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Orcs Must Die 2 is an action strategy game that follows in the footstep of the original released 9 months ago. It’s a tower defense game with some third person shooter elements thrown in and plays brilliantly. It is not so much a sequel as it is a do-over. It looks and sounds the same and fixes almost everything that was frustrating about Orcs Must Die; combat is smoother and headshots are no longer vital, traps are bigger and better, the spellbook is extensive and the enemies varied with different abilities, strengths and weaknesses.
Great co-op: The single and two player co-op campaign is the same, but in co-op, maps have more enemies and each player has a smaller arsenal, 6 slots each instead of 10, encouraging team work and complimentary sets of traps. There is no public matchmaking. However, as it is only two person co-op, grab a friend and you’re ready to go. Players do not have to be at the same level; you can join up with someone with far fewer or greater upgrades as long as one person doesn’t mind replaying some earlier maps, but that throws off the balance a little bit. Co-op is the key feature of the game and there between story, endless and classic mode and apprentice, war mage and nightmare difficulty, there is plenty to do whilst the myriad of upgrades provides a strong incentive for going back again and again.
Massive array of kit: The spellbook is gigantic. “Along with new items come alternate costumes and, more importantly, gameplay-altering accessories called trinkets, which take up an inventory slot and have both passive and active benefits. … All traps and weapons now have multiple upgrade tiers and can take advantage of one of two unique abilities. For instance, the classic Spike Trap can be rigged to make enemies bleed or to slow them down. Such customization leads to a startling depth of strategy…” Joystiq
Bigger and better: “…the game largely feels like a well-designed expansion pack for the original game. It piles more weapons, traps, enemy types, and levels on to the already strong core design.” OMD2 has a new playable character, 20 different types of enemies, 50 traps, weapons and guardians and more than 225 upgrades to unlock. “The new levels are also a highlight, with multiple enemy paths winding up and down stairs, through narrow hallways and into notoriously hard to defend open courtyards that force you to make some tough decisions about how to pour your limited resources into defending enemies coming from multiple directions at once.” Opposable Thumbs.
Room for Improvement
Difficulty spikes in Single Player: Orcs must Die 2 has three difficulty levels. Apprentice is easy and remains so for the duration of the campaign. War Mage has some rather unfortunate difficulty spikes. Eurogamer comments in their review on “…the game’s rollercoaster difficulty. This was a problem with the first game as well, and it’s a shame to see it recur in a sequel that improves in so many areas. One level may be strangely easy, the next brutally difficult.” Some maps, particularly later in the game, are designed for co-op and recycled for single player. They are large with multiple entry points and it’s a mad dash to try and be everywhere at once, making them much harder to complete in the single player campaign.
Too little information: PC Gamer: “It exacerbates one of the first game’s problems: too little information about what’s coming. You’re forewarned about enemy types, but not proportions or distribution, which leads to a painful amount of trial and error.” Additionally, there is no visual representation of maps within the menu. Orcs Must Die 2 has tremendous replay value that is stunted by the lack of information to help you remember which map is which. You are only given the title of the map in the menu, so if you are looking for a particular map to replay on nightmare or endless mode, you have to start at the top, select and load the map and only then does a screenshot pop up as your load screen, at which point, you have to exit the map, go back to the menu, select a different map, load that one and hope that you can either find a good map quickly or more likely, just give up and pick them randomly.
There are no flashing bright lights in any of the maps in Orcs Must Die 2. The rifts are bright and shiny, but the rest of the environment is quite dull and bland. Visual effects are triggered by traps or the abilities of players as well as incoming orcs. Some of the caster abilities are quite bright and when traps are overlayed and two players cover the same area as well, the visuals are intense. Players are spoiled for choice and it is easy to select weapons and traps without bright effects, leaving the occasional caster, like the Shamans with their pink orbs of lightning, the only culprit of producing bright effects.
The camera angle is fixed. There is a no zoom function, but none is required. Movement is smooth and at no point is there any nausea provoking visual effects.
Text size & HUD (Heads up Display)
The heads-up display is generous in proportion to the game. The menus are clear and easy to read with large text.
There is no reliance on colour anywhere in the game.
- Resolution can be adjusted within the game via the menu.
- You can play in full-screen, windowed or full window.
- Graphic detail can be toggled to low or high.
- Anti-alias can be set at 1,2,4 or 8
- VSync can be toggled on or off
Subtitles & Closed captioning
There are no subtitles at all. There is a story told in cutscenes that play out at the start of every few levels and it’s very difficult to follow the plot without knowing what the characters are saying. The story is not pivotal to the game and if you enjoy action strategy games, skip through the cut-scenes and enjoy the maps. Whilst playing co-op, I had the odd moment where my partner was laughing at quips that I didn’t know was taking place and it did leave me feeling left out. For anyone with some hearing loss, the option to toggle the music, effects, music and voices individually is a great help, particularly given the lack of subtitles. If you are struggling to play without the audio cues, turn off the music and scenario dialogue and turn up the effects slider. Unfortunately, the effects also includes the audio for the Orcs and not just combat sounds, so be prepared to put up with a lot of repetitive whining. I would personally recommend disabling audio, particularly if you can convince your coop partner to have his/her audio turned on and alert you to any relevant cues, such a skull dropping or Moneybags appearing.
Reliance on auditory cues
There is some reliance on audio cues within the game, but it can be played with or without sound. There are sound effects within the game and for gamers who prefer using sound, it’s a great help, but it’s an option not a requirement. Sound effects do help. For example, when an extra skull drops there is a distinctive chime and on the bigger maps, it alerts you to go find it. Without hearing the chime, you have to do some additional leg work and run across the whole map to check if anything dropped.
- Scenario dialogue can be toggled on or off
- Push-to-talk button can be toggled on or off
- Four sliders: Master volume, Music, Effects and Voice.
A moderate reaction time is required, particularly if you play the solo campaign. Traps cannot be placed whilst the game is on pause and at times it is necessary to quickly throw them down whilst a mob of orcs are rapidly descending on you. The gaps between waves are ten seconds and on larger maps, that is not enough time to move from one gate to another, let alone leave time to put down traps. Every five waves there is a gap and the next wave is triggered by the player, leaving plenty of time to fix mistakes made and planning where to trap next. The third person shooter element is more forgiving with the Sorceress and her wand than the War Mage and any of his four weapons.
Thanks to the charm of the Sorceress, Orcs Must Die 2 is a lot more accessible that it’s predecessor. The default weapon of the sorcerer is less powerful than the War Mage’s, but it has a wider range; aim it more or less in the right direction, hold the button to charge it and on release, the AoE damage is spectacular. If you have any issues with precision, choose the Sorceress as your character. The traps are large and easy to place and if you accidentally place it incorrectly, you can sell any traps without penalty inbetween waves and place them elsewhere.
Pause and save options
The game can be paused at any time during both the solo and co-op campaign. Be aware that in the 2-player coop campaign, only the player that pauses the game can resume it. If the person pausing goes afk, you are stuck on the pause screen until they return. There is no option to leave party or quit game, if you want to go, you have to force quite the game. OMD2 auto-saves at regular intervals, however, you have to complete a map for progress to be saved.
Difficult to play with one hand. The UI is not clickable. If you play with a Razer Naga, you should be fine. The 10 abilities can be mapped to the keys along with sprint and jump; movement is done via the mouse, the primary and secondary attacks are already bound to your primary weapon and the only buttons left unmapped are non-combat keys, like G to release the next wave or B to open the spellbook, as well as one semi-noncombat key, R, used to rotate traps. The non-combat keys can be done by moving your mouse hand to the keyboard as required, with the only potential sloppy issue being putting down a trap that requires rotation during combat as you will have to move your hand from the mouse to the keyboard to do so.
It does not play well with a keypad due to movement being exlusively tied to the mouse. Although you can remap moving forwards, backwards and strafing left and right, you cannot rotate your character without the use of the mouse.
All buttons, except turning your character, can be remapped within the game. Orcs Must Die 2 does not fully support the use of a controller, however, the developers responded on the Steam Forum to the question whether Orcs Must Die 2 has controller support:
“OMD2 has is, but since we didn’t make an Xbox version this time, that work came on at the very end. The controller currently works in the gameplay sections of the game, and we’re working right now to add menu support back in. Because we changed the menu system for this game, all of that portion of the controller support has to be rebuilt. We’re hoping to add that in shortly in one of the upcoming patches.”
Reading, language and vocabulary
The only language and reading requirement is to access the game via the text based menu. There is a story told via dialogue, but it’s a simplistic tale told through audio dialogue that doesn’t really add much to the game.
There are no visual representation of maps in the menu. If you want to replay levels, you have to remember the name. The UI provides all the necessary information required for combat, however you have to remember which traps and weapons does what. The spellbook does provide all that information and can be accessed through the campaign menu. Unfortunately this means that if you forget what a particular trap is or does, you can’t check until you either finish the current level or abandon it (if you navigate to the spellbook, you will loose all progress on the current level.)
Focus, Organization & Planning
Action strategy games are all about organization and planning. Early maps are easy, there is only 1-2 entrances and 1-2 exist and they are positioned near each other making it easy to cover all at once. Later maps are much harder with up to six entry points and requires a much more refined strategy. This is a great strategy game to increase your capacity to multi-task, prioritize and plan, particularly within the 2-player coop that adds an additional safety net.
Math and computations
There is very little math and only simple monetary calculations in the game. Towers cost money, upgrades cost skulls and eliminating enemies earns players money and skulls. It is up to you to budget wisely and spend your money where it will do the most damage to the waves of incoming enemies.
There is no social interaction whatsoever in the singple player campaign. The co-op campaign is limited to two players and with no public matchmaking, there is no pressure to group up with a stranger. Play alone or play with a friend.
No customizability options or support tools are available.
Orcs Must Die 2 is not so much a sequel as it is a new and improved version of the original. The co-op campaign is a pleasure to play and replay particularly as multiple character save slots allow you and a friend can set aside a character devoted to it. The single player campaign is not as seamless with some awkward difficulty spikes in the ‘normal’ difficulty mode, but with the myriad upgrades available, its not that difficult to farm a few skulls in another mode and then come back with more powerful upgrades to levels that were a challenge. The myriad of upgrades is the gem of Orcs Must Die 2. Buy the traps you enjoy, upgrade them and annihilate your enemies.
As PC Gamer concludes:
“I’m itching to play again once I finish this. If you have someone to team up with, get it without hesitation. If you don’t, hesitate slightly, then notice it’s only £12/$15 and get it anyway.”