Orcs Must Die! Review
8.2our score

The bad good thing about Steam is that it has these regular sales. Most of the time this results in me spending money on games I would otherwise never have given a chance. Orcs Must Die! is one of these games that caught me completely by surprise – I honestly expected it to be pretty poor. So, if like me, you’ve never really heard much about the game before but you’re wondering what the fuss is all about, read on.

Orcs Must Die! is essentially a hybrid between tower-defense and third-person action, with rpg elements thrown into the mix in the form of unlockables and what some would call skill-trees. There is a story, but like most games of this type, it really isn’t the point of the game and is mainly used as an excuse to make fun of the main character (you) and to provide a background setting. You are a poor excuse of an apprentice of a poor excuse of a mage, and due to various circumstances, you are the only hope of humanity against an ever-increasing horde of Orcs. Bla bla, to be honest I paid attention for a very short while until I was handed control of the various glorious traps and devices – all aimed at slaughtering as many Orcs as possible. Did I mention this game involves killing Orcs? Loads and loads of Orcs.

Orcs Must Die!

I love the smell of burnt orcs in the morning.

In the first levels you don’t have much in the form of traps, and rely mostly on a few basic spikes, tar to slow your enemy down and your trusty weapon: a rather destructive crossbow. Your arsenal quickly expands, and you unlock new goodies every map you complete. Most of the traps are predictable, but there are a few pretty awesome ones – and all of them feel pretty punchy in action. The net result is absolute mayhem and destruction – with orcs being splattered, shot, burned, frozen and otherwise gutted in large numbers.

Orcs Must Die!

Pounder, that sounds sufficiently painful. (And it is!)

It doesn’t take long before you start unlocking Guardians which essentially are npc units that you can place on the map, such as archers and melee units – which help defend your rift. As in any tower defense game, your main goal is to prevent enemies from reaching your the heart of the map (in this case a rift, or on some maps multiple rifts), and each enemy which does reach it reduces the life of the rift until it reaches 0 and you lose. To prevent the Orcs from getting there, you use a combination of aforementioned traps, guardians and your personal spells. At the start of each map you select which traps and spells you wish to equip from the ones you unlocked, and off you go. This system means that going back to earlier maps once you’ve unlocked more powerful traps, spells and guardians can be pretty rewarding. (And fun!)

Orcs Must Die!

None shall pass! Archers are incredibly useful.

To add more depth to this, you also unlock ‘weavers’ which really just means you get access to skill trees. You can pick from a few trees, and these reset each map. Each skill/perk/ability (name it what you like) costs ‘money’ – so you have to carefully balance this with the purchase of traps and guardians between waves. All of this adds a nice layer of tactical depth – which combined with the fast-paced action makes Orcs Must Die! a very enjoyable experience. The developers seem to have managed to balance just the right mix of pace, destruction and strategy and experiencing this from within the map rather than the traditional top-down view in tower-defense game makes this much more immersive.

Orcs Must Die!

Wall Blades provide an adequate level of gore.

Now the game costs £12 on Steam, which I personally think is a little steep for a game like this. Yes, it’s highly enjoyable but it does wear off pretty quickly and I doubt that anyone is going to play this for a huge number of hours. If you can pick it up for about half that price during a sale, it is however totally and utterly worth it. Orcs Must Die! is an example of what Indie gaming is all about and there hasn’t been a tower defense game that was as decent since Defense Grid: The Awakening.

Still not convinced? Then watch some Orcs getting slaughtered below:

the author

Managing Editor of ManaPool, Peter lives in York, UK and is a great fan and master of turn-based strategy games. If he isn't playing one of those, you'll probably find him in a role-playing game instead. He's definitely not afraid to provide a straight up opinion on any game and has a strong like for indie developers. We all start small, after all.

  • SteamSucker

    Like the author I too regularly buy games in steam sales – about half of which I don’t even get aroudn to installing. One excpetion was this game ‘Orcs Must Die’ which I tried out last night. I picked it up for less than £3 which was an absolute steal – i thought I;d try it out for 10 minutes and 2hrs later I was still going – just one more level …..
    Highly recommended.

    Also Defence Grid: The Awakening is brilliant too – I’ve logged more than 120hrs on that.