Tower defense has become quite the crowded genre over the past few years but a few titles have distinguished themselves and Robot Entertainment’s Orcs Must Die is one of them. A fun little title that seemed to focus more on the action than most and ended up with a great balance of fun character action and devious strategy. Well they’re at it again with a sequel that delivers more of that same great formula just in massive quantities. More orcs is more better right? Or wait no…they all must die so theoretically we want less. Hold what are we trying to do here again? Whatever, I’ve lost the thread of my joke, here’s what I thought of the game.
So starting off with the gameplay things are pretty much identical to the first game in terms of the bare systems; sure they’ve added co-op and a ton more traps and weapons but you’re still just placing traps and murdering orcs. That said those things never stopped being fun and having more options with which to gib the green-skinned hordes only helps keep that formula fresher for longer. The variety of traps and weapons is absolutely immense here with everything from the first game (including stuff from the DLC) along with as much-if not more-new stuff. To even further increase your options, everything can be upgraded and there are two distinct unique upgrades for each item that further specialize them to your play style. This customization system is pretty in-depth but thankfully it’s also flexible as you can respec at no cost as many times as you like.
The only real major change here is the addition of co-op which slots in quite nicely though finding someone to play with could have been mad easier. Playing with a buddy very much seems like the intended way to play this game; almost every level has multiple lanes you need to watch and having one person handle traps while the other does crowd control is an ideal way to get through the game’s tougher spots. While this multiplayer minded design focus isn’t inherently a bad thing (and in fact makes actually playing that co-op a ton of fun) getting a co-op partner to play with is harder than it should be. You see there is no playing with randoms in this game, all you can do is draw from your Steam friends list and while you’ll probably have a better time with people you know anyways it still feels very limiting. Of course playing solo is still an option and you’ll have plenty of fun that way too but I do recommend playing with a partner whenever possible.
Just to touch on the story quickly, as it is pretty insubstantial, it does carry on from the first game and contextualizes the co-op. Basically the evil sorceress from the first game was de-powered when the magic went away and just as she’s about to get destroyed by her former orc compatriots she is whisked away through a portal and dropped in front of the dimwitted hero from the first game; at that point they work together to kill scads upon scads of orcs. There is an overarching point to killing all these orcs that is revealed through a grand total of three cut scenes but it all feels like window dressing to the gameplay. They do however tailor the characters’ initial strengths to their personalities, the hero is more about close range combat damage whereas the sorceress is more trap and debuff focused, a nice touch and it helps vary things up in the beginning of the game.
In addition to the fun and frenetic gameplay, the other major highlight here is the presentation which again while very similar to the first is as high quality as it ever was. The artistic sensibilities of the overall product retain that smooth cartoony graphics mixed with gnarly medieval details vibe that the first game did so well and an increased variety of assets only helps it out. There are a ton of enemy types and within each type there is a nice amount of visual variety between each individual monster in a wave. This variety of different looks makes the horde feel more like a living breathing threat rather than a just a repeating set of mobs. Of course the audio is great as well and the catchy ass theme song from the first game comes back with a vengeance. There is also some surprisingly good V.O. considering how little story there is, the characters will quip both to each other and themselves quite a bit and thanks to some solid writing it adds some really nice humor and flavour. Put simply this is game that is just fun to experience in pretty much every sense.
This game reminds me a lot of what Left 4 Dead 2 is now compared to the original Left 4 Dead: most-if not all-of the content of that original game plus a ton more. If you enjoyed the original then you’ll love Orcs Must Die 2 but be warned that it is pretty much just more of the same. That’s not a bad thing mind you but it does mean that anyone who was kind of meh on the original won’t be converted by this one. So for more dead orcs than any other fantasy game can muster, Orcs Must Die 2 gets a 4 out of 5 stars. It’s an absolute shit ton of fun and any tower defense fan will get countless hours out of it but there’s not enough different here to really make it a must have for everybody.