Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Review: Orcs Must Die 2

Written by StefanB

Orcs must die! That's a rather mean statement, for sure. What have these kind and gentle creatures ever done to us? No one really knows and no one really cares. But never before has killing these greenish brutes been as fun as in Orcs Must Die! Until this Monday, when its sequel Orcs Must Die! 2, a third person tower defence shooter by Robot Entertainment, was released. The latest release features more traps, more weapons and more upgrades – and of course the highly-anticipated co-op multiplayer. But is it as good as its predecessor?

As there may be some of you who never played a tower defence game before, I'll give a a brief run-down of what to expect: your goal in every level is to not let a horde of enemies reach the exit. As these enemies spawn in waves at just a few fixed locations and move along a set path, you can build various traps to delay their advance or preferably stop it. These traps feature many “classic” ones, as arrow-shooting holes in the wall and spikes rising from the floor, to floor-plate catapults, giant wooden ceiling blenders and deadly wall blades. 

Contrary to other tower defence games, you do all this in a third person perspective, controlling either the War Mage or the Sorceress. This helps to immerse you in the gameplay and gives you the ability to actively take part in the killing. In addition to your traps you can equip yourself with many different weapons, and a secondary (mana consuming) fire option. You have to choose wisely though, as you only can take a small number of weapons and traps with you in every level. And considering that you have to choose from 28 traps, 11 weapons and 8 trinkets, the choice is not always easy. Depending on how few enemies you let escape, you earn up to five skulls per level plus additional skulls for kill streaks, combos and overall carnage. These skulls can then be used to upgrade you traps and weapons.

When you first look at an ingame screenshot or even a video, you won't find any obvious differences to the first OMD: The cartoony graphics are detailed, the lighting of the dungeons is atmospheric and the animation quality is varied and well done. The interface is quite simple, yet shows you everything you want to know: health, mana, minimap, money and your quickslot bar. Some of the 20+ foes you encounter are taken over from the previous game, and so are many of the traps you can build, but with a lot more variation. Every trap offers three upgrade levels and a choice of two unique upgrades, that grant additional carnage, as for example fire arrows, bleeding damage or stun.

The sound department will divide the audience, however. Some will like the frantic music and the cheesy banter, others will find it just a bit over the top (again, the same as in OMD). Personally, I enjoyed it quite a bit, as it fits the overall tongue-in-cheek theme of the game.

But enough about these superficialities! How does it all combine together? Is it any good? Well, if you don't like tower defence games – skip this one! If you don't like hurting people – skip this one! If you don't like hectic games where you mustn't lose sight of the big picture while inside a chaotic crowd of enemies, fighting for your live – skip this one! But if you like just one of the above, then go for it.

Grab a friend and play Orcs Must Die! 2. It's the hunt for new skulls, the need to complete a level with the maximum score and upgrade your arsenal that motivates you to spend hours upon hours in this game. And considering that there are three levels of difficulty and a tough endless mode for each level, there should be enough replay value to keep you busy for some time.

Maybe you already knew this because you played the first game, and were just wondering if the multiplayer is any good. Well, it does make the whole thing a lot easier, as both players earn their own money, have their own weapons and their own selection of traps. You have twice the firepower compared with the single player, and can oversee multiple paths at the same time. Although it dumbs down the challenge a bit, it's still is a very good way to spend time with a friend.

Either way, if you are interested at least a little in tower defence games, then this is for you. Fhose of you who own the original Orcs Must Die!, there are 10 levels from the first game accessible in this one for cooperative or survival mode too.

Reviewed on PC