Xbox Live Arcade visited:The Orcs MUST Die! more ways than one.

On the Xbox Live Arcade market, one of the titles I had been waiting for eagerly was that of Robot Entertainment’s “Orcs Must Die!”.  I am a huge fan of tower defence games, spending many an hour online trying to find the most satisfying yet challenging game available.Hopefully like me with this game, you will be addicted to the Orc smoothies by the end of your “Orcs Must Die!” experience.The delightful spin on the tower defence genre, intrinsically linked with a comic style appearance and blend of ‘mad scientist’ genius in creating death,will more than likely leave you wanting more. It certainly has done for me.

“Orcs Must Die” puts you into the shoes of an apprentice, we know as the last War Mage taking over from his unfortunate Master, (a death which could have been prevented with slip-proof slippers), to defend the Rift; the gateway between your world, and the Orc world.Equipped with an ego big enough to fill a fortress and plethora of one liners to make American Pie look bad, the cliche’  misdemeanor to save the world.  You must use various traps in combination with the surroundings, as well as with other traps in order to thwart the Orcs charge.

The games main aim is for you to prevent the Orcs, and their menacing allies, gaining enough of it’s members into the Rift; which will cause “bad things to happen”. The amount that penetrate through will affect the end skull count, the rating system for each level, and i believe the amount of skulls available for you to upgrade traps and skills. To defend the Rift, you must use you’re most creative ways of combing the environment and the various traps with each other to achieve the highest points total possible. The most creative ways gain the most points. The amount that do storm past your awaiting traps, troops, and minions will have you as the last resort, equipped with blade-staff, magical crossbow and magic bracelets for when things get tough.

Unlike the tower defense games I’m used to, there are a few things that aren’t quite settling well with me. I like being able to see the attributes of my defensive towers, it makes strategic placing easier to do, and the upgrade value more noticeable. With ‘Orcs Must Die’, these attributes are invisible, with just a mere description to what it does and how an upgrade will affect it. You must trust that a wall spring will not be wasted on a lonely Orc, in time to reset for the next wave behind it. Traps are only upgradeable once, which is quite a hindrance.I obviously am taking it for the brilliance that it is however, and I use that word with precision,  I do really believe this is a brilliant game; watching a mob of Orcs heading straight to you and enter the rift…only to be thwarted, by a meaningful push by a wall of pain into an acid pool of the afterlife brings untold satisfaction.

Another criticism is the lack of multiplayer. Some of the levels are very frustrating, and it would have been nice to play this with friends to help out and enjoy the torture, however thanks to the omnipotent restart button at your disposal, no Orc will truly ever win anyway.There are games similar to this, offering the mix of tower defence and multiplayer, but i would have really liked this to be one of those in that genre, blending the two together. Such titles include Dungeon Defender’s and Cold War, from what i’ve seen of said titles, I may have to purchase these as-well.

The gameplay itself  is smooth and the in-game system for selecting new traps is manageable, albeit quite a panic mid swarm. The combat system is the only thing you’ll really be doing through heated parts of the levels, and the combination of strafing and shooting your crossbow is seamless. With timing, one can line up Orc heads as if they were kebab meat on a skewer. For the campaign, it is the same per level, just a different fortress to different map, and a different route to defend, meaning different ways to kill your enemies for each time.  Having the option to go for all traps or all combat is a refreshing way for each player to experiment , and find the best suited method for disposing of the Orc invasion. A player can choose to stay with hands blood free, laying nothing but traps, or go balls out and have a main combat approach. The crossbow, blade-staff and magical bracelets, which are capable of burning,freezing or electrocuting enemies are the source of the Rambo type players. The difficulty levels can be altered between a easy,medium and hard, but with suited name equivalents. Easy allows for easier opponents and more decapitations, but does limit the skull count to two.

The sound within the game is amazing, the music is catchy, energetic and best of all, not agitating. The in game sound consists of death groans, monologue’s, Orc taunt’s, and a rewarding tone to a completed level – fit with an buffoon like, ego enhancing dance. The game’s music reminds me of a PS3 title: Planet Mini-golf. A title which was both fun, had a cartoon style to it, as well as very enjoyable music, which is the main similarity I’m drawing upon here. The sound effects are distinguishable; the trigger of a bladed floor trap is noticeable, as is the sound of a swinging mace from a ceiling.

The graphics aren’t the most stunning detail, but for what the game’s meant to be, it fits in well. The simplistic nature of the design, compliments the title, keeping the idea and illustrations at basic ground. The comical style to the game allows the game to not be taken too seriously, whilst maintaining a level of story line importance with the four picture-stills seen at the beginning of the game, giving all you need to know before throwing you into saviour status.

To conclude, the 20 plus levels available are plenty to be kept busy with. More than once will a player find the Orc charge just a bit too tough, especially on the hardest difficulty setting. The result however, win or lose, is the same. You may be wanting to join our lonesome hero for a dance of accomplishment on some of the more challenging fortresses. A feel of devilish mayhem available at your sorcerous hands, will leave you wanting more, butchery will never be so fulfilling. I thoroughly enjoy this, and it is always a game I turn to when I have nothing better to do, and don’t want to find a disc of another game. Quick,easy,entertaining.

Overall, I’d give this an 8/10, it’s definitely worth a pick up.

In summary, the pro’s are:
-Quick and engaging action throughout the game in every level.
-A robust mix for those wanting a challenge and those looking to have fun.
-Use of traps and magic adds to adrenaline and anticipation of the action.
-Re-playable, despite the fact it is only single-player. Use of scoreboards adds incentive to beat friends who also own the game.
-A comedic character, full of arrogance and a nonchalant attitude, yet still loveable none-the-less.
-Making a union out of combat and traps gives a vast number of combinations for different play styles.
– Makes sadism fun and acceptable.
-’Weavers’ help throughout levels for those with specialization, helping with additional points per trap kill, or boosting combat elements.

-Lack of extended upgrades limits the power your War Mage can exert.
-No Multiplayer reduces the fun factor a little.
-There isn’t a way to view an equipment’s statistics.
-Although it does add an extra challenge, there is no system telling you how to obtain the highest points.I’d like to know how some players are getting the hundred thousand totals, as well as no indication for a ‘Gold, Silver or Bronze’ time.

You can pick up this fast paced, action filled tower defence game from Steam, the Xbox live market place or OnLive.

For more information giving greater detail into the Orcs Must Die! universe,


Still not tempted? Check out this gameplay video:

What do you think of Orcs Must Die? Do you have a favourite tower defence game? What game would you like to see me review next? Let me know in the comments below!

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