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The first Orcs Must Die! blends action and tower defense together making for a very enjoyable experience. As much as I enjoy slaying thousands of Orcs, I did feel it could use some tweaking. Well less than a year after it released, the sequel became available which expanded upon the gameplay and introduced many new features. Developed and published by Robot Entertainment, Orcs Must Die! 2 was released for PC in July, 2012. It retains the action-oriented nature of its predecessor. The core gameplay is basically unchanged but now players can team up and kill Orcs together thanks to the inclusion of a cooperative mode.
Set after the events of the first game, The Sorceress is hiding from The Mob when a rift opens near her. She steps through it and finds herself in the Dwarven mines and then enlists the War Mage’s help in fighting off the The Mob. They soon discover more rifts are opening in different locations and, together, they fight the The Mob in an effort to prevent them from passing through the rifts. The plot feels more or less like an arbitrary setup for the gameplay. But that’s okay because Orcs Must Die! 2 retains the same fun gameplay and comical tone as its predecessor.
From the moment I started playing, I was immediately impressed with the improvements over the first game. Many things were refined, you’re given more tools to kill Orcs, and the game supports coop. You can play as the War Mage or Sorceress. You choose a character, give them a name, and then start slaying. You can play through the Campaign, DLC levels, there’s an Endless mode and Weekly Challenge mode, and if you own the first game on Steam, you’ll have access to ten levels from that game. Furthermore, the game does support Steam Workshop.
The objective of every level is always the same. You need to stop The Mob from passing through the rifts. To do that, you’re given access to a variety of different weapons and traps. It does cost currency or money to set up traps and money is accumulated by killing enemies. You can achieve kill streaks and rack up combos and enemies will sometimes drop money, skulls, health potions, and mana potions. Many weapons have alternate fire modes and consume mana when used and mana does recharge over time. There’s a lot of cool weapons in this game and some are exclusive to certain characters. With the Sceptre of Domination, you can charm enemies so they turn on each other, the Stone Staff lets you turn them into stone, you can blow them away with a missile launcher, and the War Mage can use a Blunderbuss.
My favorite new weapons are easily the Polymorph Ring and Bone Amulet. The Polymorph Ring will randomly transform enemies into other enemies, even chickens. And The Mob seems to hate chickens because they will attack them on sight. It’s a great weapon for dealing with more dangerous foes like Trolls and its alternate fire will turn you into an Ogre. With the Bone Amulet, you can unleash a wave of exploding bones along the ground which will damage enemies. You can also use it to summon a Bone Golem which will distract foes making it quite useful.
All of the Traps and Guardians from the first game return in Orcs Must Die! 2 along with a bunch of new ones, trinkets, and a new upgrade system. Some items are unlocked as you progress and others need to be purchased with skulls. Traps can be placed on the wall, ground, or ceiling for a fee and, if necessary, you can sell them. Trinkets are items that grant active and passive bonuses and just like weapons and traps, they will take up slots in your inventory. At the start of each level, you can access your Spellbook and select which items you want to use. You’ll earn a skull rating based on your performance in a level and now you can earn bonus skulls by meeting certain requirements. Best of all, the Bonus Skulls can be earned each time you play a level.
Skulls are important because they are needed to purchase upgrades and new items. You can improve the efficiency of each item as well as unlock unique abilities. You can also buy different costumes for your character. To buy and unlock everything will require grinding but, luckily, skulls can be earned in each game mode. This new upgrade system adds a new layer of depth to the gameplay. Like the first game, you can get creative and experiment but now you’re given a lot more tools and because of their upgrades and unique abilities, there’s plenty of ways to successfully complete levels. I would say the gameplay is still more about traps than it is about combat but because of the new upgrade system, weapons play a more crucial role this time around.
There are three difficulty modes and one nice change is that now you can walk around and analyze the level on all difficulties, including Nightmare, before triggering the first wave of enemies. However, as opposed to the other difficulties, Nightmare doesn’t give you any additional breathers or breaks after completing a certain number of waves. All of the enemies from the previous game make a return along with new foes like Trolls, Yetis, and Elementals, among some others. Some enemies are vulnerable to certain types of elemental attacks which should be considered when choosing your tools. Enemies do arrive in waves and will proceed to march straight towards the rifts so proper trap placement is extremely important.
The story campaign does not contain as many levels as that of the first game but with all of the DLC levels and other game modes, there’s a lot more levels in total. While the environmental variety is better than that of the first game, many levels still look and feel the same. The difficulty does ramp up nicely and I find the game less frustrating than its predecessor. The only level that gave me significant trouble was “Crunch” which is one of the later levels in the main campaign. With four doorways for enemies to come pouring through along with flying types arriving from above, I struggled to keep the enemies at bay as well as keep up with proper trap and Guardian placement. But other than that, I had a great time figuring out the most efficient ways to dispose of enemies. Most levels leave room for error and experimentation, and because of the Bonus Skulls, earning a poor skull rating isn’t that big of a deal. You can always come back to levels later with new and upgraded tools which will make things easier.
Every level is laid out differently and choke points is where its at. If you can funnel enemies down choke points, you’re in for a great time. Most levels contain multiple doors for enemies to come pouring through and you’ll often have to defend multiple rifts. If an enemy manages to pass through a rift or you die, you lose rift points. If you lose them all, you fail. By nature, it’s a trial-and-error game so you will need patience. You might fail a level or let a few enemies pass through a rift before you get things just right but that’s all part of the fun. Successfully defending rifts with well placed traps is immensely satisfying. You can utilize environmental hazards like minecarts filled with lava, rolling logs, and hanging bombs just to name a few.
The Endless Mode contains both unique levels and levels from other game modes and they do need to be unlocked. Thinks work a little differently in the Endless Mode. Besides the fact you’re up against an endless amount of enemy waves, all enemies will be thrown at you and unique to Endless is an enemy called Mr. Moneybags. He’s not a threat and doesn’t cost you any rift points by escaping but he can tank a lot of damage. If you can take him down, he’ll drop a lot of money.
Orcs Must Die! 2 features a colorful presentation with good animations and visual effects. The weapons feel great and each kill is satisfying. You’ll get to fling, crush, burn, freeze, electrocute, and blow enemies away. They can explode into gibs and acid will reduce them to skeletons and that never gets old. The action is accompanied by a catchy soundtrack but you’re going to hear the same tunes repeatedly. Enemies will make all kinds of noises during gameplay and often say funny shit. The two protagonists will shout lines during gameplay and interact with each other and impacts and explosions sound pretty good. On the technical side, I noticed the frame rate dip here and there but encountered no major bugs or issues.
Orcs Must Die! 2 improves on what was established in the first game in so many ways. On the surface, it kind of looks and feels the same but it gives you so much more and the result is a more enjoyable experience. I had a blast with this. I found the gameplay to be addictive and the new upgrade system is the real game changer here. It opens the door to so many possibilities and lets players get more creative than ever before. And with Steam Workshop support, you get even more options. If you’re not a fan of the genre, I can’t say Orcs Must Die! 2 will change your mind but those that do enjoy these types of games will find a lot to love about it. It’s not perfect by any means but considering this released less than a year after its predecessor, the improvements and leap in content is impressive.
Orcs Must Die! 2 is a phenomenal sequel and I would absolutely recommend it. I would even say skip the first game and jump right into 2. Almost everything about this is done better, it can be enjoyed with a buddy, and it supports mods. If you enjoyed the blend of action and tower defense in Orcs Must Die! then Orcs Must Die! 2 is a must play.