The flood of orcs that had overrun the kingdom has come to an end. The portals from which they came have been sealed, taking the source of magic in the world with them. Now that you’ve avenged the death of your master and confronted a crazy chick trying to murder you with an angry horde, what is there left to do? It’s time to grab a pickaxe and become a miner! Wait, what?! No! It’s time to kill some more orcs! Robot Entertainment is happy to oblige your thirst for other worldly blood by releasing the sequel to the fan favorite game of 2011, Orcs Must Die. Orcs Must Die 2 brings the same shooting, smashing, and exploding fun as the original. With a sequel arriving relatively soon after the pioneering twist on the tower defense genre, what new things could Robot possibly bring to the table? The answer to that question is more complex than you might think. Orcs Must Die 2 has almost all of the same elements of the first, but improves on areas that players of the first would know.
When we return to the Orcs Must Die universe, we see what changes have unfurled since the subsequent removal of magic from the world. The Warmage broski as I’ve dubbed him has had to result to a life of mining (you know, tunnels, rocks, etc.) as society has been less than happy with him since he saved them from certain death. His former foe, the ex-Sorceress turned Orc Queen, has seen the tides turn against her. As the game opens a mass of orcs have run her into a cave, trapping her perfectly for them to exact their revenge. At the last moment, a new rift opens up in front of her. Given that her options are death or blinding leaping through the portal to take her chances with whatever may be on the other side, she jumps through. Only by jumping through puts her face to face with something far worse than death- the apprentice. Faced with a common enemy, the two fighters team up to fend off the world devastation one more time. That’s right folks; you get to play the Warmage and the Sorceress.
The familiar cartoony world of Orcs Must Die 2 will feel like home for those familiar with the series. The graphics are much of the same as the previous title, with some new maps, models, and skins thrown into the mix. Playing it at 1680×1050 with AA on proved to be no challenge for my i7 920 or Raedon 6850. In fact, I dare say the shading looks a little smoother than before. Frame rates were constantly above 60, peaking at 91 and dipping into the 30s when recording video. The sounds and dialogue were just as good as well. There are some recycled catch phrases, but I honestly can’t fault Robot for doing that. When creating a character, simply pulling things out he said before can undermine the building of an arcing story line. While the Warmage isn’t exactly a layer character, I think there would be something lost if those were removed. To make up for it, the always comical death phrases and various chats about the situation of the level are still excellent. I really appreciate the fact that Orcs Must Die never took itself seriously, and that it continues to do so.
Many people clamored at the lack of multiplayer modes in the first Orcs, and Robot was happy to respond to those squeaky wheels. The game features a co-op mode where two players can join together in a partnership of orc slaying bliss. It is also worth mentioning that two new modes were added to the game to give players more to come back for. The most fun of which is playing the new endless mode (think Halo firefight mode). For the player that wants to fight against orcs waves that get tougher and tougher, this is the play style for you. What makes it even better is that it rewards you will skulls based on your performance that can be used on the character for whatever purpose you want. The other mode, dubbed classic, will allow owners of Orcs 1 and 2 to play the story mode of the first game in the new one. A slew of new traps, weapons, and trinkets have been added to customize your hero to your preferred playing style. Be it melee attacks, picking off targets at range, depend on a new maze of traps, or summoning spells to slay, there will be something for everyone.
Some larger tweaks were done to the backend of the game as well. First and foremost, I have to mention that the AI seems to be smarter than before. The leading range for some of the monsters seems to have decreased and they will actively go towards barriers to destroy them. And then there are the Sappers, which just want to destroy them anyway. Combo scores and kill streaks are also easier to get as well. With some of the new modifications you can make to traps, you can almost guarantee a 3x combo on mobs if you stack them right. The skull system has been changed in a way that makes much more sense. Skulls are still collected the same way at the end of the level and through bonus scores (or they randomly drop from monsters). How they are spent is something much different than before. Upgrades are still purchased using them, but there are multiple upgrades available per trap. Weapons and trinkets are also upgradable in this fashion. Some of these are a type of “either/or” type of upgrade that you pick to choose your style. For instance, arrow walls can cause a bleed or slow the monster. Skulls are also used to purchase new traps, weapons, and trinkets that you don’t unlock through the story progress. Also, as a PC gamer there was something added that I cannot thank the developers enough for adding- the ability to remap keys.
For the most part, it doesn’t feel like Orcs Must Die 2 is much different than the first title. The game play is to simply control your character and uses traps and weapons to defeat them. Not that anyone would have expected a big change, but something to really give it a broader appeal would have been great. The creature variety gets a little more absurd when you progress through the game, and even more so in the upper levels of the endless mode. It is almost as if the developers reached into a hat and picked a monster at random to modify. I mean gnolls with grenades? Come on guys. Then the removal of the weavers will stand as quite an odd touch as well. While most of the abilities are still there, it seems like it was a go to system when you had the desire to buff yourself. To be honest, I can’t be fully surprised that they were removed to though. They always felt like an auxiliary feature in the original game.
There are two gripes that Orcs Must Die 2 sparked within me. The first has to do with the fact the game treats the characters as if two different people are playing them. It is great that there are two different characters with different styles of attacks, but it is terrible that they don’t intermingle. By that I mean that you have to play through the game again with each character to unlock all the levels in the campaign. Also, kill counts and skulls don’t transfer over to the other character. While there are achievements for both the Warmage and the Sorceress at the same intervals, it seems silly to do it that way. The second complaint was that I had orcs glitch into walls a few times through the game. Once I had an orc get stuck inside a standalone cube that I had to try to angle the screen correctly to kill it. The second time was in a wall next to an arrow trap. Not game breaking in either case, but I shouldn’t have to work with geometry to kill something.
Orcs Must Die 2 doesn’t make any promises that it couldn’t keep. In fact, the elements that made the original successful are still alive and kicking. And while this is a mostly a good thing, I have to say that I’m saddened a little that there wasn’t something more that took it to the next level. It is true that it is an enjoyable game. Having a little more challenge from the AI, tweaking the skull system, and adding co-op was definitely something that needed to be done to make the game even more enjoyable. However, we need to be honest when looking at the game. Is it a good game? Yes. Is it going to be worth $15? Oh, hell yes. Is it going to be a must have for fans of the first? You bet. Where it falls flat will be in pulling back in the detractors of the original. I could care less if they came back though. Give me some more damn orcs to kill.
Still not convinced? Check out some game footage below.
Game provided by developer