Orcs Must Die! 2 Review

When a friend told me, “You have to buy Orcs Must Die! 2,” I will admit I was a little apprehensive. Having very limited experience with the first title, and few trailers and gameplay videos to judge my prospective purchase on, a few things popped into my mind. First up was the mix and match of genres that make up the title: third-person shooter meets action meets tower defense. While it’s true that this combination is hardly among the most unconventional on the market, it is one which is very risky. Introducing elements from such a varied range of genres often causes more trouble than it’s worth.

The second concern I had was that there were already other similar games on the market with big fan-bases. Titles such as Sanctum have found cult followings in the last twelve months and would be hard to overthrow.

Had I played the original Orcs Must Die title, however, I’d have known that such concerns were ill-conceived. Within just moments of starting the first level, I knew I would be in for a spectacular ride. Gameplay was fluent — all elements integrated into the core experience seamlessly — and fun! The traps seemed whacky, the visuals appeared crisp, and the soundtrack was beautifully-composed. Just minutes into my first playthrough of the game, all I could think about was how deep the experience was.

After hours upon hours playing through the campaign on my own on two difficulties, along with a high amount of co-op play and several hours of ball-busting Endless mode, I am pleased to report that any possibilities of this game’s varied elements becoming dull have been dashed. One of this game’s most appealing factors is its high replay value — a player can complete every challenge they can think of and still want more.

This is for several reasons. Firstly is the versatile engine upon which the game was built. As mentioned earlier, Orcs Must Die! 2 is made up of elements from several different genres. The good news is, all such elements have been perfectly introduced, meaning this game can be enjoyed by shoot’em’up fans, expert strategists, or just casual players looking for a new challenge.

The second reason replay value is so high is because there are so many ways to play the game. First-time players will simply try to complete the storyline; experienced players will be going for a perfect rating on all stages; and competitive gamers can battle it out to hold the world’s best scores. Thanks to the title’s kill-streak and combo systems, each of these goals requires a different tactic. As a result, one can expect to play through the game several times and have a completely fresh experience each time!

For all my rambling about the game’s depth. fun-factor and sheer beauty, however, like a couple of disheartening flaws. The first is not so bad, and will likely be rectified in the coming months, and that is the lack of levels out of the box. While replay-value is high, and every level is a puzzle with several solutions, it would have been nice to have seen another dozen or so levels at release. Owners of the first title can play through original levels. While this may be intended as a reward for those who have stuck with the series, it seems to come across as a penalty for newcomers, who have less content to plow through.

The second major issue I have with Orcs Must Die! 2 is slightly more major, sadly, and has to do with the co-op multiplayer. While this has been a great addition to the series, and is a truckload of fun for both parties involved, connection problems plague this experience. Lag is quite bad for the party who is not hosting the game, and random disconnections can be a serious deterrent from co-op play. While on Wave 51 on a level with a mate, for example, the multiplayer session shut down completely, resulting in over an hour of lost work.

This experience left a sour taste in my mouth between play sessions. Needless to say, some improvement of the online system would not go astray.

Overall, however, such an occurrence is rare, and so to take too much away from the game for this would be heartless. After all, this is one of the most refined 2012 titles currently available for purchase, with stunning presentation, amazingly fun gameplay and hilarious quotes and stories contributing to this game’s greatness.

Orcs Must Die! 2 is by no means a game that will jump out at you from the Steam store screaming, “Buy me,” but those new to the series will find in this title an incredibly rewarding experience. While the lack of levels out of the box is a little damaging, high replay value is incredibly evident, thanks to the game’s versatile engine which gives players many ways to play the game. Fluent and, importantly, fun gameplay combine with very solid presentation to create a stunning experience which will last countless hours. Highly recommended for all gamers.

John Wilson