W00t! I knocked something that wasn't Mass Effect off the list! I realized tonight that I only had two more levels left in Orcs Must Die, and while I was having some difficulty with them on the normal difficulty level, I had no trouble once I knocked them down to easy.
SPOILER WARNING: As is normal with these posts, I'm going to "spoil" the game a bit. However, I will say this: there's not a huge amount of plot in Orcs Must Die!; this is one of those games you play for the actual gameplay rather than the storyline.
Orcs Must Die! (and yes, the exclamation mark is part of the title) is an interesting hybrid of tower defense and straight-up action game. You take on the role of a lone Warmage defending magical rifts from an onslaught of orcs, ogres, kobolds, gnolls, and other assorted fantasy cannon fodder. You accomplish this with a combination of traps, spells, and weapons, and once you start building up to higher levels, the game gets complicated quickly. Initial maps just have one entry point to cover, but later ones have several, and the last map has four arranged around a central rift. In the early parts of the game, it's mostly strategic. You set up a network of traps and pick off anything that gets through with your crossbow. However, that only gets yo so far, especially in the later levels. By the final level, you learn to set enough traps to slow the enemy down long enough to make running around and engaging groups individually feasible.
It's a fairly simple formula, but it's executed really well. The game's graphics, sound, and level design are all top notch, especially for a small indie title, and even the frat boy character you play grew on me after a while. The traps are devilishly fun, too. My favorite, I think, was a huge, ceiling-mounted swinging mace that could cover three adjacent tiles and tore through lines of advancing orcs with great efficiency, but I was also a fan of the barriers and tar traps that held my foes in place for more efficient extermination.
The story is fairly simple and certainly won't win any awards, but there are a few great moments in there, especially when you realize just what humble beginnings your PC rose from. The ending also seems very solid and conclusive, so much so that I'm interested to see what they do with the upcoming sequel.
All of this adds up to a game that's very much worth playing. It's challenging, but not maddening, fast, but not out-of-control, and the levels all seem to be just long enough to really get a strategy going, but not so long they start to drag. In addition, you can take newly-unlocked traps back to prior levels and experiment with them there, so there's a lot of potential replay value. This is one of those shining examples of just how great an indie game can be. I'll be very interested to see both what the sequel and anything else Robot Studios (the developer) dreams up looks like. Definitely one I'd recommend.