Friday, January 27, 2012

The Friday Review: Orcs Must Die! (XBLA, PC)

Orcs Must Die!
review by Casey

Twisting the Tower Defense genre seems to be fairly popular these days and Robot Entertainments Orcs Must Die! is one of the latest to remind people why this genre is so awesome! Much like the game Dungeon Defenders you play the game in a 3rd person character mode choosing from several traps, abilities and weapons to destroy the Orcs trying to infiltrate your fortress. The premise is simple, but I think Orcs Must Die! really captures the charm and simplicity of the Tower Defense genre. There’s one way in and one way out, and it is up to you to keep as many of those nasty Orcs out of your tower as possible by setting up floor spikes, arrow walls, spring traps and several other creatively crafted defenses.


- The one thing I notice right off the bat is that this game is gorgeous. The art is great and it captures a unique cartoon style that feels similar to an animated film. The characters are vibrant, well designed, and well animated, especially the main character who, upon defeating a level, gives you a variety of “Touchdown” dances depending on how high you score. The illustrated cut scenes throughout the game, and the schematic breakdowns of the traps, weapons, and characters that appear during the loading screens, have a real cohesiveness that helps reinforce the art style.

- The game-play is incredibly tight and polished. Each level brings a unique challenge to the player and your progression allows you to unlock new abilities and new traps to choose from (6 weapons, 17 traps). With the option to upgrade your arsenal of traps and replay levels with those newly upgraded traps, you have the opportunity to battle for a higher score value, which gives a great replay value to the game.

- Last, but not least, the game is fun! There is an overall lighthearted theme to the massive amounts of chaos and destruction, which is both humorous and gratifying to the player. It also caters to different player types. You have the option to play at the lower level “Apprentice” if you are not a hardcore Tower Defense player, but for those who are, you are given the opportunity to play through the “War Mage” or Medium setting and unlock the “Nightmare” mode.  I myself have not yet unlocked the “Nightmare” mode, but I am still finding myself getting beat pretty hard at some of the higher levels in the game, so I doubt a harder difficulty will be somewhere I go next.


- Loading times in the game are painfully slow. You’ll see the little loading icon in the bottom of the screen struggling to indicate your games progress at every turn. Even when booting up the game I thought it froze it was moving so slow. Luckily, this does not affect the game-play in any way, so no slow downs during combat.

- Setting Traps is a little wonky due to the 3rd person controls. You have to use your character to aim were you want to set your traps on somewhat of an invisible grid layout in the game. Visually it looks cool because the character “summons” each trap, but often times you find yourself setting traps in oddly misaligned positions. Fortunately you can remove traps and reset them, but in a game where time affects your overall score this can get pretty frustrating.

- One-liners are abundant throughout the game, in fact you get one every time you lay a trap, and they get to be pretty ridiculous. They have their moments of humor, but often times you hear the same line over, and over, and it gets old quick. It would probably be better if the main hero had someone to talk to throughout the different stages, but he’s just bantering to himself annoyingly.

Final Words:
Orcs Must Die! is a great time and definitely appeals to the Tower Defense crowd, however there is enough 3rd person combat and humor in the game to attract even the most inexperienced strategist. I recommend that everyone should at least download the Demo and give this game a try. Also, I have recently discovered that there is a DLC pack that features five new fortresses, new traps, and weapons. I don’t buy DLC too often, but I am sure by the end of this game I might find myself looking for more Orcs to kill.

Orcs Must Die! by Robot Entertainment is available now on Xbox Live, Steam and OnLive.

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