Orcs Must Die (OMD) 2 was the first game I ever covered professionally, and now Robot Entertainment is finally launching a brand new game in the OMD franchise with Orcs Must Die: Unchained.
Unchained is the very first “Fortress Siege” game to be released. What does that mean? Well, it means it’s like the original OMD, but instead of fighting cooperatively, two teams of five are pitted against each other. This completely reworks the standard OMD gameplay and adds a MOBA like element to it all.
The version Robot had at PAX East was an Alpha build, and I was lucky enough to have Jerome Jones, one of the designers on Unchained, talk me through the game. I was set up with the Warmage, a familiar face to anyone who’s played OMD or OMD 2. His moveset has remained pretty unchanged from the previous entries, and I quickly got the hang of playing around with him. I could still set some of my favorite traps like the Arrow Wall and Spike Floor to deter enemy minions and heroes, so at a glance it looks just like OMD.
It’s when you delve deeper into the gameplay the real differences begin to show. Rather than having the minions spawn randomly from their spawn points, now the minions are entirely reliant upon the player to spawn. At the very beginning of the game you rush to your unlocked spawn point and choose a level 1 card and a minion to unleash. Each player can choose their own level one minion, and only by working as a team can those minions be upgraded, so teamwork still played a vital role in the one match I was able to play. As you kill other heroes and opposing minions, you gain XP. That XP is then used at your minion spawn points to upgrade the types of minions it spawns. Level 1 minions are the normal goblins and trash enemies, level 2 are the stronger brutes, and level 3 includes the giants.
My team didn’t work very well together, and as a result we got our asses royally handed to us. The rules of Unchained are pretty much those of OMD: once 15 enemy minions have entered your rift, you lose. That happened to us pretty quickly, as my teammates ran off in totally different directions from the start and didn’t pool their XP into the minion portals.
Even though I lost, I was totally hooked, and the good news is that I can play right now in the Alpha if I want. Robot is doing something different with Unchained by allowing people to buy into the Alpha and Beta; $150 gets you into the priority Alpha going on right now. All indications point to the final product being a free-to-play game, though nobody was talking about the pricing model at PAX. It can only be assumed that characters, traps, and abilities will be content that is paid for down the road.
As someone who’s never gotten into a MOBA before, Unchained sounds like a great idea. It takes already solid gameplay and mixes it into the MOBA style to create what is almost certainly going to be a great game.