Bit of a cheeky one this, as I’d done most of it before Christmas but I polished off the main campaign today and I might as well start with a game I enjoyed. Orcs Must Die is a simplistic, first-person tower defence at its heart. Orcs flood in through the gates and you must prevent them reaching the rift at the centre of the level. The key to why this is actually fun is all in the aesthetic. Levels are rarely very testing, though they might present a particular challenge you hadn’t considered, so you have a bit of leeway to just make orc-killing traps that amuse you. There are traps that will fling them into pits, push them off gangways, pound them into the ground, slice them, grind them, pierce them, immolate them…there’s an impressive variety of ways to turn the horde into an icky green stew. Some are more useful than others, though I think to some extent that depends on the mindset of the player. Whenever my favoured methods failed and I tried something different, it invariably did equally well. In the very last level, I finally twigged that shielded paladins were as good a bottlenecking method as the ridiculous barricade labyrinths I’d been trying to construct. I’m sure that with further play, other routes will open up, and it’s been good to chat to other players and compare notes.
The game succeeds in personalising your adversaries which is an impressive achievement for a tower defence. The orcs are not exactly willing participants, pushed into battle by their blustering commander and resigned to the fact that they’re about to die horribly. “Oh no!”, they cry, “I’m allergic to blades!”, and other such fiendish warcries that put a smile on my lips. The character you play is equally vocal in his enjoyment of the spectacle, adding his own taunts to the mix. “BEST. JOB. EVER.” still amuses me, as does his little victory dance at the end of every level. Scores tot up garishly, combos and kill-streaks flashing up on screen, further encouraging you to dramatically slaughter your orcs in a more massacrey style. There is a sort of plot happening in the background but it’s just a skeleton to hang the setpieces upon. The game level design could maybe use a bit more creativity as it was often easy to funnel orcs down a single path, which encourages a lack of variety of trap use, but there are enough different and fun setups to keep you going through the campaign. My personal favourite was a spiral staircase leading up a tower. A series of flippy panels flung orcs across the middle and across my clay-pigeon shooting range of archers. Hee.
So yeah, Orcs Must Die is a simple, fun game with a lot to offer. Your level scores are tracked and compared to your steam friends so there’s room for obsessives to breathe, but it’s not about that obsessive efficiency that generally characterises tower defence games. It’s about having fun killing orcs in as many ways as possible, and I commend the developers for that.
4 Stars. Time spent: 13 hours.