Review: Of Orcs And Men
Be the monster.
- Worth The Time?Yes.
- Things LovedThe very unique concept, the juxtaposition of the two main characters, the combat has some strategic elements to it, the locations are vivid and pretty, voice acting is top notch, it always seem to captivate you just enough, story is great even with its simple objective, trading system is unique, the soundtrack is amazing.
- Things HatedCan be rather slow to pick up, combat is extremely hard and almost unfair, character animation leaves much to be desired, not a lot of side-activities or missions, levels are linear and sometimes look the same, the leveling system is broken, may not be for everyone.
- RecommendationIf you're a fan of fantasy RPG's and the idea of playing as a monster instead of some handsome hero interests you, then go pick it up.
- Name: Of Orcs And Men
- Genre: RPG
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: No
- Platforms: Xbox 360, PC, PS3
- Developer: Cyanide, Spiders
- Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
- Price: R 455
- Reviewed On: Xbox 360
What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the words “orcs” and “goblins”. If you have played many fantasy RPG’s in your life then you might think, “yeah I killed a ton of them already”. But what if you’re that monster that you have been killing so much. The premise alone is enough to grab your attention and hold it there. Not a lot of games out there put you in the shoes of a creature that you are supposed to be fearing and that’s what’s unique about this game in particular.
You play as two characters whose names are Arkail and Styx. Arkail is a massive, immensely strong orc capable of snapping your back with almost no effort at all. He’s a seasoned warrior that has seen many battles and bloodshed to the point where they have given him the nickname “The Butcher”. His story is the primary one which you will be following in the game. The kingdom seeks to eliminate all Greenskins (orcs, goblins and other creatures) from the world. Arkail belongs to the notoriously brutal Bloodjaw clan and his clan chief tasks him with killing the emperor. That is your primary objective throughout the game. It might seem a little primitive and almost simple, but the game surprises you a lot while you aim to complete that one objective.
Styx is a goblin assassin and unlike his kin, he is the only intelligent one in existence. He is capable of having intelligent conversations with people and can devise schemes that would benefit only him. He is a thug for hire and for that reason he has been paired with Arkail. Styx is tasked to be Arkail’s guide throughout his journey to kill the emperor. He is a master of stealth and prefers not to have a confrontation if he can avoid it. Styx is also the voice of reason and would rather negotiate his way through tough situations than go in swords swinging.
Already you can see the juxtaposition between these two characters. Both in physical form and mentality. Arkail would rather beat the living shit out of everyone instead of talking and Styx would rather come to a diplomatic solution. What results is the two characters always being at odds with one another. This can make for some pretty heated conversations between the two. Not to mention those conversations can also be a bit funny. See, in Of Orcs And Men they are not afraid to use the word “fuck”. Swearing is almost a constant throughout the entire game. Some might say that it’s juvenile and silly, but I rather like it because it fits well with the characters’ “savage” backgrounds. They are leather-skinned both mentally and physically having endured many fights and moments of treason.
Like I said earlier the story isn’t very complex. Go kill that emperor dude is basically it, but it’s the journey that’s intriguing. While you make your way to that one illusive bastard, you will encounter many interesting things. Those can be people you meet along your journey that either help you out or try to trick you. It all gets very complex and certain moments will have you legitimately shocked at what just happened on the screen. That’s the reason why this story is so praiseworthy. It’s linear in its approach, but the branching that happens as you move along that story is where it really matters. The side-missions in this game are few and they only take about ten minutes each to complete depending on your difficulty, but are worth it most of the time sometimes granting you special, valuable equipment or a safer route to your next objective.
The game’s most outstanding feature is its soundtrack. It is an absolute pleasure to experience and more often than not, you get goosebumps from the beauty of it. Most of the soundtrack works with carefully played strings and an orchestral (Ha, I get it now) backdrop. It almost always fits the situation and I can’t help but be in love with it. To give you an idea of how good it is, I rate this in my top 3 soundtracks of all the games I’ve played in my life. It’s just that good.
The locations look amazing with lush environments and strong colours and the characters look very detailed and polished. There is an issue with the character animations, however, and they will sometimes look a bit stiff. There’s also a minor lip-syncing issue, but it’s not so bad that it becomes an irritation. Environments can also sometimes be recycled for side-missions and that deters away from the experience a little. Overall, the visuals are great, but fall just flat of excellent because of the flaws mentioned.
On to combat. The combat is similar to Cyanide’s previous game, Game of Thrones, and if you haven’t played that yet then it goes something like this. You queue up your attacks in a certain order and the character will execute that attack when it reaches it. It all sounds very simple, but trust me, it isn’t. The game is relentlessly hard even on the Normal setting and you will find yourself dying more often than you would ever like. It does get better, however, as you make your way through the game and gain more levels and better attacks, but even then it’s still a challenge. One of the reasons behind the difficulty is the inability to heal yourself. There are a few powers available that allow you to heal a small amount, but it will almost never make a difference. If you make one wrong move during the battle, you will die. No question about it.
There is a certain strategic element involved with the combat because you have two completely different characters available to you. Arkail is, for obvious reasons, the muscle between the two and he is responsible for reducing the health of your attackers. You have to be careful with Arkail though because the “berserker” nickname he has been given isn’t just to look cool. If Arkail has been dealt a certain amount of damage or used enough power moves, he will rage. This can be both rewarding and risky. When Arkail enters berserk mode, he will clobber anything close to him with extreme power and speed. That sounds great, but you have absolutely no control over him for the duration of the berserk He can also potentially clobber Styx if he is unlucky enough to be near Arkail when it happens and kill your only hope of winning the fight. When Arkail exits his berserk mode he is temporarily stunned and is vulnerable to attack. The key to winning a fight is to carefully time when Arkail can go bat-shit crazy. If you do it at the start, then you will die, but weakening them up and then letting Arkail do his thing is optimal.
Styx is the stealth character. Before any confrontation he can go into stealth mode that essentially turns him invisible and stealth kill enemies around the battlefield. Again, strategy comes into play here. If you have the skill you can kill almost half the enemies before the fighting even begins and that is essential to your survival. Otherwise, Styx uses ranged attacks such as throwing knives or bombs. He can also do close range with the use of his daggers, but for the most part, he is best with long range. The outcome of a battle rests on you and if you use incorrect skills or tactics then you will perish a lot.
You level up in traditional RPG fashion with attribute points to allocate to strength, dexterity, stamina and mind when you level up. There’s also strategy involved in that based on your two characters. For example, Arkail is going to be more effective if you invest into strength and stamina instead of dexterity and mind. Vice verse can be said for Styx. You also achieve skill points that can be used to acquire new skills or upgrade existing skills. Each character has three stances: Melee, special, ranged/defence (depending on the character). In Arkail’s melee tree he will have exceptionally brutal moves that add to his berserk meter. His defence tree reduces his berserk mode and he uses attacks that give him better defence.
Styx’s melee tree is for his dagger attack moves and his ranged tree is for his knife/bomb throwing attacks. When these skills get upgraded once then they give insane bonuses to your character. This might be seen as a good thing, but it’s broken in the sense that when you first acquire the skill it’s weak as hell, but with one upgrade slot it’s basically a super move. The balancing isn’t there. Each character’s “special” tree houses their cooperative skills such as Arkail’s ability to throw Styx, the revive prompt if one of them is down and minor healing they can do on each other. While the combat is difficult, you do feel that you’re fighting as one unit instead of two separate individuals.
Trading is done a bit differently in this game. We all know the traditional method of barter and that’s you flogging off all your old and useless equipment for coins and buying new sets with the coins you get. Of Orcs and Men does something different. Rather than have a gold currency, you can trade in your old equipment for trade points. The better your equipment the more trade points and the same for the equipment you want to buy. It’s a fitting system because the few traders you see on your journey don’t really need coins, they need better weapons. It’s a great system and one I wish I can see more of in the future.
Of Orcs and Men is a game you play just for the experience because it’s unlike any other. Its concept is so unique that you can’t help but have moderate interest in it. The game always succeeded to captivate me into playing more and more, but I can see how the game won’t be some people’s cup of tea. It’s a slow game that requires a lot of thinking and talking so boredom can possibly overcome you if you allow it to. The game isn’t all that filled with content with just a few side-missions in between the main story that don’t take that long to complete. There also isn’t that much incentive for exploration because treasure chests are extremely rare and hardly contain anything of value.
As you can see, the game has a few faults, but it’s still a breath of fresh air when it comes to RPG’s. You won’t be disappointed with the game if you’re a fan of the genre. With great juxtaposing characters that call each other cunts at every opportunity they get, a captivating story filled with plot twists and moments of complete genius and a beautiful soundtrack, Of Orcs And Men is certainly a game worth checking out.
With its silly name and all.