The first Orcs Must Die! came kind of out of nowhere when Robot Entertainment released it last October. I reviewed it myself, scoring it a rather prestigious five-out-of-five. I praised not only its gameplay, but also just how well-made the PC version was. So, with Orcs Must Die! 2 bringing more of everything the first had, as well as being PC exclusive this time around, does it retain its place as a must-buy game?
As you may imagine, there’s no massive changes to how the game plays, as such. It feels just as amazingly responsive as the first, it retains the same quirky graphical style, and you’re still going to be killing several thousand Orcs within your first couple of hours playing. If you’re unfamiliar, this game launches wave upon wave of Orcs in your direction. It’s your job to stop them reaching portals at the other side of the map using traps and guardians (a sort-of tower defense mechanic), as well as your characters weapons and abilities.
This isn’t to say there’s nothing new, though. There’s plenty been added to Orcs Must Die! 2. The biggest of which is introduced immediately by the game’s story. Continuing on from where the first left off, a new character is thrown into the mix from the start. Which is lucky, because this Sorceress makes up the second playable character that allows for this big new feature, co-operative mode. And who doesn’t want to kill Orcs with a friend? The mode is also implemented so seamlessly, that it makes me wonder how so many developers get co-op so wrong.
Some co-op modes leave you feeling a little disconnected, but not Orcs Must Die! 2. As soon as you get a friend into your party, voice chat is there. When you pick spells or traps from your spellbook, it not only informs your teammate that you’re currently doing this, but also allows you to see what they’re choosing in your own book — which makes complimenting each other a lot easier. In between rounds, the next begins as soon as both players confirm they’re ready — avoiding anyone starting too soon, along with that awkward, “are you ready?”, in voice chat. When you press escape to pause, it pauses your friend’s game too, rather than leave the game running. So you’re never left there lifeless, being killed, just because the phone rang.
While the number of players has been doubled, everything else has been multiplied even more so. We find a lot more variation in Orcs Must Die! 2. There’s now a total of more than fifty traps, weapons and guardians to be unlocked in your spellbook — and many can be further upgraded afterward. Mix that with the 20-plus enemy types, and we’ve got some strategical choices to make. Some traps, for example, will prove useless on levels of a certain design. So not only should you survey your surroundings before ‘unlesahing the horde’, but replaying levels will play a huge part in reaching the top of those well-integrated scoreboards.
All things considered, the story mode provides an excellent follow-up to what was a very complete-feeling first game. Everything that’s added, whether it be the co-operative play or the new traps, adds to the gameplay. It’s all well thought out, and certainly isn’t just thrown in for the sake of having more stuff in the sequel.
Considering the pricing of this is the same as the first game at launch, this one mode will likely give you your money’s worth. However, there is more. A new endless mode basically means there’s no limit to the amount of Orc-slaying you can do. Playable in both single and co-0perative, it’ll mean you can continuously push the leaderboards, even if you feel you’ve mastered every level in story mode. It suits the gameplay completely, and adds even more variety and replayability.
The final addition is a Classic Mode, which gets just a brief mention in this review as it’s only unlocked for people who own both Orcs Must Die! games. It offers ten of the most popular maps from the original game, playable with all the new traps, weapons, enemies, and can be played alone or in co-op mode. It’s a nice touch and I guess it rewards loyal players with more content, although I really don’t think it would have hurt Robot Entertainment to just make it available to everybody. While it may only be a minority scenario, it’d suck to see that a friend got more actual content (I wouldn’t mind so much if it was just a skin or something) just because they owned a previous title in the series.
Im also still a little bemused as to the lack of any matchmaking or lobby system. I say bemused, because I still feel as though I’m missing it somewhere. Why is it not there, Robot Entertainment? With co-operative play being uch a huge feature, it seems insane that the only way I can play co-op is to invite somebody into a party on my friends list. If you’ve got no buddies online, or none of them own the game, you’ll be playing solo. While I can totally see that the game is geared towards playing with friends, and learning to work together as a team over time, I’m still waiting for somebody to come out and say, “You fool, Bobby. You just click this and it finds you a random partner!” If that doesn’t happen, I’m at least hoping it gets added at a later date, especially considering how difficult some of the later levels are to finish alone.
My only other complaint is that I think they missed a trick with the new sorceress character. I played the War Mage in my first play, as my co-op partner called dibs on the Sorceress, and we both started the first level with different primary weapons, and two traps each, that were also different to one another. Having seen that you can create many characters, which are all independent of one another as far as spellbook upgrades and unlocks go, I was expecting that each character’s spellbooks would be totally different. But after these initial items in the first level, we soon realised we were both unlocking, or were able to choose, the same stuff.
Robot Entertainment had the chance to introduce a totally different class, which played in a completely different way to the orignal’s War Mage (despite being an ex-War Mage herself). It would have basically doubled the already huge amount of time people can plunge into this game before totally mastering it. There could have even been room for more character classes to be introduced by way of DLC in the future.
That said, none of the above takes anything away from the huge amount of fun you’ll be having, no matter which character or loadout you’re choosing. The learning curve is just right, there’s a ton of new gameplay elements, and the shear amount of replayability is akin to something like Tetris — it just never gets old. Robot Entertainment have managed to provide a game that’s as engaging as its predecessor. However, while it’s more game for the same money, in the land of subjective craziness that is review scores, Orcs Must Die! 2 drops half a point compared to the original, simply for the lack of a way to partner with strangers.