generic spike pits, to tar which slows them down, magma and mushroom spores that confuse enemies into fighting on your side. It's also possible to recruit guardians who will bolster your numbers - they aren't that brightest though.

What makes Orcs Must Die a bit more action orientated is that it's all in real-time, but you're in there fighting too. Your default weapon is a rapid-fire crossbow, but you'll also get the ability to throw fireballs, channel the wind or even use chain lightning to dispatch your foes. Magic will use mana though, while the crossbow and sword can be spammed as much as your heart desires. Often how you use your own personal combat resources will determine how you can use your monetary resources. For example, if you have two passages that you need to defend, you can bolster one up with traps while you yourself defend the other. It creates a great balance and can make things very frantic. It's this mechanic which helps Orcs Must Die go beyond the now generic tower defence game, because victory is actually in your control. It's no longer a case of losing due to wrong tower placement, because even if you've made a pig's ear, your own skill can still save the day.

As you progress through the different dungeons, the challenge will of course get greater. Some of the levels are surprisingly difficult, while others can be tackled without too much trouble. The addition of boss characters does make things interesting, as does the addition of flying enemies, although it does feel as though the game doesn't adequately allow you to defend that well against flying enemies - most of the traps cater for ground enemies instead. You'll often have to rely on guardian archers to deal with these pesky foes.

As you progress through the game, you will also gain access to an upgrade system which is level-specific. This means that it will reset each level, but the rewards are quite beneficial. You can choose to invoke the "Weavers" at any time, but you'll obviously have to weigh up the cost. For example, is it better to have more traps, or to have your traps attack faster?

Graphically Orcs Must Die looks pretty decent. The frame rate stays very solid despite the chaos that's taking place. Sometimes there can be what seems like a hundred Orcs running around the place, but it stays rock solid, even though traps are going mental and the Orcs have status effects being inflicted on them like crazy.

The amount of levels on offer is decentand on the default difficulty it will probably take around 4-5 hours to get through them all. Of course, you'll probably find it takes you longer if you want to get maximum skull-rank on all of them. There's also the challenge of the expert difficulty, for those who really want to test themselves. But the good thing is, that you can use the skulls you earn by completing a level to upgrade your traps - and they will always stay upgraded.

Final Thoughts

Orcs Must Die is a great take on the tower defence genre. Not only does it allow you to kill literally thousands of Orcs, but it allows you to take the centre stage to do so. What does this mean? You can force some Orcs to run into a pit of tar, freeze them with ice and then headshot them with a crossbow. It does feel as though it's a little unbalanced in some respects, but there's a decent amount of content here to keep most people occupied for a good few hours. Definitely worth checking out if you're a fan of tower defence games and even if you aren't.

Your destiny is in your own hands.
Quirky little story.
Great range of traps.
Flying enemies seem far too pesky.
Some levels are annoying difficult, while others can be rather easy.
Decent amount of content, but could have done with more levels.
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