The lights are on
Way back at PAX East this year, we got our first hands-on time with Orcs Must Die Unchained. I'll admit that I was trepidatious about the title, which takes the gameplay of Orcs Must Die, adds some heavy MOBA elements and puts them in a blender.Those that played Orcs Must Die or its sequel will recognize the concept of laying traps to hinder and damage minions. Players take an active role in combat, with standard and power attacks as well as activated abilities. Unchained adds an opposing team to the mix, and also gives players the chance to select and level up their own minions. The map we played had two lanes, though only one is open for each team at the start.Traps are laid with gold, and the currency has a second function that has been added since our first time out with the title. Because Orcs Must Die doesn't have an item mechanic like League of Legends or Dota 2, which gives you reason to use your gold throughout a match, Robot Entertainment had to figure out how to make gold useful in the mid- and late game.Gold is now used for powering up your hero. Unchained doesn't have in-game hero leveling. Insted, you'll slot "weaver" cards that each have a number of synergistic upgrades. For instance, weavers might be focused on increasing your attack power and speed or defense and crowd control resistance.This also opens strategies for players that choose not to lay traps and, instead, buff themselves first. Standard MOBA roles don't work here, but players are finding new archetypes since minion choice and even certain hero combinations work off one another.As an example, one hero speeds up nearby orcs. Teammates can tweak their minion loadouts to add more green-skinned brawlers. The buff also impacts heroes, which can affect a team's decision during preparation. Trap selection is also best handled in cooperation with a team to make the best use of combos. There's a lot of gameplay determined before the match even begins, even more so it seems than in League of Legends. I'm interested to see how the metagame evolves and how players learn to balance their loadouts and communicate in random matchups. There are some pacing and balance issues that Robot is clearly still working on (the game is only in beta, after all). My initial concerns about how Orcs Must Die would translate into this new genre are largely allayed, though. The title is still a work in progress, but on its current trajectory, Robot Entertainment has the potential to make a splash in the crowded MOBA space. For more, check out our Test Chamber featuring the title.
I wish I could be as positive. TBH, a lot of key details in the original games seem absent. Far moreso than most MP iterations, Unchained's thrown a lot of ideas away. From enemy variety being severely decreased to almost no platforming and/or recoil to weapons, all the way to outright removing the upgrade system in favor of the currently quite unrewarding card pack system... I am very underwhelmed, speaking as a huge fan or Orcs Must Die! 2. This -could- work, but they really are sacrificing a lot more than they need to, just to be a F2P title.