The following software was reviewed on an Xbox Series X console.
Like slaughtering orcs? Like launching hordes of them out into the abyss with tonnes of weird weaponry? Do you like tower defense strategy games? Then look no further than Orcs Must Die! 3, developed and published by Robot Entertainment. Originally exclusive to Google’s Stadia platform, the game has finally made its way to Xbox consoles. This would be the second Orcs Must Die! title to hit the platform, as the second game never made its way to consoles and the first launched just about 10 years ago (that title is also backward compatible!). The third game evolves on the mechanics of genre meshing of tower defense and third-person player control as well as offering more modes of gameplay such as weekly challenges, more campaign levels, and playable characters.
If you are not familiar with the ‘tower defense’ style of gameplay, think of it as having a headquarters of sorts to defend against enemies that want to destroy it. In these kinds of games, you would deploy units or traps to protect your tower from waves of enemies, from simple mooks that brainlessly walk up and die to more advanced baddies that require specific strategies to combat. Orcs Must Die! follows these conventions but instead allows players to have direct control through a playable character, with plenty of freedom to walk the many levels the game has to offer. To put it simply, keep the ugly green creatures off your lawn.
Players will start with just a few traps and only two playable characters out of the six in total. As you progress through the game’s main campaign, you will get the chance to unlock more traps, upgrade your current arsenal, and learn more about the enemy types you will face in the more advanced stages of the game. The few war scenarios present in the game help teach players about crowd control, which is crucial if you go at this game solo. These levels are really fun because of the creative freedom the game offers with trap placement and the types of traps available, and are a great way to teach the player that spikes and arrow traps are just some of the ways you can glass a bunch of orc freaks. You also need to get good at aiming, because enemies will fight back and players will need to keep moving if they want to keep their momentum going.
Orcs Must Die! 3 has a lot of charm thanks to its fairly simple art style and quirky character archetypes. Make no mistake, you likely will not remember the game’s narrative, which serves more as background details that are given at the beginning of a level. But the cutscenes are well-made, character voicing is cartoonish and funny, and watching orcs get gibbed left and right never gets old. The visuals are nice to look at and they do not pose any visibility problems, which is essential in making sure you herd the orcs right where you want them—being blown to pieces or launched out of the map!
Orcs Must Die! 3 offers a few options to customize gameplay. Difficulty can be changed between three levels at the level screen, giving players more time to set up defenses and weakening enemies just a bit. Sensitivity, field of view, and controls can be changed from the options menu with ease. Closed captioning is disabled by default, but only captions scenario dialogue and not all sound effects are present near the player.
In my time with the game, I encountered no bugs at all. The game maintained a smooth 60 frames per second experience on the Xbox Series X, no matter the size of the orc hordes. I did find that the user interface was a little unintuitive, and not all that appealing. And while I felt that the main campaign is a decent method of teaching players about the game, I do wish there was a smaller training area that lets players figure out a playable character’s special abilities and weapons. The game is not difficult, and I was able to get through any snag I encountered. But I did find that I was not too keen on experimenting with my war chest of weapons simply because I did not know how effective they could be in a given situation. A personal sore spot of mine is also the lack of split-screen cooperative play, which means that a friend will also have to own their own copy on their own console to play with you. Solo play is fun, but orc gibbing is just more fun with friends.
Xbox fans of strategic horde smashing will find a perfect home with Robot Entertainment’s latest game in the series. There are plenty of maps, challenges, and a variety of ways to defend your tower from the orcs. There are not any glaring flaws as far as the eye can see, and for what it is worth, I think that is what makes Orcs Must Die! 3 an easy recommendation for the strategy fan. ∎