Tower defence games are one of those things that never caught my interest. Usually because players that I’ve interacted with seem to be the angriest people on the planet. So, seeing a game return the sense of fun to this style of game is most welcome.
Orcs Must Die! Unchained by Robot Entertainment is a defence game where you and a team of three others must hold a keep from waves of marauding orcs of varying types, sometimes joined by a hero character. As each wave comes, entrances the orcs pour in from change or multiply, requiring you and your team to strategize on which areas to hold and defend before your central nexus is overrun.
To aid you in defence, you have a moment between waves to place traps down at the cost of some coins earned through gameplay, or you can place up to two friendly defenders to assist. Each of the 15 different heroes have unique abilities, traps, skills and playstyles to mix and match. In my test game of around 15 minutes, I played as Tundra, a frost-focused character that cast a variety of ice walls and spells that would freeze orc waves for a brief moment, or my personal favorite, a spell that turned me in to a snowball to mow down enemies.
Despite my first-ever time touching this game, I was able to pick up the base mechanics pretty quickly, with some helpful coaching behind me as our team was directed to things we were seeing. Combat felt responsive and swift, the art style was bright and engaging and the whole experience was overall a very upbeat affair. Orcs Must Die! Unchained carried itself with a huge sense of whimsy and reveled in the joy of sheer wanton slaughter.
Even though I wasn’t exactly a master of combat, I still felt like I was contributing, as the mechanics of the game and the UI communicated what was happening and allowed myself and the other three players to come together and fight despite having never met before.
After my team and I failed during Wave 5 of 10, I spoke with Design Director Ian Fischer about the title. He mentioned the PvP mode of the game, which was similar to the PvE mode I was involved in but with player heroes included with the waves of orcs pouring in. I asked whether he felt the PvE mode was more used as training for the PvP game, and he said that a lot of cross-play has happened, with players alternating from one mode to the other. As a result, two teams for each side of the game have been formed to offer balanced support to Orcs’ modes.
Directly to our left, a pair of broadcasters call the action of the PvP game that unfolded on the booth’s screen, and I asked his thoughts on whether he felt that the game was trying to break in to the eSports scene. He didn’t seem too concerned about the idea, saying that if the call from the playerbase comes to further support or build for that, then the team would look in to it.
I got the impression that, no matter what direction the game goes in to, the end result should be fun. Orcs Must Die! Unchained definitely is one of those games that is both fun to play and fun to watch. Robot Entertainment seem to be fully focused on making sure it’s balanced for enjoyment first and foremost.
The game is available to download now, and sells either a Classic, Action Hero or Ultimate Pack for $3.99. $19.99 and $49.99 respectively. The game also features an in-game store with consumables and other items.Related: Orcs Must Die! Unchained, PAX, PAX East, PAX East 2016, Preview, Robot Entertainment