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Impressions: Orcs Must Die

A nice cup of tea and a sit down won't help

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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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Alec Meer

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Co-founder of RPS. Dungeon Keeper & X-COM 4 Life.

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