Friday 3 August 2012

Orcs Must Die 2

The Title Screen

Orcs Must Die 2 is an third-person, trap-based, tower defence game. The sequel to the 2011 Orcs Must Die, it was released for PC in 2012 and developed independently by Robot Entertainment. Unlike the first game, all levels and game-modes can now be played with co-operative assistance.

The First Thing
Having absolutely loved the first game, I have been looking forward to the sequel. Much of the game feels the same (which is good) but the first thing that really stood out to me was the new upgrade system and its variety. Unlike before where traps were unlocked periodically, now there is more of an RPG feeling with the player able to purchase upgrades with 'skulls' earned. With a wide variety of traps and new items the player will feel that their choice really matters.

The Sorceress and the War Mage

Plot & Devices
After successfully sealing the rifts shut, the War Mage took up job as a miner. Meanwhile in the magical Orc World, the Sorceress is about to die at the angry hands of her former slaves. Just in time a rift mysteriously opens that allows her to escape where she meets the War Mage, the man who stopped her taking over the world. All is forgiven now though as the two must work together to defend against the horde of enemies that is now pouring from the fresh rifts.

The story is very simple. It is not intended to be a big fantasy epic, just a vague setting to what is going on. It is occasionally addressed in between levels, or discussed by the characters briefly at the start of each level. It will probably be more enjoyable to someone who has played the first game as the story does directly follow on.

The Game
Orcs Must Die 2 follows the standard modus operandi of tower defence games. Enemies enter in waves and make their way to the exit. The player starts each level with a number of points and each enemy that manages to escape subtracts a point based on their size (small enemies are worth 1, bigger enemies worth 5 etc); player fails the level if all points are used up. If the player survives the number of allocated waves, they succeed and are rewarded based on their performance. Enemies and levels are varied and often require different approaches for maximum effectiveness. There are two primary ways of dealing with the waves.

Acid wall, spiked floor and ceiling mace traps

The first is traps and guardians. Killing enemies rewards in currency, and this currency can be used to purchase traps. Because of the link between currency and enemy death the player faces strategic decision making in order to achieve maximum efficiency: there is no point buying an expensive trap that will let half the monsters through. Traps are quite varied and have different roles; some go on the ceiling, some on the wall and some on the floor. Traps can be placed at any time, but can be sold for their exact cost in pauses between waves. The player knows the direction the Orcs will take and is expected to plan accordingly. Guardians can also be purchased with currency and are AI controlled characters that will attack Orcs in different ways when they are in range. Traps can not be destroyed (with one exception) but the Guardians have health and will be attacked by any Orcs that get close.

The second way players are expected to deal with Orcs is by being active with spells, weapons and trinkets. Weapons come with a primary fire, and a secondary ability that costs mana. Spells come with a primary and secondary use that both cost mana. Trinkets have a passive positive effect and a related active ability that costs mana. Mana regenerates automatically but can be returned faster through some abilities and items. Here are some examples to clarify:

● Crossbow (Weapon). Primary fire is a shot that causes minor damage. The faster it is fired the more inaccurate it becomes. Can strike enemies in the head for greatly increased damage. The secondary fire launches a shot that stuns all enemies in a small radius from the impact.
● Wind Belt (Spell). Primary fire pushes all small/medium sized in front of the caster back some distance. Can be used to blow enemies off cliffs/into hazardous objects. Does not work on large or flying enemies. Secondary fire picks a small/medium sized enemy up from which then can be thrown.
● Trap Reset Trinket (Trinket). Passive decreases the time taken to reset by all traps (that have a reset mechanic). Active ability resets all traps (that have a reset mechanic) for a mana cost. Active ability has a cooldown.

Available and unavailable Weapons & Spells

New traps, trinkets, spells and weapons are purchased with skulls that are obtained in levels. Each level can award up to five skulls for performance, as well as bonus skulls for individual accomplishments. Skulls also occasionally drop from enemies and are picked up by the first person who touches them (adding a competitive element to co-operative play). Skull acquisition is permanent but spent skulls can be refunded at any time to try out a different combination of traps and abilities. Eventually after enough play all traps would be unlocked and upgraded. However, at the start of each level the player only has ten slots to assign for use in that level (six if playing co-operatively).

There are three game modes, with three difficulty settings. Story mode is the traditional campaign that follows on from the first game. Classic mode is the levels from the first game with none of the story. And Endless mode is intended to be a challenge mode where the player has to survive as many waves as possible, up to a maximum of 40. All three modes reward in skulls. The difficulty settings come in easy/medium/hard with hard ("Nightmare") only being unlocked after medium has successfully been completed.

The graphics are much like the original game, with its cell-shaded art style. As levels are more or less enclosed areas the game is not graphically intensive, but still looks crisp and clean. There can be quite a lot going on at once, but I never once experienced any slowdown. The soundtrack is good, but a bit repetitive. Just like the first game, the voice acting is top notch with characters saying many things throughout the game. The noteworthy humour from the first game is very much brought across in Orcs Must Die 2.


The game is played with mouse and keyboard and has no gamepad support; and since this is a PC title the mouse and keyboard controls are understandably excellent.

Wrap Up & Negatives
One thing that I found a bit annoying was that the crossbow (the weapon from the first game) felt 'required' to unlock and upgrade due to the headshot damage. It at times felt that there is no other way to defeat some harder content without it. Also, it felt sometimes that the game was developed a little too much with co-operative play in mind, which is always potentially troubling when following on from a singleplayer game.

Another possible negative is the game feels a touch on the small side. The story mode took me 6 hours and after about 11 hours I felt I had unlocked everything I wanted to. Now this would be a negative except for the fact that the game launched at a £11 price, in fact the value of this game is outstanding for that price point and it does have a fair amount of re-playability.

Tower defence has always been one of my favourite genres and this is one of the best. I really enjoy the added element of having active involvement, instead of just decision making and trap placing. It's a little small as a game, but it is quality through and through. The co-operative play adds a fun new aspect to the series and felt very naturally implemented. There are also a couple of modes that provide a real challenge, should players wish that. Whereas players that don't are in no way obligated to pursue it; which is a good balance.

A title definitely worth checking out.


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