Releasing any title, especially a brand new IP, during the latter part of the year is a difficult task for any developer, especially when it’s surrounded on all sides by well established brands that regular consumers just have to have. However, Bohemia and Spiders have decided to wade straight into the fray with Of Orcs And Men, a new IP which many of us at StickTwiddlers have been getting rather excited about. After all, who doesn’t like a good, blood thirsty Orcish adventure! We were all hoping that they could pull it off, and deliver us an enthralling and engaging RPG adventure game with a difference. But, have they?
You play the role of Akail of the Bloodjaw tribe, a particularly savage and brutal Orc – even by their own standards – who is sent on a secret mission to assassinate the human Emperor before he can forge an alliance between the Humans, the Dwarves and the Elves which will turn the tide of the war against the Orcs and lead to their extinction. So, a pretty important task then it would seem. You are soon introduced to your guide and other playable character, a Goblin called Styx, and from there it’s a good solid adventure with a few twists and turns along the way to keep you interested.
The narrative does have a few issues though, mainly with the dialogue and voice acting, which had me struggling to get fully engrossed in the story. Rather than the typical rough and broken English that you would typically expect from a greenskin, we instead get what can be only described as outtakes from The Sopranos. The voice of Styx is absolutely superb but neither of the characters can seem to finish a cutscene without dropping at least three F-bombs. I imagine that the developers were attempting to put a bit of a human edge onto the titular race, but for me it sounds rather forced and out of place.
Graphically, the team at Cyanide and Spiders have done a really nice job. The textures look great, character models are bulky and fleshed out and most of the environments are engaging. If I had any complaints about the environments however, it would be the fact that there is little to no engagement with them and that every map feels very linear and controlled. Don’t expect to be running around smashing up the scenery here. Very un-orc like if you ask me!
Core gameplay is solid enough and in most cases, you will find yourself traveling from point A to point B, tackling patrolling guards and marauding feral goblins along the way through a variety of different locations. You are able to switch between Akail and Styx as you see fit, with Styx’s strength focused in stealth abilities and Akail suited to a brutal, tank-style combat.
Patrols always outnumber your duo, so being able to switch to Styx and take a few guards out without them noticing is a godsend. And trust me, they never notice. At one point I had a patrol physically stepping over dead bodies without even so much as a twitch on their faces. When you do get into combat, however, is when one of the major issues raises it’s head. The combat mechanics.
Following suit from Cyanides previous Game of Thrones title, combat has you slowing down time, selecting up to four various skills and attacks and assigning them to your respective opponents. You then watch them play out before rinsing and repeating. While it might sound like a tactical powerhouse of a game, instead what we get is a mish-mash of different styles and a systems which forces you to essentially pause and restart the game. This makes the gameplay very jarring and feeling completely out of place in what I feel should be a straightforward combat system with the ability to assign abilities as you progress. It’s definitely one of the most disappointing aspects of the title.
Abilities, such as stunning blows and causing aggro, can be levelled up as you progress over three separate skill trees that encompass an aggressive, defensive and special stance. You can switch between these three stances in combat and for Arkail, staying in the defensive is a definite must if you want to give him half a chance of staying alive. You can also compliment your characters with gear that can also be upgraded to boost their stats and unique properties.
Replayabilty may also be a bit of an issue here. Aside from some dialogue choices that you are given, which can sometimes open up new side missions, there is not really a reason to revisit the game after you have finished. The inclusions of a multiplayer mode would have worked wonders in this regard, and seeing as the game is essentially based around a co-op mechanism and promoting the “odd couple” style, it seems, frankly, insane that two player co-op was not included here.
Overall, Of Orcs And Men is a solid, enjoyable game and for a new IP that attempts to do something a bit different, it works reasonably well. However, the combat system sucks a lot of the fun and immersion out of the game and coupled with the lack of a co-oeprative multiplayer mode (something that this title literally screams out for) means that Of Orcs And Men never feels like it’s living up it expectations.
Whilst the dialogue can be a bit strained, there’s a solid narrative here and despite issues with combat, you will find yourself fairly quickly engrossed and wanting to play more to see how the story plays out. With the inclusion of multiplayer and a simpler combat system that will appeal more to the gaming masses, I really hope that we see a sequel to what is the foundation of a great new IP.
+ Solid textures and models. Environments are gorgeous to look at. Orcs are HUGE!
– Little to no interaction with environment.
+ Good RPG feel. Skills are nicely handled. Dynamic difference between Akail and Styx is interesting.
– Combat system seems out of place. Desperate need for co-operative multiplayer.
+ Music score is fantastic.
– Dialogue seems forced at time.
Of Orcs And Men is out now for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.