Orcs Must Die!

9.0 Overall Score

Written by on October 5, 2011 in

Just one more game. Those four words apply to few games when your body is out of gas and night turned to morning hours ago. To attain such status a game must offer compelling game play, addictive game elements, and even a dash of competition. Robot Entertainment’s new third person tower defense game Orcs Must Die! has all of the above in spades!

Players play as the War Mage, a brash young apprentice who is defending his world from waves of orcs trying to enter his world via dungeon rifts. The War Mage is out of his depths were it not for various traps, spells and weapons he has at his disposal to dispatch marauding orcs in the most entertaining ways.

Like any good tower defense game, Orcs Must Die! leaves it up to the player to decide how to defend the rifts against the orcs. The problem with some tower defense games is that they either err on the side of giving players too much resources or too few. Finding that balance can be very hard and can make the difference between a game that scares off players, bores players, or makes them return again and again. Orcs Must Die! does a good job at making players return for more. The third person perspective of the game gives the game a frantic feel and makes the tower defense much more personal as if the player is “in the trenches” with the War Mage.

Robot Entertainment gives players just enough money to start each dungeon with. The player first must choose which weapons, traps, or spells to fill his limited inventory with. A lot of time can be spent deciding how to spend the War Mage resources before the first drops of orcs’ blood is spilled on the dungeon floor. Also providing balance to the game is how much health and power the War Mage can possess. When the War Mage uses his ranged weapon’s alternate power (the crossbow can also be used to stun orcs) it reduces his power bar. Using spells, such as the wind belt, will also use up the power bar. The power bar will recharge slowly over time. In addition, when the War Mage is hit by the orcs, it will reduce his health. Both health and power can be recharged by standing near the rift. In addition, orcs will occasionally drop medicine bottles that will restore health.

To help the War Mage defend the rifts, players can purchase bonuses from Weavers to help earn currency for kills or make his defenses stronger or more lethal. Players will also learn the importance of placing traps and exploiting the combo system to increase their currency to buy more resources. Players must also be aware that only so many orcs can pass through the rifts and if the War Mage dies it reduces that number significantly.

Orcs Must Die! features 24 dungeon maps. The maps start off easily enough, allowing players to learn the mechanics of the game and how the user interface (in this case how the Xbox 360 controller) works. In early maps, the War Mage will only have a few waves of orcs to dispatch, but as the challenge of the maps increase, the number of waves of orcs will as well. The dungeons are well designed and will force players to think about what strategies will work best in each given environment. The difficulty of the later maps can be intimidating, but thankfully players can choose to play on an easier difficulty to try to get a feel as to what resources work best in each dungeon. Also for those who do complete all the maps on the War Mage difficulty can then step up to a much harder difficulty if they feel like they have the chops to this orc-killing trade.

Orcs Must Die! has an important element that makes it one of the best games available on Xbox Live Arcade and easily puts it in “Must Have” territory. The game has an endearing charm to it even in the midst of its later very challenging levels and the violence the War Mage unleashes on the deserving orcs. This is a very serious and frantic tower defense game, but the dialogue and art style easily disarms both the ‘hardcore’ and casual gamer.

The art style of the game is a wonderful mix World of Warcraft and animator Don Bluth. The orcs are comically gross yet endearing. The War Mage is delightfully oafish and foolhardy. The dialogue of the orcs and War Mage also makes the game compelling to play. Orcs spout off some of the strangest dialogue that most socially aware gamers will recognize. Players will crack a smile with every “Don’t crossbow me bro,” a random orc spouts off. Even the War mage has some funny quips as he tries to defend his world. Even the traps and orc kills adds to the humor of the game. It is a lot of fun to place spring traps and then way Orcs go flying through the air, hopefully landing in fire pits. Much like that “other” popular tower defense game, Plants vs Zombies, Orcs Must Die! will attract all strata of gamer because of its charm and humor.

While Orcs Must Die! does not have co-op or competitive multiplayer, it does introduce some competition in it’s use of leaderboards. Players can keep track of their friends and also a global list of gamers to see who has the better scores either by most orc kills, or by scores in individuals dungeon levels. These leaderboards will encourage some players to spend hours trying to trump their competition and perfect their orc killing skillsets. Sadly, the game doesn’t let players issues challenges to friends to beat their score.

Orcs Must Die! is definitely worth the price of admission and is easy to pick up and play. It can become difficult, and will take some time to master certain levels. However, the gameplay, the game’s charming sense of humor, and the compelling need to kill every single orcs (and they so richly deserve it) makes this one of the best games on Xbox Live Arcade.

A copy of Orcs Must Die! was provided to The Married Gamers for review and evaluation.

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Author: Chris Brown View all posts by

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