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.
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.
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!)
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.
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: