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.

Short Reviews of my Steam Summer Sale Games

This is the last day of the Summer Sale on Steam, with lower prices for selected games. In those 10 days, I bought some games that either I heard of or was planning on buying — or, in the very end, ‘cause they were really cheap. The ones I got:

  • Solar 2: I did an early review of it already but it kinda dropped in the background after getting other games. It have a good sense of humour (IMHO) but some missions suck sometimes. The idea of allowing the player to change gameplay options only after completing some missions is really good, though.
  • BIT.TRIP.RUNNER: Again, I did an early review of it but I’m somewhat frustrated with the current level I’m playing. Reason? It’s 3 times longer than most levels and going back to the start after failing really punishes you there. Not to mention that the first “health bonus” is far away from the start, so you keep hearing the base tune for too long. But I still stand on my early review: It’s really well done mix of side scroller and music.
  • Magicka: Who hasn’t heard about Magicka, the crazy, funny, isometric game about… erm… magics? I got it ‘cause it seemed really fun while watching videos of it on YouTube (specially the ones with TotalBiscuit and the Yoggcast crew) but I didn’t go too far in it. The controls get really confusing after a while and the lack of explanations on what would happen when you mix spells is a major let down.
  • Trine: One of the things I bought just because it was cheap. This is a side scroller/puzzle solver game where you play with one of three characters — a warrior, a magician and a rogue/archer — and you can freely switch between them, while trying to reach the end of the level. The graphic quality is amazing, but most places I wanted to reach where really hard with my motor skills and it got so frustrating that I haven’t touched it anymore.
  • Audiosurf: I got Audiosurf after hearing about it for a loooong time. Unfortunately, my expectations didn’t met the game in some mid point. No, there is nothing wrong with the game, it’s just that watching incoming blocks while keeping one eye in the blocks you already have is harder than I thought — or realized, for that matter. One nice touch here is that the in game help options really explain how the maps are generated, so understand why a map works in some way.
  • Sanctum: This is really a nice concept: A FPS with Tower Defense. You put tower to stop enemies reaching the core (your base in other tower defense games) and, when ready, you switch to your guns and help the towers. This game got high points with me for two reasons: 1) It’s a tower defense game and 2) It got a sniper rifle and you can easily just camp — something I really did love doing in Unreal Tournament (and the fact that it uses the Unreal engine probably helps here).

Now, if only I could be one of the 100 people that would get 10 of their games from their wishlists…