One of the mechanics developers are incorporating into their tower defense-like games is the ability to actually control a character or characters on the battlefield. This is the case in Robot Entertainment's upcoming action strategy game Orcs Must Die! In it, you must incorporate a number of nifty traps and items, and with your hero, you dispose of the incoming waves of monsters before they manage to take control. Having had the opportunity to experience three of the game's levels, the combat and open-ended way you can tackle a stage should appeal to fans of the genre.
The premise behind the game's story wasn't revealed to us, but the goal is simple: Prevent the various orc forces from taking control of the castle you are tasked with protecting. As with most games in the genre, you will gradually obtain different skills for your character, and contraptions can be placed to either slow the enemies down or eliminate them altogether. Contraptions vary from standard spikes that are triggered when enemies walk on top of them to catapults that toss enemies across the room.
One of the cooler aspects of the combat is the suggested use of combos. When you toss enemies using the catapult, if they happen to land on a lava pit or another contraption, you are rewarded. You are also rewarded based on the number of foes you kill in a series. If you rack up a high enough kill streak, the multiplier will also net you with more cash to spend. The rewards factor in each level's final score, which unlocks additional items, and give you more money to spend on items. Because there are various paths the enemies can go through in a particular level, having enough money at your disposal to place your defenses is extremely important. At the same time, though, upgrades made on a particular contraption in one level are carried over to future levels; thus, deciding if you should upgrade for the future or complete the current level with as many objects as possible does come into play.
On the battlefield, the only character you control directly is the hero. Prior to each battle, depending on the number of slots available, you pick the items you want available to purchase and use. Although there are a lot of contraptions at your disposal as you progress, you will have to ensure a nice balance of placement items and the proper gear for your hero to succeed with the least amount of trouble. You can certainly mix and match to your heart's content, and because of that, seeing what works best in an area should open the door to replaying a particular level a few times.
Like other strategy games, enemies will attack in waves and each level will have a different number of waves you will need to stop. A nice feature in each level is that after certain waves, there will be a break in the action that will allow you to sell or place additional items before initiating the next wave. In one of the more challenging levels, this break in the action was much appreciated because it gave us time to address weaknesses in our defense.
Our time with the game was brief, but from what we experienced thus far, fans of the genre and similar recent games may enjoy what is available here, especially if there is an engaging story attached to the combat. Orcs Must Die! is scheduled to launch on both the PC and Xbox Live Arcade later this year.