Review: Orcs Must Die! 2

OrcsMustDie2

Last year Robot Entertainment took the gaming world by surprise with the indie hit Orcs Must Die!.  A hybrid title of action and tower defense set against an almost Disney-like art style with a lovable buffoon War Mage facing swarms of orcs, ogres, and goblins, Orcs Must Die! was a challenging yet addictive and fun game.  As with any great game, fans want more, and in most cases developers aren’t able to stuff every last idea into a title on the first go around.  Fortunately Robot was able to return to the well and include a huge compliment of new features in Orcs Must Die! 2.

So what are these new features and do they improve an already fun game?  First off the game now features co-op, which is a huge addition to the original game.  One of my issues with some of the late levels in the first game were the difficulty spikes that made me feel like I needed to be in two places at the same time.  Co-op fixes that.  The levels in OMD2 are different, but there is still that same underlying pressure of frantically trying to defend multiple points at once, so it’s great to have a friend by your side.  Plus, having a co-op partner offers up the chance to play as the War Mage or as the new Sorceress.  The Sorceress has the same standard arsenal of traps and weapons, but she also has the power to seduce the enemy, which then turns the orcs against each other.

One of the other really great things about playing co-op is trap selection and how skull points applied to traps is unique to each person playing. What that means is traps that I may not have selected to use for a map could very well be used by my co-op partner, increasing our array of traps and expanding our tactical choices in order to handily stop orcs from reaching the rift.

Let me dig a little deeper into the spellbook for a moment.  In the original OMD, skulls were earned for completing a level and could then be used to upgrade a trap.  Once a skull was used, you were stuck with that build.  Now with OMD2, skulls aren’t necessarily permanently spent, which is a wonderful thing as the spellbook has increased in size by a wide margin.  As with the first game, new traps become available after beating levels, but require skulls to unlock them.  But now when new traps become available and early traps are less effective, all skulls can be pulled from whichever traps have been purchased or leveled up and then used to unlock and enhance more effective traps.

In addition to a larger variety of traps and weapons, OMD2 now also provides trinkets which can be added to slots during trap selection at the beginning of each level.  Trinkets offer passive and active bonuses which can help during particularly harrowing moments.  Of course the downside to loading a trinket to one of the trap slots is that one less trap can be taken into the mission.  Having complementary traps and trinkets while playing co-op can give gamers an advantage which can mean the difference of barely surviving or losing a level entirely.

As I mentioned earlier, OMD2 also introduces the Sorceress as a playable character.  From the outset the Sorceress can use the Sceptre of Domination which allows orcs to be seduced so that the swarms of enemies turn and attack their own kind.  The Sorceress also can use the Acid Sprayer (a very effective wall trap) and the Ice Vent (which freezes orcs in ice blocks temporarily). Switching between the War Mage and the Sorceress has one downside though.  Any skulls used to unlock perks or traps with one character does not carry over to the other, meaning if you finish the game with the War Mage and then play as the Sorceress, all progress earned is not available with the second character.  This isn’t a deal breaker, but for all the freedoms that OMD2 offers, having unlocked traps not available when playing the other character seems like a misstep.

Some additional features that have been implemented are endless mode and classic mode.  Endless mode is just like it sounds: wave upon wave of orcs continue to rush the rift portal in an endless barrage.  To help with surviving Endless mode, one of the new traps earned by finishing the story mode is a coinforge.  The coinforge increases coins dropping from enemies if they die while standing on the trap.  Coins of course add to the overall bank which allows for additional traps to be built to stop the never ending enemy hordes.  Combine the coinforge trap with a scavenger trinket, and the chance to collect a nice amount of extra coins quickly adds up.  Playing OMD2‘s Endless mode in co-op stands as one of the best game experiences of the year if you ask me.  To add to the deep level of replay, Robot stuck in Classic mode, which is available to Steam users who have the original game and makes 10 older levels available for both standard co-op play as well as Endless mode.

As if the standard levels, classic levels and endless mode weren’t enough, Robot has also released two DLC booster packs (with a third on the way). While OMD2 feels likes a complete game as is, these add-ons slather the extra icing onto the cake. The first DLC pack is Fire & Water and is based on the new elemental enemies that are introduced.  Similar to the Earth Elemental, the Fire Lord and Fire Elemental are large flaming enemies that burst into smaller Firelings when destroyed.  Water Lords and Water Elementals bring up the other half of the booster pack title and behave similarly.  Also included in the booster pack are three new maps as well as three new traps.  Personally my favorite trap in the entire game, the Dart Spitter, is included in this DLC. What’s not to love about a spinning cylinder that drops from the ceiling and shoots out a massive cloud of darts?

The second DLC booster pack is called Family Ties and it introduces a new female orc for the War Mage and Sorceress to battle.  This female orc is heavily armored and is a true challenge to take down, especially when she casts an area effect spell that motivates nearby orcs to move faster toward the rift portal.  Deciding which to go after becomes a true challenge. Do you spend time trying to take down the heavy armor female or hunt down the faster, motivated orcs?  To help with the decision, the booster pack also includes a new weapon, the Stone Staff, which can temporarily turn all nearby orcs to stone.  One of my favorite trinkets is also included in this booster pack, a Jar of Ghosts, which causes enemies who hit the War Mage to turn and run in fear. The trinket is handy for slowing forward momentum as many orcs turn and run in the opposite direction of the rift after attempting to land a shot on me.  As with the Fire & Water booster pack, Family Ties also includes three new maps.  

Orcs Must Die! 2 is an exceptional sequel to an already great game.  Keeping all of the great traps and weapons, but improving the spellbook and skull system, plus adding co-op, gives Orcs Must Die! 2 a wealth of replay that any gamer with a Steam account is sure to appreciate. Orcs Must Die! 2 is already a great value at $15, but thanks to Steam’s Halloween sale you can currently steal it for just $7.49–along with the DLC boosters for only $2.49 each–until the discount ends on November 1st. On sale or not, it’s well worth the price.

BuyIt

Pros:
+ Co-op throughout the entire game
+ Re-speccable spellbook
+ New traps, weapons and playable Sorceress class
+ Endless mode adds tons of replay

Cons:
– Playing solo can be frustrating in the later levels
– Playing a new character resets all traps unlocked

Game Info:
Platform: PC
Publisher: Robot Entertainment
Developer: Robot Entertainment
Release Date: 7/30/2012
Genre: Action-Strategy
Players: 1-2
Source: Review code provided by developer

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About the Author

Tim has been playing video games for more than 20 years. He manages to find time to game in between raising three kids and working as a network administrator. Follow Tim on Twitter @freemantim.