If these hybrids carry on, tower defence is going to get a reputation for being a ‘loose’ genre.
Having hooked up with action RPGs, real-time strategy, and flirting with Gears 3’s Horde 2.0, tower defence and the third-person shooter officially become an item on XBLA with Orcs Must Die – and the offspring isn’t entirely hideous.
It opens with the narrator explaining how his lifelong battle with the orcs is cut short after an unfortunate fall at work snaps his neck, leaving his headstrong apprentice to take up the crossbow. Thus, it is explained why you control an annoying Charlie Sheen-alike defending a fortress and its ‘rifts’ from waves of green foes.
Light on plot, Orcs is heavy on thrills. Players will quickly find that well-placed traps are not enough to stem the tide, and liberal use of the attack button and adjusting of the battlements are essential to keeping the orcs at bay. The frenetic action walks the line between strategy and chaos, but the pacing between waves and variety of weapons and foes to use them on prevents the gameplay from descending in to busy-work.
The cartoon style is fun and fitting and well-matched by the soundtrack’s satisfying shunks and splurts. The repetitive music and the hero’s ‘witticisms’ will soon grate, and once a level is 5-skulled there is little impetus to replay, but what Orcs offers is an intense blast of tactical play that won’t demand hours of dedicated strategising.