Robot Entertainment’s Orcs Must Die! has been one of those under-rated tower defense games that mixed in third person hack and slash with its trap placement. The series took a relatively simple but innately complex stance with its action and provided a fresh take on what was already a crowded genre. Now the development team is looking to apply its magic once again to the MOBA genre – though Orcs Must Die! Unchained is decidedly not a MOBA. That is, unless you really want it to be.
In Orcs Must Die, you had to defend your Rift Portal from the rampaging armies of Orcs, which included the ranged Kobolds and heavy hitting Trolls. Unchained follows the same principle but it’s you who’s going to be doing the invading this time. You’ll have three separate lanes on each map and can prioritize your defense or offense accordingly. First, you’ll decide what minions and traps to play using a deck of cards. The further you play, the more cards you’ll unlock, thus giving you a chance to play different kinds of traps and minions.
Once your deck is built, you can spend money to either send out minions or create traps to defend your lane. As more lanes open up, you can then decide whether to further fortify your defense, send more minions to the enemy side or even upgrade your current minions for an advantage. You can also lend new powers and upgrades to your hero to further tip the scales in your favour.
It’s very frenetic at first and a definite change from what most MOBAs do. Rather than your minions being cannon fodder, they will serve to bolster you and eventually help you obtain victory. Remember, the first team to get 20 minions into the enemy’s Rift portal is the winner. So even if you’re the defence minded player from the previous Orcs Must Die titles, you can set up enough traps to defend your position while bolstering your minions to rush headlong into the enemy portal.
Then again, you could also create an average modicum of traps and buff your bros to fight side by side with them. As in the original, you’ll be able to equip new abilities which include added health and gear for better stats.
Keep in mind though that defense and offense lanes are kept separate. If your opponent has built up their defense in one lane, then your minions will be heading there rather than fighting head on with enemy minions. It’s a very different dynamic from what one may be used to in MOBA titles but it definitely feeds into the argument that this is still very much Orcs Must Die, save for the 5 vs. 5 matches full of frenetic heroes, insane defenses and varied minions.
Matches are still pretty intense though and much more strategic than simply wailing on your foe until you level up and purchase better equipment. For those not used to typical MOBA tactics, this allows them to contribute to the team without having to directly enter the fray. If you build up a good custom deck for your hero, then you’ll be a force to reckon with regardless of whether you attack or defend.
Orcs Must Die: Unchained is still very much a work in progress and may confuse those who want a straightforward MOBA or tower defense or even follow-up to the original. Nonetheless, it manages to maintain the spirit of the previous games while similarly advancing it into new, multiplayer-focused directions. It’s also tons of fun to play, which is always a good thing, and apparently be out later this year for fans to experience. Stay tuned for more news on the game in the coming months.