Orcs Must Die 2 comes to us again via Robot Entertainment, and brings us more delicious orc-killing action with more traps, more orcs and even a co-op mode.
The story is just to give reason for the mass slaughter we inflict on the orc forces. At the end of the last game your character, simply known as “The Apprentice”, closed all the rifts leading from the orc world to our own. But closing these rifts also cut off the flow of magic, meaning people can no longer count on spells to bring the rains or make crops plentiful. One day, during his new job as a miner, The Apprentice comes across a small rift and The Sorceress, who was the antagonist in the last game, comes through and warns him that the orcs will find the rift and again try to take over the human world, just without her help this time.
They team up in an attempt to once again stop the orcs from gaining access into our world, discover why the rifts are re-opening, and prepare the old fortresses to hold the line once again.
The first few levels occur in the Dwarf Mines, meaning mostly brown and steampunk levels, but it’s a nice change from the constant stone fortresses we had in the last game (all the levels of which can be accessed in the “classic” section), and which take up the second half of this one. At the same time, every level is unique and visually interesting, and of course they all have strange twisting layouts that you can use to your advantage.
Another thing that’s changed is the orcs, I never noticed before but Orcs Must Die didn’t really have a good variety of enemies. The sequel fixes this unnoticed problem by adding several new varieties of enemies, including splitting the standard orcs into 3 distinct varieties, light, medium and heavy orcs with different levels of armour and therefore health. On top of that you have fast-but-squishy kobolds, sturdy ogres, trolls that regenerate health and a variety of other fantasy creatures, all of which you have to beat back with your arsenal and quick-wit. Strategy could help too. Although you’re probably only going to have one. The main strategy I used throughout both this game and its predecessor was to hone my sheepdog-like herding skills and send all the orcs into a passageway that I had littered with traps. Specifically I would use barricades to block off certain routes and force my orcs to take a single long and winding route which I would litter with swinging maces, tar pits, spike traps and archers. There are very few levels where this isn’t an option, usually when there are more than one rift open or when there’s no place that you can bring all the orcs together, but they’re all at the end of the game.Speaking of traps there many more than in the previous game. Dwarven guardians throw bombs at orcs, bomb dispensers do as the name says, the boulder chute drops rocks on your foes, coinforges increase the coins you get if enemies die on them, haymakers throw enemies away, the void wall kills everything it touches, the healing well heals you and the bear trap damages and stuns but breaks after one use. That’s a very long and grammatically questionable list, but those are the only new traps in the game. Seriously, there are no other additions to the games main draw, just those eight. Instead, we now have trinkets.
Trinkets are items that you hold that give a passive effect, like slow regeneration, and an active effect, like resetting all traps. I suppose they’re here to add variety and make up for the lack of new traps, but they’re completely unnecessary. I carried around the trap-reset trinket for ten levels and used it once simply because I wanted to unleash screaming death upon the earth elemental that had wandered into a room full of used-up traps. Aside from that they just take up a slot that could have been better selected.
Traps, trinkets, weapons and spells can all be bought and upgraded in the Spellbook. Similar to the last game you get 1-5 skulls at the end of a level and can spend them in the Spellbook, but now you get more skulls for higher kill streaks, or by finding skulls dropped in the level.
The visuals are still nice; cell-shading is an excellent way for smaller developers to make gorgeous games without having the money or manpower to render everything in golden-plated pixels.
There are two major problems I have with Orcs Must Die 2. Number one, which is big but justifiable, is that almost everything has been copied and pasted from the first game. I don’t just mean the traps and some of the enemies although a lot of them are exactly the same; I mean I hear quips or enemy noises that were in the last game. No re-recording for the new game, no thinking up clever new things to say, just copy/paste the sound files.
Of course with a smaller studio and smaller budget, it makes sense to just recycle these files. Better they skimp on some of the sound files and enemy designs rather than on gameplay, which is still top-notch.
The second problem I have is that I cannot play the multiplayer. I’m sure it works perfectly well and I wanted to cover it in this review, but there’s no lobby function. The only way to play with a person is to have someone on your friends list that has Orcs Must Die 2 and invite them through the main menu. I have no idea how difficult or how expensive it is to build a functional matching system for online multiplayer, but I do know that there will be many people who simply can’t enjoy the co-op mode because none of their friends have the game. Video games have long since moved past the need to actually know a person before you play games with them, so this seems like a major step backwards.
If you liked the first game you’ll like this because it’s pretty much just more of the same. If you weren’t blown away by the last game then you’ll probably want to pass this one up. There’s almost nothing new here, and the entire thing seems like a glorified expansion pack rather than a sequel.