Orcs Must Die 2, a PC exclusive developed by Robot Entertainment, is a tower defense hack-n-slash third-person shooter, or simply put: a plasma-powered mirth generator.
Released only ten(ish) months after the original, the game uses the same engine and feels almost identical to the first Orcs Must Die, only better. Orcs Must Die 2 is a blast and expands on the joyful slaughter of the first game through the gleeful addition of co-operative play. The hectic quality is somewhat reduced, but the ability to frolic through a sea of body parts remains. In addition, the “blame game” is an optional feature in cooperative play: players can blame one another for poor trap placement and failure to eviscerate creatures fast enough, thus doubling their play time with management training.
The game opens with a cut-scene: still images compliment narration to set the universe and introduce the plot. At the start of each level, the hero (bromancer) and sorceress (dominatrix) exchange witty banter while bickering over goals with some sexual tension thrown in. The voice acting is solid and silly; even the orcs have personality — aside from being just dumb orcs.
Unfortunately (for the orcs), magical lights fly from point A to point B betraying planned attack routes. Also, a map at the top right corner of the screen displays all enemies as well as any environmental hazards like mine carts. After all of the traps are meticulously placed, you can press G to release the trap fodder into a newly constructed Doom Room/Murderway/Path of Despair, much like a tower defense. What makes it interesting is the balance between the effectiveness of the traps and the sheer number of monsters. Collecting shimmering coins and potions while shoveling corpses into the combo counter as a green acid tidal wave breaks out is super satisfying.
The traps won’t kill all of the monsters. Some will survive. The survivors’ felicity will only lead to more (delicious) pain: this is where the hacking and slashing comes in. Also the shooting. There are a number of weapons to choose, ranging from a love wand that shoots magic missiles, to a bone amulet that calls skeletal hands to rip apart enemies and summons an undead giant. That’s only two of the weapons. The traps feel brutal and powerful, while their overwhelming numbers makes fighting the horde necessary, but decadently enjoyable.
Beyond the insurmountable number of monsters scrambling to floss their ribs with spike traps, players purchase new weapons, trinkets, and traps to better practice medieval dentistry. At the end of the level, the player is awarded one to five skulls, a grim form of currency used to purchase upgrades. Bonus skulls are awarded for exceptional monster-slaying, completing the level within a set time, and some are even dropped by monsters. There are a number of ways to perfect a level, but to achieve five skulls, every single monster must die (no leaks).
What happens players uses all of their skulls? Were the acid-spray walls really worth it? (Yes.) Should you lose interest in any given trap (I don’t know how), you can refund skulls at the merest of whim. This feature does not break the game; instead, it encourages exploration of exciting, unusual, and inefficient trap combinations. For example, spike traps are a solid choice, but sometimes watching verdant brutes trigger a Floor Scorcher, shuffle onto an Ice Vent, and get shattered by a Pounder is worth a quick re-appropriation of experience points.
I love this game. I’ve always loved stabbing orcs, but now a machine does it for me. It’s like the twenty-first century has finally answered my prayers for efficient monster slaying without even pressing a button. The levels are incredibly hectic, exuding a potent cure for even the most A.D.D. of gamers. Experimenting with new trap combinations, collecting all of the upgrades, beating high scores, and playing with friends all saturate this game with a high amount of replay value. This is a budget game you should buy twice.