January 18, 2012
I believe it was E3 2011 when I began paying attention to Asura’s Wrath. I could swear I read previews or listened to podcasts where people discussed the demo at the show. Their descriptions of the game were madness; a boss growing to be larger than Earth itself, another boss wielding a sword whose blade was hundreds of miles long. Well a demo was recently released onto the Xbox 360 and PS3 (the version I played) and I gave it a whirl to see Asura’s Wrath for myself.
The first stage of the demo had me battle a giant Buddha-bellied guy named Wyzen. I played as Asura who stands as tall as a normal human. Meanwhile this Buddha-bellied guy is hundreds of times Asura’s size. I ran towards him firing projectiles which filled a bar at the top of the screen. Once it was full I hit the R2 button and entered Burst Mode. In this mode Asura went all out and I was able to beat the crap out of Wyzen. I think it was at this point that Asura grew four more arms, which helped in accomplishing my goal of beating the crap out of Wyzen. After some more fighting, Wyzen, who was already big, grew to be larger than Earth. He was in space alongside Earth when he began motioning his finger towards Earth, the way you or I would press a button. He began smashing Asura at which point I had to mash on the circle button until I triggered Burst Mode and wailed on Wyzen until he was destroyed.
The second stage of the demo took place on the moon. Asura was battling a guy who looked very similar to him. This battle continued on for a while and it played like a simple beat ‘em up. I had to get close to this guy and then punch him a lot. I continued enabling Burst Mode and taking chunks of this bad dude’s health bar out until he unsheathed his sword. This changed the fight a little as he’d send beams of energy my way. I had to avoid these while trying to get in close to wail on him. After a while he pointed his sword at Asura and it began extending towards him. Asura caught it with his hands but it kept growing, thrusting Asura off the moon and towards Earth. Eventually this bad guy pinned Asura on the Earth, although his sword kept extending eventually breaking through the other side of the planet. Right before Asura’s comeback the demo ended.
If these two stages are any indication, Asura’s Wrath will be jam-packed with outlandish stages and entertaining cutscenes. What it won’t be jam-packed with is actual gameplay. Performing the majority of these actions was done through simple quick-time events, and the little bit of beat ‘em up gameplay I experienced seemed very basic. In this brief introduction to the game, it seemed like my goal was “beat up dude until burst gauge is filled, trigger burst mode, win.” But if Asura’s Wrath is as outlandish as the demo makes it out to be, it should be an entertaining experience regardless of the depth of the combat.
December 26, 2011
Twisted Pixel has been making a name for themselves in the past few years for developing critically and commercially successful games on the Xbox 360. Their first stepping stone to prominence was The Maw, released for Xbox Live Arcade on January 21, 2009 via publisher Microsoft Game Studios.
The Maw opens up with a cutscene showing Frank, the alien I controlled, getting thrown into a jail cell. Riding in a space ship that soon crashed, there were creatures all around Frank, most importantly was the Maw. After the crash Frank and the Maw were on their way to freedom. They soon came upon these small, cute creatures, which the Maw happily ate. After eating a few more he grew larger. This trend continued throughout the game and the Maw became enormous. There were some creatures that also gave the Maw special abilities.
The abilities were interesting but they didn’t stave off the boredom that grew on me. I had to feed the Maw until we were able to continue on to the next area or stage and that was it. The abilities added a new element, break this or fly over that, but I still needed to eat a lot of creatures. I led the Maw around each stage as I attempted to find more edible creatures and this didn’t do it for me.
Throughout the game there was one aspect I really enjoyed and that was the cutscenes. They were told exclusively through body language and they routinely put a smile on my face. Frank and the Maw had a good chemistry and it seemed like they needed each other to succeed; one was the brains and the other was the brawn.
I didn’t really enjoy the gameplay of The Maw but it was short enough that by the time I got bored with it I was close enough to beating it to simply plow through. The highlight for me was the production. Twisted Pixel had a solid vision for the game and they nailed it. The visuals and soundtrack were comparable to a CGI movie and the interactions between Frank and the Maw routinely put a smile on my face. Not too shabby for an initial stepping stone.
November 1, 2011
Batman: Arkham City is the follow-up to one of 2009s most popular and critically acclaimed games: Batman: Arkham Asylum. The combat is nearly identical to Arkham Asylum’s while the environment is many times larger. Throw in a captivating story with a ton of post-game content, and I think 2011 is going to be a repeat of 2009.
Batman: Arkham City’s combat is mostly unchanged from Batman: Arkham Asylum. It revolves around Batman pummeling bad guys with his fists and gadgets and doing it exceptionally well. He leaps from goon to goon, even when they’re incredibly far apart and the blows he delivers are impactful, especially the final hit when dealing with a group of hoodlums. I didn’t make good use of every option available to Batman, but I really, really liked the melee combat. I’ve heard it called the best melee combat in video games and I’d have to agree.
The fights get tougher when different enemy types are introduced. There are a few larger than normal enemies that take a whooping and there are a few that require special tactics such as attacking from behind, but Batman’s biggest threat, aside from a few bosses, are enemies with guns. In a way, Arkham City has two modes of combat. The first is the all-out melee combat where I took on any comers, while the second revolved around stealth.
If I didn’t act stealthily around bad guys with guns and they noticed me, it was basically game over. Batman can take a walloping from run-of-the-mill bad guys, but guns shred him up. When I encountered a group of well equipped thugs, I took them out quietly, and this was as fun as tackling a large group. As I took more enemies out, they would freak out, giving me direct feedback on how I was doing. What I liked most about this sort of combat however was my forced reliance on my environment and gadgets. If I didn’t take these two aspects into consideration, thugs with guns would be much tougher.
After the events of Arkham Asylum, Gotham City is still fed up with the villains that plague them. Through a curious chain of events, the most crime-ridden area of Gotham City is condemned and turned into Arkham City, a massive jail essentially. Dr. Hugo Strange is a key figure and as one might guess, up to something sinister.
Strange captures Bruce Wayne as he’s criticizing Arkham City and announcing his bid to run for mayor of Gotham City. Unfortunate for Strange, Batman is now inside Arkham City, but he’s not alone. Catwoman plays a large role in the game, but it’s strange how she is implemented. The ability to play as Catwoman is really a piece of downloadable content and included with any new copy of Batman: Arkham City. But everyone else will miss out unless they buy the DLC. Not infuriating, but whatever.
Her story is woven into the game at four points, and at natural breaks in Batman’s story. Her plot intertwines with Batman’s and I generally liked the break from Batman. She plays very similar to Batman, but she doesn’t have the same gadgets. She doesn’t have a lot of them either; only three compared to Batman’s dozen. Her fights were predominately just that, fights; I rarely took enemies out stealthily as her.
Batman and Catwoman meet many familiar and not so familiar villains from Batman lore. Batman has run-ins with a few major players like The Penguin and Mister Freeze, but The Joker is his main foe. What happens is very peculiar though. For most of the game, they are seeking the same thing and they operate as frenemies, but the way their relationship eventually plays out is intense.
I was really captivated by Arkham City’s story. Every time I’d finish a story thread, something interesting would happen and make me want to continue. Unlike a lot of games, I rarely wanted to stop playing it, and when I wasn’t busy with the story, I had a fairly large open world environment to explore.
Scattered about Arkham City were hundreds of riddles and trophies The Riddler left behind; literally hundreds, nearly five hundred in total. I almost feel like it’s too many, but then again, I’ve spent as much time with the game after I beat it as I did to beat it. Most of his items are trophies and these require clever uses of Batman’s gadgets. There are also riddles which require me to take a picture of something, but I had a hard time with these considering the large environment. His items would be tagged on the map after beating up certain thugs and this was very welcome.
When not going after Hugo Strange, The Joker, or The Riddler, I had a decent amount of side quests to tackle. These were mostly tasked to Batman by his enemies, which seemed odd. I mean Batman had incentives to undertake them, but if I simply told you Batman was assisting Bane without elaborating, you’d probably be confused. In the same vein, Batman never kills his enemies, which in some circumstances, is frustrating. I understand he doesn’t want to take a life, but locking someone up in a simple cage seems shortsighted.
Besides the standard game mode (in which I could fully explore Arkham City post-game and tidy things up as Batman or Catwoman) I could undertake the Riddler’s Revenge mode. This mode contained a lot of maps where I was tasked with beating up groups of thugs and getting ranked on how well I did, or taking a group of thugs out silently, and in a few specific ways. There is a lot of stuff to do in this game!
Batman: Arkham City is an improvement over Batman: Arkham Asylum. The combat system has changed little in two years, but it’s still so great. I really liked the story and was surprised by a few things that happened; I’ll definitely remember the ending. My biggest takeaway from Batman: Arkham City is the amount of content it contains. I’ve spent a lot of time with the game these past two weeks, and it’s one of the only games I’ve ever completed and then jumped right back into… for another dozen or so hours. Having strayed from many of this year’s new releases I can’t say with authority, but I believe Batman: Arkham City is one of the year’s best games. Batman: Arkham City was developed by London based Rocksteady Studios and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and soon the PC. I played the Xbox 360 version.
October 20, 2011
It’s been ages since I’ve played a Need for Speed game, Need for Speed: Carbon from 2006 was the last one I played through. Although I’ve been absent from the series for half a decade, I’ve kept informed and like some of the ideas Electronic Arts has implemented. Most notably, I think the autolog feature, which compares your friend’s scores immediately after a race, is quite cool. The series has diversified itself over the past few years, with EA creating a simulation style offshoot, Shift, while continuing to release a more traditional Need for Speed experience.
The upcoming Need for Speed: The Run, falls into the latter category. Portraying a cannonball run sort of race, the main character in the game wants to receive the huge payout for winning. He has to race from San Francisco to New York City and the thought of a video game around this concept is very appealing to me.
I played the demo which consisted of two races. The first was in the deserts of Nevada and tasked me with passing ten opponents before the end of the race. I failed the first time, but grew more accustomed to the game my second time. I had two choices for a car, a Lamborghini or a Porsche; preferring the stats of the Lamborghini I chose it.
The second race took place in the snowy mountains of Colorado. It was just me and another racer in this stage and it was easy to see why. The road was covered in snow and ice, resembling a racetrack for snowboarders rather than racecar drivers. The people shooting flares into the mountainside creating avalanches didn’t help the situation either. It was exhilarating to slide around at one hundred-plus miles per hour and dodge falling debris nonetheless.
Both races were fun but I really liked the over-the-top nature of the second race. The concept of a cannonball run race video game seems like a no-brainer and I wonder if this is the first example. I’m intrigued by the concept and want to see where the races take place. Need for Speed: The Run was developed by EA Black Box and will be published by EA on November 15, 2011 for the Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and PC. Different versions of the game were also developed for the Wii, 3DS, and iOS platforms.
October 18, 2011
I didn’t necessarily play a ton of new games in 2009, but Batman: Arkham Asylum was my favorite game that year. The beat ‘em combat was unlike anything I’d ever experienced in a video game. As Batman I took on large groups of enemies, and once I learned the ins and outs of the deep combat system, I was able to rack up incredible combos and effortlessly take out thugs. There was so much more to the gameplay than just the combat though; exploration was such a major feature too. Witnessing so many of Batman’s enemies firsthand was interesting and my knowledge of the lore was enhanced because of Rocksteady Studios’ attention to detail. Needless to say I was pumped for the sequel.
Batman: Arkham City just came out, like yesterday, and I wanted to recap my experience with the first few hours. The biggest difference I’ve noticed so far is the environment. Last time we saw Batman, he was confined to Arkham Asylum and the island it resided on. This was a large environment, but for the most part, everything was connected via hallways. This time around, Batman has all of Arkham City to explore; it’s many times larger than the previous environment and feels much more open.
I’m beginning to get acquainted with the city and am increasingly able to know where I am via landmarks and important buildings. I’m traversing much of the city in the “canopy” by grappling to rooftops and gliding around. For every new story beat, I’m given an indicator of where I need to go, and the game lets progress the story at my own pace. I’ve encountered many sidequests so far and I don’t think I can walk for more than thirty seconds before finding something to do. I’ve been splitting my time between advancing the story and partaking in sidequests, and I’m just baffled by the amount of stuff to do.
But what’s up with Arkham City what is it and why isn’t that game taking place in Gotham City? Well, when Arkham Asylum closed down, Gotham City still needed a place to put criminals and super villains, and Dr. Hugo Strange obliged. He’s behind the development of Arkham City, where ne’er do wells run rampant. Circumstances see that Batman winds up inside and yada, yada, yada. We all know Batman is going to do what Batman knows best, kick butt and put a stop to whatever madness is going on, and probably only temporarily. The story has introduced me to a handful of well known and lesser known enemies in the four hours I’ve played so far, and kicking butt is still challenging and rewarding.
The combat is identical to the previous game, I’m not sure I’ve even encountered any additional methods of attacking yet, but I’m sure that’ll come with time. That just means the combat is easy to learn and difficult to master like it previously was, and I’ve found I’m a little rusty, but then again I’ve already gotten a 40-hit combo. I still gain levels for kicking butt, completing quests, and finding secrets, and I still have a boatload of options to level up. That’s something I really like about Batman: Arkham City; there is a ton of additional stuff for me to do, and I feel it’s worth my time because the rewards have a direct effect on gameplay.
Honestly, Batman: Arkham City has exceeded my expectations in the four or so hours I’ve played of it. The story is captivating so far, but it’s really the gameplay that’s drawing me in. Fighting enemies and wanting to excel is challenging and fun. There’s so much to do too; I feel a little overwhelmed with the possibilities I have, progress the story, accomplish any number of sidequests, etc. but so far I’m blown away by Batman: Arkham City.
October 17, 2011
I don’t go to the movies that frequently but the past couple of times I’ve gone, I’ve seen previews for Real Steel and I couldn’t be less interested. The movie is set in the future where, for whatever reason, robot boxing is super popular. To get their fix, people remotely control robots and watch them duke it out, like Rock’em Sock’em Robots. I find the premise silly, but some reviews have said it’s a pretty good movie, but whatever, I personally don’t find it interesting.
To tie in with the release of the movie, a boxing video game has been released. Real Steel was developed and published by Yuke’s and was released last week on Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network. Yuke’s, a Japanese developer, has been around a long time and wrestling games seem to be their wheelhouse, so developing a boxing game probably wasn’t too much of a far cry for them.
A demo was released for the game and I checked it out. All I had access to was the multiplayer, where I could play against someone locally or fight against the computer. There were a handful of robots to pick from and they looked unique, although I’m not sure how differently they controlled as I only played as Atom, the robot from the movie previews. I wailed against my robot opponent until he hit the floor. He had ten seconds to get back up before I got the win. I knocked him down a few times before I finally got the KO and I played a few more matches.
I’m not familiar with boxing video games but I didn’t have major complaints with Real Steel. The face buttons consisted and light and heavy punches, one for each arm, and I could block and sway with the triggers. I could also do a powerful attack when I held the right shoulder button and pressed a face button. I had a power meter that would deplete and fill up, so I had to keep this in mind. It doesn’t seem likes there much to the game, a very basic single player mode and multiplayer, and I really wasn’t wowed by the game, so in the end, like with the movie, I’m not that interested.
October 14, 2011
The Cursed Crusade is a soon to be released action-adventure game that appears to be cashing in on the surprising popularity of the brutally tough Demon’s Souls. Set in the same sort of medieval environment, the demo for The Cursed Crusade gave me a glimpse of its dark setting, plot, and gameplay.
The demo for The Cursed Crusade had me playing as a mercenary in a group of soldiers preparing to storm a castle. The leader of this bunch was giving a speech in the first cutscene and quelling the fears of some of the soldiers. It was hard to take them seriously however as the voice acting was really awful; their tone didn’t match the scene because their lines were given halfheartedly. The commander got them going regardless, thanks to my character and a Spaniard.
The castle we stormed was filled with archers so to approach it the soldiers had to advance behind two-person shields. When a storm of arrows rained from the sky, I had to stop and take cover. Once the Spaniard and I were close enough, we had to throw an explosive to break open the door. Before I could do that, I had to take out some nearby archers with my crossbow. This section was varied, but it wasn’t that entertaining. Maybe the dialogue between the mercenary and the Spaniard was supposed to be a prominent feature here, but the audio mixing made it hard to listen without the aid of subtitles.
Once we breached the castle there were a few open areas and it was very easy to take control… just kidding. These areas were full of foot soldiers and it was time to whip out my trusty blade and cut some fools down. The combat was really sluggish; I’d press an attack button and my character would swing his sword in a drawn out animation cycle. I couldn’t halt the animation once it had started and trying to get multiple swings in a row was tough to do. Couple that with unclear indications on if I should be timing my attacks a certain way and I walked away from the combat less than satisfied.
The demo ended with a boss fight that seemed to indicate there’s much more to The Cursed Crusade than what’s apparent on the surface. As I was duking it out with the head honcho of the castle, he turned into a demon! Then the mercenary and the Spaniard turned into demons! The mercenary seemed to know what was happening, but the Spaniard thought he was having a nightmare, and he was right. The demo ended there and left me wondering how this crusade would link to supernatural and religious matters.
The Cursed Crusade wasn’t a pretty game to look at. The graphics were dated, looking like an early Xbox 360 or PS3 game, and the general design wasn’t my thing, primarily the dark colors and ugly environments. I didn’t enjoy the combat much either. I could pick up the weapons my fallen foes would drop, which was cool, but the actual combat between enemies didn’t seem fine-tuned. Having not played Demon’s Souls I can’t say with certainty, but The Cursed Crusade seems like an attempt to cash in on its surprising popularity, more so considering this game is being published by Atlus, like Demon’s Souls. There wasn’t anything I found appealing about The Cursed Crusade and I won’t be picking it up when it releases October 25, 2011. It was developed by the French developer Kylotonn Games and will be published by Atlus for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
October 12, 2011
Gears of War 3. The final game in the trilogy has been out for a few weeks now and it’s fantastic. It was developed by Epic Games and published by Microsoft Studios on September 20, 2011. The final game in the trilogy brings closure, has an astounding amount of content, and retains the solid gameplay that the series is known for.
Being the third game in a trilogy, Gears of War 3 was scheduled to close the series, and there is closure! I played the co-op campaign with my friend over a few days. We tried to stick to completing one act a day, but after completing the fourth act we decided to go ahead and complete the fifth and final act. They varied in length, but they were all about two hours, which was excellent for the way we played the game.
Set a year or two after Gears of War 2, the campaign revolved around Marcus Fenix finding his father who was previously thought dead. His father probably has a way to destroy the locust and lambent that are plaguing Sera, hopefully saving humanity. But, Marcus and crew have to figure out where he is and how to get there. Their path takes Marcus and his allies through a lot of locales, but as has been the case with the previous games, most are destroyed cities. There were a few memorable environments that broke with tradition however, and for the first time in the series, I felt like there was a broader color palette in the game; rather than a muddle of grays.
Mentioning memorable environments reminds me of a memorable moment in the game. About halfway through the campaign, there was a very serious moment that affects the rest of the game. It was especially serious having played through the entire trilogy and developing a sort of affection for the series. This moment was tonally very different from the usual bro-like mentality of the series and it was handled phenomenally.
So Marcus and crew go through memorable (and sometimes different) environments and there is a special moment about halfway through the game, but what about the ending? Well I found it satisfying. I’ve heard people complain about unanswered questions and I honestly wonder what they’re referring to. That doesn’t mean I can’t gin up some questions because I can, but if I wanted to know the answers to my questions, perhaps they could be answered in the Gears of War books, I don’t know. I do know that the Gears of War trilogy revolved around Marcus Fenix attempting to save humanity, and in that regard, Gears of War 3 brings definitive closure.
After completing the campaign, my friend and I have focused our attention to horde mode. Originating in Gears of War 2, I didn’t play much of it back then, but I do know things have changed. The basic premise is the same: enemies attack in waves and the players try to survive as long as possible and rack up points for kills. We could also install traps that would damage enemies, decoys to distract them, and many other helpful tools.
Besides just racking up points, money is now an issue in horde mode. Those traps, decoys, and other miscellaneous helpful tools cost money, which is received for fulfilling special tasks, by killing enemies, and at the end of each wave. As my friend and I played we each had our own favorite tools to purchase. I liked spike strips and traps that would damage and slow down our enemies while he loved installing turrets. All of these tools were divided into categories that would level up and allow us access to better tools, cheaper tools, whatever.
Besides the inclusion of money and the tools that brought along, horde mode now features a boss wave every tenth wave. The bosses were randomly picked and they were much tougher than the standard enemies. We saw many different boss waves as we continually died on wave 30. We preferred fighting against the Brumak because he was so large and slow, but we rarely saw him. We went up against a small Corpser often, as well as a few lambent Berserkers, our least favorite. It wasn’t just the bosses we’d have to fight on these waves though; there’d be plenty of small and medium tier enemies too that could prove troublesome if we didn’t manage them.
There is a new mode similar to horde mode called beast mode. We haven’t played this yet, but from the descriptions I’ve heard it sounds like a cross between horde mode and the multiplayer from Left 4 Dead. Instead of playing as the humans, in beast mode players play as the locust and the lambent. There are only 12 waves in beast mode (compared with the 50 in horde mode) so I don’t imagine it’s structured in the exact same way. I assume we get to pick who we play as because there are many types of different enemies.
Now onto the versus mode. While I personally like the series for the campaign (co-op specifically) a lot of people pick the game up just for the multiplayer and this time around it’s sucked me in more than it has in the past. There is a good selection of modes and maps in the multiplayer as well as the ability to play locally with a friend or bots. A lot of the modes are common to third-person and first-person action games; team deathmatch, king of the hill as well as other familiar modes are present so it’s easy to jump in, with practice at least. I feel like there’s a relatively high learning curve in the multiplayer, but playing locally is good practice.
That’s basically versus in a nutshell. I’m really not all that into versus multiplayer myself, but I’ve had a bunch of fun with the game. It’s definitely way better with people you know. My friend and I have played a bunch of the local multiplayer. We stick to team deathmatch and load it full of bots on the highest difficulty, although they’re still really dumb, sometimes allowing the opposite team to heal themselves. But we have found it to be very competitive between the two of us; keeping track of matches, and games, and the overall sets; it’s very entertaining.
As far as the gameplay is concerned, Gears of War 3 is simply more Gears of War. There are minor differences and refinements but it’s more of the same and that’s just want I wanted. The shooting was solid and the weapons feel much more unique than they ever have. The campaign was lengthy and satisfying, and I didn’t even mention competing for scores and playing with mutators in arcade mode or the four-player co-op! The multiplayer modes are plentiful with a variety or competitive and co-operative options, and the number of unlockables and achievements will keep people busy for a very long time. Gears of War 3 is a fantastic action game.
October 11, 2011
Simulation racing games are not my favorite genre but I’ve dabbled with them in the past. I was very big into Gran Turismo 4 and spent a fair amount of time with Forza Motorsport 2; I still get the urges to get back into it, but that’s pretty much it for sim racing games. But perhaps it’s time for me to pick another one up. Forza Motorsport 4 was released today but I have only played its demo.
The demo consisted of one track, a beautiful one set in the Alps, and a few cars. The cars, and the game for that matter, were absolutely gorgeous. The track was scenic and idealistic, as were the cars; you’ll never find one with paint as glossy as it is here.
As has become standard for the series, the user interface is very easy to interpret and navigate. Matched with a minimalistic soundtrack and it’s a very modern game. Also standard for the series are the helpful driving assists. Driving and braking lines are available to help find the best path as well as more technical assists, upping the difficulty, and the rewards when turned off.
Racing around the Alps was fun, but I found the AI a little easy. I quickly gained the lead and kept it. To be fair, I probably didn’t have the difficulty adjusted too hard. The feature I got the most enjoyment out of the demo however was the rival races.
In these races, I tried to beat the time trial set by someone on my friends list. They could challenge me and I would drive the car they picked and try to post a faster time. When I raced I saw their ghost and once I beat their time, I could send them a message challenging them to beat my time. It was nice to be able to immediately notify them to make sure they knew to attempt it.
Forza Motorsport 4 is a killer racing game and continues to represent simulation racing games well. The game looked really nice and it wasn’t too hard to get sucked into the thrill of racing against my friends. I wish the demo had a glimpse of the Autovista feature where Jeremy Clarkson of Top Gear fame talks about a car, but I don’t need a demo to let me know that’ll be fantastic. To the right person, Forza Motorsport 4 will be a metaphoric supercar, the pinnacle of racing games and an opportunity to spend hundreds of hours competing against like-minded people. For me, it’s a chance to sucked into a sim racing game again. Forza Motorsport 4 was developed by Turn 10 Studios and published by Microsoft Studios today for the Xbox 360.
October 10, 2011
Ensemble Studios was an influential video game developer throughout the 1990s and 2000s. They worked almost entirely on real-time strategy games and on the PC to boot, so I haven’t had any exposure to them. They were shuttered by Microsoft a few years ago and as is the case with many shuttered developers, a few smaller studios form afterwards. Robot Entertainment is one of those studios and they have a new game called Orcs Must Die!
If it’s not clear from the title, a lot of orcs die in the game, and the character I played as (the war mage) did let’s say ninety percent of the killing. The impression I got from the intro cutscene was the war mage was inept, but I found that to be far from the case. He had many tools at his disposal even in the demo and placing familiar booby traps and watching orcs run through them was entertaining.
I played the demo version of Orcs Must Die and found the setup funny. A powerful mage has been killing orcs for a long time, preventing them from entering rifts and causing much chaos. One day this mage slipped on blood and cracked his head open, leaving this very important task to his naïve apprentice. Naturally I play as his apprentice, who happens to be a war mage, one who can use magic, swords, and crossbows.
Once the intro cutscene ended I was given control and I filled up a hot bar for quick access to my weapons and traps. I had two weapons throughout the demo that allowed me to deal with the orcs directly, a crossbow and a sword. They were both easy to use and effective, but it’d be mighty hard to hold back the orcs with these weapons alone.
The most interesting aspect of the game was my ability to set traps. The stages I played on were very linear; all three were hallways in fact, so the orcs didn’t have much of a varying path. In fact, I could see the path the orcs would take via lines making it even easier to set traps. I believe a new trap is unlocked with the completion of each stage and I had access to a few in the demo.
The first two I had access to could be placed on the ground. One was a spike strip and the other a tar pit that would slow orcs down. Another I could place on walls and it shot arrows at orcs whenever they passed. The last one I unlocked was an exploding barrel that would explode when I shot it with my crossbow. I developed a strategy early on by placing tar pits and arrow walls in the same path thereby slowing enemies down to make sure they get shot full of arrows. These traps weren’t free however, but my income was easy to come by. Each orc killed would give me some money and I could place traps on the fly.
The intial setup for Orcs Must Die! was amusing, but I don’t think there’s going to be any depth to the plot, and that’s fine because the gameplay was fun. I found it monotonous at first, but after I developed my tar pit/arrow wall strategy, a light clicked and I began thinking of other combinations. There weren’t many traps in the demo though so my experimentation went unfulfilled. But, the full game promises many more traps and weapons to utilize on the game’s 24 stages. I don’t believe the game has co-op which seems shocking to me, but I found the gameplay to be a nice blend of mindless hack ‘n’ slash gameplay and strategy. Orcs Must Die! was released last week on Xbox Live Arcade and is being released this week on the PC. It was developed by Robot Entertainment and published by Microsoft Studios on XBLA.