Game Rant’s Andrew Griggs reviews Orcs Must Die!
Orcs Must Die! is a new Xbox Live Arcade and PC game developed by Robot Entertainment, best known for hit games such as Halo Wars, Age of Empires II, and Age of Empires Online. Orcs Must Die! brings some controversial twists to the old school genre of tower defense games – but, by changing the entire way the tower defense genre is portrayed and delivered, has the developer taken a bold step with Orcs Must Die! or undermined what made the genre fun in the first place?
Orcs Must Die! doesn’t delay the player with lengthy back-story or useless tutorials. There’s enough story to keep the game moving, and it’s easy to tell that Robot Entertainment had fun with it, but ultimately it has little bearing on whether or not a player will enjoy the game. The pacing of the game is great. Every time the title starts to get too easy, the next level presents a fresh scenario that will keep players interested, such as new enemies, more routes for the enemies to take, or more Rifts to protect.
Level design plays a big role in tower defense games. If the maps are too simple it gets boring, to complicated and the game can be too punishing – and, subsequently, frustrating. In Orcs Must Die! the ever changing fortresses were fun – going from a single floor fortress with only Orcs to a multi floored fortress with Orcs, Ogres, and flying enemies. The developers never made getting around the fortress a problem and gamers won’t be wasting time running up a flight of stairs just to get to the second floor – instead, players can run through a well-placed portal. Even on bigger maps, that only had a single floor, there are still plenty of portals that help quickly move players from one section of the fortress to another.
Aside from the variations in the maps, there are plenty of different enemy types to keep players from just using the same traps over and over. There are basic Orcs, which for the most part, are easily taken out with well-placed traps of any type. Small, fast enemies like the Kobold Runner simply run past traps – forcing players to chase them down and kill with the bladestaff or take them out from a distance with the crossbow. The Ogre is giant, compared to the Orc, and if players aren’t careful, will deliver a stun blow that leaves the player-character vulnerable. The Knoll Hunter is fast and, armed with his own weapon, can quickly take unprepared players down. Of course there are other characters too, such as flying enemies in the later stages, that require players to mix-up their strategy.
Gameplay is mostly comprised of killing Orcs and earning points. Each level consists of multiple waves and players start off the first wave with a set amount of points for spending on traps. Throughout the waves, kills earn points that can either be spent on the fly or used between waves. At the end of each level, players are also critiqued – and awarded skulls. The skulls can be used to upgrade traps or magic spells – such as floor spike traps that deal more damage or faster reload times. Trying to max-out the critique, and get five skulls on every level, is definitely addicting and will add replay value.
The game has one other feature, Weavers. The Weaver’s are two different girls that players choose between at the beginning of each level. After selecting one, gamers are granted access to a skill tree that allows for the purchasing of additional upgrades for weapons or traps.
The controls are a problem and, at times, are too loose – making it easy to place a trap in an unintended spot. These mishaps are easily fixed but annoying nonetheless, especially in a game where players are going to have to make some quick decisions.
During our playthrough, we also encountered an annoying glitch where, on the last wave of enemies, a red dot on the mini map indicated one remaining bad guy – an enemy that was nowhere to be found. After some searching, it was discovered that the enemy had either fallen from or was catapulted off a bridge (by one of the traps) and landed in lava but didn’t die – requiring the level to be restarted. Even after ten plus hours of playtime, it’s unclear if there are other glitches in Orcs Must Die! but, for any players who are easily frustrated, it could be worth waiting for a patch before getting to heavily invested.
Overall, Orcs Must Die! is a great addition to the Xbox Live Arcade catalog. Robot Entertainment did an excellent job at reviving an old genre and adding a fun twist to make it feel new. The art direction is great and fits the feel and mood of the game – and the cut scenes, featuring hand drawn pictures, are definitely enjoyable as well. As a result, Orcs Must Die! is a definite buy for hardcore tower defense fans looking for a fun game that offers a new take on the genre.
Orcs Must Die! is available now in the Xbox Live Marketplace and will be available for PC on October 12th.