What do you want from a sequel?
Well? What is it? Innovation in design, a completely fresh perspective, and a new approach? Or perhaps a refining of what worked well the first time around, with fewer annoyances and more of what made the original good? Or, perhaps, just a metric whackton more of the first game: more maps, more enemies, more treasure?
OK, relax. It was a rhetorical question. Thing is, it sort of depends on the game. If the previous game was mostly great, but let down by a few forehead-slappingly obvious oversights (or development constraints), the sequel is pretty much going to write itself. Which is exactly where we are with Orcs Must Die 2.
Truth be told, I could have written this review back in October last year, after the release of the first Orcs Must Die. While a fun hybrid of tower defence and third-person shooter, it sorely needed co-op. Aside from that, most things seemed to work well, so it was unlikely that the inevitable sequel would do a great deal more than introduce co-op, and a quick lick of paint to what was already a solid title.
Sure enough, here’s co-op Orcs Must Die with a lick of paint! But that’s not to do it down. The wisecracking hero from the original (who I couldn’t help feel was influenced by Ash from Evil Dead) returns, and is now partnered by a once-evil sorceress… or is she still evil? Plot’s not really the point though – as the title rather urgently suggests, there’s really only one thing to do, and that’s kill orcs.
How does one traditionally kill orcs? Well, all of the traps and weapons from the first game return, with a bunch more to allow the imaginatively-minded player plenty of scope to create hilarious combos, many of which involved catapulting a posse of greenskins into spikes of some variety. The characters are asymmetrical – while their trap loadouts come from the same lists the actual personal weapons and styles vary. The male hero retains a blunt instrument approach with a few tweaks here and there while the sorceress is much more about rapid-fire and temporary mind-control of the rampaging goblinoids. Watching hulking orcs battering one another to death while taking an acid shower is… well, it’s funnier than it really should be.
At least, it is for a while. See, I’m not really a big fan of tower defence, and I’m actually a little mystified by its continuing success. That said, the first-person involvement in OMD2 makes it feel a lot more ‘shooter where you can lay traps’ than ‘tower defence game where you can run around’.
I had the distinct pleasure of playing OMD2 in co-op with Felix, and I think we’d both agree that co-op is, well, it’s the way to go. The maps clearly cater to two players, each managing their own side. Things are never perfectly balanced, though, and plenty of frenetic fun happens when you switch sides to back up Player 2, only to notice that a legion of conspicuously un-killed orcs are breaking through the now-unguarded side.
The addition of a new character allows plenty of new dialogue for the War Mage, who still gets all the best lines. I switched the music off pretty quickly – while it fits the hectic, capering feel of the game it grew monotonous and repetitive very quickly. Which actually might be a criticism levelled at the entire game – aside from unlocking new traps and weapons, there’s not a lot that’s going to change in your game experience aside from the ramping difficulty. Of course, this shouldn’t really be a problem as long as it’s played in the spirit its intended – casually, for fun, once in a while with friends. Maps are replayable with unlocked gear, so you can go back and see how well you can do on the earlier levels with better traps and weapons at your disposal – in fact, that’s a good tactic as it may well net you more skulls to spend on even more good stuff before you tackle the harder levels.
I guess at the heart of the thing is cooperative tower defence with guns, played for laughs. While the action tends to be rapid-fire chaos, sometimes you’ll just be leaning on the mouse button, firing endlessly into the mob and inching backward under the onslaught until you hopefully hang on until the end of the wave.
As you’d expect, there wasn’t anything in the system requirements to worry a modern computer. That said, the requirements are fractionally higher than they were for the first game – if you had trouble playing that, you may need to think carefully. It goes without saying that the Chillaxe devoured mouthfuls of orcs at a time with no problem, before letting out a satisfied burp and reporting a healthy FPS count.
The Orcs Must Die 2 price matches the game’s spirit perfectly. At £12 or 15 Euros, you can afford to pick it up for a laugh, and play it as part of a balanced gaming diet with friends. Nicely polished for an indie game with great voice acting and a good sense of what it wants to be.