We're all happy to see more games that deal honestly and maturely with questions of life and death, and that question the player's role in perpetuating the cycle of violence. But sometimes you just want to slaughter some bad guys and not have to feel guilty about it. In this, Orcs Must Die! 2 fits the bill. It's all right there in the title. The orcs must die, and die they do, by the thousands. Orcs are pummeled, impaled, burned, flung into chasms — sometimes all at once.
Don't mistake a simple premise for a simplistic game. On the contrary, Orcs Must Die! 2 is a rich, rewarding strategy game that encourages experimentation and creative thinking. Taking its cues from the tower-defense genre — which is popular in free-to-play Web-browser games — each level consists of orc armies marching from an entrance to an exit along pre-determined routes. The player's job is to purchase and place defenses along the way in order to prevent them from completing the trip.
With a limited amount of money to spend, careful planning is paramount. Traps need to be placed where they'll be able to hit the greatest number of foes, and their effects combined to maximize damage. Before each round, you have as much time as you'd like to survey the landscape and design your most efficient killboxes. You might find a chokepoint where you can place wall panels that fire flaming arrows, floor panels that will impale orcs on massive spikes, and a doohickey that drops down from the ceiling and knocks the orcs back on their heels. And then, when the round begins, you have several glorious seconds before you are completely overrun.
Fortunately, Orcs Must Die! 2 also takes cues from action games, and allows you to run around the levels with a primary weapon, blasting away at the orcs who elude your traps. A great shooter it ain't, but compared to the sterile top-down view of most tower-defense games, it's a thrill to find yourself in the midst of the action. Killing orcs adds to your coffers, which is helpful to place more traps during the enemy waves, but in the heat of the moment it can be almost impossible to coolly consider your options in the face of the encroaching hordes.
Thing is, rational thinking is exactly what's needed if you want to progress. It isn't just hilarious to turn the orcs into goo. To maximize your rewards, you need to combine attacks. By racking up combos — several simultaneous attacks — you'll earn more points that will help you upgrade your equipment and buy new traps, which in turn will help you set up even greater combos. I bought Orcs Must Die! 2 because I thought it would be fun, but I didn't expect I'd soon be trawling the forums for advanced strategies.
It helps to bring a friend. An included co-op mode doesn't exactly make things easier, but it does help to construct ever more elaborate sequences of traps. Plus, it gives you a psychological boost in the face of overwhelming odds — at least your buddy is swamped, too! There are all kinds of orcs in Orcs Must Die! 2 — tall ones, short ones, thin ones, fat ones — and the more of them that parade past your well-laid traps, the more the title will begin to feel like a commandment, and one you'll be happy to follow.