Orcs Must Die! (PC) Review - Tactical Massacre Defense

This is your opponent. He is ruthless, single-minded, and knows no fear. Or how to draw.

I had barely heard of Robot
Entertainment before Orcs Must
They’re the
driving force from the
remains of Ensemble, who brought us the Age
of Empires
series, and are behind the current online/F2P
version of that
game.  So they know
what strategy
is.  But what
happens when those guys
remove the resource gathering, add a healthy dose of violence, and make
it a
third person tower defense game?  You
one hell of a lot of fun, apparently.

The premise is simple. style=""> 
You’re an asshole reject of the order of Magi, and you’re
the last
one.  The rest gave
their lives defending
the rifts, and it’s up to you defend them. 
Orcs and other assortments of monsters pour out from the
gates in large
waves, charging through the halls of your castle and attempting to
reach the
rift.  They reach
the rift, and you lose
points.  But in
order to reach that, they
have to not only get through you, but your traps. 

You plant a variety of mutilating,
debilitating, and more
importantly, satisfying traps along the paths the minions take and tear
them to
shreds, crush them, light them ablaze, or shatter them to pieces. style="">  These cost money and can
be planted on the
fly as the hordes charge at you, but each kill nets you precious cash. style="">  So what if the monsters
make it past your
initial trap area?  It’s
up to you.

You are no slouch and can chop
monsters down, fire crossbow
bolts between the eyes, and summon gusts of wind to shove them off
bridges and
into lava or acid.  You
are not some
sissy worker like most tower defenses, hell, you can be the ONLY
sometimes.  The fact
you have a piece of
all of the action makes the game a ton of frantic fun.


Orcs Must Die! is rated T for teen, and mostly for a bunch of cartoony violence. The bodies will fly apart in a messy fashion, but totally unrealistic. I’d say it’s safe for everyone.

Gameplay - 97 / 100

Gameplay is largely split into two
phases—the oncoming
hordes, and the calm before the storm.  
start out able to roam the stage, check out the area and where you can
traps, then you can select the array of traps and weapons you want to
yourself with for the stage.  There
is a
limit, so picking the right traps for the job is essential.

You then place your death machines as
you see fit, and hit a
button signal you’re ready and bring it on. 
You fight multiple waves of various monsters at a time
before you get
another break.   During
these breaks, or
very briefly in-between waves of enemies, you can sell your traps for
price and place others if you find a setup isn’t working.

Why not just show you what it's like, in up to 1080p style?  Here's a taste of the hordes on one of the later stages on medium difficulty.  My archer bombardment takes care of most of the creatures pouring in from the lower area of the tower, and I take it upon myself to thwart most of the upper entrance.  Since my primary trap here was the Push Wall, which doesn't work on heavy units like Ogres, I had to resort to ice spells and precise shooting while retreating towards the rift to finish off the wave.

The controls are very intuitive and for the most part spot on, but you cannot reconfigure them at the moment in the game.  Perhaps it’s a silly holdover from the console version, but unacceptable by PC standards today.  At least the default is pretty damn good.

The enemies do not behave like your standard tower defense games, and will engage you, chase you, run by, ignore you, and even taunt you with various sound clips as they rumble on by.  It’s pretty hard to exploit the AI in any way however, as even the most basic of orcs will say to hell with this and charge the rift eventually.    There are flying enemies as well, and those will typically have to be dealt with by you and not your traps.  That said, you can place two kinds of soldiers to help hold down areas.  Archers are your best option for covering wide areas, but their overall damage is low and their durability is a joke.  Paladins can take a huge beating and dish out a good amount, but are very slow, protect a tiny hallway at best, and enemies will sometimes get bored of fighting and move on!

The stage count is in the mid 20s, and there are three difficulty levels.  The hardest setting is unlocked after you beat the game on medium, and really turns things up.  Extremely tough enemies will show up in the first stage, the number of orcs on screen becomes staggering, and there are no break periods, not even at the beginning of the stage!  I consider myself a fairly seasoned defense mastermind, and I wasn’t able to perfectly do most of the later stages on normal my first try, and Nightmare took several tries (and I’m still working on some!)

Just don’t get this for the story.  Orcs are bashing down your gates and trying to make it to your awesome place.  That’s all you need to know, and frankly, all you’ll care about.

Graphics - 87 / 100

OMD! is a well textured, stylish game. Frozen enemies burst into shards, enemies hit by buzzsaws fall apart in great ways, and enemies that are catapulted through the air flail around like fools. You really feel like your traps are doing a number on opponents, rather than just having a corpse fall to the ground. The environments aren’t all that varied, but the tilesets that are in the game are solid. While it looks good, it’s not particularly groundbreaking or system-pushing, which is a good thing for those behind the curve. For the rest of you that want to max out your ATI crossfire setups, you know to look elsewhere.

Sound - 90 / 100

One of the reasons this game works so well is a fantastic soundtrack and gameplay sound suite. The enemies make a variety of noises, which function both as sonar and humor. Orcs will whine about various memes like ‘don’t crossbow me bro!’, where the howl of a Gnoll Hunter signals you to be on your guard, as they don’t care about the rift, they want to kill you! The intense music and random one-liners of our unlikely hero help fuel the carnage perfectly.

Value - 82 / 100

At $14.99, you’re getting essentially ~50 stages of content to do and redo as you see fit. There is a combo system that rewards players with points and money for creating multi-tiered execution setups, and you can even do some stages with no traps at all, and just your quick reactions and skilled play. Sure you might clear the normal difficulty within a week, but both Nightmare difficulty and carrying over your previous traps to older stages and seeing what havoc you can wreak adds a surprising amount of gameplay overall. You’re rewarded with currency to upgrade your traps based on how well you do, so there is an incentive to replay for perfection on all difficulty levels.

Still, and I hate to say it, no multiplayer stings a bit. Point leaderboards just don’t cut it.

Lasting Appeal - 65 / 100

This is a fantastic way to blow a half hour or a whole night. There’s enough variety in the enemies, they behave in strange enough fashions, and there are tons of ways to make them die. Even after you feel like you’ve seen and done it all, you might find yourself coming back for more like I still am. Depending on the depth and quality of DLC, this could increase with time… and if they ever release modding tools or a custom map creator, some of us will never get any work done.

Can you really get bored of setups like these that turn into crimson blenders of orc flesh though?

Nevertheless, with a limited supply of somewhat scripted stages, your interest will run dry eventually.

Pros and Cons


  • Super speedy combat, the only time spent waiting around is by your choice
  • Stylish graphics make watching the carnage all the more glorious
  • Surprisingly good sound all around


  • Needs multiplayer, DLC, or modding to extend its life
  • You can’t configure the controls in-game!?
  • Some more statistical documentation in-game for the traps, respective upgrades, and monsters would be nice


This is the best stand alone defense game since Plants vs. Zombies. While it might sound like garbage to have a hardcore defense player vouching for PvZ, it’s a damn fine game both by design and gameplay, and that’s just what Orcs Must Die! is too. Being able to skillfully dispatch those that get by your fields of death or even take on the hordes yourself adds to the fun and challenge of the game far beyond that of any normal tower defense. At $14.99, it’s not going to break your wallet either. If you’re not convinced, there’s a three stage demo on Steam that will whet your massacre whistle. The game tracks your lifetime kills, and at 21,000 and still going strong, I’m still not tired of setting up traps such that Orcs Must Die!

Overall 86/100 - Very Good


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