When I first played Orcs Must Die! it was at this years Gamescom and, too be honest, I had never heard of the game so I didn’t know what to expect from it. Then once I was playing it I couldn’t put it down and when I was told I needed to get off of the game to allow other people to play. So I was extremely happy when I got the chance to review the game.
So what is Orcs Must Die? It’s a very simple premise that works very, very well; you are playing a tower defense game, but you are down in the action as well. You play as a war mage defending rifts from orcs and you can call on a limited amount (at the beginning of game) of weapons. Your weapon cache grows by one weapon or trap each time you complete a level so there is always incentive to play for that extra level. These weapons and traps range from a crusher to spike traps to the amazingly powerful fire spell. You get ‘rift points’ which act as lives, each enemy takes one point away (a part from the bigger ones which take away 5 at a time) if they reach the rift. When you die and respawn you take 5 rift points as well, once you lose all your rift points you lose the level.
The level design is excellent and doesn’t make you choose one strategy over another; lots of different strategies will work and others won’t, the only way to find out is through trail and error. Which is a great system but in practice I found that if you do one strategy throughout the whole game then it will work. I won’t give the strategy away because it will ruin the game but even with this strategy things can still get a little tense and it’s still a lot of fun.
The game is played over 24 levels each with between 5 and 15 waves; the higher the level, the more waves. As I said earlier once you complete a level you gain an extra weapon or trap, this allows you to go back to earlier levels that you didn’t do so well in and use your new toys. This adds a lot of re-playability on-top of the trail and error gameplay.
For a chance for you to learn the maps before the hoard of orcs descends on you, the game gives you unlimited time at the beginning of each level to look around, think about where you are going to place your traps and generally see what fits best. Another game mechanic that compliments this is that if you buy a trap for, lets say, 500 and then sell it you will get back the full 500 (as long as it’s not damaged). So again a lot of trail and error to see what works best with what maps and what enemy types.
As well as unlocking new weapons and traps you also have another trick up your sleeve for going back to older levels; skulls. Each time you complete a level you are awarded a certain number of skulls (like a star system). The first four skulls all depend on how many rift points you lose and the last skull is awarded if you beat the levels par time, which can be quite difficult at times. These skulls can then be spent on upgrading your traps. Although about half of the traps can be upgraded to make them more powerful or quicker, for the others it just makes them cheaper. Yes this is useful but it feels like the developers might have run out of ideas.
Although there is no multiplayer element there is a leader-board system which shows your scores on each level compared to your friends and the world. One thing I thought the game lacked is a, and I know it’s a cliché in games now, co-op mode. The gameplay worked that well and the ability to talk to someone else about a new defense idea you have would make the game even more appealing. Maybe an update idea? Unfortunately it’s not in at the moment and I’m just speculating.
Orcs Must Die! is a very addictive, fun game and will keep you coming back for more. For the price of just over £10 it’s a great price as the re-playability is almost endless. It does have it’s problems, but they are so minor that the gameplay completely over-shadows them. A very easy game to recommend to anyone.
Orcs Must Die! is out out tomorrow on Xbox 360 and PC, Xbox 360 version reviewed.