I want to get something out of the way first. I really liked Orcs Must Die Unchained when I played it this morning at PAX. The title will be free-to-play and should be in open beta by the end of the summer or early fall. That said, I think the $150 asking price for technical alpha access (going on right now) is utterly insane.

The first two titles in Robot Entertainment's Orcs Must Die series pit players (first solo, and then cooperatively in the sequel) against a horde of orcs flooding from gates to the "nexus' goal. The franchise borrows heavily from tower defense titles, but instead of emplacements on the perimeter of a path, players lay traps and directly confront monsters.

Unchained drops the A.I. horde in favor of five-on-five competitive multiplayer. The tower defense elements are still in place. This is MOBA-flavored, but players will work together to lay traps to confound foes and their minions. Instead of automatically spawning creeps that march mindlessly toward the opposing nexus, players will spend "leadership" to play minion cards at gates.

In fact, everything in Orcs Must Die Unchained is based on cards. Similar to the spellbook found in the previous entry, player-made decks will determine which minions, abilities, items, and more are available. Each character (of which there are currently 10 in the alpha) has core abilities, but beyond that, things are based on cards.

Unchained is free-to-play and is monetized with booster packs. These allow teams to strategize and create synergistic combinations of skills. For instance, one character is powered up when near giant minions. Another is boosted by ogres. Teams that play to those strengths will find themselves with an advantage.

One of the other core divergences from the MOBA genre is that the end goal is not to destroy a base. You won't be tearing down inhibitors to buff your minions either. Instead, you'll be swinging between offense and defense, trying to usher your minions into the enemy nexus. No matter how big or small, each minion through the portal takes one point from the starting total of 15.

Robot Entertainment is considering a season model, which will entail rotating cards in and out of service. The studio is also focused on building a community of competitive gaming fans and is tailoring Unchained for the same type of gamer that delights in League of Legends and Dota 2.

Orcs Must Die Unchained is in technical alpha right now. Robot Entertainment is offering a "founders' program" that offers immediate access for $150. Those interested in waiting for the traditional alpha can pay $60. Just want to guarantee a spot in the closed beta? That's $20. There are other perks for ponying up now, but as someone who is hesitant about the early access movement in general, I'd suggest waiting (at least until you can see it played for yourself on Twitch). The game will go into open beta late this summer or in early fall.