Orcs Must Die! 2 follows the tried and true formula created by developer Robot Entertainment in the first Orcs Must Die iteration: gruesome traps plus hundreds of orcs mixed with a dash of brutality and a pinch of magic equals one fantastic arcade game. Orcs Must Die! 2 expands on the original idea with multiplayer and a completely redesigned spellbook, but at the end of the day, feels more like an expansion of the original game rather than a whole new experience.
- Co-op adds an engaging element
- Excellent customization when it comes to traps and weapons
- Challenging from start to finish
- Not enough tutorials
- Story is an afterthought
- Feels more like an expansion rather than an entirely new experience
Orcs Must Die 2 Review:
At its core, Orcs Must Die! 2 is a tower defense arcade game focused on the destruction of thousands of orcs. Yet even in the game's new story mode, there's no explanation of why you're killing the orcs other than to make sure they don't enter the magical blue Rifts to destroy other worlds. I guess when you title your game Orcs Must Die! 2 there isn’t much need for an explanation.
In order to defend the Rifts this time around you can either play as the War Mage from the first game, or as a brand new character, the Sorceress, who focuses on long-range attacks and has more magic capacity than the War Mage. Each level is different in design, but the task you’re faced with is the same: use the landscape you’re thrown into to set traps and kill as many waves of orcs as fast as possible before they reach the Rifts.
It seems, just as was the case with the first game, storytelling definitely took a backseat to gameplay in Orcs Must Die! 2. Any sort of story you get is basically a narrated screenshot and then throughout the dungeons the characters will chit-chat with one another, even if you're playing single player.
I felt as if Robot Entertainment could have added a bit more depth to the story and better explained who these characters were and why they were working together. Sure, it's an arcade game but if you're going to have a story mode you might as well flesh it out.
Friends Who Slay Orc Together Stay Together
Story mode itself consists of 15 well-designed levels that you can play either single-player or with a friend in the newly added co-op mode. In co-op, you can play through any of the game modes (not just story mode) with another player. You’ll have less spells to use, but since there’s another person with you, new strategies will constantly present themselves.
With a friend in the mix, you’ll now have double the resources to spend on traps to kill orcs. But more importantly, you’ll have another set of eyes watching the minimap to make sure nothing’s getting through to the Rifts. Since a lot of levels in OMD2 are designed with orcs coming from multiple directions, it’s great to have an individual person at each doorway to stop the orcs in their steps.
Further, when playing co-op mode, both players don’t have to be on the same level in the campaign. As long as one person is on a level, both players can try their skills against the orcs, but the less skulls you or your partner has to spend on upgrades, the harder each level will become.
Based on your performance in each level you'll earn Skulls, which you can later use to upgrade your characters outside of each level. The problem is the game doesn't really explain how to get skulls, or why you get skulls deducted at the end of the match which can be frustrating for new players.
After playing through OMD2, I learned that in order to earn the maximum of five skulls per level you have to complete the level within a "par" time, which is only shown to you after you beat the level, and you can't lose any Rift Points. You also get a skull for completing the level, (which toward the end of the game is a huge accomplishment in and of itself if you’re not playing with a friend). You can also earn bonus skulls in the level, but it's unclear how they're earned other than the ones that drop randomly from orcs sometimes.
Combat Kills Take More Skills
Whereas in the first game you could assign skulls in your spellbook before each level to earn traps permanently, Orcs Must Die! 2's spellbook works completely differently.
The spellbook in OMD2 is more like a tome of goodies that’s been expanded on from the first game in marvelous ways. It’s divided into five chapters: my gear, traps, weapons, trinkets, and vanity items and one of the new features of the book is that you can fully refund any skulls you spend in the spellbook as often as you want between levels, which wasn’t allowed in the first game at all.
The My Gear chapter displays all of the gear you currently own, either earned via the story mode or purchased with skulls. The traps chapter features over 25 traps which you can purchase with skulls to take out orcs in the most efficient ways possible. You’ll unlock a few traps as you play through campaign mode, but most of them will be purchased in the spellbook. While some traps are the same as in the first game--like the arrow wall, which fires a volley of arrows at enemies that pass by it--this time around each trap can be upgraded up to three times and they've all got unique abilities you can purchase with skulls for them as well.
For example, the arrow wall can be upgraded to do additional damage and you can purchase one of two unique skills (5 skulls) for it; one of which allows arrows to sometimes set enemies on fire or the other that causes the arrows to sometimes freeze an enemy, reducing their speed. You can even upgrade the arrow wall to be able to place it on the ceiling with its "special" upgrade.
Other chapters of the spell book include the weapons chapter and the trinkets chapters which both feature upgrades that are crucial to defeating the massive waves of orcs that will be pounding down upon your characters. My favorite weapons happened to be the magic ones, like the Ring of Lightning which summoned a storm of lightning in an area and the Bone Amulet, which I could use to summon bone golems to defend the rifts. Again, each of these weapons can be upgraded three times and they all have a unique effect you can purchase with skulls.
The problem I found with spending your skulls on weapons is that if you kill the orcs with weapons you don’t get as many points as you’d get by just killing them with traps. For the record, this knowledge isn’t stated anywhere in the game, but after wondering why my sick headshots and epic magic kills weren’t earning me massive points, I learned (via the Internet) that trap kills with multiple traps involved earn you combos which in turn earn the most points. However, I found that I got a lot of my kills from my weapons and wished that those kills counted for just as much as the other ones, especially since they involved much more skill to pull off most of the time.
Trinkets are another new addition to the Orcs Must Die! series and add passive buffs to your character. They take up an item slot, but if you activate them you'll get a great boost. For example, the Mana Rage trinket earns the wearer higher mana capacity, and if you activate it you'll regenerate mana very quickly for a short amount of time.
In sticky situations I would always use my strongest magic spells, activate my mana rage trinket, and then continue to blast away at orcs like there was no tomorrow. Other fantastic trinkets include the trap reset trinket which makes your traps reset faster and the scavenger trinket which makes all enemies have a chance to drop coins.
The vanity chapter is filled with a few outfits you can buy to change the look of your character. Unfortunately, the vanity outfits’ prices are pretty steep, at around 50 or more skulls per outfit, which could be used to upgrade an entire trap to its fullest potential practically. I know if I were playing with someone and they had an awesome outfit on and had crappy traps, I’d get pretty frustrated.
A Few Orcs Got Through
Even though Orcs Must Die! 2 does expand on the first title with more upgrades, new levels, and the addition of co-op mode, I can’t forgive the fact that just above everything in the game goes unexplained.
The point system in and of itself is confusing, and nowhere is there a breakdown of how the points are accumulated. In a game that’s focused on getting the highest score possible, it seems foolish that Robot would choose to once again leave out some sort of point tutorial.
I also felt that the game should have been divided up more; with story mode not refunding your skulls and endless, classic, and maybe an arcade mode, where you could refund your skulls as normal. Since you can refund your skulls as much as you want with no penalty in OMD2, I found myself constantly changing things up and trying out new ways to beat each level, which is probably exactly what the developers wanted. But, it would have been a lot more challenging and tactical if your choices actually mattered, but since they don’t, earning so many skulls seems worthless once you find your perfect setup.
To Kill Orcs Or Not To Kill Orcs, That Is The Question
With its fast-paced multiplayer, completely redesigned spellbook, and extensive replayability, I'd say if you enjoyed the original Orcs Must Die! then I’d highly recommend Orcs Must Die! 2. However, OMD2 is shorter than OMD in terms of the campaign and only seems to expand on the original rather than offer a new innovative experience for tower defense fans. If you're only playing for the arcade experience, OMD2! is an arcade title that shouldn't be passed up for its low price of just $15.