Orcs Must Die 3 review: No WAAAAAGH home

by Lars
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Orcs Must Die 3 is the true third game in Robot Entertainment‘s greenskin-slaying take on tower defense (because they’d all be really happy if we could just forget about Orcs Must Die: Unchained). Interestingly, this isn’t exactly a new game – in fact, it’s been available exclusive on Stadia since June last year, which probably explains why we haven’t seen that much about it.

But, here we are, the glorious year 2021, where the COVID vaccine is basically available worldwide, all the good PS5 games have been delayed to 2022, and we’re all basically waiting another year for some semblance of normality. But worry ye not, reader – because Orcs Must Die 3 is finally out on PC and console. Alright, alright – tone down the rapturous applause a bit, I’m trying to concentrate.

Orcs Must Die 3 spellcasting

The Orcs Must Die series is great – or at least, the first game and its sequel were. For the uninitiated, it’s a spin on the tower defense genre that plays out like a third person shooter. You’ve got to defend a vulnerable rift from endless waves of orcs, by placing and upgrading an arsenal of traps. It’s not just enough to lay down endless corridors of arrow walls and spike traps, though – you’ve got to play an active role in the rift’s defense if you want to succeed.

You’ll begin with two characters – a precise magic archer, and a not-so-precise magic blunderbuss wielder. Personally, the precise approach doesn’t gel too well with Orcs Must Die‘s chaotic gameplay. I had way more success defending the rifts when I swapped to the shotgun, which did a much better job at mopping up straggling foes or pelting damage into the oncoming green horde.

Orcs Must Die 3‘s most significant addition to the series are the Warfronts – these titanic defense tasks require orc-slaying on a hitherto-unheard-of scale. To that end, you get to employ some massive traps, changing up the usual piece-by-piece strategies to deal with armies of greenskins. Launching an entire squadron of orcs into the horizon like Team Rocket with a giant catapult plate is infinitely amusing, especially when any that survive get battered with thousands of arrows and floor spikes.

As entertaining and challenging as it can be, Orcs Must Die 3 just feels like it’s missing something. It might be the multiplayer component – you can play it co-operatively, but only online. There’s no couch co-op, which feels particularly egregious – so much of this game is built for hectic fun with a friend, and Robot Entertainment have really missed a trick by omitting it.

Orcs Must Die 3 traps going off

What doesn’t help it how slowly it all starts out. Progress comes at a crawl, and it seems to stay simple for far too long. You don’t actually make enough cash in the battles to employ any particularly interesting combinations of traps, and by the time you get to that point, you’re probably already bored or on the final wave. I’d go so far as to say if you’ve never played an Orcs Must Die game at all, this game has incredibly little to offer as an experience. If you have played the series previously, this is far from the best iteration – it’s actually a step back from Orcs Must Die 2.

The graphics have this strange plasticky sheen to them – like a filter’s been turned up to max to cover up graphical rough edges – and the user interface is basic and clunky. The menus are comparable to a knock-off Android mobile game, and it makes me wonder whether or not this was a sincere attempt to revitalise the series, or just the last-ditch attempt to wrench a few nostalgia pennies from the corpse.

Orcs Must Die 3 overall thoughts

I played Orcs Must Die 1+2 to death. They were almost endlessly entertaining at the time, but now we’re looking at the gaming equivalent of Red Hot Chili Peppers – ten years later, still playing the same old songs they were before. Except the Chili Peppers have at least stayed around the same quality with age. Orcs Must Die 3 is more like modern day Vince Neil (is that the first time Mötley Crüe have been used to insult a game? Probably not). You want it to be good, and sometimes it is. But most of the time it’s just eh.

Orcs Must Die 3 was developed by Robot Entertainment and is available now on consoles and Steam. You can find more of our reviews right here.

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