In the realm of fantasy is there a more mysterious creature than the orc? What are the orc’s hopes and fears? What does it dream about when it sleeps at night? Can an orc feel love? “Orc’s Must Die!” the new Xbox arcade game from Robot Entertainment doesn’t answer any of these questions, but for 1200 Microsoft points you can slice, burn, stab, smash, freeze, skewer, launch, and otherwise maim these disgusting creatures to your heart’s content.
“Orcs Must Die!” is something of a hybrid between a traditional tower defense game and an old fashioned hack-and-slasher. You play as the War Mage, the last of your kind, and a fairly inept one at that. Unfortunately, you are all that stands between the world and total annihilation at the hands of the orc horde. Using a combination of traps and offensive spells you must keep the orc multitudes from entering portals called “Rifts,” because, apparently, bad things will happen if you don’t.
You are only armed with a few traps to start, and you will have a few moments at the beginning of each round to set up your defenses. Of course, setting traps requires coin and you only have a limited amount so you must manage your resources wisely. Once your defenses are in place the real fun begins. Unlike other tower defense games where your traps do most of the work, in “Orcs Must Die!” you are armed with a magical crossbow and sword so you can take a very active role in the defense of the Rifts. Slaughtering the hapless orcs will grant you additional coin to bolster your defenses in between successive waves, and each new level you reach will grant you a new trap or spell you can add to your arsenal.
Experimentation is the key to this game. There is no one right way to survive a level, but if you attempt to apply the same strategy to every level you are doomed to fail. Each level offers a distinctly different challenge, and the game is certainly challenging. The action can get downright frantic as you sprint from one side of the level to the other as you try to turn back orcs and other nasty creatures from multiple entrances and make last ditch attempts to bring down the vermin before they disappear into the Rifts.
The game may be challenging, but it is still loads of fun. As tough as the game might get, you will still look forward to each new level, if just to play with the new trap you have just unlocked, and you will certainly want to revisit previous levels so you can use the traps and spells you didn’t have the first time through. The game has a great sense of humor as well and doesn’t take itself too seriously. So when your impending doom is breaking down the door you’ll still find yourself having a laugh with the game.
“Orcs Must Die!” is a challenging and ultimately rewarding experience. If I were to quibble about anything I would lament the lack of multiplayer, but with over 20 levels the game is easily one of the largest and most robust games on Xbox Live arcade. You certainly get your money’s worth with this game, and then some. I know that long after I’ve beaten this game on the hardest difficulty and gotten all the achievements I’ll come back again and again if just to experiment with different combinations of traps and to watch those poor orcs get stabbed…and sliced…and smashed… and burned… and…
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