This post is from the now defunct website “A GameDev Plays…”, copied here for posterity
Is it bad to find slaughtering orcs fun? I hope so considering the name of this fun Tower Defense/Third Person Shooter hybrid is Orcs Must Die (and it lives up to the name!).
Imagine running around the inside of a Tower Defense game - this is the basic premise behind Orcs Must Die. The player is a War Mage protecting a portal into the world from a plague of orcs as they rush towards it. Partly this can be achieved by placing various traps, blockages and turrets common to the tower defense genre, but it will rarely be enough. Instead the player’s avatar must usually do some of the killing personally with their trusty crossbow or sword in standard 3rd person shooter gameplay.
This combination is a nice conceit and implemented in a fun way. At the start of each level the player runs around preparing their traps and then works their way through the waves of enemies. Occasionally there is a pause to allow more trap placement, but generally the game is fast-paced. As the player progresses through the levels new traps are unlocked and old ones can be upgraded. These improvements are needed to deal with ever increasing numbers and more dangerous forms of orc. The game is not easy, but neither is it impossibly hard. I failed every missions the first time I played, but none (so far) took more than 3 attempts to complete (each mission being 5-15 minutes long). Plus there is always a new way to organise your traps to block the flow of orcs - many missions can be completed in multiple different ways.
Despite the genocidal name, the gameplay is built for fun. The player’s avatar makes occasional quips and has an uncanny resemblance to Ash from the Evil Dead films. Planning out engines of death can be quite entertaining, especially if they involve flinging the orcs around with spring traps or dropping them into lava pits. Everything is drawn in a cartoonish style, including the orcs, and it can sometimes feel like an old roadrunner cartoon when your traps work well. The victims never seem hugely concerned with their deaths - lucky because they die by the horde and often up close to the camera.
Fun and humour are the keys to this game’s success - helping overcome its deficiencies. It feels lightweight compared to the thought and planning the best tower defense games require. Similarly the shooter part by itself while smooth is not compelling. It is the combination of the two that make the game work - jack of all trades, master of none. There is little innovation here other than the combination of the two genres. However, that is all that is required, with a polished and smooth implementation to create an enjoyable gameplay experience.
Orcs Must Die is available at the Steam store on PC for US$9.99. It has been bundled.