Orcs Must Die! is the first release from an independent developer named Robot Entertainment. Fans of the classic real-time strategy series Age of Empires may have heard that name before, as the outfit is comprised of many veterans from Ensemble Studios, which was shut down by Microsoft back in 2009 after they shipped Halo Wars for Xbox 360 and started development on Age of Empires Online. The latter is a free-to-play MMO reboot of the franchise that was just recently launched with Chris Taylor and Gas Powered Games at the helm.
Equal parts action and strategy, this is a tower defense game that not only puts you in command, but on the front lines of combat, as well. Slaughter thousands of orcs, ogres and other vile creatures of fantasy that invade your fortresses through 24 levels of the story-based campaign. As one of the realm’s last surviving war mages, you have an arsenal of traps, weapons, and spells at your disposal to lay waste to the invading opposition, or die trying. With high levels of replayability thanks to its scoring and leaderboard functionality, multiple difficulty levels, and various styles of play, it sounds a steal at only $15. Does it deliver on all that’s promised, though? Read on and find out!
OMD! primarily involves the placement of traps, minions, and other devices at your disposal in order to stop the enemy from reaching their destination, in this case a portal that leads from their world to yours. Each enemy that gets past you counts against your total number of “Rift points” (AKA lives, in TD lingo), and if that counter reaches zero, you lose. After beginning each encounter with a small pool of currency to be used for setting up your initial defenses, you gain rewards for all the orcs, ogres, gnolls, and other baddies that you kill. That money is spent on further fortifications to deal with increasing numbers of enemies in subsequent waves and so on, until you survive the final onslaught and achieve victory.
Every level you progress through unlocks a new contraption for you to use, such as spikes that pop out of the floor, banks of arrows that shoot from walls, a spring-board that launches mobs into the air, and an automated crossbow turret, to name a few. You can install these defenses at any time, provided you have the funds, but they can only be sold between rounds. Fortunately, you can do so without any loss in value, which is nice if you accidentally placed something in the wrong position or want to move entire groups of traps to address specific threats.
You do have access to other staples from the TD genre, as well, such as barricades to block certain routes and shape the orcs’ path or pools of tar that slow their movement, but most of the implements of destruction are entirely unique. For instance, there’s a ceiling trap that consists of a giant mace swinging back and forth like a pendulum, as well as what appears to be a rock grinder that sits on a wall and sucks passing orcs into its deadly maw. Other traps will serve more obscure utility functions, such as a floor grating that uses blasts of steam to levitate enemies into range of a trap on a high ceiling or wall, or a glowing floor panel that generates extra coins for the enemies killed while standing on it