Orcs Must Die! 3 review: The next generation of tower defense

Robot Entertainment's Orcs Must Die! 3 brings the beloved series back with its best entry yet.

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After nearly a decade, developer Robot Entertainment has brought back its fantasy tower defense series with Orcs Must Die! 3. Originally released back in 2020 as a Stadia exclusive, Orcs Must Die 3 has made its way to Steam, as well as Xbox and PlayStation. Now that the game is available to a much larger audience, Orcs Must Die! 3 shines as the best entry in the series yet.

Passing the torch (and pitchfork)

Orcs Must Die! 3 is set 20 years after the second game, and now follows the story of two young apprentices, Kelsey and Egan. The War Mage and Sorceress have rebuilt the order and are training these two new apprentices to fill their shoes.

The “passing of the torch” theme is a common occurrence in older franchises being rebooted, and Orcs Must Die! 3 pulls it off fairly well. Kelsey and Egan are both colorful and exciting characters, and the game gives their personalities a lot of room to shine. Whether it's Egan moonwalking and dancing after completing a level, or Kelsey dropping quips as she takes down enemies, I was a big fan of the new protagonists in OMD!3.

Hold down the fort

At its core, the Orcs Must Die! games are all about, well, slaying orcs in every way possible. Once again, players will need to defend a rift as Orcs storm their base, looking to jump through. There’s an assortment of traps that players will place in order to properly defend the rift as orcs begin to pour through. These traps are purchased using coins, which can be earned by killing monsters.

The tower defense elements in Orcs Must Die! 3 are excellent. I loved methodically plotting out my defenses, carefully determining the best spot for Spike Traps, Gravity Lifts, Arrow Walls, and the other wacky traps featured in the game. Once the hordes started pouring in, it was incredibly satisfying to see all of my traps working in tandem to slay orcs by the masses.

As with any good tower defense game, the real excitement starts when all of your plans begin to fail. What’s really cool about Orcs Must Die! 3 is that the game allows you to place traps in the middle of a round, as monsters are barreling towards the rift. As I was earning coins, I was immediately using them to bolster my defenses and adjust to enemy behaviors.

A level in Orcs Must Die! 3 typically consists of around five waves. Before the first round, players are given as much time as they need to analyze the map and place their traps. However, after the first round, there’s only a short bit of time between waves that players have to make adjustments and build new traps. I understand that logically it makes sense that I don’t have an infinite amount of time between waves of mindless enemies, but it was frustrating in some cases as I felt like the game wasn’t properly letting me learn and evolve my strategy.

Two can be as bad as one

Protagonists Kelsey and Egan are at the heart of Orcs Must Die! 3, from not only a story perspective, but gameplay. Both characters have their own unique weapons in the blunderbuss and bow, as well as different special abilities that give them an extra advantage when fighting against hordes. The characters are at their best when you go online and team up with a friend.

Multiplayer feels like the best way to experience Orcs Must Die! 3. Jumping in with my friend, we were able to strategize together, deciding how we wanted to spend coins and what areas we needed to prioritize. Most levels in the game feature multiple doors, creating different points of entry for enemies. We were able to divide and conquer assigning ourselves to lockdown different areas of the map.

It's also worth mentioning that Orcs Must Die! 3 runs quite smoothly. There are sequences where the chaos gets out of control, with countless enemies all on screen at once and multiple traps activating. Even in these moments, I experienced little to no framerate drops or technical issues.

Orcs must jam out

Visually, Orcs Must Die! 3 is a pretty looking game, but certainly not something that’s going to blow your socks off. That said, I appreciate the fantastical approach the developers took to the game’s art style. The vibrant colors are welcomed, as they work to bring this fantasy world to life.

I also appreciated that OMD!3 didn’t opt for a generic fantasy game soundtrack. Instead, there’s a refreshing mix of beats ranging from rock to hip hop. In a game as campy and light-hearted as Orcs Must Die! 3, these elements complimented the rest of the game quite well.

Protectors of the rift

Orcs Must Die! 3 is an excellent outing from Robot Entertainment, as it delivers exciting tower defense action along with some truly challenging sequences. The two new protagonists serve to usher the story in a new direction, while adding some flavor to gameplay. Playing with a friend is best, as it allows the two stars of the game to shine the brightest. Now free from the shackles of Google Stadia exclusivity, Orcs Must Die! 3 is the best entry in the series.


This review is based on a digital Steam code provided by the publisher. Orcs Must Die! 3 is available now on Stadia, Steam, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5 for $29.99 USD.

Contributing Editor

Donovan is a young journalist from Maryland, who likes to game. His oldest gaming memory is playing Pajama Sam on his mom's desktop during weekends. Pokémon Emerald, Halo 2, and the original Star Wars Battlefront 2 were some of the most influential titles in awakening his love for video games. After interning for Shacknews throughout college, Donovan graduated from Bowie State University in 2020 with a major in broadcast journalism and joined the team full-time. He is a huge Star Wars nerd and film fanatic that will talk with you about movies and games all day. You can follow him on twitter @Donimals_

Review for
Orcs Must Die! 3
9
Pros
  • Wide assortment of traps and upgrades
  • New characters interesting and unique
  • Co-op elevates the experience
  • Game runs smoothly
Cons
  • Minimal time given between rounds is frustrating
From The Chatty
  • reply
    August 5, 2021 6:15 PM

    Donovan Erskine posted a new article, Orcs Must Die! 3 review: The next generation of tower defense

    • reply
      August 5, 2021 6:22 PM

      TommyW and I have been playing it on PC. It’s fun playing together, but kind of dry solo.

      We each had to buy a copy, so it’s kind of expensive if you’re also a parent looking for some co-op gaming. I’m not sure if the consoles have splitscreen, but the way things have been going lately, I doubt it.

      Graphics and sound are well done.

      I think my biggest beef with the game is that I almost wish it forced me to play with more of the traps in the arsenal. I have like 30 things I can use, but something like six slots on any mission, so I have a whole garage full of shit I have to leave at home. On top of that, there’s a leveling system where you pay to upgrade traps. I THINK I can refund all my upgrades to rebalance things if I wanted to, but since the game isn’t forcing me to, it’s a lot of work to maybe find out that I don’t like Trap #23 as much as one in my default load out.

      It’s fun overall.

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