Forget about blogging, do you remember when I had the time to actually play games? Ah . . . those were the days. The days before freelance gigs and significant others took up my evenings and weekends. OH MAN! IN A GOOD WAY. I MEANT THAT IN A GOOD WAY. . . . Yikes. Anyway.
I did just get Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood and Assassin’s Creed: Revelations to educate myself and catch up before I buy Assassin’s Creed III, so you know . . . I’m coming back to the fold. But! Since I haven’t gotten far enough in Brotherhood to give a definite blog post/opinion, I decided to use this blog post to knock out a review that’s been circling my dome for weeks now. You should all play Orcs Must Die!!
Er, that needs a little clarification. If you like tower defense games, then this is one of the best of the genre. In all the hubbub of Orcs Must Die! 2 coming out, Orcs Must Die! was supa cheap on Steam some time ago. This was one of those Steam sale games that had been staring at me like an orphan for months because I never played it. So I finally did, okay Robot Entertainment?! Stop judging me for not installing your game sooner!
The game begins with your wizened master dying in a sea of orcs in battle, lamenting that he has to pass his torch on to his apprentice, who is an idiot. “We will surely die,” is is his concluding thought. I was laughing right from the get-go, not just at the deprecating humor, but at the cartoon-y, charming artwork as well. You then take up the main character, only known as the Apprentice, to place a few traps and helps at your disposal (limited by how much money you have an how expensive an item is) around an enemy entrance to guard the Rift, a magical opening between worlds. Once you’re ready, you start the orc onslaught, and you get to shoot with magic, bombs, or arrows, or just melee attack orcs along with the other weapons you placed, like arrows that shoot from a wall or slime on the ground that slows enemies down. Maps get bigger, and enemy numbers increase, as well as enemy types, as the levels progress. There are multiple Rifts throughout the game, so you go to different locations to guard them.
I’m not certain that Orcs Must Die! was the first to put a 3rd person perspective on the tower defense genre (drop knowledge if you have it, in the comments), but I feel like it was the first that got a lot of attention for it. Or maybe I’m making stuff up again, who knows. It was the first I heard about it, anyway. And it was intriguing. I really like tower defense games, and have wasted many work hours in a tiny flash window in a browser trying to destroy hordes making a break for my pile of jewels, or whatever their incentive might be, depending on the game you’re playing. And that’s just it, isn’t it? They’re all pretty much the same. A few different items, but the mechanics are rote.
That’s not to say that a lot of the familiar and perhaps boring pieces of the genre aren’t in Orcs Must Die!. Getting some prep time to set up your traps before the enemies start swarming the map, guarding the sacred object, and getting more money as enemies die, to keep buying and placing more weapons to stop them. The gameplay elements that diverge from the norm that I loved were getting to attack enemies myself, as a solo character while my traps and weapons from below, above, and all other sides do their worst as well. That also adds the challenge of not being able to monitor every enemy entrance because you are only one guy, in one spot, and that is getting more and more difficult the more I play (which is awesome).
We’re deep in an era of nostalgia gaming, where people take beloved genres or stories and recreate them and make a million dollars on Kickstarter. So when something like Orcs Must Die! comes along and seems to say, “Listen, we get it. You love what you know. But we can also help you love something beyond what you’re most familiar with,” I’m totally on board. And you should be too! Play this game for smiles, laughs, and as the levels continue, a healthy impulse to rage quit, followed by a satisfying win to yet another map.