We’re wrapping up our PAX East coverage today, and my final assignment left to cover is Robot Entertainment’s upcoming threequel titled Orcs Must Die! Unchained (breaking the chain of numbered games after Orcs Must Die! and Orcs Must Die! 2) unveiled at the convention. The biggest shift in terms of gameplay this time around is that the typically tower defense-oriented style has been adjusted in favor of more head-to-head multiplayer competition. While tower defense is still crucial, one team falls into the familiar role of protecting their keep, while the other is newly tasked with mounting an offensive attack and storming the fortress.
Action-wise, Unchained will feel familiar to series regulars. Described as “quick, strategic, relentless. PvP for real heroes!”, the game is a third-person competitive fortress siege where players team up to either defend or attack a base. Being on the defensive side offers a variety of traps that can be placed strategically throughout the map, to stifle enemy advancement, whereas those on the opposite side of the battle can summon minions to aide them in storming the stronghold. No matter which side your on, the action gets hot and heavy rather quickly, so there isn’t a heckuva lot of time to get your bearings. Luckily, the maps aren’t too large – and can be seen in the top right corner of the screen – so it’s easy to follow allies or any particular points of interest.
The shift from tower defense to competitive PvP seems to have transitioned well, as the game still retains most of the charm and aesthetic it is typically known for. Commenting on the evolution of the series, as well as the announcement of Unchained at PAX, Robot Entertainment CEO Patrick Hudson said that, “the previous Orcs Must Die! games were also unveiled at PAX East shows. But, we were especially excited to let fans play this ambitious evolution of the franchise. We couldn’t be more thrilled with the feedback. Orcs Must Die! fans told us it is the game they know and love, but that it’s also so much more.”
For my time with the game, I played as the Battlemage, but unfortunately due to some small bugs with the demo I was limited in what I could try. (My appointment was first thing Friday morning, so I was unfortunately the guinea pig for any problems with the demo.) To be clear, the bugs weren’t with the game itself, rather the keyboard commands were doing some strange things. For instance, controls are typically mapped to the WASD keys, put every time I pressed “D”, a window would pop up and the game would pause… so I could only strafe left for my play session. One of my primary spells was also mapped to the “3″ key, but unfortunately pressing that would minimize the screen instead.
So, while my demo walkthough wasn’t exactly smooth, I still got a general feel for the experience. Each class has specific abilities unique to them – in the case of the Battlemage, I could stun opponents for a brief period of time and cast offensive-based elemental spells, including a wall of fire (that doubles as a trap) and an ice spell for slowing opponents down. The full game is said to include dozens of different hero types. There’s also an upgrade system for both heroes themselves, and the various traps, weapons, and minions they can command, although I didn’t get to test this out for myself or see it firsthand.
Orcs Must Die! Unchained will be available as a free digital download on PC, and is scheduled to release in late 2014. While the game will be published by Robot Entertainment in North America, the European version will be published by GameForge. A release across additional regions is confirmed, but no further details have yet been provided. Those interested can choose to purchase a Founder’s Pack, available now, which offers a variety of incentives including Alpha and Beta access, among an assortment of in-game rewards. Additional updates about the project can be found on the game’s Twitter and Facebook. For those who missed checking out the game at PAX, Robot Entertainment has provided the following infographic with some pretty fun statistics: