Orcs Must Die!

On sale for $5.35 with all DLC? Had to. I played through the base game this weekend, with several things still available to me after beating it (DLC maps, 5-skull every level, Nightmare difficulty, achievements). That took on the order of 10 hours, repeating some levels to try for better scores. It’s a worthwhile bit of game, solid tower defense with a bit of action. This is more strategy/tower and less action than Dungeon Defenders. It is also a single-player game without levels or grinding, so it has a limited lifespan but higher play value within that lifespan.

“Tower” defense is a misnomer here. You are placing traps, not towers. You are defending set locales with limited options for mazing (creating winding paths for the enemies). There are two dozen maps of varying complexity. You also get about two dozen toys with which to smite them, mostly traps with a small set of spells, weapons, and minions. It is 90% fair, in the sense that you do not need to fail a level first (or read spoilers) to be able to pass it, but there are maps where there is a great advantage to starting it, seeing what the enemies do, then resetting. You can actually play through the game, rather than repeating, grinding, or smacking your head against the wall.

Coming off Dungeon Defenders, I find it a strength that the game has no levels or loot. Doing well on levels lets you upgrade your traps, but only once each. The game seems balanced around minimal if any upgrades, and you’ll always have the tools you need at each level (and perhaps overkill if you go back with your new toys). Orcs Must Die! also does not level up the enemies. An orc is an orc, and the same thing that kills one on the first map kills one on the last map. There are ogres, which are bigger, and some later orcs get shields as bonus hit points, but that’s it. You get about a dozen enemy types, and they are consistent. The simple coherence of it is refreshing.

The game’s attitude comes from its protagonist. He is basically a young Bruce Campbell. Give Ash a crossbow and traps that dice orcs by the dozen, and you have the spirit of the game. Voice-overs from other characters also talk a bit of smack about the protagonist.

How much strategy is involved will depend on whether you are the sort to need a perfect score. It seems trivially easy to beat most of the levels. You don’t need advanced strategies or complex set-ups. The arrow wall did most of the heavy lifting, and the elven archers did most of what was left. There were several traps I never tried, and I only ever used one of the weavers (talent trees). Maybe I’m just efficient.

If you like defense games, this is a pretty good one. Hordes of enemies walk into your traps, and you can decide whether this time it would be best to smash them with pounders or perforate them with arrows. It does not seem terribly deep, but a quick flip through message boards shows people spending hours trying different builds and refining them. If you really care, there will be map where you can show that off.

This will have fewer hours of gameplay than a game with an open-ended grind. I don’t consider this a bad thing. I’m increasingly feeling that winning and moving on is a good way to approach most games, while the grind is a trap for the game and the player.

: Zubon

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