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Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Developer: Robot Entertainment
Genre: Tower Defence
Mode(s): Single-player
Price: 1200 Microsoft Points
Launch Date: 5th October 2011

Robot Entertainment released their XBLA title Orcs Must Die! The game is a mixture of action and the classic tower defence games. Offering over twenty levels of Orc destruction, and three different difficulties to do this on, is it able to defend the rift or do the Orcs destroy it? Find out by reading this definite in depth review.

Game-play - 7/10

As stated above, this is a tower defence game. However unlike most of that genre, which features a birds eye view of the area, where you can place defences around the road the enemies take, this one sees you in the midst of the action. There isn't a birds eye view of the camera; it's a third-person angle.

Let's begin with the story the game tells. As you begin the first level you witness the prologue. It tells the story of an old man, who has fought for the Order for 300 years, defending the rifts and has killed thousands of Orcs. Sadly though, he slipped in some blood and cracked his head open on the gateway stairs. His dying thoughts were that the task of defending the rifts and ultimately the world linked to the rifts, falls to his apprentice, and that because of that, the world is doomed.

After the prologue you are introduced to what can pass as a tutorial. This teaches you the basics you need to know. To open your spell book, press down on the directional pad. The spell book contains all the defences you have unlocked, and the default ones, such as a sword, floor spikes and tar traps. As stated just, you do unlock more defences when you complete a level. These are things such as arrow walls, explosive barrels and champions, to name a small few.

To place any of the defences, you must first be able to afford them and then aim for where you want to place them and press RT. When you begin a level, the game does let you place things where you want before unleashing the horde, which can be done by the click of the back button. Once this is done the doors break down and it's up to you and the defences to prevent the Orcs reaching and entering the rift.

The Orcs do come in waves, and every few waves you get a rest point, where you can press back to unleash the next set of enemies. You can also place defences while fighting them off, which is handy if you begin getting over run. Each level brings more waves in new locations. However, even with new defences and layouts, this game can eventually become slightly repetitive.

Controlling the Apprentice is quite easy, as is the defence placement and also fighting. You can die, which will lose some rift points to re-spawn you. Thankfully if you are struggling with your health, you can run to the rift and it will heal you, but be careful, as the Orcs will be following to reach their target.

There are three difficulties to Orcs Must Die! These are Apprentice, War Mage and Nightmare. To unlock Nightmare you must complete the game on War Mage. Apprentice is good for beginners; however it limits the skulls you can earn to two maximum. These skulls can be used to upgrade your defences. War Mage does allow you to earn up to five, depending upon how well you did in the level.

While all of these features are fun and add to the experience, as stated before, it can become repetitive despite the different layouts. It can become increasingly hard as well. While this is a given with any game, if you aren't careful you can get easily over run and killed when the hordes make it past the defences, but this is more down to how the player sets their defences up as opposed to a gaming flaw.




The Apprentice pushing the Orcs back desperately


Graphics - 9/10

The team at Robot Entertainment have clearly put a lot of thought into the graphics of Orcs Must Die! From the walls to the Orcs and traps, it is hard to find faults. The style is reminiscent of a cartoon feeling, even down to the heroic yet almost slow witted face of the hero. As for the Orcs, many games feature only a few variants of enemies. Luckily, while the enemy classes tend to look the same, the different classes are easy to distinguish. The archers are thin and paler, the soldiers are the standard chunky and green, the knight looking ones, have their armour and different shade of green.

As for the scenery, while the layouts change, you are still inside a castle. Some of the levels are lighter than others, depending on the amount of lights in the game, but also to differentiate between dungeons and hallways. There has been a lot of care placed into the detail of the characters, traps and environment and it proved to be graphically refreshing. The only small issue that arose was how dark the areas can be, however this is easily fixed by turning up the brightness.

Sound - 8/10

The sound featured in this game fits in well. On most levels the apprentice will make comments about the upcoming fight, all while some dramatic yet upbeat music is playing. When the Orcs break through the door, you can hear the door creak and break, alongside the Orcs shouts. With the amount of traps featured, it is refreshing to know that Robot Entertainment didn't settle for a handful of sounds to cover them all. Each trap does have its own noise, even the Weavers which you unlock later in the game come with their own voices.

Probably the easiest sound to notice is as always the music. Once the fight begins it is upbeat and dramatic, so it makes you feel the desperation to keep the rift defended, whilst not being over the top and making it feel upsetting. It manages to keep you on your toes pushing them back to the best of your ability, almost as if you are against the clock to save the rift. When Orcs die, they grunt and fall, or get turned into bits and pieces depending on what trap/attack killed them. Even that has its sound when they are instantly chopped or blown up.




The Orcs meet an explosive situation


Achievements - 8/10

When first reading the achievements for this arcade game, it can be easy to presume most will be easy. While this is the case if you do it on apprentice level, some of the achievements can prove trickier to get, such as the kill 20 enemies with chandeliers in one level. This sounds easy, but can be a pain as you need to determine when to shoot them down. On top of that you also have to hope they are bunched together directly underneath it, as it won't catch those to the sides. On top of level progression achievements, there is also some kill achievements. With a little bit of time, the 30,000 kills are obtainable, and the game kindly gives you a kill count on the main menu.

Probably the hardest achievement of the set will be completing the game on Nightmare mode. Another one based more on a mixture of skill and luck is winning a level with one rift point remaining. The list is a mixture of easy and medium skilled achievements, with the Nightmare mode being hard. It does look like a standard list for this genre of gaming, but it works well.

Conclusion

Orcs Must Die! Is a fun game and it can easily keep players on their toes, and is great for those who enjoy planning out their defences to the best of the able ability. While it does get repetitive after some time, it's still worth playing. Robot Entertainment has done a great job and the game features some of the better graphics out there in the arcade marketplace. At 1200MSP however, people might be holding back due to the price. It's a recommended purchase, but it would've been better priced at 800MSP.

Overall - 8.5/10
 

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