Developer: Robot Entertainment / Publisher: Robot Entertainment / Played On: PC / Price: $15 / ESRB: Teen [No Descriptors]
It was just one year ago that gamers took up the blade staff and orchestrated the mass genocide of orcs in the original Orcs Must Die. Now gamers have an entirely new adventure to play through, with thousands more orcs to slay, new weapons and traps to utilize, and an entirely new, albeit familiar, character to play. Oh yeah, and something called co-op multiplayer. By tweaking a few details of the formula and keeping the core gameplay from the original game, Orcs Must Die 2 takes an already great game and makes it much better.
Orcs Must Die 2 follows the same method of gameplay from the original: an army of orcs are threatening to enter the rift and destroy the world. You play as the smug young War Mage, who returns from the first game, as he tries to protect the rifts by laying traps and slaying orcs with his arsenal of weapons. Laying traps and watching the green monsters meet their demise is as satisfying as it is fun. Quite literally, if you’ve played the first game then you know exactly what to expect from the sequel. The differences between this game and the first are in the details, but they add a great amount to the game you didn’t even know you wanted.
First off, there is a new character to play as: the Sorceress. You may be familiar with the character because she was the first game’s antagonist. This time around she’s lost control of her orc army and now must fight with the War Mage to save her life, no matter how unwilling she may be. The Sorceress uses a different set of weapons and traps from the War Mage: instead of spike traps on the floor, she has freeze traps, in place of wall blades there are air vents, etc. Though she plays through the same levels, the Sorceress does offer variety because her strategies for attacking and trap-laying are different from the War Mage. Her physical attacks don’t pack as much punch, but her ability to enslave the mind of enemies for a short while makes tackling each stage feel fresh. Her inclusion would seem miniscule if it wasn’t for multiplayer, which we’ll get to later.
Performing well in each level will earn you more skulls. Skulls are used to purchase and improve your traps and weapons, similar to how you upgraded your gear in the first game. This time, however, each weapon and trap has two unique enhancements you can equip. For example, the spike traps can either cause enemies to bleed or slow them down upon contact. Each item can be upgraded in this way, giving the game an incredible amount of depth. There are a handful of weapons to use, like the familiar blade staff and crossbow, but new additions like the Sorceress’ wand or the shotgun give you even more to customize. That being said, you’ll likely find your go-to array of traps and weapons and stick with that for any situation, which is a totally viable means to success. Levels can be replayed to earn more skulls and at any time you can respec your character to reallocate skulls, ensuring you have complete control of your choices.
Replay value was a problem with the first game, but thankfully that has been addressed in this sequel. The main story mode has a 15 stages to play through, each with three varying difficulties. Endless mode has you facing an increasing onslaught of orcs in a survival style arena. Classic mode allows you to replay select levels from the first game, while weekly challenges give you a specific assortment of traps and weapons to use to complete a special stage. Each game mode earns you more skulls which you can use to improve your character, making each replay of a stage worthwhile. The minor changes made to the gameplay create a game that plays similar to the first but is beyond that game in terms of content. In short, it does exactly what a good sequel should.
Sadly, some of the flaws from the first game are still present in this game. The difficulty, even on the medium setting, is relentless, and with no knowledge of how the level will play out, you’ll often play the stage once to learn the paths of the orcs and then replay it later to properly complete the stage.
The biggest draw to Orcs Must Die 2 is the inclusion of co-op multiplayer. With a friend taking control of the second hero, you can split up the duties of each stage and properly dispatch your enemies. Co-op isn’t a walk in the park either: you split gold with your partner, forcing you to plan out the strategy for each level. Much like with the first game, laying your traps out and seeing them almost effortlessly decimate your foes is incredibly satisfying. Each level is clearly designed with co-op in mind, featuring multiple spawn points, branching paths to the rifts, and in general areas that are too large for one man to cover effectively. With no single player campaign in sight, those looking for more of the fun seen in the first game will be disappointed. Strangely, there is no public matchmaking service included with the game, meaning you will have to directly invite someone to play with you. This is unfortunate, as the nature of the game begs to replay levels again and again to gain more skulls. Still, if you can find a friend to play with then you’ll have plenty of fun killing mountains of orcs.
Visuals & Sound
A highlight of the first game was the charming art style. Big orcs and bright colors give the game a unique feeling, while the quips and comebacks from the War Mage are, for the most part, entertaining. The visuals look identical to the first game, right down to the way the orcs get eviscerated by your traps or blown to bits by bombs. The Sorceress brings some sass of her own to the table, giving sarcastic remarks to every immature comment the War Mage makes. The bickering between the two heroes is genuinely funny, as are the remarks made by the orcs when marching into battle. The soundtrack is lifted entirely from the first game, which is a disappointment indeed. Turning off the sound altogether is an option, but I wouldn’t recommend it as lots of audio cues alert you to rift breaches and incoming attacks. If you took away the Sorceress and the new stages the game would literally look and sound like the first game. Come on guys, give me something new to look at and listen to.
Orcs Must Die 2 does everything a good sequel should: take what was great about the first game and improve it, address and fix each problem, and add even more content to make this game better than the original. While multiplayer is the clear highlight to the package, the revamped upgrade system adds a great deal more replayability over the first. There are minor issues with the game, notably the exclusion of public matchmaking, but they can be looked past when the game hits its prime and you’re murdering thousands of pointy-toothed orcs.