Orcs Must Die!, Early Review

About a week ago I bought the pre-order of “Orcs Must Die!” and, yesterday, I managed to play it a bit.

Why Must Those Orcs Die, Afterall?

Deep down, “Orcs Must Die!” is a tower defense game, except you don’t have towers to built, just traps around pre-defined paths (my bet is that the closest game like this would be “Dungeon Keeper”, but I never played it, so I can’t be totally sure). Your character, being the last War Mage, must defend the rifts from the invasion of orcs; each orc that reaches the rift, reduces the rift energy by 1 (or 5, depending on the orc size).

Defending What’s Yours

To defend the rift, you must lay down traps, either on the floor or in the walls.

None of the traps have instant recharge time: They fire and then take a couple of seconds till they are rearmed. Slowing enemies and giving traps time to rearm is a tactic to keep killing those pesky orcs.

Orcs AI is not super-smart: they will follow their path as long as it’s unblocked (and one thing I didn’t try was to completely block a path, but I suspect that, as any other tower defense game, the game itself won’t allow such thing). But you can do something make them move to whenever you want: Get near them. If you played Sanctum, where enemies are mindless creatures whose only thought is “reach rift” like zombies, orcs in “Orcs Must Die!” will try to kill you if you’re close enough of them — and you have the weapons to stay close, if you want. So you can jump near the orcs, dance around them while they are standing in some spike trap while it’s rearming, killing some of those when it goes off — and hoping they drop some health potion so you can do that again.

When you die, you lose a couple of seconds and your rift loses 5 health.

Close and Personal

To fight the orcs, besides the traps, you have two weapons: A crossbow and a staff-sword.

The crossbow is the single target weapon. If you aim it properly, you can one-shot an orc with a headshot but, firing repeatedly will reduce your aim, making you fire all around — like most modern FPSes, where instead of shooting to the point in the middle of your screen, you shot all around some arc.

The staff-sword (replaced by a hammer for those with the pre-order, but only visually — even the swing effect is still the same) is the area damage. Although it does a bit less damage, it can swing in big arcs, damaging all orcs in the arc zone.

Both weapons have a secondary attack, stunning the enemies around the impact zone for a few seconds.

Upgrades

Each level completed gives you access to one more thing, which is shown in the loading screen.

Also, completing the level will give you “skulls”, which can be used to buy upgrades. The more health your rift (or rifts, sadly) in the end of the game, the more skulls you get for upgrades.

Upgrades range from “making things cheaper” to “increase damage” and “adds poison damage”.

Not a Sea of Red Roses

Although I spent only 3 hours on it yesterday, some things that I didn’t like:

Zoom level

There is no zoom control, so you can’t really change it, which is damn annoying when you want to kill orcs far away with headshots. The best you can do is switch the camera location, which puts it a bit closer to the hero, but makes things a bit weird to aim.

Difficulty Scale

Not a real problem, but I found the way the map difficulty scales pretty… steep.

You start with a single corridor dungeon, which is pretty simple and gives you the feeling on how the things go. Then there are two doors. And then two doors and two rifts, with corridors with just a few meters long. And then, out of nowhere, a two layer map, with one door above the other, in a way the that map completely fails to display, making you spend your whole money putting traps on the wrong door.

Yes, I understand that it works this way to make the game not so boring, but having to restart the level ’cause you didn’t get any hint on how things changed is really frustrating.

Conclusion

I don’t think the game is bad. Surely, the style is a bit beaten already and the way things scale is weird (but not unbeatable, if you have the patience), but you have some funny quotes from the hero — which is so full of himself his ego alone would fullfil the whole map and prevent the orcs from reaching the rift — and the traps effects are, sometimes, funny (hello sword wall!) and there is a global “kill count”, but I have to wonder where is the replayability.

After you finished all maps, got all the skulls… Then what? Just increase your kill count? In Sanctum, you can, at least, try making different paths and such, but you don’t have this kind of freedom here.