Orcs Must Die 2 Review
If it’s not broken, make more things to kill Orcs with.
It’s only been 10 months since Orcs Must Die was released in October 2011, and even though short development times usually cause heated internet hatred for certain games, Robot Entertainment are back with the sequel, Orcs Must Die 2. The original was one my favorite downloadable games of 2011 and I was beyond excited when they announced the sequel, but I was also a little worried about how they would be able to churn out a true sequel in such a short period of time. After playing it for a few days, I would agree with those who would call it an expansion, making it more like Orcs Must Die 1.5, rather than a true sequel, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. Not at all.
The story, which isn’t the primary focus of the game by any means, picks up directly after the original game where the Apprentice turned War Mage had closed the Rifts, sealing them off from any more Orcs getting through. What he didn’t know is that a new Rift had opened, allowing the Orcs and the Sorceress to cross over back into his world. For those not familiar with Orcs Must Die, it’s a tower defense, strategy game that requires you use various traps and weapons to fend off waves of angry Orcs and other creatures before they cross through the Rift. Each level has a specific amount of Orcs that are allowed to exit before you fail, and you are rewarded extra skulls for allowing as few as possible. When you start to play Orcs Must Die 2, it will seem very familiar as not much has changed when it comes to the gameplay, graphics or sound, but once you start to dig a little deeper you will find that there are actually quite a few major changes to the game.
Not only does it include a brand new 15 level campaign, but it features a new survival-based Endless mode, Classic mode and a much deeper upgrade system. The campaign mode is exactly the same as it was in the original, but on all new levels which take place in both the Mines and the Castle. Classic mode lets you replay 10 of the most popular levels from the original game, but now with all of the new enemies, weapons and traps. In Endless mode, which can be played on 10 different maps, you will fight through waves of enemies to see how long you can survive, earning lots of extra skulls along the way. The best part of Orcs Must Die in my opinion is the traps, and how well designed and fun to use they are. Robot added a decent amount of new traps and weapons to the mix in the sequel such as the Acid Sprayer which sprays acid on the enemies as they walk by it and my favorite new trap the Haymaker. The Haymaker can be placed on the ceiling and is said to be best for flying enemies but when placed on lower ceilings it will attack ground units as well and once it starts to spin, it takes those Orcs for a ride.
The skulls that you earn can be used between levels to purchase and upgrade new traps and weapons. Unlike the first game, which only allowed you to purchase one upgrade per item, Orcs Must Die 2 has an all new upgrade system, with five to six upgrades per item. Some upgrades increase the damage, reduce the price, add an extra modifier like stun, freeze or flame damage or even grant the trap a special ability such as allowing Arrow Walls to be placed on the ceiling as well as the walls. You will still unlock new traps and weapons after completing the campaign levels, but you can also now purchase them ahead of that if you have enough skulls. So if you have a favorite trap and enough skulls, you can unlock it at any time. At first it seemed like it was going to be easy to upgrade everything fairly quickly, but the longer I played the more expensive they got, with the bulk of them costing over 10 skulls each, and it was going to take longer than I thought.
Another way that Robot Entertainment were able to add to the replay value was by giving us the option to play as the Sorceress, who has a few of her own unique weapons and traps. Her main weapon is a staff which is much quicker to fire than the War Mage’s new shotgun, the Bluderbuss, and its secondary fire option charms an enemy which causes them to turn on the other Orcs and fight by your side until they die. As much as I liked the Bluderbuss, once I started to use the Sorceress and her Staff I didn’t want to go back. What I really liked was how your cross-hair didn’t grow and cause your shots to be less accurate like the Cross-Bow in the orignal game. This means that you can fire the Staff as fast as you want, repeatedly, without getting less accurate, making it much easier to thin out a horde of Orcs than ever before. Both characters have their own progression, so you’ll have to play as both to unlock everything in the game, again increasing the replay value of the game.
Having played the original Orcs Must Die on the PC, and then buying it on the Xbox 360 when it was on sale there as well, I became more comfortable using a controller while playing it and I was a little disappointed to see that Orcs Must Die 2 was going to be a PC exclusive and that it didn’t officially support a controller. Even though it doesn’t say it supports it, I was still able to use my Xbox 360 controller on the PC, but with a few issues. For starters, you can’t use the controller to do anything in the menus, so you have to use your mouse for those. I also ran into an issue a couple of times where I couldn’t look left or right with the analog stick and had to restart the game to fix it. I don’t hold it against Robot Entertainment too much, as they did design this one solely for the PC, but when the original game supported a controller on both the PC and the Xbox 360, the sequel should have too.
Orcs Must Die 2 may not be a true sequel, but with all new levels, modes, enemies, traps and weapons to keep the action fresh, it’s also more than just an upgrade. It’s Robot Entertainment’s way of listening to their fans and giving them the changes and new features that they wanted most, without losing what they already loved about it. When a new game in a series is released so quickly after the last one there are always going to be people who complain about it just being a rehash or whatever you want to call it, but Orcs Must Die 2 isn’t one of those games. It adds more than enough new content and changes to the game, without breaking what was so great about the original, to justify a new purchase. Plus, we haven’t even talked about my favorite addition to the game, the co-op.
In my opinion, and the opinion of many of you as well it seems, the biggest thing missing from Orcs Must Die was cooperative play. Robot Entertainment have listened to all of our feedback and included two player online co-op throughout all of the modes in Orcs Must Die 2. You can both play as the War Mage, the Sorceress or mix and match, and you’ll have access to whatever traps and weapons you have unlocked with that character, whether you are playing online with a friend or offline by yourself.
You will both start off each level with the same amount of money, but you will only earn additional funds from enemies killed by either your traps or weapons, which is a great way to avoid arguments over who spent all the money. If you burn through all of your cash by buying Boom Barrels, that’s too bad for you. The first few levels in the game will seem way too easy on co-op, but once you get past the halfway point of the campaign you will start to see that these levels were made to be played cooperatively. When you start to run into levels with two or more paths to guard it can be very difficult by yourself, so having a co-op partner not only makes the game more fun, but it makes things much easier to manage, especially on Nightmare difficulty.
We did run into a few issues while playing together, such as the chat not working and a few times we had to wait while the game attempted to re-establish the connection. We were able to get everything working eventually and the network issues could have been on our side, but we don’t ever have any problems playing together on our consoles, so it’s something to keep in mind for those who played the original on the Xbox 360 and now have to move over to PC.
For $15, Orcs Must Die 2 includes an all new 15 level Campaign, Endless Mode, Classic Mode, two player online co-op, plenty of new traps, weapons and enemies and a much deeper upgrade system. If you didn’t enjoy what Orcs Must Die had to offer then I don’t think this one will do anything to change your mind, but it is definitely a must have for anyone who loved it. If you want to call it an expansion and not a sequel then that’s fine, I’ll agree with you. I don’t really care what you want to call it, I’ve been having more fun with Orcs Must Die 2 than most $60 games I’ve played this year and I will gladly pay $15 for any “expansion” that comes packed full of so much great content.