By Mohammad Abubakr
The tower defense genre is not, and has not been for a while, restricted to simplistic flash games. Back in the day I am sure we all spent countless hours playing games such as Bloons Tower Defense, but this genre has come a long way since then. We are seeing more and more first person 3D tower defense games with their own unique twists every year. Dungeon Defenders and Orcs Must Die! have been the two that have stood out from the list of 3D tower defense games. Both of these games put you in the shoes of a hero that must balance actively fighting off waves of enemies while micromanaging a tactical series of tower defense traps to protect their objectives. Orcs Must Die! Unchained takes it even further by adding additional elements found in MOBA games to the mix. Read on for my review of Orcs Must Die! Unchained, now in open beta after years of closed beta testing!
Orcs Must Die! Unchained builds off the basics of previous installments in the offline series as well as their rival, Dungeon Defenders. You must stop waves of enemy minions from attacking your core (or in this case, your relic). How you do this is completely up to you. Most maps are divided into several lanes where minions march towards your relic. Depending on your hero, and in this case your deck, you may setup various traps, turrets, and buildings to slow down and defeat waves of enemies. It would be boring, and often impossible, to just sit back and watch your defenses do the job; this is where your hero’s MOBA abilities come into play. Using your basic attacks, passive traits, and active abilities, you can jump between the lanes defeating waves of minions. That’s all there is to the game and this genre in general.
The tutorials do a great job of introducing new players to the game.
It would be quite boring if the latest installment of the game simply stuck to the gameplay described above. We don’t need yet another game like this when a DLC for the previous installments should suffice. However, Orcs Must Die! Unchained portrays itself more like a MOBA with multiple game modes rather than as a simple VS AI tower defense game. To begin, the game is always online and you must sign in with your Orcs Must Die account. This system has pros and cons but ultimately it lets you play online with others with ease and not have to rely on having a group ready to go before playing the game.
Once you have logged in, you are greeted with a basic lobby which acts as the main hub of the game. I was disappointed to find the settings menus very basic and even be limited to a measly 1366 by 768 pixels resolution. This is 2016, 1920 by 1080 should be the minimum resolution for a game such as this. It is important to note that the lobby and game are separate, so it may just be the lobby that is limited to this resolution. And no, being in open beta does not excuse the game from having poor resolution and other graphical options. After you have gotten over this downfall, we can move onto the game’s other menus such as the store and workshop.
Barricades are a great way to force enemy minions into your traps.
Orcs Must Die! Unchained uses a hero system found in various ARTS/MOBA where you must unlock heroes before you can play them. These heroes, all with unique abilities and attacks, can be bought with real money or crafted using materials found simply by playing the game. Anyone that has read my previous articles will know that I hate systems which force you to unlock classes or heroes before you can access them as it results in an imbalanced playing field before the game has even begun. Well, what can you do… let’s just be thankful that heroes are also craftable for free.
No matter which hero you select, your goal is still the same: stop enemy minions from destroying your relic. However, your role in achieving this goal can differ depending on your choice of hero. You may be jumping into the fray of battle, staying back and casting spells, or even helping your team stay alive. I personally like to stay back and deal damage at a distance that lets me see the overall flow of battle.
Setting up traps is as easy as selecting the trap and clicking where you want it.
Simply being able to select a hero with predetermined abilities would not be very interesting. This is where the deck system comes into play. You can make multiple decks with various cards, granted you possess them, in categories such as minions, traps, gear, and guardians. The deck system is quite interesting and lets you build a deck suiting your playstyle.
After finalizing your deck and selecting a hero, you can jump right into either the Siege or Survival game modes. Survival is a PvE (player versus environment) game mode that is identical to the traditional tower defense games. You and your team must fight off waves of enemies using your hero and custom deck. If you have played any of the previous installments of Orcs Must Die!, this game mode is nothing new, but it is still nice to have this around for fans of the genre that want to experience it with a few friends. Siege is a new game mode introduced to the game which pits five heroes against five heroes working towards getting their minions to the enemy relic. However, unlike a traditional MOBA, waves of minions do not mindlessly march towards the enemy base. Instead, you must setup various portals with your cards to summon minion waves.
There are a good number of cards available for players to make their own unique decks.
Depending on your deck, every lane may have different minions. This system keeps the game interesting as you are not stuck seeing the same boring minions everywhere. You can setup your minion waves to suit your playstyle. The functionality found in Survival is still present in Siege; you can still setup traps and barricades. Barricades and traps only affect minions but Guardians (think towers from MOBA games) will still attack heroes when all nearby minions have been defeated. Overall, this game mode is quite interesting and is a nice mix of tower defense with the MOBA genre. While it is true that we are seeing more and more MOBAs nowadays, it is nice to see Orcs Must Die! Unchained at least include its own unique twists such as tower defense and being able to summon your own custom minion waves.
In conclusion, Orcs Must Die! Unchained did a great job mixing the tower defense and MOBA genres. When I first started up the game, I did not expect to find MOBA elements in this tower defense game. There are so many MOBA games on the market now but not many set themselves apart from the competition and simply try to copy the success of Dota 2 and League of Legends. This game does a good job offering something unique and interesting.
The game’s controls feel great.
There is a lot of negativity around the game’s cash shop and choice of publisher. This is sad to see as the game plays quite well, and I would hate to see yet another potentially great game ruined due to greed and poor monetization decisions. If the game can stick to cosmetic or balanced items being offered to players, the game can do great. However, the greedy route of selling consumables such as potions, locked heroes, and cards will bring bad days to the game. Open beta is very close to release in most cases so it would be surprising to see major changes, but it is not impossible for developers to listen to their community.
The Steam reviews have either greatly negative or greatly positive reviews. However when reading through the bulk of negative reviews, the focus is on the cash shop far more often than gameplay elements. This shows that the gameplay has great potential if it was not for the imbalanced cash shop. Let us hope that this game can stay afloat without taking the greedy route.