Co-Optimized: Orcs Must Die! 2

Today's Co-Optimized spotlights Orcs Must Die! 2, a humorous splatterfest tower defense game where two players use traps, magic, and weapons to turn the orc horde into mushy jam.

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There's nothing like the thrill of competitive multiplayer, but sometimes it's better to kick back and play alongside your friends and family instead of against them. With Co-Optimized, we highlight and discuss games that are best played together.

Today's selection is one of my all-time favorites: Orcs Must Die 2. In the previous game, you play as War Mage who sets out to close all the magic portals before an unending horde of orcs can come streaming through. To do so, you need to set up a series of gruesome traps to pound, slice, melt and otherwise blast them to oblivion. Thus the name of the game.

In this sequel, you find out that the portals to magic were the only things keeping your home realm safe, so now you must find alternate portals and set up a ton of traps to protect them. But this time, you're not alone. You're joined by a Sorceress, who happened to be your arch nemesis in the previous game. Now, no longer hungry for power and revenge, she takes up her wand to destroy the orc horde she once controlled.

The two fight side-by-side, strategically setting traps for combo kills, and trying to reach the best possible score per level. Despite their shared goal of killing orcs, the two characters have subtle gameplay differences. The War Mage can take more damage and fires a magical blunderbuss (replacing the crossbow in the first game), which shoots a spray of pellets or lobs grenades. Meanwhile, the Sorceress can't take as much damage, but she has a bigger mana supply for spell casting. Her wand might not do quite as much damage as the crossbow, but it can be charged to release a devastating burst shot. Furthermore, she can tap into her dominating ways as use the wand to turn a single enemy to her side. Each character also has one trap type that is specific to them. The slowing Tar Pit and Arrow Wall for the War Mage, and the Acid Sprayer and Ice Vent for the Sorceress, among other unlockable traps and gadgets.

By using their combined skills and plenty of teamwork, the duo assembles a diabolical gauntlet to systematically kill the incoming horde of orcs. Each character can only carry a limited number of items, which includes both weapons and traps. So players have to coordinate with each other to figure out what combinations will best complement each other and work best for the map and its creatures. The goal is to get the highest score possible for a level, which earns you skulls to purchase new equipment and upgrades with.

Levels are divided into rounds, and players are rewarded with a little bit of money and a short respite to repair broken traps or plant new ones. Then comes a wave that's more difficult from the last, a wide variety of creatures. More creatures and traps are available through DLC packs. Some are hard to take down because they're fast, while others are so big and tough that you'll need all the combined firepower you can muster just to keep it at bay.

What makes this game so addictive is the balance between quiet moments, where you're planning the layout, and the frantic action when everything is coming at you. Orcs can come flooding in from multiple entryways, which can sometimes force the two to split up. Things fall apart quickly if your defenses are too weak to hold them back. Oftentimes, the difference between a minor victory and utter failure is a fast little critter than managed to make it through your gauntlet. Other times, it might be a band of super tough trolls that ruin your day. However, there game's humor and style keeps you coming back, even when a level seems insanely challenging.

The fact of the matter is that there is a ton of stuff to keep track of when playing Orcs Must Die 2, and it's a relief to have someone around to help out using traps and weapons. With the combined abilities of two players, you can set up an impassible monster mashing machine. Seeing your cooperative efforts at work is truly a proud sight to behold. My only gripe about the game is once you settle on a favorite character, you kind of have to stick with it. Switching to a different character means having to unlock and upgrade everything all over again, which can be a huge, time consuming, pain.

A new free-to-play sequel, called Orcs Must Die! Unchained, is currently in closed beta. It plays more like a MOBA than a tower defense game, but it features much bigger levels, a wider selection of heroes, and supports up to four players per team. To mix things up, players can even choose to side with the orc horde.

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From The Chatty
  • reply
    April 8, 2015 1:00 PM

    Steven Wong posted a new article, Co-Optimized: Orcs Must Die! 2

    • reply
      April 8, 2015 3:33 PM

      I loved Orcs Must Die! 2.

      Really great game. Not sure about the new one, though. Have not been hearing good things about it. :(

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      April 8, 2015 4:17 PM

      makes me want to play this game again. please do more Co-Optimized articles. may i suggest Red Alert 3?

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      April 9, 2015 5:35 AM

      I love this game. Endless mode + dubstep + beer = lots of fun.

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      April 9, 2015 11:23 AM

      I couldn't get into the first game. It felt like it was fps with minor tower defense, and the fps felt imbalanced against me. Maybe I wasn't placing my towers as well as I thought I was which made the fps part harder? Maybe I'll go find some videos to see if that's the case. I liked the premise a lot though. Felt like it would have been great with co-op.