Orcs Must Die 3 is the third game in the series. Before the game’s surprise release on Stadia, I’d never heard of the previous games, or if I did, I know for a fact I’d never played them before. So, with that in mind, I went into Orcs Must Die 3 completely fresh with no preconceptions about what a third game should look like.
I’ve come away very, very impressed. And slightly addicted to murdering orcs.
Orcs Must Die 3 is a tower-defence game. I love this genre. It’s always easy to give it a go, but it’s never easy to master. Like in other tower-defence games, you’ve got a base that needs to be defended. You can let in a few of the bad guys, but let in too many – 20 is the norm – and it’s game over.
Each of the game’s 18 story levels (plus extra Endless Mode layouts) present you with different maps in differing environments, each having routes that the baddies can take to your Rift. Your Rift is your base in this game, and you’ve got to protect it. Unlike in other tower-defence games, you can actually get out among the action and influence the course of a level.
There are a few different playable characters, but for the most part, I just played as the default girl. I didn’t even bother to learn her name, and honestly, it’s not important. There’s a story being told here and there but I didn’t care for it. I’m in for the puzzling murder, not for some half-baked plot. I just wanted to murder orcs and feel clever doing so.
The default weapon for my character was a blunderbuss shotgun, but more weapons are unlocked as you make your way through the game. That’s the same with the traps, too, with more opening up as you beat the levels. You can also play the Endless Mode and farm some Skulls; these are the points that are used to buy and upgrade weapons and traps. I never really got behind the idea of farming skulls to better my weapons and traps, instead, I left my victories to the game gods and my puzzle-solving skills.
The idea is that the enemies start at point A, and they want to get to point B, with B being your base. You’ve got to make it as awkward and as deadly as possible by using an assortment of deadly traps to spike, shoot, electrocute, throw into larva, throw into meat grinders, and plenty more. You can, and should, use barriers to block off access to routes you don’t want the enemies to take, or just to make a straightforward route a little more awkward and time-consuming. There’s a lot to think about and the game does a good job at training you up along the way. New weapons and traps are introduced quickly, but you’re never forced to use them. I suppose the game could have done a little more in explaining what the traps do, what their benefits are, and what their weaknesses are, instead of assuming that I’ve played the previous games.
Still, it wasn’t all that difficult and I made it through eventually, though there were some hairy moments where my Stadia controller risked taking an unscheduled launch off of my balcony. Some levels require you to use your head. Others require you to learn by losing, and that’s what annoyed me the most. I’d get to the end of a level, beating all seven waves, only for the final wave to throw a massive curveball and make the last 15 minutes redundant. Of course, I’d know what needs to be done on the next run, but still, bloody hell…
Playing Orcs Must Die 3 on Stadia was fantastic, performance-wise. I mostly played hooked up to my Chromecast Ultra on the TV, completely wireless running over WiFi with the router being 15 feet away. I rarely had any performance drops or lag spikes, though they did happen. Mostly, it was fantastically responsive, though there were a few issues with the game itself.
See, Orcs Must Die 3 does large-scale battles, unlike games I’ve played before. Hundreds of enemies can be on the screen at once, and each of them has a mission and a path to take, but they’re still influenced by you and your actions. Shoot them in the face and they’ll change course and come after you. I think this takes a toll on whatever computing power is being used to run the game, because at times the frame-rate would absolutely chug. Mind you, this was mostly when I was playing Endless Mode and got to the high 30s, early 40s, depending on the map. During the normal run of play in Story Mode, it happened, but it wasn’t very frequent and it never disrupted the play. It’s also worth bearing in mind that I’m an absolute legend at this game now, and you’ll probably not be able to hit the dizzying, game-breaking high levels that I did. Just sayin’, you know?
My absolute favourite battles in Orcs Must Die 3 were the War Scenarios. These levels would allow you up to 40 points on your rift, and there would be some ridiculous amounts of enemies bombing their way towards my base. It was great, and these scenarios brought out the best moments. I’d take ages just planning and laying my traps, double-checking all the routes I wanted blocked off were blocked off, and that the routes the bad guys would be funnelled down were absolute death traps with pain coming from left, right, up, and down. Oh, and from me, too!
I didn’t know what to expect going into Orcs Must Die 3, but after a long time playing, I kind of know what it is that I like about it so much: it’s the perfect Star Wars Battlefront game, but it’s got orcs, ogres and trolls instead of Stormtroopers, Clones, and Droids. Clones Must Die spin-off coming soon?
Orcs Must Die 3 Stadia Review
Overall - Must Play - 9/10
Orcs Must Die 3 is one of the best games I’ve played this year. Despite it being a simple and silly-looking release, Orcs Must Die 3 has thrown out the bait and I’ve taken it like the chumpy little fish I am. It’s got that one-more-try quality, marrying puzzle-solving with glorious, over-the-top murder.
- Brilliantly simple gameplay
- Top-notch graphics – it looks fantastic on a 4K telly
- Lots of levels with good variation among enemy units
- Lots of deadly weapons and traps to upgrade and master
- Those funky little dances at the end of a level – they get me bopping everytime!
- A more in-depth tutorial would have been welcome for newcomers
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using Stadia on Chromecast Ultra, Windows 10 PC (Chrome) and a Samsung Galaxy Note 9+