Orcs Must Die! 2 – Review

Platform | Release Date
PC | July 30, 2012
Developed by Robot Entertainment
Published by Robot Entertainment

The Pitch:

You’ve tossed, burned and sliced them by the thousands – now orcs must die more than ever before! Grab a friend and slay orcs in untold numbers in this sequel to the 2011 AIAS Strategy Game of the Year from Robot Entertainment.

Leap back into the fray as a powerful War Mage or crafty Sorceress. Defend new fortresses and dwarven mines, laying waste to thousands of orcs and other monsters with a dizzying array of weapons, spells, guardians, traps, and trinkets. Play co-op with a friend and continue the battle in a brand new campaign mode, or fight to stay alive in the challenging new Endless Mode!

Unlock new defenses and old favorites, upgrade them like never before, and unleash them on the nearest pile of slobbering ocs!

I loved Orcs Must Die and nearly named it my Game of the Year for 2011. I rarely played tower defense games up to that point, but the wacky humor, third-person perspective, and hybrid shooter-strategy gameplay was a special formula. Orcs Must Die 2 came with high expectations and has delivered in almost every respect.

Veterans of the previous orc extermination campaign can hop right in with little adjustment. Our old friend the War Mage is still at it, which is about all you need to know of the minimalistic story. He’s the familiar choice despite a blunderbuss being the new default weapon (never fear: the crossbow is unlockable almost off the bat). The real star of the show, however, is the newly added Sorceress. Where the War Mage seems to have lost a step, I found my time playing as her far more rewarding and engaging due to a incredibly powerful magic staff being her default weapon. Unlike the War Mage’s “in your face” attitude, the Sorceress can deal powerful ranged damage and momentarily bring orcs onto her side for devastating (and comedic effect). At first I feared she might be simply overpowered but the game soon disabused me of that notion.

New players may be a little overwhelmed by the sheer volume of unlockables and enemy types but Robot has tuned the first few levels to be rather easy. At the same time, they’ve catered to veteran players by allowing them to unlock the vast majority of traps and items in any order simply by redeeming skulls. This is a huge improvement over the drip, drip, drip unlocks of the first game because players can quickly upgrade the traps they like to use. Both rookies and veterans will be greeted by a brutal difficulty curve towards the campaign’s end. One map in particular seems to intentionally mislead the player by spawning them about as far as possible from the ideal chokepoint while others have a maddening number of enemy entrances and possible paths to defend.

Maps with two entrances for orcs scream co-op, but the maps with four entrances practically demand it. While the game needs to scale difficulty a little higher for paired players, it’s super fun even when it amounts to a “comp stomp”. Moderately-skilled players can earn the full five skulls without breaking a sweat in the early maps but the later maps can prove challenging because each player is limited to five inventory slots (as opposed to eight).

Whether playing solo or co-operatively, the deep waters of Orcs Must Die 2 lie in its Nightmare campaign difficulty, which compresses time between waves and gives players very little room to breathe. I hated the sadistic gap in difficulty the first game had, but Nightmare mode this time around is just manageable enough to really enjoy despite ending each map with sweaty palms.

Endless mode repurposes many of the campaign maps with new waves that players must survive to earn skulls, and 40 waves to get all five skulls. Skilled players can get fairly deep into each map by themselves but co-op is the clear target. Fans of the first game may be critical that the length of the single-player campaign has been sacrificed in favor of adding extra unlockables and co-op. This is true to a point. The game is shorter unless you want to unlock every item – but it’s also a significantly better game.

When it comes down to it, the real fun of Orcs Must Die 2 isn’t collecting five skulls on every level, let alone hitting #1 on the leaderboards for a day. It’s the sheer chaos of orcs hitting the perfect meatgrinder; the chokepoint with so many traps triggering at once that you’re surprised the frame rate doesn’t plummet. At points the scene is so silly I was laughing out loud. How is that not better with a friend?

Orcs Must Die was a fantastic take on the tower defense genre. Orcs Must Die 2 does everything a sequel should. It captures the core of the original, fixes the flaws, and goes on to deliver a bigger and better experience. If the community flocks to this like it did (eventually) to the first game, the shelf life will continue to grow because co-op is so much more fun than mere score chasing. The game has barely released to the general public and I’m already curious to see where Robot goes with DLC.

Now excuse me while I go collect some more skulls.

About David Hughes

David Hughes is an Editor for Splitkick. PC gamer, mod lover, screenarcher, and Elder Scrolls fanboy.
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