Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Orcs Must Die! 3 brings the franchise’s trademark quirky humor with its combination of tower defense and action back for another round of chaos – and I’m happy to be here for it!
I have been a tremendous fan of the Orcs Must Die! franchise since I stumbled onto the first title in the series. I picked it up cheap for my PC many moons ago, and loved both parts 1 and Orcs Must Die! 2 (you can read the review here if you’d like). We just won’t talk about Unchained… But if you were a fan of the earlier titles, odds are you will find this newest release to be quite satisfying as well.
The premise is actually quite simple, as are the game’s earlier stages. It is a tower defense game, operating under the familiar design of enemies entering the stage and you doing what you can to prevent too many of them for reaching the exit – generally located somewhere on the opposite side of the stage. Similar to other games in the genre, your enemies will walk along somewhat predictable predetermined paths and you use automated devices to prevent them from succeeding. Much of the ‘just one more try’ replay value of the genre is predicated on learning the stage and understanding what your enemies are likely to do once they enter the level, and that holds true here.
However, where this series takes a sharp turn from most of the games in the genre is in how the action is presented and the level of hands-on involvement you have. Instead of just setting up towers or traps to do all of the automated combat for you while observing from a god-like omniscient overhead view, you are instead trust into the role of an actual character. As such, Orcs Must Die! 3 is presented in a third-person view that sees you oftentimes finishing your enemies off manually using more manual means like guns. Because you can’t be everywhere all of the time though, those traps are still required.
If you want to spend your hard-earned orc-slaying money on traps to the left, you can then man the right side of the field when they split up and approach the exit from a couple of different directions or entrance points. Basically traps help you to compensate for not being able to have your character everywhere at once. Walk the ones you can’t deal with personally through movement-slowing tar pits and you can dispatch the orcs in front of you while still having time to go deal with the slowed ones afterwards. That is the constant seesaw battle taking place throughout the game.
The earlier stages are pretty straightforward, but it doesn’t take long for the complications to increase as you get into the latter levels when you have different types of enemies, more routes for them to traverse, more ways for them to enter the level and so on. The visuals, sound effects and music are bright, energetic and add a lot to the presentation. It is easier to get caught up in the environments with the third-person perspective pulling you into the fray in a way that more traditional tower defense games can’t.
There are a few different modes of play, though admittedly the single player story mode is where I spent the majority of my time. But with new War Scenarios that try to create a massive battle with much grander scale, you see some new weapons you get to leverage that don’t appear in the single player campaign. You can also dabble in an endless mode that is exactly what it sounds like, and a scramble mode that gives both you and your enemies random modifiers to keep the action a bit more unpredictably fresh.
The primary gameplay hook here is getting more money to purchase newer traps and upgrades, plus personally I just hate it when one or two enemies slip through. I win the stage, but I have tendency to go back and try to get the perfect score on those stages. That’s probably a good thing, as there are not really that many levels (just under two dozen), so the developers are expecting you to play and then replay stages to better your previous efforts.
Still, beating the story campaign takes less than a dozen hours, so replaying levels or participating in one of the other modes to land on leaderboards is where Orcs Must Die! 3 will see a bit of continued longevity. That theme of ‘I just wish there were a few more levels’ trickles into the weapons and enemy types too. On the one hand, it is probably a good sign that I want ‘just a bit more’, because it means I’m enjoying what is there. On the other, a little more variety would help to stave off the repetition that can settle in during really long waves of enemies or when you’re replaying the same level for the fourth time.
Orcs Must Die! 3 is a welcome addition to consoles. Tower defense is one of my favorite genres, and there are not a lot of great games representing the genre on consoles. Orcs Must Die! 3 is a pretty great game. It’s vibrant and funny, with the right combination of strategy and action that kept me coming back for more. A bit more content and variety would have been appreciated, but what is here was still very enjoyable.Score: 8 / 10