Across dozens of fantasy worlds, orcs constantly get the short end of the stick. They exist only to get cut down in a multitude of ways, and it's no different in Orcs Must Die!. We got the chance to go hands-on with the game during this year's PAX East convention in Boston--and we got a lot of orc blood on our hands.
Who's Making It: Independent studio Robot Entertainment is developing this game. Founded in 2009 by members of Microsoft's now-defunct Ensemble Studios (Halo Wars), Robot Entertainment is adapting its extensive experience with the Age of Empires series into something a little different.
What It Looks Like: Orcs Must Die! is a third-person action game that mixes in some elements from the tower defense genre. The artistic style has the same cartoonish look as the developer's other game, Age of Empires Online. The area we played in was a long, twisting hallway where enemies would pour through two entrances. The first was at the far end of the hallway, while the second was about halfway down. Posted around the hallway were some friendly archers who, we were assured, would help us out by firing on the enemies, as well as a few exploding barrels.
What You Do: We controlled a knight in shining armor whose mission was to slaughter waves of orcs wholesale before they reached the end of the hallway. The tools of the trade included a variety of different traps, as well as our own personal weapons and abilities. Spike pits, springboards, tar pits, and spike walls helped thin out the enemy hordes so long as we placed them in the enemy's path. And, as we fought, we collected more money to purchase even more traps and produce more carnage.
How It Plays: The orcs that managed to survive our traps had to be dealt with personally. The crossbow, which had a high rate of fire but lost accuracy with each shot, was our weapon of choice against the masses. It also had an alternate attack, which would briefly slow enemies in a small area. Combined with the tar pit trap, we could bring hordes of enemies to a screeching halt and then blow them away with a barrage of arrows.
In between waves of enemies, the game would pause to let us catch our breath and place some more traps. The minimap would update to display a color-coded density map, showing where we got the most kills. If we saw that a particular trap had been ill placed, we could sell it back and buy another. As the waves progressed, the game introduced new enemy types, including quick and nimble kobolds who excelled at running around our traps and high-flying fiends that our traps couldn't reach.
What We Say: Orcs Must Die! offered an interesting mix of genres. It definitely captured the morbid satisfaction that comes from watching our enemies get cut down by our defenses. And while the combat felt basic, we were assured that there will be numerous other traps and abilities to unlock in the full release. Orcs Must Die! will be released for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC this summer.