Orcs Must Die: Unchained has been in beta for a while, and the developers at Robot recently unveiled a new build that will kick off phase two of the beta beginning on March 24th. The new build features hero overhauls, new systems, UI improvements, and more, and was playable at PAX East. The blend of the original Orcs Must Die sieges with fast-paced MOBA style gameplay is still there, but the new changes will make a difference in the game going forward. Here’s what we can expect from Orcs Must Die: Unchained.
If you’re unfamiliar with the series, the basic premise of Unchained is this. You play a hero on a team of five with the task to protect your rift in your base. This magical rift is irresistible to Orcs, Kobolds, and other minions you and the enemy team will spawn and it’d your team’s job not to let too many pass. The use of traps, careful positioning, and strategic siege tactics is an integral part of the Orcs Must Die games, the second of which introduced many more traps (a bunch of which are included in Unchained), as well as co-op. Unchained seems like a kind of natural evolution for anyone who has played the series. In essence, it does play out with clear MOBA influence with the blend of third-person siege action.
The game’s lineup of heroes has been overhauled, with their roles as offensive or defensive heroes more clearly defined to help players build effective teams. In fact, phase two of the beta will launch with only 10 of the current heroes in their new builds, before each hero coming back with its new setup and progression system. Also added to the new build are hero levels and new progression choices. Gaining passive upgrades at certain levels makes the game feel a bit more flexible in letting players have some choice in the matter (it’s similar to the system in Smite, if you’re familiar with that). The progression should also help players feel a little more invested in their heroes as they go along.
This time around, I played as Ivy, the same hero with which I first experienced the game last year at PAX East. Ivy is classified now as an offensive hero, but she’s a hybrid. She’s an archer who can snipe, kill, and very much annoy other players, but she’s also notable for her ability to lay down a temporary AOE healing circle surrounding her, lending her viability for the more support or hybrid-oriented players. This time, my team didn’t seem to realize that the archer with the magical green circle around her could heal them if they stayed close, and we got in some trouble early as everyone moved away from me. One of the new passives you could choose for leveling up was a +50 movement speed buff and that still didn’t allow me to keep up with most of my teammates, who were barrelling into the action. However, the new passives are useful. Some of my other options included adding a personal heal to the HP glyph I could lay on the ground (Ivy is otherwise unaffected), or adding damage to my snare.
Other things players can expect in beta phase two are new traps, including some fan favorites like the overhead boulder drop from OMD, and bosses. These bosses begin to spawn when your camps reach level four and their job is to reach your rift and demolish gates standing in their way. Getting to spawn these bosses will happen periodically, and while they’re all tough, some will be particularly tricky. We got to see a couple of the new bosses, including one who splits into several smaller versions of himself once the initial form is defeated. Taking these bosses down will require strategy and cooperation and protecting your base at all costs.
As far as what didn’t quite resonate this time, traps felt slightly de-emphasized over the action. My first time playing Orcs Must Die: Unchained, I felt like the balance skewed a bit closer to the original games with online competitive MOBA components. It felt like traps were vital and everyone was using them. This time around playing Ivy once more, it felt like I didn’t really always need to set traps, which diminished things slightly. I set healing glyphs and a few traps, but was defeated a couple of times by an enemy’s well-defended and trap filled tight corner, so it may have just been my team’s fault. Defensive heroes will also have access to a somewhat different selection, so it’s going to be helpful to know the full lineup in order to play strategically. Orcs Must Die: Unchained is going into phase two of its beta with what feels like a few standout holes filled in. With promises that Robot will also concentrate on filling in the lore side a bit more as well, likely with the reintroduction of its now more robust heroes, things are still a blast to play.