[This weekend Destructoid is reporting live from RTX in Austin, Texas, the community based gaming expo for Rooster Teeth fans and everyone else.]
Sometimes the right game comes at the wrong time in your life. For me that was Orcs Must Die! which, against my better judgement, I installed and obsessively played during finals week last fall. The game’s blend of tower defense and third-person combat hooked me in a way few other games did in 2011. Though I find it hard to play a game for more than an hour at a time, this came easy with Orcs Must Die!
As a result, I’ve had little interest in checking out Orcs Must Die! 2 before release. I know what it is and I know I want it bad. I couldn’t just ignore it on RTX’s show floor, however, so I checked it out. Though I’m not surprised to find the high quality Robot Entertainment brought before intact, I did get to see what’s new with OMD. I also had my concerns with co-op assuaged. Somewhat.
Orcs Must Die! 2 (PC)
What you’ve heard is true: The orcs must die and your Apprentice (or Sorceress) is the body for the task. For those not so taken with the original OMD, it’s easy to write-off this sequel as DLC-grade fodder. I can’t say these naysayers are entirely wrong. In a previous age, this sequel would have been an expansion pack. In a previous age, that expansion would have cost as much or more than this downloadable sequel. So, let’s just get to the game.
The biggest addition to the series is co-op play, which highlights the second biggest addition to the series: a playable Sorceress (yes, the villain of the first game). Having played a couple levels single-player and co-op, I can confirm that nothing is sacrificed in the transition. Single-player doesn’t feel nerfed and co-op doesn’t feel frustrating, assuming you choose the right partner. I had the benefit of playing beside my co-op buddy which may have made things easier, so consider that a disclaimer of sorts. Sadly, the game will not have local co-op.
In addition to having most of the same traps as the Apprentice, the Sorceress has a her own set of traps, weapons, abilities, and trinkets (a new addition). Her larger mana resources make her ideal for long-distance play. Her default staff can send bolts rapid-fire or charged. Even better, the alternative fire coaxes enemies to attack their fellow orc, regardless of how advanced and large they may be. My favorite weapon, however, was this bone thing. I know, descriptive! While I didn’t get its name, I was in awe of the power it wields. Its primary fire summons a line of skeleton hands from the ground that grope enemies for massive damage. This is extremely useful for crowd control. The alternative fire summons a skeleton that fights alongside the player until defeated.
The Sorceress’ specific traps were nothing all that special. I only played with one which temporarily froze enemies (her version of the Apprentice’s tar trap), so maybe the other three are more creative. Though the Sorceress is an exciting new addition, the Apprentice gets a fair amount of love in terms of upgrades in this sequel. No longer will you be forced to have the crossbow take up a slot. In its place will be numerous weapons to chose from, including a powerful shotgun.
Regardless of which character you choose, you’ll be able to customize them in more ways than in the original. The player can now upgrade traps five to six times, changing their power and attributes. Weapons and trinkets (which give passive and resource-draining buffs in battle) will also be upgradeable, so you won’t need to constantly swap out your preferred arsenal if you don’t want to. Skulls were limited to player performance in OMD and capped at 290 skulls. Now, there are 1,700 skulls which can be acquired through rare enemy drops, fulfilling tasks (e.g. kill 1,000 orcs, perfect victory), and preventing orcs from reaching the rift.
Co-op play works as you’d expect. There are more orcs and they are a bit tougher, which balances out the additional player. In response, players will need to use a greater variety of traps and have good communication in laying out a method of action. I can see things getting very frustrating, which makes me not want to play co-op. But, that’s just me: I’d rather not depend on others if I don’t have to. Though, it is fun to come to your buddy’s rescue and watch a plan play out as you imagined.
One area I’m not impressed with is the level design and art direction. It’s as great as ever, it just isn’t very fresh. If you are just looking at screenshots, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s OMD and not its sequel. There is a greater focus on environmental elements, however, such as mine carts that can mow down enemies randomly.
I’m not blown away by the additions Robot Entertainment have made to the series, but when I love the original as much as I do, I wouldn’t say that’s a problem. Orcs Must Die! was one of my favorite games of last year and after an extensive hands-on time I feel confident saying this sequel will be one of my favorites of this year. It takes a lot to ruin a winning formula and the developer has only improved it, despite how minor these changes may be.
Due to original’s poor XBLA sales, this sequel will be released exclusively for PC on July 30.