Review: Of Orcs & Men (X360)
I’m a sucker for anything fantasy-themed. I’m an even bigger sucker for anything as heroic sounding as ‘Of Orcs & Men’. I mean, isn’t that why we all play games? To run away from the monotony of-
To cut an opening cinematic as well as my well-practiced rant on escapism through games short, the land is under a tyrannical human dictator, and the greenskins are planning to rise up against him. The game already sounds cliché, but it’s not treated as such. Instead of a RTS or turn-based strategy game, Of Orcs & Men delivers a slower-paced action RPG accompanied by a straightforward tale of rebellion tempered with dialogue as rough as a washerwoman’s hand.
In spite of its ambitious, lofty title, Of Orcs & Men is not quite Dragon Age in dialogue as it is in combat. Though it is categorised as an RPG, you are given little choice in the game’s dialogue trees. Occasionally, you are offered two options: but neither of these bear much impact on progression. Combat, however, is where Of Orcs & Men makes its mark, making me to feel it has been misjudged as an RPG, and would place better in the aRPG category.
Try to slash your way through the hordes of humans you must take out and you, Arkail of the Bloodjaw orc clan, will falter. This, in spite of your agile, ranged sidekick, the snarky goblin Styx. Not just an action RPG, then, but one that requires some strategy. Hitting the LB and RB buttons on your X360 pad bring up Offensive and Defensive tactical menus. You can queue up to four of these attacks for both Arkail and Styx with the game paused. Combat is thus not as fast paced as your typical action RPG, but neither is it as stupid. Thinking man’s aRPG? You got it.
Multitasking is a must with Of Orcs & Men. Though Arkail is strong enough to power through several enemies, leaving him to his own devices results in weak little chops that don’t do much for the battle. Ranged maestro Styx, too, hops into melee mode and takes enemies on headlong when not controlled by the player. That being said, devs Cyanide Studios and Spiders were considerate enough to streamline character-switching into a single button.
The combat is what gives the game its shine. Outside of combat, Of Orcs & Men is linear with little possibility of exploration. That seems to have been the devs’ aim, though, since the game lacks both a minimap and quest markers. World of Warcraft has babied us all too much. In Of Orcs & Men, the world is realistic and dark, and while it does have pretty straightforward paths, there is the possibility of getting turned around after a battle and going back the way you came from. The game’s autosave notification is the only way you have of telling if you’re heading in the right direction; this put quite a damper on my appreciation of its gritty setting. It also irks me that I cannot jump while walking around. Again, too much World of Warcraft, but gamers used to jumping every third step will know how annoying this can be.
There are also no incentives after battles apart from experience points. There is no money and there are no loot drops. Instead, new equipment is acquired via bartering. There isn’t a lot of it in the game anyhow; the focus of Of Orcs & Men is really in its strategic combat. This is something else that sets it apart from other games in its genre – fantasy games usually have about a million items and item sets, and then some. I also found it strange that each new level only gives you one attribute and one skill point. For someone weaned on Dungeons & Dragons CRPGs, one attribute point per new level gained is far too little! It is, at least, effective in making you consider its expenditure carefully.
What really made me sit up was the straight out swearing that accompanied the game. Having reviewed it late in the night, I was zoning out during a cutscene when a distinct four letter word reached my ears. It’s not often you get a game with a script as raw as Of Orcs & Men’s, littered with foul language and phrases that’d make my mother attempt to set my Xbox 360 on fire in a blaze of righteous fury. I fully approve.
It helps that the voice acting in Of Orcs & Men is superb, and really brings each character to life. Arkail and Styx aren’t the only ones who get star treatment, either. Even the NPCs sound hyperrealistic, and I admire the amount of care that went into their voice acting. I do wonder why a European game would want American voice actors, though.
As with most aRPGs, Of Orcs & Men runs a little short on content when compared to its fully-fledged RPG siblings. As a console aRPG, it also has little replay value. It’s definitely not a game for the typical console gamer, with its too-raw dialogue and story and strange combat style. But the short hours you can spend on it are well worth investing if you’re a fan of strategy games.
|SCORESHEET (out of 10)||OVERALL
Of Orcs & Men is an RPG for the PC, PS3, and X360 platforms. It was developed by Cyanide Studios and Spiders, and published by Focus Home Interactive.