Impressions: Orcs Must Die

By Alec Meer on October 10th, 2011 at 3:35 pm.

Are you guys here for the party?

It is true. They must die. They cannot do anything else, except for make me die. I am, of course, not about to let that happen. Not while I have a fine selection of spike traps, tar traps, arrow traps, crossbows, spears and wind-summoning belts at my disposal. I am so sorry, orcs, but you must indeed die. Don’t try and talk me out of it – I’m in one of those moods. A mood where I want you all to die for my entertainment. No sir, I do not want to talk to this monsters this time.

The demo of Robot Entertainment’s tower defence-as-blood-crazed-third-person-action game landed on Steam last week, and gestures amiably at around four of its 20-strong greenskin-bothering traps across three levels. It should have lasted about 20 minutes, but I managed to sink about two hours into it, wastrel that I am.

The contents don’t sound like much, but I milked that demo for all it was worth – replaying multiple times, unlocking a few upgrades, trying all the difficulty settings and generally getting probably more kicks than the devs would want me too. A demo that offers too much can be bad news – maybe you sate yourself on it and it alone. On the other hand, if you’re really made to like something, you’re that much more likely to buy it.

I’m definitely thirsting for the full game now, though I am worried OMD could suffer from Space Marine syndrome – where the demo showed us almost all the game had to offer and the finished product just seemed like an awkward stretching out of the initial merriment. Still, the sure knowledge of 16 more traps and their assorted upgrades bodes well in that regard.

OMD is unashamedly silly. Its orcs are unashamedly stupid. Its mechanics are unashamedly straightforward. It works like this: orcs rush at you in waves, so you buy traps to slow them down/make them die, and pick off stragglers and survivors with your agreeably deadly melee and ranged weapons. The last bit, revolving around you playing as a battlemage from an over-the-shoulder perspective, sounds obvious but is definitely what ensures this isn’t just a tower defence game.

In fact, it doesn’t feel anything like one even though so many of the component parts are taken directly from the staples of the genre. Because you’re running around in there yourself, constantly shooting, stabbing or using the knockback spell, your mind isn’t in that all-too-familiar state where you’re waiting, biding time and counting cash til the next upgrade. Your mind is on the action, not the maths.

I’m sure later levels require most precise, panicked management, but I tend to glance down at my money, notice I’ve got enough in the bank for another arrow wall trap and it’s lovely surprise. For me, anyway. For the orcs, it’s a really, really horrible surprise.

The sheer, cartoon carnage of OMD is rightly going to prove its biggest selling point. The right configuration of traps will result in an explosion of green (orcs) and red (bits of orcs), while the screen spews congratulations about kill streaks and headshots and earnings and whatever other sadistic glee you’ve managed to activate at you. It’s the same joke over and over, but when that joke is half a dozen orcs suddenly being catapulted a few dozen feet to the left by a clutch of springloaded arrows then exploding in a shower of blood and cash, it’s extremely hard not to enjoy it.

The anaemic Bruce Campbell-lite witticisms of the player character I could do without, however. I like the fact he’s creepily into the genocide he’s enacting on the orcs, but he doesn’t really need to sound like an adrenaline-hooked bellowing goon from a local radio advert for second hand cars. Shut up and build/shoot/stab, man. Still, a minor complaint for an immediately entertaining slice of extreme but light-hearted sadism. That Big, Bad Question doesn’t go away, of course – can this last a full game? I reckon it’s got a pretty good shot at it. And at least, unlike Space Marine, it doesn’t take itself at all seriously.

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47 Comments »

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  1. Gnoupi says:

    I guess that the full game should be enough, if only for the jump trap addition. From what I saw in the trailers, you can make quite fun things with those.

    The demo levels were fun, because the game feels good in general. Combat is fun, orcs are squishy, it all feels really nice.

    It would have been nice if the demo included a level from further on, though, since these early narrow levels can give a wrong idea to people trying it, as it seems too easy, and quite straightforward, not many options about the way to handle situations.

    But I guess that a bigger level could have been hitting the “giving too much content” bar.

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  2. madaday says:

    It is definitely a demo done right. I preordered straight after playing it, and keep coming back when bored. I want to kill me some more orcs now dammit!

    By the by, is the profile lvl based on orcs killed? mine says lvl4. *confused face*

  3. sneetch says:

    After playing the demo I’m curious to see if this can keep my interest over 20 levels, I imagine it will, it’s certainly enough to make me buy the full game.

  4. Vexing Vision says:

    Had also a blast playing the Demo. This is what I hoped Sanctum would feel like.

    Love the trap design.

    • MuscleHorse says:

      Funny you should say this – I played the demo and ultimately felt that I could be better spending my time with Sanctum.

    • Vexing Vision says:

      I found the towers placed in Sanctum to be very underperforming, while the traps (especially the arrow wall!) in Orcs Must Die are really, really fun to watch and seem to have the necessary impact.

      Also, ragdolling orcs around is a lot more fun that shooting alien husks, to me.

    • roy7 says:

      Considering Sanctum won’t run on my computer, there’s really no comparison to OMD. :) Wonder if Steam gives refunds for broken games, though.

      Edit: Nope, no refunds. So I have a Sanctum that won’t run vs an Orcs Must Die that will. :)

    • Syra says:

      You can get a refund out of steam if you are persistent enough. At least once.

      If you want more refunds you have to get all legal on their asses, distance selling regulations and sales of goods act.

  5. elfbarf says:

    Can’t decide whether or not I should buy this or Dungeon Defenders, they seem to be pretty similar though Dungeon Defenders has a multiplayer focus. I bought the Android version of Dungeon Defenders: First Wave back when it was released but the controls are pretty bad (as expected).

    • Gnoupi says:

      I have the same feeling, but in my opinion it’s only a matter of calendar. If both games were released 6 months apart, I wouldn’t have any second thought about buying each of them.

      So I will most likely trust that feeling, simply. Yes, both games have similarities, but that doesn’t mean that I should take only one of them, I think.

      But I’ll be hoping for a RPS preview of the game before release, for Dungeon Defenders. Because demo will most likely release only later (and that preordering bonus on Steam is quite attracting)

    • briktal says:

      I just realized that I read through the article with images of a Dungeon Defenders trailer in my head instead.

    • elfbarf says:

      Part of it for me is the fact that my wallet isn’t overflowing with money (not that it ever is) due to the fact that just got back from being out of town for 10 days. That and I finally purchased Bastion last night and there are countless other games coming out later this year (Skyrim being my main concern).

  6. RaytraceRat says:

    Tried the Demo, looks like lot of fun, mouse acceleration is a bit of a nightmare for me though…

  7. Premium User Badge

    Jubaal says:

    I enjoyed the demo too, they only thing which prevented me from purchasing the full game was my current bank balance! I’m sure I’ll get it at some stage. I think a co-op mode to this would be pretty awesome too.

  8. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    What I’ve seen from it through the interactive trailer and TotalBiscuit’s gander at it makes me think it should be fun enough, although I wonder whether it offers enough variety. Perhaps by adding different areas/terrains (including hazards). That and maybe it’s a bit too frantic for my tastes.

    Moreso, I’d like to see some different types of gameplay for variety’s sake in the same style.

    Well, I’ll have a go at the demo and see for myself.

    • Alphabet says:

      I was persuaded by Totalbiscuit’s look at this, too. What ever happened to his spot on RPS?

    • Premium User Badge

      Durkonkell says:

      Spotlight on Biscuit was one of THE BETRAYER QUINNS’ projects wasn’t it? I have noted its absence before, but it’s only just occurred to me that Quinns’ departure and the column’s disappearance might be linked in some way.

      Assuming I’m not misremembering something (possible).

    • Raniz says:

      A quick search reveals that all posts but one that’s been tagged with “cynical brit” were by Mr. Smith.

      Edit:
      http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/tag/cynical-brit/

    • Premium User Badge

      Durkonkell says:

      Ah. Thanks, Raniz. Thaniz.

      Although I think it would be best not to refer to him as Mr. Smith any more as Mr. Smith was replaced by another Mr. Smith and it could become rather confusing.

  9. James Allen says:

    I’ve been playing and reviewing the full game. The later levels become more complex (multiple, wider paths) and the traps and enemies become a little more varied. The difficulty increases as you death with more enemies that can take more paths where you don’t have enough cash to place traps on them all. Typically, I “trap” one or (hopefully) two pathways and guard the others manually with the personal weapons.

    The game is repetitive by definition, but if you like the demo, you’ll like the full game. I like how death carries a small penalty and you are given a large amount of freedom where you can place the traps. The key is picking chokepoints where complimentary traps can be used together. The game limits how many traps you can use at a time, which makes you choose which of your arsenal you’ll take into battle before the level starts (and you can’t change it later if you made a bad choice). My personal favorite is still the arrow wall.

  10. Tacroy says:

    I watched TotalBiscuit’s WTF is of this game, and decided I needed it. Then I realized that it wasn’t out yet, and was sad. Then I played the demo, and achieved enlightenment.

  11. mod the world says:

    So, i heard this game promotes genocide? Ban in Germany for sure!

  12. Eskatos says:

    So it’s fantasy Sanctum? I figure I’ll wait till there’s a Dungeon Defenders demo before I decide on any of them.

    • Gnoupi says:

      From what I tried, it’s like Sanctum, only fantasy and actually fun.

      But that’s my sole opinion. I got quite bored and annoyed by Sanctum.

    • Dominic White says:

      It’s not really much like Sanctum. Sanctum is a straightforward TD game in the vein of, say, Defense Grid, but FPS elements.

      Orcs Must Die is much closer to a blend of The Horde and the Deception series. They’re third-person defensive action games, as much about shooting and stabbing as building, rather than an RTS-lite with FPS elements shoehorned in.

    • Marcin says:

      As someone mentioned above, the creatures in Sanctum lacked soul and the turrets (and only turrets, at least in the first 4/5 levels that I lasted) are just boring. I also couldn’t find any synergies between the turrets (except the slow down turret I suppose), whereas the traps are just MADE to be fused together into explosions of gibs.

      On the other hand, in Sanctum you could build your levels. Still, there weren’t really too many viable solutions so it ended up feeling like a chore.

    • James Allen says:

      Orcs Must Die! is better than Sanctum.

  13. arboreal says:

    Probably showing my age but the game’s acronym has ear-wormed Enola Gay into my cranium.

  14. Thunderkor says:

    I enjoyed this game’s demo as much as I THOUGHT I was going to enjoy Sanctum’s. The howls of delight emitted by my 8-year old lead me to believe he also thought it was a hoot. I do wonder how Dungeon Defenders will compare, but I think I shall have to pick up Orc Must Die.

  15. Dominic White says:

    It’s a pretty great game – I recently reviewed it and found it very nifty all round. The demo is a couple of tutorial levels – it ramps up a lot in complexity and difficulty, and later levels are a lot longer and larger, too.

    24 levels may sound small at first, but there’s a whole second loop. Once you beat Normal mode, you unlock Nightmare, which is a whole second campaign using the same maps, but designed with a skilled player with every trap unlocked from the start in mind.

    While Normal mode isn’t massively stressful, Nightmare is very, very tough.

  16. andyhavens says:

    Have been playing the full game on XBLA (sorry, couldn’t wait, I’m a tower defense addict). It’s a lot of fun. As James Allen said, on later levels you really have to designate one route as “main splatter trap path” and another one as “I’ll cover this hallway.” You simply can’t win just with traps.

    Also fun is going back and replaying earlier levels with traps you unlock later.

    Also also fun is combining personal weapons/powers with certain traps. For example, in one level, the door the orcs come through is right next to giant pools of acid. Put two rows of tar (slow) traps right in front of the door, wait on one side, and use your blowback power (Belt of Wind) to flick the orcs off the path and into said acid. Good times!

    It’s good fun. I like it much better than Sanctum and DD.

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  18. Jahandar says:

    I downloaded it, realized that you couldn’t rebind any keys, then promptly uninstalled it without playing.

    It’s probably unfair to the game, but I don’t want to play with controls I’m not comfortable with.

  19. Agrona says:

    I enjoyed it. It reminded me of Sanctum, which I also enjoyed. But there are differences, as noted above. I sort of miss the weapon upgrades, but I do prefer the traps’ effects, and having my own hit points and magic. Also, I haven’t heard anything about multiplayer for OMD, which could be a lovely addition, were it handled well.

    I can’t quite make sense of the combo meter though. Is it a specific type of orc killed in a row? Orcs killed without taking damage? Orcs killed only by weapons or by traps? I haven’t made sense of it.

    • Chris D says:

      As far as I can tell combo’s are when you hit an orc with more than one trap at once whereas kill streak is how many of orcs you can kill without a gap of about a second.

  20. johnpeat says:

    How the hell did you manage 2 hours out of a demo which is painfully easy???

    I like that the demo came out ahead of the game (as demos should) but the choice of levels is shit – there’s NO challenge in there at all and that leaves me wondering if the full game won’t be more a tiresome unlocking experience over a challenge…

    • sneetch says:

      By enjoying it enough to replay it, obviously.

    • Gnoupi says:

      By trying several patterns of traps and seeing how you can optimize it for greater damage?

  21. Belsameth says:

    I actually find the full game quite hard (yup. Got it on the Xbox. Damn my impatience…).
    Tho I must say I’m not a TD expert :)

    It’s also a *lot* of fun!

  22. tomemozok says:

    The game is AWESOME! :D
    It only lacks multiplayer,but the sheer body count infront of you is huge :D

  23. Sorth_31 says:

    Honestly? I got bored of Tower defence games over a decade ago, pretty much before it was a genre now I think about it. Back when you had three cities defending the earth from meteors on the early PC’s or Atari ST’s. I forget the name of the particular game I’m remembering. To be honest, none of the so called modern “inventive” tower defences have actually done anything….well…inventive. A few basic weapons slapped in a doom or quake era shooting engine and/or bog basic dynasty warriors grade melee engine on top of a decades old gameplay model. Woohoo. Frankly, this one was no different.

    That said I’m a cantankerous and overly finicky type and I know I can only speak for an overwhelming minority of one. So fair play to all those that like the games and many hours of enjoyment may they bring you.

    And no, that was not meant to sound quite as sarcastic as it does.

    • Gnoupi says:

      Good thing that there are no towers in this game, then.
      It plays more like a hack/slash with vicious traps.

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