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March 2, 2011

Orcs Must Die preview part 2 – Gameplay

Following up on the Orce Must Die preview last week, this week we’ll be focussing on the gameplay element of Orcs Must Die (OMD). Having attended the Robot Entertainment community summit last week we got to play through three levels of the game which were The Hallway the first level in the game, The Corner an early level and a mid-game level called Sorcerers Tower.

The Hallway

Starting with the first level , The Hallway places you on a simple map as to be expected for the first level of any game. The level has one door with Orcs trying to break through and one gateway which the Orcs are trying to get to and you are tasked to defend. On the first level of the game you only have a basic set of weapons and traps which are the sword and crossbow as handheld weapons plus only one trap the floor spikes. The level is shaped as a straight hallway with no corners or elevations to worry about. Once you enter the level you are free to place the spike traps in any location you want. I decided to put my spike traps a few spaces away from the entrance door as that made the most sense to me, keeping the Orcs at bay right at the entrance. You only have a small amount of money for the first level which means you can only put down a few traps so it is likely you’ll have to dig out either your sword or crossbow once the game starts.

Navigating around the level is easy using the traditional WASD keyboard keys. Your character the War Mage moves around the map at a higher than average speed than most games. This is appropriate for the fast paced nature of the game and if there’s an Orc managing to get away, having the speed to catch up and slice him down to size can be quite useful!

Placing down traps is a doddle; each trap is assigned to a number keys on the keyboard along with the option to select weapons and magic.

Number keys can be used to select weapons, magic and traps

Simply press the number on the keyboard which correlates with the trap you want to set and you are good to go using the mouse to pick a location on the map, all from the third person perspective. If the placement of the trap is valid the trap will glow green, if it’s not valid it will glow red.

Incorrect placement

Correct placement

Once you have placed down all the traps you can with the available money you are free to start the game by hitting the relevant keyboard key. Shortly after pressing the doors will burst open and hordes of Orcs will come streaming in. As my spike traps were set very close to the door at first I was able to sit back and watch the first few Orcs get slaughtered there. However as the spike trap is a timed trap which means once it is deployed it has a cool down period before it activates again the Orcs began to make their way past the spike traps meaning it was time to unleash hand weapons the sword and crossbow. As your character can take damage from the Orcs at close range I decided to at first make use of the cross bow so that I could still pick the Orcs off from a distance and keep them as close to the entrance as possible.

Take that!

The crossbow isn’t just any ordinary crossbow, it also uses magic so on each shot you lose a little bit of magic from your magic meter. If you rapid fire your crossbow too much you might suffer a short delay as your magic meter re-fills. Keeping at a distance means you wont be caught by surprise by an attacking Orc if you find yourself with a crossbow delay. If you need to get down and dirty you can quickly equip your sword using the number keys, or by scrolling through the weapons with the mouse wheel. Your sword doesn’t use any magic so you can swing it as you please bear in mind though that being up close and personal with the Orcs puts you at risk of taking damage. A few hits from the Orcs can take a significant toll on your health. If you do die (which luckily I didnt on level 1!) you dont have to start the level again instead you lose the expierence points gained so far on that level. We’ll be discussing expierence points a bit more in Part 3.

After picking off the last of the Orcs with sword it was level complete and you are then presented with a basic stats screen demonstrating how many Orcs you killed and the time it took to do so. This stats screen will likely be improved with more detail as the game develops.

The Corner

Next stop – “The Corner”. This is one of the earlier levels in the game and has a few more traps on offer than level 1. This time we have access to the wall arrows, swinging mace, and tar pit traps.

This was an “L” shaped multi-story level. The level begins with the War Mage standing on a bridge looking down at the level below where the Orcs begin bashing against the door. As you get time to place your traps before the Orcs come bashing through I decided to jump down to the floor below and place traps once again near the front of the door. This time with access to more traps I decided to first place down spike traps at the front of the door followed by some tar pit traps. By doing this any Orcs which were not killed by the spike trap were easier for me to kill at a distance with the cross bow as they were moving slower through the tar pit.  Quite a good strategy I thought! If I wanted I could of climbed the stairs and taken out the Orcs from an even safer distance, but I didn’t have any trouble picking them off from the ground floor on this occasion.

This level had a few extra rounds of Orcs at each checkpoint you have time to place more traps based on the money earnt from earlier kills. If you like you can remove existing traps for money to buy new ones if you found they were in-effective the first time round or wanted to spice things up and try something different.

Sorcerer’s Tower

This is one of the mid-game levels and I could tell immediately when starting, with multiple levels, lava pits – this was definetly a step forward in the game. As we had advanced further into the games difficulty more traps were available to us and for the first time we had magic in the form of a fire spell.

Weapons and traps galore!

New traps included an awesome wall based trap which launches blades from the assigned wall and a potentially hilarious spring trap which allows you to launch Orcs flying in the air. Combing these traps can be very deadly – theres nothing more fun then propelling Orcs straight into blades or even a pool of lava!

You might also notice on the weapons and traps UI that there is an interesting character on key number 0. This is a non-playable computer AI which you can deploy on the map. The character in question is infact an Archer and when deployed he can help take out Orcs from a distance.

Have at you Orcs!

The Sorcerer’s Tower level had a handy platform isolated from reach of the Orcs which was a perfect place for me to place some archers. The platform also gave them almost complete coverage of the entire map so that they were always in range of hitting an Orc. On subsequent goes at the level I experimented placing archers on the ground in the Orcs path but I found them to be very weak when struck by an Orc so strategic placement of the archers can be important.

This level also introduced some different types of Orcs including pesky smaller Orcs which run very fast and can be harder to hit with the crossbow if they manage to get past the traps. Be on your guard to make sure none of these Orcs sneak pass you to reach the gateway! Also be on the lookout for cross bow Orcs which can shoot from a fair distance.

These Orcs can get pretty annoying – they must die!

We were also introduced to some bigger, meaner looking Orcs which take quite a bit more effort to kill. Unfortunetly on my first play through of this level I underestimated their power and was killed while close range with the sword weapon. The best strategy for killing these Orcs I think came from Dan Griliopoulos from Rock Paper Shotgun. His genius idea was to tease the larger Orcs which turned out to be some quite dim witted Orcs and lead them into the swinging mace trap. The particular trap combined with a few shots from the crossbow can do some pretty good damage to these larger Orcs and saves you having to get hands on with your sword.

Another great thing about this level was that it was possible to interact with the level landscape to cause further pain to the Orcs. Chandeliers hanging from the ceilings can be shot down to crush Orcs below and huge wooden planks can be rolled down stairs to decimate Orcs below. The physics effects are great to watch and are very satisfying to deploy in game, plus they are great for getting yourself out of sticky situations should you find yourself being overrun with Orcs. Check out this short snippet from the trailer demonstrating these awesome landscape based attacks:

My overall impression of the gameplay in Orcs Must Die was excellent. Its a very fun game to play which is what Robot Entertainment is all about. There is definitely quite alot of replay value to be had as there are many different approaches to complete each level. When the game launches I can imagine there are going to be some great achievement opportunities to be had! I throughly enjoyed playing Orcs Must Die, its definitely something I could see myself spending many hours playing at a time and can tell its going to be addictive! The game is easy to get to grips with and the controls make it a breeze to play. Everything you would expect from a third person action game is present – health bars, magic bars, combo kills, head shots combined with an array of weapons and traps. The game looks and plays in a very World of Warcraft fashion, WoW players may recognize some similarities with the UI design in its current form, but this may change slightly come launch. However, this current UI design is very approachable and very clear combined with well designed levels making the whole experience stress-free and generally just a whole lot of fun.

In part 3 we’ll be looking closer at some of the design elements of the game and what each of the different UI aspects are. We’ll also be discussing things like the art style and sound so stay tuned! If you have any burning questions what you would like answered just ask away on twitter @Remember_ES and they’ll be covered! Dont forget to check out a whole bunch of screenshots, video and more information about OMD on its brand new official website at

Until then.. beware of Orcs!



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