Platform | Release Date
X360 | October 5, 2011
PC | October 12, 2011
Developed by Robot Entertainment
Published by Microsoft Studios
Orcs Must Die! challenges players to defend fortresses under siege. With a wide variety of traps and weapons to choose from, Orcs Must Die! dares players to find the best ways to hack, launch, flatten, gibletize, and incinerate an endless army of filthy orcs and their vile allies. Orcs Must Die! features a vibrant look, addictive gameplay, and a blatant disregard for the welfare of orcs.
Before we get started I want you to take nice big whiff of the air. Do you smell that? That’s the smell of fall, and all of the great games that come with it. For those of you who are done paying full retail price for a disc, you’re going to love what I’m about to tell you. For a quarter the price of X-Men Destiny, Orcs Must Die injects your Xbox with all the power of a full retail release.
Robot Entertainment has carefully constructed the game world to mix tower defense with a third person shooter. Assuming the role of an Apprentice War Mage, you’ll fight your way through 24 unique fortresses, complete with 3 different difficulty settings, while deploying traps to stop the titular orcs. Most of the levels after the introduction have multiple entrances so you’ll have to decide how to distribute your traps to dispose of the enemy.
Each of the maps has a pre-defined route that the orcs will travel. You can purchase multiple barricades to block a path, guiding the horde in the direction you want them to go, but you’ll never make a weaving, winding, gauntlet because of monetary constraints. Pushing your knowledge of tower defense and your trigger finger to its limits, Orcs Must Die mixes both of the genres so well that you’ll easily lose yourself in the action and be taken by surprise when the level ends and your character dances his way to victory.
Every map is a new type of challenge: Do you set one side to be stacked over the other and attempt to kill them with your weapons? Or do you make both sides equal and run back and forth killing orcs before they make it past your gauntlet? I have been constantly pressed to find the best solution, which had me wanting to go back to the map after I had finished to see if I could do it better than I did the last time. It’s exhilarating to have the orcs make it past your defenses – you have to make a quick decision as to how you want to stop them. I fell in love with the Wind Belt that shoots the horde back with a flick of RT, usually giving my traps enough time to reset and kill them.
Disposing of orcs is not pigeonholed into just traps as you will gain access to items such as Bomb Barrels or a helping hand from Archers and Paladins. Every time you finish a level you’ll be granted a new trap or weapon. When the next map starts you can decide what to use in the next round, similar to the Plants Vs. Zombies seed selection. You do this all before releasing the first wave of orcs into a level, after you’ve scouted the map, but once you’ve made your decision you are locked. You can’t click and drag a bunch of the same trap, instead you’ll hover the marker over the location and hit RT to place it. You can select and drop traps at any point during the level, but at the cost of not being able to kill with your weapon during placement.
There were so many spots that I wish I had picked one trap over another because I didn’t realize how much it would have helped me until I saw the orcs start running. When I was done with that level though, I still walked out with a smile because I was able to overcome the horde with what I had chosen. I loved how well the game is designed because I wasn’t forced into using certain traps, specifically if I was an amazing shot with the crossbow (which I’m not).
Did I mention that parts of each fortress are interactive? In some spots, if you’re being overwhelmed, you can use pre-positioned traps to stop the wave. These are a one shot item, but you’ll want to use them more than you used elixirs in Final Fantasy. Some of the best chain and combo kills I received were from unleashing the spiked log down a long ramp, racking up the kills and money so I could make sure my archers could pick off the remnants from the top. I found them even more helpful in areas where I had flying orcs that would not be stopped by conventional traps. If I was busy trying to head shot those fliers, I could bring down a chandelier on a group to stop them, which left me grinning all the way until the next wave.
If you think that’s all Orcs Must Die has to offer you’ll be surprised when the Weavers are unlocked, which are the uber-mages that grant you access to talent trees. Probably the most challenging part of the game is learning to how to balance your trap upgrades with personal upgrades. Unlike the spell book, the Weavers can be accessed at any point, giving you the added option of upgrading your character or how your traps behave. I spent a lot of my money on self upgrades and leaned heavily on Archers and barricades but as soon as an ogre came through the doors, my plan would crumble under their mace. Best to start sharpening your kiting skills if you’re like me, or replaying the levels to reach the maximum number of Skulls, which are used for upgrading your traps and helpers.
I want to keep gushing about all of the options available to you in Orcs Must Die, but I feel like I need to leave something for you to discover. If you love variety, humor and a challenging game that will force you to re-evaluate every situation, you need to do yourself a favor and pick up Orcs Must Die. Robot Entertainment has a classic on their hands that I hope sees as much as love in the future as was put into the development of the game. If someone in that studio wants to get real crazy, they could extend the life of their game by adding co-op, a map editor and a store to share user creations. There are so many possibilities for future content but you won’t be begging for that so quickly with hours of replay-ability in the shipped title.