Orcs Must Die! Review
A satisfying gaming experience is one where I have active participation and control that determines the game’s outcome. Here, my experience with tower defense games is generally less satisfying compared with what I get from most 3rd person shooter and combat games. That’s because defense games are more passive. You simply build your fortress, choose your arsenal and watch your defenses whittle down the horde of attackers as you beef it up in the process. But the new Orcs Must Die! from Robot Entertainment brings the genre to a higher level of personal involvement.
The Good News about Orcs Must Die!
In Orcs Must Die!, you get a blend of strategy and action with an above average level of design visuals and hours of gameplay. I had earlier skipped this game in favor of other new titles until a gifted copy proved me wrong about the latest trends in tower defense games. At least this one is. It plays out a 3rd person viewpoint that makes you the War Mage equipped with a sword, crossbow, and magic spells and tasked to protect a series of fortresses by deploying the powerful defense arsenal they contain. But you as the War Mage do a lot more to determine the success of your defenses.
Your fortress defense is a product of your planned action that you execute against a horde of green-skinned invading Orcs. The gaming satisfaction comes when you see your choice of weapons and traps along with your survival strategies and tactics work against the marauding invaders and their subsequent waves. It creates a good balance of collected calm when you implement your defense strategies, and the chaos and mayhem when the Orcs attack, rewarding you with a gorgeous sight of their annihilation. There’s even an innovative chamber of death that eats your enemies with tactical mayhem reminiscent of Playskool’s Great Escape and Tecmo’s Deception series.
What I find outstanding about it is its deft use of its three-dimensional space to elicit a higher degree of realism in defending a fortress. You run around the fortress like a real commander does, inspecting the route from the gate to the rift to help you strategize the choke points to defeat invading Orcs. Some of the traps you deploy range from tar coming out of the ground to slow down the enemy to narrow hallways that become meat grinders with spinning blades coming out of the walls. There are levels where you have to navigate stairs to overcome invading orcs coming in from different floors, and levels where flying Orcs can inflict damage at unguarded moments.
The Not so Good News about Orcs Must Die!
The writing and the story is nothing to celebrate about. I see it as taking advantage of stupid Orcs whom gamers love decimating. And if there’s one element that sticks out as a sore thumb, it’s the stylized and stupid War Mage no less. He may be a hero but Robot Entertainment writers could have given him better spiels and characterization. I find him too talkative, with something to say at just about every turn, often annoying with stabs at humor that rarely hits my funny bone. Orcs Must Die certainly deserves a better game protagonist.
The Bottom Line
While I won’t put it in the same league as the better 3rd person shooters out there, Orcs Must Die! certainly succeeds in masterfully mixing the detached passive and omniscient perspective in a tower defense game with the kinetic involvement of a third-person shooter. That provides a step in the right direction for tower defense game I hope to see more of. This is one action-centric Ork-annihilating tower defense gaming experience that is a solid addition to my Xbox library.