Of Orcs and Men Review

Of Orcs and Men's few design issues don't prevent it from being a fun, table-turning take on the age-old conflict.

Often relegated to the background as evil fodder for the blades of do-gooder humans, orcs don't usually get a chance to shine on center stage. Of Orcs and Men changes that, instead painting greenskins in a very different light while tackling heady topics of genocide and oppression through the eyes of its dual protagonists: a brutish orc, Arkail, and his reluctant goblin sidekick, Styx. Their dynamic relationship is the central pillar holding aloft a fun-but-flawed adventure that packs impressive depth in some areas, yet struggles with shallow design in others.

These green dudes make a great duo.

Turning traditional fantasy tropes on their head, humans are the villains in this tale. War ignites across the continent when the power-hungry human empire shows its monstrous tendencies by imprisoning, torturing, and slaughtering the green-skinned inhabitants of the land. Brought together by a common foe, Arkail and Styx begrudgingly team up to push deep into the empire's territory and assassinate the emperor. Their quest sends the duo on a lot of wild tangents--one minute they're burning a church filled with inquisitor scum, the next they're rescuing an imprisoned wizardess to aid in their quest. Lines between good and evil are blurred constantly, often by the protagonists themselves. Despite their questionable methods, these fellows are oddly likeable, thanks to their strong personalities and enjoyable camaraderie.

The colorful interactions between the burly anger-prone orc and his witty comrade also provide some comic relief that helps counterbalance the somber tone of their bloody mission. Unfortunately, the humor seems forced and at times it misses the mark. Dialogue waffles between witty remarks and excessive F-bombs to the point where it feels juvenile and distracting. It's a shame, because their backstory and ongoing development throughout the adventure is genuinely interesting. They're compelling characters that hold up even as the pace of the story shifts gears--and it does so frequently. The ham-fisted attempt at extra edginess wasn't needed.

With an orc and a goblin walking around amidst a bunch of greenskin-hating humans, the vast majority of the encounters devolve into combat with ease, whether you intend them to or not. Of Orcs and Men's battle system blends action-heavy encounters and more thoughtful RPG strategy by letting you instantly dial down the excitement to a slow-motion crawl at the touch of a button. This gives you time to queue up different attack moves, change between offensive and defensive stances, and trigger abilities for both characters before letting loose again.

Queuing attacks gives strategic options.

Since you can only directly control one character at a time, and the friendly A.I. isn't the most competent, a lot of micromanagement juggling comes into play. But instead of being tedious, it's actually fun to continually swap characters, switch up your strategy, and adapt to the flow of battle as it unfolds. It keeps encounters fluid and gives you a big strategic toolbox to pull from.

Both warriors' distinct personalities also play into their vastly different fighting styles, and it's these differences that make each one enjoyable to play when the need to swap them out arises. Arkail is a powerful but unpredictable melee fighter who wields giant blades and bludgeoning weapons. Every hefty blow he delivers or receives pushes him closer to flying into a berserk rage. When he does fly off the handle, all hell breaks loose. He's uncontrollable for a brief time, his damage is ramped up significantly, and he attacks anyone within range--friend and foe alike. Afterwards, Arkail is momentarily stunned, opening him up to attack, which is why managing his anger level so it peaks at just the right time is an important challenge.

In contrast, Styx is weak in toe-to-toe melee against bigger foes, but his long-range throwing daggers and status-afflicting attacks make him perfect for weakening foes for Arkail to finish off. Equally useful outside of battle, Styx can also turn invisible and sneak up on foes for stealth kills to reduce the crowd of enemies you'll face off against when they notice you. Figuring out the best way to use both characters effectively for each combat situation you're thrown into is satisfying.

Two greenskins against a human army? Those poor men don't stand a chance.

You're given a lot of leeway to tinker with both warriors beyond their inherent strengths and weaknesses, as they level up and earn skill points to spend on stat boosts and new abilities. Tactical variety gets further expanded by the great assortment of attacks and custom abilities unique to each character. But what's puzzling, given the game's strong RPG trappings, is that weapons and items are terribly downplayed. New gear pops up at disappointingly infrequent intervals, and half of the time the items you find aren't much of an improvement over your current gear. Sure, there's a rudimentary crafting system to upgrade the stuff you've grabbed so far, but it's minimal and doesn't do much to compensate for the weak supply of killing accoutrements.

Other areas aspects of the game suffer from similar design hiccups. Despite some branching areas to explore and side missions to tackle, much of the game feels painfully linear. You slog from one area to the next killing most of the troops you encounter. The beautifully-detailed battlefields pair well with plot twists and maintain a steady momentum, but the map layouts aren't nearly as complex or interesting. Visual glitches crop up too. During a large stretch of the game, Arkail might carry around and wield a blunt stick on his back instead of the barbed axe he has equipped in the inventory menu. It also could appear to be hovering behind him rather than being attached to the big guy.

Anger management is an important part of Arkail's play style, so use it well.

Minor issues such as that, coupled with the jarring foul language at times, detract from the game's potent atmosphere. The overall visual design is very sharp and nuanced--except when it comes to the human characters, who are sometimes awkwardly animated (not to mention, poorly voiced). None of this kills the mood entirely, but it makes the experience feel half-baked during times when you should be awash in the thrill of the conflict.

Of Orcs and Men hits a lot of sweet spots. The dynamic dual protagonists, flip-flopped bad-guys-are-the-good-guys story, and deep strategic combat system all do a stellar job of grabbing and maintaining interest throughout the lengthy campaign. It's not hard to get caught up in the violent quest to topple the empire, but there are still quite a few little blips along the way that break up the game's momentum. Though Of Orcs and Men struggles at times, its absorbing moments are enough to keep you in the fight for the long haul.

The Good
Gorgeous environments and character design
Lots of depth in the battle system
Dual protagonists add an interesting dynamic to the story and combat
The Bad
Maps are fairly linear and light on loot
Minor technical glitches mar the vibe
7
Good
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4 comments
Temtamperu
Temtamperu

I like it, its funny, clever and most of all lots of fun. On a bad note Loot was a bit poor. we RPG nerds survive on Loot. Its where we get our powers.

Liferipper
Liferipper

Nice game - but the combat system is not "nice".

Klyern
Klyern

7.0? thats how far i had to look to know you are tripping gamespot, this game deserves a 9. The only thing you can complain about is the fact that combos dont stop after the enemy is dead, you start a 3 hit combo ability and kill them on the first hit, then the sequence goes on as the character keeps hitting the air, and thats it, nothing else sucks or is wrong with the game, no bugs, no glitches, no nothing. And 7.0?

I bet the reason gamespot doesnt give good games good reviews and scores anymore is because its taking money under the table to hand out scores, reviews have been bullshit for the past few years.

PsyonicPlague
PsyonicPlague

Quite a few hasty generalizations going on in the comments section right now, no, America isn't led by a bunch of stupid people, and no its not just the evil democrats trying to take away our video games, right now it is a few people on both sides of the line, who are scared and angry. They are looking for anything to blame, seeking to vindicate anything that might unify the general populace into getting mad and doing something about it. 

No, I'm not trying to defend this kind of legislation, on the contrary, I am against it 100%. Furthermore, I am offended by Mr. Yee telling gamers to quiet down, citing bloodthirst and avarice as reasons why gamers shouldn't be trusted. However, I do think that some understanding needs to be reached, and it isn't really helping anything for people to just get on here and rage about how stupid faceless politicians are.

Wensea10
Wensea10

The game seems excellent and leads to an amazing story.

dkvel
dkvel

Game is nice. Its also a little bit too simple, but I like story. Nowadays it is difficult to find the original story.

Renoo27
Renoo27

I'm very intrigued. Been a way since I played an RPG with a deep story and interesting characters. I'll definately be picking this up at some point.

sargijeh
sargijeh

fighting system is VERY boring, and also so foolish in most of scenes !

lindallison
lindallison

Maybe the first time I've read a criticism of back-mounted weapons floating behind a character....pretty common problem actually, see Dragon Age (by far the worst offender), The Witcher, Skyrim.

moc5
moc5

The ever ongoing challenge of a good idea is always implementation.  One could compare this to watching a tight rope walker with no net.

Sokol4ever
Sokol4ever

Game of Thrones is good, I will be picking up this title as well.

Matty_gamer
Matty_gamer

That gratuitous swearing emblem should actually be included in The Good. :D

leikeylosh
leikeylosh

Well, this is exactly like the other game by Cyanide, Game of Thrones. It's a "linear RPG", if that's even possible. The gameplay is subpar in my opinion, but the graphics are cool and storyline is great. If only they could enhance the gameplay and work on the animations, their games would be awesome.

Hurvl
Hurvl

I'm a bit unsure about this one and would like to have a demo to be sure it was worth my time and money, but I've got lots of other games to play so this is merely a "might be good" game.

suplax
suplax

I like how the " new " crappy CoD game gets a review instantly after being released, but a small developer game review takes forever...

And Kevin come at comments all self-righteous and bash a dude speaking the truth.

I miss the old 90's Gamespot....

gamingfrendly
gamingfrendly

i liked the game it have its flaws and annoying moments but it was ok kevin reviews are my favorite to read or watch on GS

arganvain
arganvain

Better saying, this game is not for the action loving people, instead is for those who love games like baldur's gate, dragon age : origins and such rpgs where tactics while fighting are involved.

For me the bad is using such a bulky character and making him fight pathetic humans without making them fly with each punch, unfortunately that is a downside that made me consider the fact to do not play this game, STILL, this is a game that people who love classical rpgs should play.

wexorian
wexorian

Nice i should check game :D

don_saulari
don_saulari

7 !!! for the love of god I saw many gameplays on youtube, the battle system is the worst thing I have ever saw !!!, game of thrones was better ;/

pathosfire
pathosfire

This one was on my watch list and now on my wish list.  I was on the fence and I'm glad to see Gamespot liked it.  With Cyanide games, you never know if it's just unrealized potential or an actual playable product. 

The3rdGracchus
The3rdGracchus

Considering how poorly most of Cyanide studios outings have been, this sounds like a rousing success (I suspect that Spiders was the biggest contributor to the game, then, and so I'd keep an eye on them). I hope it does well for them. I await the inevitable Steam sale!

1wikkid1
1wikkid1

Tried this game, didn't like it. People who are considering this one, I VERY strongly urge you to watch some gameplay videos, particularly ones with a lot of combat. Personally I didn't enjoy having to babysit two greenskins, and I do mean babysit, you can't go a fight without switching between characters or one(if not both) will end up dead. The way the story is presented is another HUGE minus for me, all the dialog is flat, trying to make these orcs out as some sort of noble beast just doesn't work, especially when that orc just wants to smash faces. The early friendly orc conversation dialog literally made me grind my teeth, they sound so fluffy!

 

But the biggest flaw IMO is the combat system. They really should have taken a look at Dragon Age:Origins for the tactics system, either that or give the not active character at least half decent AI. Having to stop combat to cycle through three sets of moves for each character makes it feel like the combat is turn-based, slow, and generally not much fun.

iomor27
iomor27

Game sounds decent enough to give it a look. I'll still wait for the price to come down a bit, though.

tribalKELLERMAN
tribalKELLERMAN

Gamespot is really lazy with the stuff they review ... it's like one month old already? Duh.

 

Game is okay-ish I guess.

AzelKosMos
AzelKosMos

 @leikeylosh I rather enjoyed Game of Thrones despite it's large array of flaws so certainly will give this a try. I feel Cyanide's games are a bit ambition over budget but the effort is there.

dutchgamer83
dutchgamer83

 @Hurvl It is a nice game, but wait for a price drop cause it is really linear (even the leveling up). For 30 dollars or so its a nice worthy game (atm 45 euro's so that's 50 dollars or so?)

Goyoshi12
Goyoshi12

 @suplax 

It's a popular game, of course it's getting a reviews instantly and defending your job and co-workers is a bad thing now?

I don't think GameSpot is the problem anymore, I think it's the users who use it.

GamerOuTLaWz
GamerOuTLaWz

 @arganvain I LOVE!!  BG games (mostly BG2:SoA) and Im eager to play the new Enhanced edition  but if this one is too linear it sure wont feel like a Baldur's Gate eh

Jaxith
Jaxith

 @starduke

 That hurt to read...  I need to wash my poor brain out now. 

 

Respectfully, while I agree that excessive swearing is indeed bad and in poor taste, I don't feel that the method by which you chose to deliver that point was really appropriate, or necissary for that matter.

starduke
starduke

And that, my friends, is the last time you will see me use the F-bomb in a comment. Why? Because I am not a savage, and I refuse to talk like one.

Dnaisinmybody
Dnaisinmybody

 @1wikkid1 Lol, I know how you feel when you talk about stupid AI. I just got RE5 on PS+ and there's no way I'm playing the missions on single player mode!!

dutchgamer83
dutchgamer83

 @tribalKELLERMAN I wouldn't say lazy, sadly none of the big game review sites has covered this game. A huge shame cause it is a nice budget rpg (don't buy it for the full price, even lving up is linear, but at a cheaper price there is a fun game waiting for you).

 

I can understand Kevin's frustration at being called lazy when they make so many hours. But @Kevin-V, most people don't know how much time is invested and how much staff there is for all the games. All people see is this game not getting a review while there are many many cover stories about Halo and CoD a couple of times per month "Today we look at map x, tomorrow map y and the day after we show you how the map editor looks like". Maybe spend a little less energy on games that sell like mad cause of their title alone, cause CoD comes out every year, and every year a lot of attention goes too it.  If you are understaffed make priorities. And games like Of Orcs and Men really need review sites like GS to promote their game cause it doesn't get a bad score and is unknown title. Less time on Halo and CoD's extra coverages could create time to write a review about these kind of games. Cause frankly i don't have to read about the perks of CoD year after year, we know that already and if it has 2 new ones fine, mention it in the CoD review not a entire article about it in the upcoming days or who the covenants are in Halo. 

 

I know my examples are exacurated but CoD and Halo get a lot attention trough out the year. Less time on them more time in unknown games so they some attention as well.

Kayweg
Kayweg

 @tribalKELLERMAN Apart from what Kevin describes, personally i prefer when game reviews come out a few weeks after release.

At least there's a chance that the reviewer played the game for more than just a few hours and wasn't rushed by a deadline.

Then again i never preorder, so it doesn't matter that much to me. 

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

 @tribalKELLERMAN We aren't lazy--we have limited staff members at a time when (you may have noticed?) a lot of major games are coming out. I am glad we were able to review this game at all. I invite you to come visit our offices and follow our staff members around. Their 70-80 hour weeks, the voraciousness and passion with which they do it all, the good attitudes they still have even when sacrificing personal happiness while doing it; you would never accuse any of these people of being lazy. In fact, you would wonder why they give so much, even if it means spending too little time with their loved ones. 

Hurvl
Hurvl

 @dutchgamer83 I think so too, though I'm European or Swedish to be more precise, so I'll probably get it on Steam and pay in euros. I have a backlog that is so extreme that I consider five year old games to be new, so I'm not in a hurry to buy new games that might not be what I'm looking for.

arganvain
arganvain

 @GamerOuTLaWz thats why i was talking about the kind of tactical fight, not about all the game.

the game itself is not free as an rpg one, instead is quite linear as an action one.

starduke
starduke

 @Jaxith Well, after reading the first sentence, I'd say it had the effect I was going for.

Lord_Python1049
Lord_Python1049

 @starduke Swearing doesn't make you a savage, why does not conforming to arbitrary rules devised by control freaks make you a savage? I say, Fuck is a great word, the fact that people out there are offended by it makes it an even greater word. Fuck them! (and if you are offended by a word that is not directed at you, you should start questioning why it is so) 

GamerOuTLaWz
GamerOuTLaWz

 @Dnaisinmybody  try resident evil: Outbreak or Outbreak File 2,then come back to me with a stupid AI comment. RE5 is a walk in the park offline

JMcN76
JMcN76

 @Kevin-V  @tribalKELLERMAN No offense, but I don't really care for the whole "70-80 hour work week...sacrificing personal happiness" hero nonsense. No one told you to go work for GameSpot--that was your choice. Your argument is kind of like the NFL players blaming the NFL because they didn't know that football was a violent sport which could damage their health. 

 

What you should have said was, "GameSpot is a free site that offers the gaming public a great service by offering free reviews without asking for anything in return." I would have had more respect for you than your whining retort. 

halestrom88
halestrom88

 @Kevin-V  @tribalKELLERMAN i love that kevin told this guy what was really up  and stood up for his co-workers way to be a stand up guy kev FUS RO DAH the haters lmao

 

starduke
starduke

 @ggregd  I do hope your comment wasn't directed at me. If so, it's not a trailer, it's a murderizing metal gear, and it's not on fire, it fires nuclear warheads.

ggregd
ggregd

 @Lord_Python1049  @starduke Go home, your trailer's on fire.  

 

It's not offensive, it's stupid and lazy.  Think of another adjective or invective.

starduke
starduke

 @dutchgamer83  @Lord_Python1049 The origins of the word are so obscure that there's no telling where it came from or what it meant originally. It might have come from that, or it might have come from a myriad of other sources. However, when you look at the context it is usually used in, in modern usage, it certainly doesn't mean anything good.

dutchgamer83
dutchgamer83

 @starduke  @Lord_Python1049 Technically it means the King of England is allowed to plow woman on their wedding night. That is the origin of the word...but i guess you can see it as a form of rape.

starduke
starduke

 @Lord_Python1049 The F-bomb means rape. If you want to go around telling people that you want to rape them, or that they should be raped, or that inanimate objects should be raped, go right ahead...you savage!

starduke
starduke

 @Gelugon_baat That wasn't talking, that was text. And, after that comment, I also refuse to write like one.

Of Orcs and Men More Info

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  • First Released
    • PC
    • PS3
    • Xbox 360
    Of Orcs and Men is a role-playing game that places players in the role of an elite Orc soldier.
    6.8
    Average User RatingOut of 188 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Of Orcs and Men
    Developed by:
    Spiders, Cyanide
    Published by:
    Focus Home Interactive
    Genres:
    Action, Role-Playing
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Mature
    PS3 X360
    Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language
    Not yet assigned a final ESRB rating. Appears only in advertising, marketing and promotional materials related to a game that is expected to carry an ESRB rating, and should be replaced by a game's rating once it has been assigned.
    Rating Pending
    PC