If you’ve never played Robot Entertainment’s game Orcs Must Die! for the PC and Xbox Live Arcade (released October 12 and October 5, 2011) then you missed out on some fun orc slaying comedy.
It’s basically the product of a marriage between a third-person shooter and a tower defense game, a third-person combat game that basically throws hordes of orcs and other monsters at you as they try to get into a “Rift.” Your job is to stop them, by any hilariously gruesome means necessary.
Luckily, Orcs Must Die! 2 (released July 30, 2012) keeps that same fun and simple gameplay while offering a lot more content to make the $14.99 price tag more than worth it. It’s only for the PC and can be purchased on Steam, Gamersgate and Gamestop’s Impulse service.
Collect orc skulls by successfully completing levels to unlock new traps, weapons, gear and upgrades. Nearly everything (traps, weapons, trinkets) in the game has one standard upgrade, a special upgrade and a choice between two perks that can drastically change how that item should be used. For instance, arrow walls can be upgraded three times to do additional damage. Then you can pay for one of the unique upgrades: arrows will sometimes light enemies on fire or arrows will sometimes reduce movement speed. Finally the special upgrade allows the arrow walls to be placed on ceilings. When over 50 traps, weapons and other utilities taking advantage of this, the strategic possibilities seem nearly endless.
The story is a thin thread that strings the game along but isn’t really necessary. Basically, strongholds were built to protect the Rifts, which connect the world of the orcs to the human world. War Mages were trained to be humanity’s protectors and orc killers; you play as the last remaining member of the order, who is also described as the worst War Mage ever. Go figure. Spoiler alert from the first game: through the game you discover a rogue war mage controlling the orcs to attack the strongholds and take absolute power. You end up thwarting her plans and the orcs turn on her. Orcs Must Die! 2 picks up from there as a small, weak Rift is opened and the rogue war mage escapes through, only to find the hero and a world for the worse because the Rifts were closed.
Orcs Must Die! 2 has two characters to play as, and while the campaign is identical for both, the characters are unique enough to warrant multiple play-throughs. Choose between the War Mage, the original hero from the first game, or the Sorceress, the defeated rogue mage of the first game. While he uses a shotgun or crossbow to take on his foes, she uses a wand that zaps or charms (a mind control spell) the hordes. Many of the traps are shared, but there are a few that are unique to the character.
It also introduces something that was sorely lacking in its predecessor: cooperative play. Two players can choose to play through the entire campaign together or take on the Endless Mode for bragging rights. Unfortunately, the campaign recycles the levels from the single-player campaign, so there aren’t many surprises if you played through it alone. Also, there is no matchmaking service. Friends are a requirement, which means they must own the game as well. Luckily, you can buy a 2-pack with a $5 discount.
The level design is absolutely one of the highlights of the game. The levels get more difficult and complex as the game goes on, but never too much to cause frustration (although some do induce panic). The in-game economy requires you to make some interesting tactical choices too: if you want that perfect choke point to funnel every bad guy into, you will have to save up to build barricades to block off other routes. This effectively means you can afford to purchase less traps, and less help for you.
It was clear that some of the levels were designed with co-op in mind, making single-player more frantic but not impossible. If you own Orcs Must Die! you will also have access to Classic Mode, which unlocks 10 levels of the original game to be played in co-op; a nice perk for those early adopters of the game.
Technically the name of the game should be Tons of Different Monsters Must Die! but that doesn’t roll off the tongue. Orcs Must Die! 2 introduces some new baddies, and they are tough. Different types of ogres, trolls, dragons, elementals and of course orcs have you constantly changing your play style to best deal with the variety of baddies.
While the character dialogue is quirky and oftentimes hilarious, it does tend to repeat itself. While I wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s annoying, I just wish there would have been a little more time in the sound studio, recording just a few…hundred more quips.
Overall, the gameplay and graphics are identical to the first game, and that is a good thing. If you never played the first one, I would suggest just diving into this sequel and skipping the original. Above all, let me make one thing clear: this game is fun. Using a spring trap to toss a group of orcs into a lava pit just never gets old.