The tower defense genre has always been one of my favorite ways to kill time when gaming. There’s something that is just so satisfying about building the perfect line of defense and watching your maze of death take care of everything. While this genre has previously been relegated to modifications and other derivative works (WarCraft III custom maps, etc.), now digital distribution services like Steam allow game developers to create fleshed out, full fledged titles. Orcs Must Die is one of these full fledged tower defense titles.
As the name implies, Orcs Must Die involves building a series of traps so that wave after wave of oncoming Orcs meet a grisly end. This sounds entertaining on paper but, as gamers know better than anyone, the proof is in the play. To see if Orcs Must Die is worth your money, hit the jump.
Long story short, yes. Orcs Must Die is a great little title that effectively combines the joy of building traps and mazes with the non-stop action of a third-person shooter.
The story of Orcs Must Die is pretty basic. There is a world full of Orcs and other beasts that is sealed off from the Human realm. There are portals that allow passage from one world to another, and it is up to an elite group of “War Mages” to keep the Orcs out. Unfortunately, these War Mages have been falling left and right to Orc hordes leaving only your character, the prototypical douchy bro who, despite his immaturity and ignorance, is the one person standing between the Orcs and the Human Realm.
In order to defend the Human Realm you need to set up a series of traps between the Orcs and the portals. Lucky for you there’s a wide variety of killing machines at your disposal. Spiked floors and Arrow Walls are just the basics. As you complete each level you’ll unlock a new tool of destruction. Expect to see some wacky devices like spring-board floors that send Orcs into pits of lava or a wall of blades that dice up any poor monster that steps too close to it. Unfortunately, these traps aren’t cheap.
The way the game works is that after each kill you get a small amount of money. In addition to these bounties, every time you clear a wave of monsters you get more money. Additional funds can also be found on the bodies of larger monsters like Ogres.
Speaking of larger monsters, there are a whole slew of beasts that want in on the Human Realm. On top of the basic Orc, which is relatively slow and pretty easy to put down, there are armored Orcs, fast but fragile Gnolls, Orcs with cross bows, giant Ogers that can stun your character with a bash from his club, and a whole host of other standard fantasy monsters.
One thing I really liked about Orcs Must Die is the third-person shooter aspect. I always get stressed out playing standard tower defense games because if there’s one hiccup in your tower line you lose the game. Orcs Must Die gives you a sense of urgency. If a few Orcs slip through you can put them down yourself thanks to a pretty hefty arsenal. You start the game with a crossbow (which can insta-kill most monsters with a head shot) and a sword. As you get further in the game you’ll unlock new weapons like the Wind Belt, which allows you to summon a gust of wind sending the Orcs into a pit of lava, or the Fire Bracers, which lets you cast a devastating fireball. Each weapon also has a secondary fire option allowing you more ways to stop the horde. For example the crossbow’s alternate fire stuns a small area of Orcs.
In addition to traps and weapons, you can also hire mercenaries to help the cause. Elven Archers and Paladin Guardians will eventually be unlocked when you hit a certain level. These mercenaries deal a decent bit of damage to the Orcs, but be careful. If you put them in a dangerous spot the Orcs won’t hesitate to bum rush them and take them down.
To add more depth to the gameplay, Robot Entertainment has included two systems for upgrading. First, at the end of each level you will be given a rating of one to five skulls based on your performance. If you don’t let a single Orc though the portal you’ll be taking home five skulls. These skulls can be used to upgrade your traps, mercenaries and weapons. For example, I upgraded my Elven Archers for fourteen skulls and in turn they now cost less money to deploy on the battlefield.
The other upgrade system is not persistent like spending skulls. Basically you can hire Weavers, magical sorceresses that will upgrade specific stats for your character and traps, once per level. There are two Weavers to choose from; Elemental and Steel. The Elemental Weaver will allow you to pay a certain amount of gold to have specific elemental damage upgraded. The Steel Weaver upgrades physical things like how much damage arrows do or how much money you get if an Orc dies in a trap. While these two upgrade systems are nothing new to gamers, they do add an additional level of strategy to the game.
My one complaint about Orcs Must Die is that there’s no multiplayer. I understand that the game is suppose to be an arcadey title with a heavy focus on leaderboards, but I can’t help but imagine how much fun this game would be with other players. It could be something as simple as co-op or a last-man-standing type of game mode, just something so that I can play with my friends. To be fair, Orcs Must Die is a $15 title, so the exclusion of multiplayer is totally justifiable. I just hope that Orcs Must Die sells well so that Robot Entertainment makes a more in depth sequel with multiplayer.
All in all, Orcs Must Die is a fantastic budget title with more than $15 worth of entertainment. Available on both Steam and Xbox Live Arcade, you should do yourself a favor and check it out. It’s a great way to kill time while killing Orcs.