I knew that I would be killing orcs when I played Orcs Must Die at the PAX East gaming convention recently. I knew I would live, and I knew orcs would (virtually) die. I did not know I could kill them in so many ways.
Orcs Must Die is a tower defense game. It is one to the extent that you need to stop a march of enemies from reaching a destination point by erecting murderous obstacles in their path. You play this one from the ground-level in various rooms of a castle, controlling an unnamed hero who can smite orcs with sword, arrows or magic. While your hero is no wimp, the better way to kill enemy orcs is to put traps to work.
Most of the enemies I saw in the game walk, and they will walk right into trouble. They're stupid enough to walk into a square tile of giant spikes. Death. They are also stupid enough to walk into "flip traps," which catapult them into the air. It's good to catapult them so that they fall down a chasm and die, though you'll get more points if you vault them into one of those spike traps you laid on the ground nearby. It wouldn't hurt — well, it'll hurt them — to catapult them toward a wall where you may have mounted an arrow trap that shoots anything that flies past the airspace near it. They'll catapult into an arrow, then fall on the spikes. Maybe hit them with some fire magic after that? The key is combination-killing, because, if orcs must die, they might as well die via a series of painful experiences.
The hero of Orcs Must Die can acquire friends, or at least hired hitmen who will stand at the perimeter of one of the game's rooms and fire at the orcs. The hero can also shoot out chandeliers, so that the chandelier lands on walking or flying enemies. He may roll heavy objects down a slope to crush orcs.
The people at Robot Entertainment who are making the game — some of whom worked on Age of Empires before this — encourage these many strategic ways of killing orcs. The quality of their game depends on it. Without the chain-killing, their game is merely yet another tower defense game with direct character control. With it, their game turns more into a tower defense game with potential for Rube Goldbergian extermination.
The demo level for Orcs Must Die at PAX East played nicely, but the game sounds like its a ways out. The creators aren't sure, for example, how their levels will stitch together. Once they have it all sorted, they hope to release Orcs Must Die on Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, and Steam.