Orcs Must Die!

9.2 Overall Score
Gameplay: 10/10
Graphics: 9/10
Replay Value: 9/10

Very Funny | Unique and Innovative | Easy to Pick up and Play

Can Become Repetitive

‘Orcs Must Die!’ is Robot Entertainment’s first XBLA release, offering a cataclysmic blend of action, tower defence and strategy goodness to create a potent cocktail of Orc death and demise. And damn; it’s good.

You take the role of a War Mage of the Order, replacing your father’s position after he comically slipped and ironically died on the very stairs he was defending. Your job, like your late father’s, is to defend the ‘Rift’ from the unexplained endless horde of Orcs. The game fits its story perfectly, and plays exactly as you may expect… amazingly.

OMD has only a single mode, but rather than being detrimental, it is all that it needs, more modes could easily take away from the experience. However the campaign mode does still give quite a lot of choice of what to play. The campaign consists of 24 fortresses, each varying in difficulty and layout, and each offering a new and more exciting experience. Some have acid pits, some have balconies, some have teleporters, and some have so much more, you’ll never see the same layout twice; that just keeps the game fresh and new each time you play.

The aim is simple: defend against the horde in any way you can, using all the tools you have at your disposal. At the start of each round, you can select your desired tools of destruction, from any you have previously unlocked. What’s so great about OMD is that it offers such a variety of ways to crush the Orcs, and it does well in gradually introducing each one. After finishing a fortress, you unlock a new trap, spell or weapon, each extremely unique, and as you progress they just get more crazy and more immensely fun to use. Starting with the basic weapons of a sword and crossbow, and the expected traps of spikes and arrows, these help you get used to how the game plays, but quickly become obsolete as more advanced and tactile traps become available. Ranging from giant springs, to steam vents, to giant rotating axes, each bringing a new element to the game, again keeping it constantly fresh, as well as gradually enhancing its already stellar gameplay experience.

Each unlock also makes for new tactics, which is vital in a fortress’ successful defence. You need to take in the layout of the stage, picking your traps and planning accordingly. See a giant pit of acid? Set up some spring traps to launch the Orc onslaught into their burning death. But also be aware that some traps may not catch all Orcs, so you need to plan ahead, to effectively kill off any stragglers. OMD gives you ample time to do this, with an untimed setup period to start, allowing you to explore the area, get a grasp of the Orcs’ movement patterns, and place traps accordingly. Obviously you have funds, and your starting amount varies on the scale of the fortress, and more funds can be earned from your massacre. Don’t think that this starting period is the only time to prep your defences, throughout the battle you can place traps as funds become available. When your original plans begin to crumble, and your defences get destroyed, the pace really picks up, and forces critically quick thinking to prevent rift infiltration. Hectic isn’t the word to use, since it’s worse than that, you’ll be panicking constantly as Orcs near the rift. Throwing traps in the wrong places, and randomly hacking in to crowds. This terror makes for a high octane thrill.

You’d expect traps to be as the name suggests, but OMD takes them a little differently. Traps aren’t just floor and wall based mechanisms, they also come in the form of NPCs. You can deploy archers, swordsmen and more to defend one breach point, whilst you secure another, and they’re probably one of the most handy things to use. But of course they cost money, and like everything else, can be destroyed by the Orcs, so you must also provide them with a decent vantage point and setup, as well as appropriate protection. Otherwise, your enemy will take them down easily, and without any money left to spend, you’re stuck.

Aside from traps, your character also plays a big role in defence, so don’t think you’ll be simply running around dropping deadly traps in your wake, oh no, you’ll have to do some of the legwork yourself. Equipped with a selection of six weapons (four of which you need to unlock), you’ll have to defend the rift if any make it past your barricades, or just assist them in what they do best, killing. There’s both close and long range weapons, and being able to pick just like traps, there’s something to suit everyone. All have a secondary fire too, which often comes in very useful with stunning Orcs and more. Spells act somewhat the same, and add another attack to the Mage’s arsenal, usually devastating, they can wipe out groups of Orcs in an instant. But with mana usage which needs recharging, you need to be sparing. Everything added has been so for a purpose, and no selection is completely useless. Each trap, weapon and spell has been created with such imagination and detail, it’s clear that Robot care dearly about their title.After completing a stage, you’ll get a rating out of five skulls. These stand as your performance on each fortress, which acts as an incentive for replay, but these skulls also are used as a currency for upgrades. Becoming attached to a specific trap? Upgrade it with these skulls to make it just that much better. This addition makes sure that no two people’s arsenals are the same, and allows for a degree of personalisation. Yet another great feature.

OMD is a beautiful game, uniquely stylised to a cartoonish extent. Orcs look just as gruesome, but their cell-shaded bodies charging through the animated-y environment, emphasize the game’s focus on humour. Slaughter never looked so hilarious.

The only flaw, for me, in Orcs Must Die! Is that I just can’t seem to play it for an extended period of time. After an hour or so, even with new traps and such, the gameplay becomes slightly monotonous. But it’s great in short doses, I found myself coming back for several sessions per day, and thoroughly enjoying it. It works great as a pick up and play title, you don’t have to worry about anything, just jump right in and thoroughly enjoy yourself. Better yet, once finished, you don’t even have to worry about progression, just get straight into your favourite fortress with everything you’ve earned available, and cull those Orcs mercilessly.

Overall, Orcs Must Die! has come a long, long way since its initial announcement as an iOS game, progressed so much in fact, that I’d call this one of XBLA’s most innovative, and best titles to date. At its core, it is a simple horde mode exaggerated as a full game, but when you get into the gritty killing, you realise that it is so much more than that. The endless fun it can offer over such a long (yet divided) period is immense, and its replay value is out of control. If I were you, I’d save a rift from opening in your games library, and download Orcs Must Die! right now.

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Author: JackBrommers View all posts by
Aspiring Community Manager / Games Journalist. Geek, Gamer, Gearhead, Figure Fanatic, Avid Competition Enterer and Non-Preachy Vegetarian. Follow me on Twitter: @JackBrommers or feel free to add me on Xbox: Pipboy V3 Eagerly waiting for: Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3, Arkham City, Soul Calibur V, Skullgirls
  • Anonymous

    This game is undeniably one of the great XBLA titles ever. Act One is a little slower but after that, it just ramps up and up and up. You have to own this game. Great review Jack.

  • cant wait to play it