Orcs Must Die! 2 combines third-person shooting with tower defense (which it still is by every stretch of the genre). The idea of this indie near-masterpiece is to stop the waves of Orcs from marching into the Rift that leads to the human world using various traps, weapons, spells, and strategies to aid you. If you have even the smallest interest in a hectic, nerve-wracking tower defense game, this is the one for you. Even if you don’t, for $15 and sometimes less, you should still consider the investment.
Orcs Must Die! 2 differs from the standard tower defense style. Instead of playing the overhead god-figure, you fight directly alongside your traps to keep the Orcs at bay. This provides limitless action but also means you can’t start the wave and come back in five minutes to see if you’ve won or lost, neither can you just attempt waves until you buy enough upgrades to pass them without any issues. If you let a certain amount of enemies through the Rift, you have to begin the stage again. You’ll have the same upgrades and traps as you started with, encouraging you to rethink your strategy or switch to a lower difficulty. As you can imagine, it’s utterly infuriating losing at the last wave only to have to redo the entire 20 minute level.
You play as one of two characters: the male War Mage or the female Sorceress. The War Mage relies heavily on the use of weapons like his trusty blunderbuss, and has more health and less mana than the Sorceress. The opposite is true of the Sorceress with her foremost knowledge of spells, more mana, and lower damage resistance than the War Mage. During my time playing on the various difficulties, I never found the downsides of one character to outweigh the other. The Sorceress struck me from the beginning until the end as the more entertaining of the two, starting with her ability to mind control enemies, but that’s a preference you must decide for yourself.
The Sorceress has an interesting, but forgettable, entrance into the game. Still, she's more intriguing than the War Mage.
The gameplay is active and engaging, and the controls smooth. Enemies charge from all directions, traps causing them to fly this way and that while your variety of weapons and magic destroy packs of Orcs all at once. Through a Spellbook, you’re given access to all your traps and items, of which you can only choose a limited amount for use in the level. You must choose wisely; after you set a trap, the Spellbook is locked until you win or lose. When the waves commence, you can place pitfalls whenever you want. The areas you can and can’t set contraptions are clearly marked, making it incredibly easy to lay a trap in the middle of frenzied waves. You can also sell emplacements but just in between assaults. The amount of money you spent is the amount you get back, letting you freely rearrange traps without an aggravating loss in profits.
Both the Sorceress and War Mage are given their own default set of weapons and traps, and you can purchase other items with Skulls you get as a reward for completing each level. These skulls buy minions, outfits, and upgrades to all of the above. They’re infinitely refundable, granting you the opportunity to try out every possible combination of traps and armaments until you own them all anyway. It’s rather easy to gain lots of Skulls, particularly in the Endless levels.
This isn’t a bad thing, though. Orcs Must Die! 2, like all tower defense games, will get repetitive. While the content provides hours of amusement, the monotony will eventually start to bore you. The level designs are all clever and different, but that doesn’t stop the fact that the only thing you’re doing is placing traps, slaughtering Orcs, and beating the limited amount of stages.
The Endless modes are every bit as fun as the normal levels and get rid of grinding for upgrades you might see elsewhere.
You shouldn’t rely on the story to keep you interested since it’s almost nonexistent. There’s some mention of an Oldest War Mage, and his apprentices (the two characters) are the only heroes that stand between the Orcs and the destruction of the world, but it’s entirely forgettable and completely excusable. This is a tower defense game; the story is the last thing I pay attention to.
The co-op mode is a great addition in Orcs Must Die! 2. A thought always rang in the back of my head while playing the first game: “There should be multiplayer.” With this inclusion, it’s almost astounding how much more fun Orcs Must Die! 2 is compared to its predecessor. Joking around and making light of one of the most mind-taxing and crazy tower defense games I’ve ever played with a friend, as Orcs careen through the air with stilted grace, is a joy I don’t get very often. Money gains are shared, but the amount you spend is not. Health and mana are independent, as are your selection of traps and items. However, if you aren’t a fan of multiplayer, you should stick to the first Orcs Must Die!; the second is much more difficult on your own. Some levels have four entrances to defend, which makes running between them alone very tedious. Co-op seems to be the only thing that was in mind when designing this game. Single-player just feels like a requirement instead of a refinement.
Orcs Must Die! 2 is advertised as being gore-filled and cel-shaded. You will probably notice the carnage while watching videos of other people, but not while you’re playing. The levels keep you too busy to care about the instantly fading Orc parts. The beautiful cel-shaded graphics give the game a familiar, smooth cartoony look, as do all similarly animated games. This means there’s a much more comical appeal to catapulting invading Orcs into chasms or impaling the sole survivor on a bed of spikes. Each trap and weapon has a distinct animation, allowing you to ascertain its true purpose. The descriptions of traps and weapons can be a little vague, making this strangely helpful.
The rampaging swarm of enemies, traps galore, cartoony graphics, and great music give this game a lasting appeal.
The entirety of Orcs Must Die! 2's audio is almost perfect. You rarely hear the traps and weapons amongst the cry of enemies, so any unpleasant sounds the traps sometimes cause are far and few between. The soundtrack is fast and memorable. It can get your blood pumping when you start a wave and give you a sense of accomplishment when you finish a level. The Orcs make hilarious comments as you hew their allies’ limbs apart, but your character’s lines are a little cheesy. The War Mage acts with an over-confident bravado, but it’s less prominent than it was in the first game, mostly because the Sorceress also shares the same bombastic personality.
For a tower defense game, Orcs Must Die! 2 sets a high bar. Its low price, large amount of content, and co-op mode dish out hours of gameplay. Most of its flaws go unnoticed; the unavoidable one being the monotonous tower defense it will become. The seemingly lack of focus on single-player doesn’t make it appealing to those who aren’t social gamers. If you look past those downsides, Orcs Must Die! 2 is an addicting, infuriating, mind-numbing mess of dying Orcs. There aren’t the typical, annoying aspects you tend to associate with a lot of tower defense games, such as selling your traps for less money than what you spent, funds being shared in co-op, kills and money gains being independent, and so on. It’s always great to play a game that only annoys you as a result of your mistakes.
Publisher: Robot Entertainment
Developer: Robot Entertainment
Release Date: July 30, 2012
Number of Players: 1-2 (Cooperative)
Platforms: PC (Reviewed)