Orcs Must Die! review
I should start this review by stating that I personally don't have anything against orcs. Normally I would cross a street to save an orc, or at least take in their parcels when they're out. And yet I found myself wanting to kill more and more of them in increasingly devious ways in Robot Entertainment's tower defence game Orcs Must Die!.
You take up the role of the War Mage whose job is to prevent orcs from escaping through the fortresses in the Dead World via portals into other worlds. And thus the Orcs must die. He's a member of the Order, but after an attack he not only loses the master who was taking him through his apprenticeship, but everyone else as well, leaving him as the sole survivor against the seemingly endless waves of orcs, ogres, gnolls and other members of the Horde.
Orcs Must Die!
This is where the tower defence mechanics come into play. You'll need to set traps and other hazards to slow the Horde’s progress and ultimately kill the orcs before they complete their journey to the portals. One of the key differences between this and other games in the genre is that there is a third-person perspective, and this with weaponry available to you actually makes it a more action-orientated game. You will still need to figure out the right strategy in order to succeed, and the placement of traps is key to victory, but you can fill in the gaps by placing the War Mage and his weapons in the way.
Unlike many similar games, Orcs Must Die! becomes more engaging as you progress through its wide range of levels. The stages become more intriguing with multiple entrances and portals and a wide range of paths to cover. The enemies become more fiendish, with ranged attacks catching you off guard and flying enemies avoiding most of your traps. Thankfully your traps and weapons become more advanced as you progress, with new options opening up and the ability to buy upgrades to existing ones.
Orcs Must Fly!
The enhanced arsenal is not only useful for tackling the new challenges; it is also fun to go and back and tackle the early levels once more, trying to earn the five star rating if you didn't manage it first time around. Or maybe trying to beat your friends' scores which can become an addictive process of one-upmanship. There is no single solution to a level, with many different techniques providing success, and so finding the best one will be the key to becoming the most dominant orc slayer on the Steam or Xbox Live leaderboards.
You can't just throw everything at a level and hope for the best. For a start, placing traps costs points and you only have a limited number of those, so you need to think about which traps you'll want to use and where. Thankfully more currency can be earned through successive orc slaughter. You choose a selection of traps and weapons at the beginning of a stage before unleashing the horde; weapons carry no cost so you'll want a good balance of these and traps in order to halt the advance.
Orcs Must Die!
There is a hint of Blizzard in the art style for Orcs Must Die!, which is certainly not a bad thing, and probably an appropriate nod to the genre's origins in Warcraft 3. It's also nice to see a game being powered by something other than Unreal Engine 3 (in this case Trinity's Vision Engine), and it does look well polished, with some fantastic visual effects thrown in. It also seems to cope very well with frantic on-screen action as the vast numbers of the Horde descend upon you.
In fact, there is only one real criticism I could level at Orcs Must Die!. That is that you cannot tell which door the horde are going to come through first when you start a level. If there are multiple entrances, and only one is in use for the first wave then you really don't need to be placing traps in front of them all. But the only way to know where they're going to burst through first is to start the level, and then restart if you guessed incorrectly. However, getting the strategy right can often require restarting anyway, and thanks to quick loading it's not an issue that will spoil your enjoyment.
I have to admit that I've often dismissed tower defence on the PC and consoles, feeling that the short (and often repetitive) bursts of action are better suited to handheld gaming devices or smartphones. But Orcs Must Die! is an enjoyable, lengthy and varied take on the genre, with a strong emphasis on action and a great sense of humour. It's fantastically good value at just under £12, even more so if you can pick it up in one of the many Steam sales going on at this time of year.
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