No, you haven't woken from a coma to find yourself in the year 2013. It's only been nine months since the first Orcs Must Die was released, and yet here we are, talking about Orcs Must Die 2.
That means we're dealing with one of two things: a horribly rushed game, or something that's a sequel in, well, name only, retaining most of the content you could find in the original.
Orcs Must Die 2 is the latter. And that's not all a bad thing.
We never got around to formally reviewing the first game, but I enjoyed it; like Iron Brigade/Trenched, it took the basic idea of a tower defence game and stuck a third-person shooter in the middle of it, allowing the player to run around and directly influence the flow of battle.
This sequel does the same thing, only with co-op. And this time, only on the PC.
WHAT I LIKED
Graphic Violence - The Orcs Must Die games are developed by Robot, the same team behind Age of Empires Online. And just like that game, I love the art style. It's light-hearted without coming off as childish
and the static cutscenes in particular look just wonderful.
Busy Hands - Blending tower defence and third-person action is tough. Make turret placement too important and you'll render player involvement pointless. Make the player too powerful and you'll have a linear, feature-bloated shooter. Orcs Must Die 2 gets the balance just right. You're always busy killing Orcs with your own hands, but never are you allowed to forget about tending to your traps, either, and it's this constant tugging at your attention that keeps you busiest (and happiest).
Build It - You earn "skulls" for completing missions and performing well. Those skulls unlock traps (turrets), player weapons, player costumes, player bonuses, etc. There are a lot of them to get hold of, and a lot of upgrades to make once you do, so after a week or so you'll have been able to have thoroughly tailored your character, RPG-like, to your specific tastes and playstyle.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE
Orcs Must Die 1.5 - Yes, there's a new character, new co-op and new maps, but almost everything else about the game - right down to the soundtrack - is recycled from the first title. It would have been nice to see the game come out a little later and offer a little more new content.
Forced Labour - Once you crank the difficulty up, or even reach certain later levels on easier settings, the maps seem designed specifically for co-op. That sucks, because the game doesn't support public match-making, so unless you have a friend with the game who's ready to jump in, actually getting hold of a co-op partner can be a little rough.
THE FINAL WORD
Orcs Must Die 2 is a fun little time-waster for these lean summer months. If you've played the first, play this, the repetition is less of a concern given its budget price (and added features). If you haven't played the first game, the sequel's RPG trimmings, cute art style and frantic action make it the perfect palette cleanser for those who have had their fill of Diablo III but still want to kill as many monsters as is humanly possible.