Orcs Must Die! This is a statement of fact that holds true in the vast majority of fantasy settings, alongside such statements as “Elves must have an attitude”, “Dwarves must drink too much” and “Wizards must always have beards”.
But it is also the name of a new tower defence game from Robot Entertainment that, as may be evident from the title, revolves around killing Orcs by the dozen. With tongue firmly placed in cheek, Orcs Must Die! casts the player as a somewhat inept apprentice warmage charged with protecting his presumably idyllic world from ravaging hordes of green skinned invaders.
In a comical manner, your apprentice warmage is left guarding the portals, through which the Orcs must not be allowed to travel, after his master slipped and bashed his head on a step. It now comes down to the player to use a combination of weapons, spells and traps to defend the portals from wave after wave of Orcs in a tower defence meets third-person shooter style manner.
And whether you are a new arrival to the world of tower defence or a seasoned pro at placing towers and preventing the oncoming waves of enemies, it is this combination of genres that makes Orcs Must Die! a deserving purchase. The player will find themselves not only placing a huge variety of different traps for the Orcs, including all things spiky, splaty, burny and melty, but also shooting at them with a trusty crossbow, fighting them with melee weapons and casting spells from their very own spellbook.
Even the basics offer a few differences from the normal tower defence titles. The player still deals with enemies in waves, still gets paid for each enemy that they kill, and still has to choose which traps to take into each level. As with many other games of this type, the player gets to upgrade the traps to cause more damage. But slightly different from the majority of tower defence games, the player has to place the traps on the surfaces of the dungeon, such as walls, floors and ceilings, strategically so that the Orcs activate them. It makes it quite interesting and trying to find that first choke point in each level is of the utmost importance.
But there are more tricks up the wizardly sleeves of Orcs Must Die! The player has a presence in this game and therefore must protect themselves as well as the portals. For this the player can use their crossbow to take out greenskins from a distance, although the quicker the player tries to shoot the more inaccurate the crossbow gets. They can also go hand to hand, which is perhaps not the best idea and would be better saved for emergencies. Then the player has a variety of spells they can use, such as the eternally handy ability to “push” Orcs into conveniently placed lava pits. The player will take damage through the levels, which increase in difficulty at a good rate. But Orcs often drop health potions once they have been exploded, squished, dismembered or shot, that the player can use to replenish lost health.
Visually, the game is nice to look at. The 24 odd maze-like levels all look fairly similar. But the very fact that the game is played from a third-person perspective makes the game quite unique amongst the tower defence games and, as a result, prettier. The production level is quite high and the menus work well. Even the controls, which could have been a confusing nightmare when it comes to shooting, moving, placing traps, casting spells etc, prove to be well thought out and present no problems whatsoever.
The game has a cheesy humour which may not appeal to everyone. But fortunately, once the waves of Orcs start coming, there is very little time to agree or disagree with the humour as the player will be kept far too busy on-screen. There will be very little waiting around here, Orcs Must Die! is a fast-paced game that will keep the player on their toes from start to finish. The game could have been a bit longer, but with DLC on the horizon there will be plenty of reasons to come back for just a little bit more Orc-slaying mayhem. Highly recommended!