At PAX East last weekend, I had a chance to check out the latest in the Orcs Must Die! series, Orcs Must Die! Unchained, from our friends over at Robot Entertainment. While the first OMD was single-player only (and on both PC & XBLA), and the second introduced co-op play (PC only), Unchained takes a leap into the competitive PC free-to-play multiplayer space with 5v5 gameplay.
About the Game
Despite my initial attempt to make comparisons to popular MOBA’s, Robot Entertainment’s Ian Fischer, Design Director on Orcs Must Die! Unchained, told me that while those comparisons are valid, their aim is more of a Team Fortress 2 meets card customization game. The traditional OMD! feel of tower defense is there, but with two teams battling it out, it is both a fortress defense and a fortress siege game.
The two factions in the game are the Order (humans) and the Unchained (orcs and potentially other monsters). Between the two, Fischer told me there will be dozens of champions to choose from by the time the game launches. In addition to the champion, at the start of the game, players have a chance to lay out their card deck to determine what types of minions and equipment they’ll have access to during the match. The minions follow the traditional Orcs Must Die! mentality - get to the other side and don’t avoid enemy traps (take it like a man).
Hands on Impressions
During my hands on time with the game, I played as one of the offensive melee champions, Bloodspike. In addition to being able to hack and slash my way through the enemy minions, I also had the ability to buff any friendly minions near me (my own, or my teammates) with a speed boost that lets us traverse more quickly. The gameplay was fast, fun and frenetic. As in the other Orcs Must Die! games, as I was pushing forward toward the enemy fortress and killing minions and champions, I was earning money to then spend on traps and upgrades on the cards I chose at the beginning of the game. The exciting part is that there isn’t a “wave break”, so you are doing all of the trap placement, card upgrades and minion summoning in real-time as the enemy champions are bearing down on you. I can’t properly put into words how fun the gameplay was, and it didn’t show the repetitiveness of traditional MOBA’s.
As to the technicals of the game, it’s been in development for the past year, and was built from the ground up with the Unreal engine. Despite the look and familiar textures in the game, as a whole it’s beautiful, and aesthetically pleasing. The game is in the technical alpha phase, and if you buy into the Founder’s Program you can get your hands on the alpha right away. Fischer expects them to hit a closed beta milestone in the summer and a release in the fall. Knowing the past issues Robot Entertainment has had with consoles, I asked him if they had plans to release on any other platforms besides the PC. His response was ambiguous, but akin to saying “We have nothing to say officially, but it would be close-minded to think that, in the long run, this would still be a PC-only game.” (paraphrased)
The Robot Entertainment booth was large this year, and had full lines the entire weekend. Before heading off I watched the previous group of players surrounding Robot Entertainment’s Community Manager, Justin Korthof. The excitement showed by the group was borderline-giddy. As he seemed unfazed, I asked Justin if that had been the typical reaction amongst the show attendees after playing, and his answer was a definitive yes. Korthof also expressed his own excitement over all of the remaining champions that weren’t shown off at PAX East, and how he couldn’t wait for players to get their hands on them.
I couldn’t be happier with my time with Orcs Must Die! Unchained. Bested only by Evolve, it was one of my top two games I saw at PAX East. Needless to say, I can’t wait to pick this up. If you want to hear more of my opinions on the game, I discussed it in detail on both episodes 32 (Podcasting Evolved) and 32.5 (PAX East Recap) of our vid/podcast Still Got Game.
-- Derek "DSmooth" Nolan