Review | 7/30/2012 at 12:18 AM

Orcs Must Die! 2 Co-Op Review

Those orcs? They have to die again.

Orcs Must Die! is a favorite of mine, so when it was announced that Orcs Must Die! 2 would have co-op, you can imagine my excitement. As with most great sequels or expansions, OMD2 doesn’t change any of the things that people liked about the first game. Instead, it enhances the original experience by adding more choices, customizability, and variation. I’m getting ahead of myself, though. Let’s start off with the basics.

OMD2 takes place just a few days after the first game. It features our trusty (if a little empty between the ears) War Mage who’s joined by a new character, the Sorceress. Any combination of these characters can be played in 2-player online co-op, whether it be a war mage and a sorceress, two war mages, or two sorceresses. Creating a co-op game is a snap, just create a party from the mode/level selection screen, invite your buddy, then go about choosing your mode and level as per usual. In-game voice chat is fully supported within the game, or if you want to be old school, there’s a chat box readily at hand.

The core goal of the game still remains true to the original - it's very much a tower defense and action hybrid in which you'll be repelling waves of enemies and stopping them from reaching a certain point on the map.  The beauty comes from the strategy elements, what and where you place in the levels to stop those nasty orcses.  The fun comes from the quick trigger fingers of your characters blasting said orcses to pieces.

The war mage and sorceress share access to many of the same tools, but the difference is not merely cosmetic. The war mage boasts more health while the sorceress possesses a larger mana pool and they each have a unique weapon: the war mage gets a shotgun which can fire bouncing grenades while the sorceress can wield a wand with the capability to charm an enemy for a short duration. They each also have two unique traps. Only the war mage can set tar pit and arrow wall traps, but only the sorceress can employ ice vent and acid sprayer traps. These differences provide a nice sense of variation between the characters, but since they share joint access to the remaining unlockable 10 weapons, 26 traps, and 8 trinkets, I doubt players will ever feel they somehow picked the weaker character.

The spellbook in OMD2 has been greatly expanded from OMD. It features five different tabs, the first one being “My Gear,” which simply details one’s unlocked items. The other 4 tabs are the unlockable items of the game: traps, weapons, trinkets, and vanity gear. Traps and weapons are fairly straight forward, and players will recognize a return of many old favorites from the first game. Vanity items are alternative skins for your character. Trinkets are new to OMD2. and feature both passive and active (with a cooldown) effects. If the trinket active empowers a hero, such as a heal or a shield, it also bestows it on the other co-op player in a game. Traps, weapons, and trinkets can also be upgraded once unlocked, boosting potency or giving them one of two unique effects. This is a nice way play to your strengths and personal play style, and can even provide some cooperative phenomena (“you’re upgrading barricades? Okay, I’ll upgrade archers!”).

Players will gain some of these unlockables playing the story mode, but the rest they’ll unlock by choice through the skull currency. Gaining skulls in OMD2 works a little differently than in OMD, but I find it to ultimately be more advantageous. Completing a level (even multiple times) will reward a certain number of skulls. As with OMD, players receive a skull rating, out of 5 possible skulls. These skull ratings also turn into additional skull currency, but players can only earn them once. For example, if a player completed a certain level with a three skull rating for the first time, he would be rewarded three extra skulls on top of the normal reward. If he did the same level again and got a four skull rating, he’d still receive the normal reward, but he’d only get one additional skull as this is the difference between his last personal best and his new rating. Once earned, skull currency can be spent on whatever a player desires and all skulls can be reset any time players have access to the spellbook. This is a great feature as players are encouraged to try out upgrades. If they don’t like them, they can start fresh. Also, since there’s no cap on the amount of skulls players can earn, it’s possible to unlock every item and upgrade in the spellbook.

Great, so we’ve covered the co-op connectivity, the characters, and the spellbook, but what about the actual gameplay? OMD2 features three different modes, all available in co-op: story, endless, and classic. All of these modes have the same goal: kill the enemies before they reach their destination. If the rift points counter reaches 0, it’s game over. Co-op play is just about identical to single-player play, with only a couple of differences: coin from trap and weapon kills is evenly split between players in co-op (but not coin drops), and in co-op players only get 6 equipment slots each. This is surely to preserve the balance of how many traps players have access to on any given level, and is really not much of a hindrance. Also, while players are in the spellbook at the beginning of the level, they can see what items their co-op partner has equipped, so make sure to coordinate with your buddy for maximum effectiveness!

Story mode is the game’s campaign, comprised of a total of 15 levels. These levels feature a set amount of waves which can differ upon the level. Waves will start out with easier enemies, but each successive wave will add tougher enemies into the mix. These levels also possess multiple doors for orcs to spawn, so players will have to split their attention and keep tabs on enemies’ positions. In story mode, players simply want to prevent the rift point counter from reaching 0 before the last enemy is killed on the last wave.

Endless mode features 10 levels, 5 of which are taken from the story mode with the other 5 being unique to Endless. The gameplay of Endless mode is about the same as Story, except that the waves keep coming until players lose all rift points. Also, every 5 waves a huge golden ogre, named Mr. Moneybags, will stomp his way through the level. If killed, he will drop a large coin worth a huge amount of coin.

Classic mode is only available to players who also own the first OMD. It features 10 maps, and like Story mode features a set amount of waves. The levels in classic mode are taken directly from OMD, but this time they’re playable in co-op. It’s a nice little bonus to fans of the first game.

In sum, OMD2 is a fantastic game and has completely lived up to my expectations. It features all the stuff from OMD that I know and love, and makes it even better. Co-op enhances and enriches the experience and additional traps and new enemies as well as a revamped and more customizable unlock system make the game an absolute delight to play. I have absolutely no complaints and I’ll certainly be pushing this game on my friends like a deranged crack dealer.