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Orcs Must Die! Unchained
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Orcs Must Die! Unchained is a tricky balancing act

7:00 PM on 04.25.2014 // Brett Makedonski
  @Donski3

Some offense, some defense

Robot Entertainment's flagship title, Orcs Must Die!, has been something of a one-trick pony, albeit a very good pony at that. Both games in the franchise thus far have been tower defense games, and, as you can probably discern, are focused on the defensive. Orcs Must Die! Unchained tweaks that formula just a bit, and ends up feeling like an entirely different game.

The original tasked the player with setting traps to fend off hordes of orcs, and then getting personally involved in the fray to fight off any that got through. Unchained keeps these core tenets, but adds an offensive element. Instead of simply defending your keep, you must now infiltrate the enemy's stronghold with your forces.

This isn't a solo endeavor, however; you'll have plenty of help. Unchained is a five versus five MOBA that can seem surprisingly controlled for how frantic it gets at times. Despite the likes of other players, mindless foot soldiers, and a ton of traps in the mix, it's not often that you'll actually feel overwhelmed by it all. That is, once you get the hang of it.

Because of the entirely new direction that Unchained takes, there are aspects to learn that weren't an issue before. For instance, while each round starts off with a couple of lanes to transport your forces, there's a third that can be unlocked through effort. Once that's open, there's yet another route to the opponents' keep, which, in theory, should increase your chances at victory.

But, maybe it doesn't. Maybe you've become so offensive-minded that you've neglected to fortify your own base. Maybe now your troops are so scattered that they're less effective than they'd be as a cohesive whole. Maybe your teammates are a bunch of selfish jerks, and the word "strategy" couldn't even be used in the most liberal of senses to describe what they're doing.

The underlying glue here is the in-game currency; after all, you won't get too far without it. Gold and leadership points act as the overarching means to upgrade everything in Unchained. Traps, minion spawn-points, skills -- all are acquired through these currencies. Of course, there's not enough to go around, and that's where difficult decisions will have to be made that look to define the entire Unchained experience.

So, will you adopt an offensive or a defensive style? It seems that a smart and skilled player won't get bottlenecked into one, but will be able to adapt on-the-fly (or convince their teammates to diversify and stick to their roles). I only had one round to figure it out, but I went unrelentingly offensive. It helped that I had a developer explaining everything to me while the other nine players were left to their own devices, but attack-heavy seemed like the way to go when everyone was mostly new to the game. After having been taught a nifty trick where I could prompt my forces to not fight, but run through and past anything that might hold them up, it was no time at all until they made it into the enemy rift and victory was secured.

While Unchained is going free-to-play later this year, anyone that's paid the slightest attention to that scene knows there's always the option to spend some of your precious real-world money. This is where the monetization model comes into play. Robot's take on this is to offer digital packs of cards that can be bought with both in-game currency and cold, hard cash.

These cards add an interesting twist on Unchained. They add new iterations of pretty much everything in the game -- from heroes to minions to traps. As if Unchained didn't have enough differentiation to keep players on their toes, they'll also need to know how to build an efficient deck. While it's necessary to figure out the offensive/defensive aspect for each round, these cards serve to further nuance that and lead to possibly endless customization.

Whatever your approach ends up being with Unchained, it's probably going to be vastly different than what you're used to from the other Orcs Must Die! games. Just because the namesake and art style are the same, doesn't mean that it's the same Orcs that you played in the past. No, Unchained is going to do all it can to make sure that you balance your playstyles, or suffer defeat as a result of your neglect.



Brett Makedonski, Associate Editor
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Brett will sell you things in a dark alley -- mostly counterfeit watches and kidneys. Not counterfeit kidneys, though; even I have my lines, man. Guaranteed: All my kidneys are completely legit. ... more   |   staff directory



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