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Posted on Nov 2, 2011 in Electronic Games

Orcs Must Die – PC Game Review

By Jim Zabek

Orcs Must Die! PC Game Review. Publisher: Steam. Developer: Robot Entertainment. $14.99

Sometimes the name says it all. Orcs Must Die! is one of those games whose name says it all. Sometimes game names also foretell their greatness (Steel Panthers, anyone?). Orcs Must Die! fits the bill on both accounts.

Defining the precise genre Orcs Must Die! could be pigeonholed into is an interesting discussion, but probably isn’t worth the effort except to game writer nerds like me. Yes, it can be called a “tower defense” game in a loose sense, but it’s hardly recognizable as one compared to the classic Defense Grid.

Orcs Must Die! is not a game that needs too much overthinking. It lends itself well to a relaxing evening of Orc-mulching mayhem.

Instead, let’s just call it a gratuitous Orc-killing game. If you’re like me and have decades of experience facing down Orcs, then you’ve probably already tried the game’s demo on Steam. If for some reason you are reading this review and haven’t downloaded the game’s demo, please do and then come back to finish reading my article. It’s right here. Some demos look nothing like the game they represent. Others are a perfect likeness. The Orcs Must Die! demo falls into the latter category – the game is just like the demo. Only better.

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The premise of the game is rather straightforward: the player takes on the role of an apprentice spellcaster. Your job is to defend the portal from the world of the Orcs that leads to the world of humans. The game takes place in a series of castles (which serve as the map for the game) and they player has at his disposal a number of spells which summon traps or can be used to blast Orcs (and related minions) off the map.

Placing a trap. "They’ll love this one!"

I told you the game was about gratuitous Orc killing. Stylistically the Orcs are expectedly dumb but cute – cute in the sense that they don’t create any kind of emotional bond in the game and simply serve as objects to be crushed, sliced, frozen, burned or shot. Along the way the player’s avatar will talk to himself and mutter cute little phrases like, “They’ll never see that coming!” or “I almost feel sorry for the Orcs. No, I don’t!” Anti-Orc spells and devices can be upgraded along the way, and upgrades are purchased through points that are earned by performance on previous maps.

Like any good tower defense game there is an element of problem-solving that accompanies each map. The player will almost always have access to more spells and items than he can use, so one of the main challenges is to identify which items and spells will work best on a particular map. Orc kin come in several varieties and the player may face extremely tough ogres, or flying creatures, or fast sprinters – but usually a harrowing mix of all of some (if not all) at the same time.

Uh oh. This Fire Ogre means business.

The map will helpfully offer a few choke points, but will almost as often offer multiple avenues of ingress by which the Orcs (and related creatures, but I’ll stick to calling them all Orcs for the sake of an abbreviated convention) will attempt to swarm and overpower the player. Finding the “correct” solution for each map is sometimes obvious, but not always. While there might be a variety of methods by which to defeat the oncoming hordes, typically one strategy will be most efficient in containing the Orcs, although it is possible that other approaches may come close. In that sense there is a puzzle-solving element to the game, but one that I find enjoyable and challenging.

Orcs Must Die! is not a game that needs too much overthinking. It lends itself well to a relaxing evening of Orc-mulching mayhem. Some levels may need to be replayed a few times to figure out the correct strategy, while others will be solved the first time. Regardless, I have found myself absolutely loving the Orc-themed carnage that materializes when I fire up the game. My 13-year-old-daughter gave the game a go, and as a novice to the first-person shooter WASD navigation she very quickly mastered the mechanics and enjoyed herself.

It slices! It dices!

The game is not expensive, and the demo will give an excellent indication as to what to expect from the game. Personally, I couldn’t ask for more fun, and few gamers could do better than to adopt the motto that Orcs Must Die!

Armchair General Rating: 91%

About the Author

Jim Zabek has been slicing and dicing orcs and ogres since he was big enough to roll dice. He has so many orc trophies on his walls that his taxidermist named his first child after him. Visitors interested in seeing the Orcoid Collection will be directed to the South Keep. Admission is 10 gold pieces and the museum is open six days a week from sunrise to sunset.

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