Orcs Must Die! 2 preview

The original Orcs Must Die! was a surprise hit. It came late to the Tower Defense party, but breathed new life into it with a combination of style and third-person action. But orc genocide is never done, so Robot Entertainment recently announced Orcs Must Die! 2, featuring co-op, a new character, and tons of tweaks

We can't say that Robot keeps us waiting, either, because the game has already had its first public showing and is due this summer. My hands-on at PAX East 2012 was brief, but showed plenty of lessons learned from the first game. Considering how fun and original OMD was, that's saying something.

The addition of co-op, and the new Sorceress character, are obviously the largest changes. The Sorceress sports a faster long-range weapon, along with an alternate fire that makes orcs turn on their comrades. Though the demo only included a few basic classes of orcs, I'm already itching to use that power on stronger enemies and watch them lay waste to the underlings. She felt more of a natural fit for my play style; I would generally rely more on traps as the War Mage in the first game, but this gave me more incentive to get my hands dirty more often.

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It's conventional wisdom that co-op makes everything more fun, but in the case of OMD2, it feels absolutely vital. The first game was occasionally frustrating when tending to multiple pathways, traps, and third-person action would get too difficult to manage by yourself. A second player is a simple step to alleviate that issue. Players can split up the pathways, or stick together to heal each other and watch their backs. It's a natural fit for the game.

A few other changes may thrill or disappoint, depending on your play style. The Weavers are gone from this second iteration, for one. As someone who saw the Weavers as a smart way to create one's own play style, I'll simply have to trust Robot's judgment. Their absence is supposed to be compensated for by more traps, and more variation in the upgrades to those traps. Meanwhile, some traps are being altered for balance or outright replaced, like bringing in the triggered Ice Trap instead of the the continuous effect Tar Trap.

Many of the changes, especially the addition of the Sorceress, seem to be aimed at making the game a smoother experience. The debuffs to certain traps or removal of the Weavers should strike the delicate balance that keeps the intensity of angry orc waves, without feeling too overwhelmed.