As the Tower Defense genre has become popularized, it split into two different styles over the years: real time strategy based and shooter based. We have great titles like Defense Grid in the former, and Robot Entertainment’s first foray into the latter with the series: Orcs Must Die. Last year OMD became a hit for the new studio and they have recently followed up with the sequel: Orcs Must Die 2.
For those new, the premise is that it’s your job to stop invading Orcs from another dimension from taking over. The game is played from third person allowing you to set traps while fighting the enemies with your own armament of weapons. OMD 2 definitely shows what another year of development and sequel foresight can accomplish as there have been several refinements to the formula.
Like the first game, you still create a load out of traps, minions and weapons you can use on each map. But whereas the unlocking of new items was set with beating each level, OMD 2 features a new system to go with that. Orc skulls both measure how well you did on a level (with an up to five skull rating) and act as the game’s currency.
Before and after every level, you can visit the spell-book which is the game’s store. From here, you can use your skulls to unlock new items and for the first time, upgrade. Every item has at minimum three possible upgrades: first a basic one that improves the base characteristics of the item, and then special upgrades. The special upgrades enhance the item in a unique way, but you can only have one active at a time.
You’ll still receive an item for beating a new stage, but the new system will let you get access to the items you want quicker. The ability to upgrade is a great touch as it allows you to further personalize your strategies for the maps. You can also replay maps to get additional skulls encase you get stuck on a map.
The other major change and one that a lot of fans wanted was co-op which has been added. Every map in the game (including the new endless wave mode) can be played with a friend. This coincides with a new playable character: the evil sorceress from the first game who without spoiling anything is now forced to save the day. She has access to her own unique traps and items and it’s interesting to combine traps for co-op.
Overall the new systems add a lot to the formula, but there are some growing pains with the new additions. Starting with co-op mode first, is that you can’t search for games and can only create parties from your friend’s list. This can make the co-op mode feel very absent if you don’t have any friends currently playing.
This hurts all the more by the fact that the co-op mode has become a major component of the level design. Any tower defense player will tell you how much the level’s layout has an effect on the strategy. In OMD 2, a lot of the maps are all based on multiple path enemy waves, usually featuring symmetrical layouts with waves coming from both ends.
And the layouts don’t feel as creative because of it compared to the first game. Granted the actual enemy waves are different based on if you are playing single player or co-op, but it would have been good to have more single player minded designed levels.
The upgrade system while useful also presents another problem. You’ll find that the maps are balanced around either having two people in co-op mode, or a single person using upgraded items. This makes the difficulty of the game a bit more imbalanced compared to the first one.
Even just upgrading the base attributes of your items can be enough to get an edge, but it’s going to take a lot of skulls to do that. And with so many items available for purchase, it can be difficult at the time to know which ones will make things easier for you.
It can be a little frustrating to be at a disadvantage before you even begin the level. But since you’re not penalized for repeating maps for more skulls, eventually you’ll be able to overcome it. Support for OMD 2 also shows promise with the developers releasing weekly challenges and DLC packs.
Orcs Must Die 2 is a step in the right direction for the franchise: with co-op and the Meta progression great improvements. But I do hope that now that they got co-op straighten out, they won’t forget about us solo players who also like to kill orcs.