If you’ve been remotely cognizant during the last few years, you’ve at least heard of the popular Tower Defense style of games (Pixel Junk Monsters, Plants vs Zombies, etcetera). If you’re the type to apply labels to things, you could very accurately label Orcs Must Die a Tower Defense game as well.
Orcs Must Die! (PC,XBox 360)
$14.99 on 10/30/11
Reviewed by Benjamin Maltbie
You play an apprentice Warmage, a vocation that serves as humanity’s last hope against the Orc legion. Equipped with spells that ultimately function as traps, you must face insurmountable odds as hordes of Orcs bumrush the ever important rift.
The game is played in waves and, while you can set up traps during said waves, a bulk of your planning is going to be done during the periods between them. Experimenting with your constantly growing arsenal is an altogether rewarding experience as you employ your wits to ensure the demise of your stout attackers. Set archers on a bridge and watch them rain hell down on the unsuspecting enemy, impeded by a cleverly deployed pit of sludge. Some got through? Hit them with an explosive barrel. You end up feeling proud over your intellectual conquest. As Hannibal Smith frequently says, “I love it when a plan comes together.”
So why play this game over another Tower Defense title? The answer is simple: Robot Entertainment has remedied a long standing fault with the genre; you don’t merely sit back and admire your handiwork. The game is essentially a hybrid of Tower Defense and action games. While your traps will handle a bulk of the orcs, you will oversee the field and make snap decisions such as attacking full force, slowing them down with magic, or setting up more traps. I particularly enjoyed the “Oh shit!” moments when a rogue orc would break free of the traps, forcing me to chase them down.
The difficulty of the game quickly picks up as you progress and find a new array of ridiculous traps. It’s clear that the game expects you to use these newly acquired tools to think in a more complex fashion. At no point is it unforgiving, though. When the game knocks you on your ass, you just dust yourself off and approach it from another angle. The fusion of genres amounts to a hectic style of gaming that keeps the blood pumping and the player immersed.
From an artistic standpoint, the game takes a decidedly cartoonish direction. The characters have a Shrek esque design to them that seems to match the over-the-top gameplay and completely ridiculous narration. An overly critical person may point out the lackluster story; it’s a silly romp and isn’t anything to write home about. The story isn’t really the point of a game like this,though.
All in all, this is a fun niche title. If you’re looking for a straight up action game, you’ll be unlikely to find the mechanics to scratch that bloodthirsty itch of yours. Fans of Tower Defense, however, will find everything they’re looking for here. My biggest gripe with the game is that the campaign is exceedingly short and left me feeling unfulfilled. I can only hope that we see variations of this type of game in the future, possibly with multiplayer elements.