The release of Orcs Must Die! 2 (OMD2) may come something of both a nice surprise and somewhat a disappointment, for several understandable reasons. Not even a year since OMD1 released, developer Robot Entertainment went to work on the next big improvement to what was sorely lacking from its third-person action meets tower-defense hybrid – a second player. And while they didn’t exactly go back to reinvent themselves the wheel, OMD2 strikes as the definite successor to the series, but conjures deja vu quite frequently from the first outing. But does that make it a full-fledged sequel?
To get the throwaway plot points out of the way, the portal thingamajigs that were closed by our male nameless hero from last time have suddenly reopened once more, freeing the once-antagonistic Sorceress away from the endless orc hordes (among other creatures), which aren’t too far behind her. As convenience would have it, she meets up with the War Mage and they band together to slay the orc armies once more. Presto change-o! We have ourselves a second playable character.
It doesn’t get any simpler than that, really. Not that you’ll want to play OMD2 for it’s storyline, but there is a bit of charm that seems to be lost from the translation. Maybe having a sole character that looks like he stepped out of an animated Dreamworks film giving silly quips was more of my thing, but the potential for back and forth banter between once villain and now partner feels really missed here. Simply put, the War Mage is still his quirky-goofy self and the Sorceress shares his scrumptious pleasure in slaying lots and lots of goddamn orcs. Well, no arguments there.
In terms of the kind of equipment you’ll be wielding to dish out some pain, the amount of new variety for weapons and traps is a welcome addition. The Sorceress herself has become an easy favourite, thanks to her keep-away tactics and range-based attacks. You can right-click to enchant Orcs with the Domination Spell and have enemies turn on each other, while firing your charged-up magic missiles when they’re not looking. Even though I mentioned earlier this was a tower-defense style game, you don’t actually build towers per se. Players can place traps on the sides of walls, on the floor or at the top of a ceiling which can spew, say for example, flailing arrows or burning acid for any orc dolt that happens to pass by.
Currency to place traps is based on how well you perform during a set number of waves, unless you’re planing to roll with Endless Mode, which is completely new to OMD2. Traps and weapons can also be upgraded using Skulls obtained through combo executions or general performance, and overall, the progression in the Spellbook system has been overhauled for maximum benefit. Farming for Skulls wasn’t as tedious as I thought it would be, as you are constantly rewarded throughout the game.
On the note of co-op itself, there are some limitations. Only two characters at once are supported, so don’t expect any four-player action, or local split-screen support for that matter. Which is a shame, but I suppose it leaves something for Robot Entertainment to figure out in case they plan for some future expansions. Another problem is that there is no access to any kind of server browser for public matches. You are very much stuck with inviting whomsoever is already on your friend list, and already owns the game. On top of that, let’s say one of your friends is hosting a game from complete scratch. Neither of you have any of the levels unlocked yet, aside from the first one. If both players end up completing about say, 7 of them, the host will have those levels unlocked and not the joiner. Its issues like these that seem a bit suspect, considering how much fun the actual co-op experience actually is.
So much so that it’s easy to get sucked in even after replaying stages you’ve already tackled before, because having a second player heavily reduces the amount of real-estate a solo player would have to cover if one were to gun down orcs all by his or her lonesome. That’s not to say some of the maps aren’t worth playing by yourself, but certain levels such as Upstairs Downstairs and Crunch feel better suited with two players. Frankly speaking, given how frantic the pace can be at times, I was a tad caught off guard in the beginning stages as well. I dread to think how anyone could get through the more advanced levels alone on the much more difficult Nightmare setting.
Good news for those who purchased OMD1 on Steam – you’ll be able to replay 10 Classic levels without having to reinstall or download them again. But to further add on the list of issues with co-op, a second player must also own the base game in order to play Classic levels with you. Also, none of these maps are available for Endless mode, which sucks. Still, its a nice idea and something I wished more games would do. And OMD1 has had frequent sales on the Steam store, so there’s that.
And speaking of the first game, hope you really enjoyed the original soundtrack that went with it too, because man, do they reuse a lot of the music from it! Actually, to my recollection, I could only remember ONE original new track for OMD2. This is further compounded by the reuse of voiceover clips from the War Mage. I doubt this will frustrate those newer to the series, but it really began to grate on me in a very short span of time.
Is Orcs Must Die! 2 a true sequel? It’s got enough bells and whistles to warrant those who were invested with the first game to eat it all up, but I hesitate to call it truly new or an evolved experience. While it’s great to see all these improvements and additions, there’s definitely scope for more. OMD2 still retains its arcade-y, score attack-like action roots and there’s enough replayability to keep one coming back. Its such an easy game to come right into and start wreaking some havoc, except now you won’t have to do it alone. Plus its just makes things even more chaotic, much to my scoffing. Here’s hoping the next game will really be a cut above.