Previous to last week my only experience with Orcs Must Die Unchained was during an early beta of a siege mode they ended up jettisoning. When I was approached by Managing Editor Bill Murphy to take a trip to Robot Entertainment and see what they have been cooking up over the last three years I didn't have high expectations for the game but figured at the least it was an excuse to play my Switch on an airplane. What a difference a few years can make.
We started the day at Robot Entertainment with a tour of the studio and a history lesson. For those not aware Robot is a descendant of Ensemble Studios. That makes them the masterminds behind the Age of Empires Franchise and Halo Wars. These guys and gals know strategy games. Due to that pedigree it should come as no surprise then that they could knock it out of the park with a tower defense game as well. And so far it looks like they have.
Orcs Must Die Unchained is the third entry to the franchise and brings with it a three player cooperative mode that makes for riotous fun. If you are wondering, "Why Unchained? Why not 3?" that's a great question. The game has an Unchained meter that when filled allows your avatar to enter Unchained mode. During this period you'll regenerate health and mana faster and deal increased damage. The strategy comes into when to use it. Do you pop it right away or wait for that perfect moment? You can use it again but each time you do it takes longer for the meter to fill on subsequent uses.
OMDU has been in open beta for a while but the team is about to release a new Sabotage mode with the official game's launch and we were down there to get a behind the scenes look at the update. Sabotage brings back a competitive mode, after Siege was closed down late last year. It's much better than Siege mode too.
In standard OMDU you and up to two of your friends attempt to protect a rift from being entered (and violated) by orcs, kobolds, and other assorted nasties. You can halt their assault by strategically placing traps, barricades, hero units, and direct attacks from your avatar. In sabotage the ultimate goal is the same. Stop baddies from entering your rift. The twist in Sabotage is two teams of 3 rift guardians each are essentially in a race to protect their rift while simultaneously trying to prevent their opponents from protecting their rift. At the start of each round you'll pick two spells to cast during the round. These spells will in some form hinder your opponent. At low levels you'll get a card like kobolds, or speed aura. You can use these two in combo against your foe.
You can release a wave of kobolds that will race down your competitors map towards the rift and simultaneously place a speed aura that has a small area of effect on your opponents map to make those son of a gun kobolds run even faster. There is also a spell that will turn a random opponent on the map into a bomb and if they aren't paying attention they could destroy their own barricades and unleash a flood of nasties into their rift. Remember how I mentioned the game had an Unchained meter and part of the strategy was figuring out when to use the meter? Well you can get a spell that will cause your opponents to premature unchained. So in addition to resetting their unchained meter it also takes them longer to save back up for the next unchained. So now you have a Mexican standoff on when to Unchained and when not to Unchain and now in the back of your mind that your competitor could make you go Unchained at any time. It’s enough to make you dizzy.
It's the indirectness of the attacks in Sabotage that make them so much fun. At no time are you seeing your opponent on the same map and directly attacking them. It's more of a blue falcon type move set that is more comic than vindictive. Win or lose I walked away with a smile on my face and a sense that Robot Entertainment had a great game on their hands. I also believe that the comedy involved will help curtail some of the toxicity that comes with competitive multiplayer games. Sure no one likes to move but in Sabotage it’s usually in such a humorous way that you can’t help but laugh.
Players will be ranked in Sabotage and will be grouped with other players of similar skill levels. You’ll get your initial ranking after your first 5 matches. Like the original mode you’ll get 25 rift points and the first to reach 0 is the loser. Standard mobs are worth 1 point and other mobs are worth upwards of 6. There isn’t a built in chat platform on the PC but there is a community discord that players use. The PS4 version of the game will have voice chat built into the PSN platform and will not require plus to play in a group.
Robot Entertainment’s newest mode Sabotage to their quirky co-op tower defense game OMDU is both hilarious and deeply strategic. There is fun to be had for the casual as well as the hardcore alike. If you are looking for fast paced strategy game with a low barrier to entry that you can spend hours working with other players instead of always against them OMDU is definitely worth the try. After a few hours if you decide you really want to play against other players then Sabotage mode will allow that to happen.