[PS3 Review] Of Orcs and Men
In a brutal world at war, where the Empire of Men seeks to expand its domination and impose its beliefs, Goblins are systematically persecuted and slaughtered, while Orcs, if not killed in battle, are destined to be enslaved.
Play as ArkaÃ¯l, an elite Orc soldier of the legendary legion of Bloodjaws, a league of warriors devoted to victory in the war against Humankind.
As a veteran group of warriors who have seen the most brutal of battles, the Bloodjaws are appointed to complete a mission that could change the course of the war: kill the one man responsible for all of the bloodshed, the one who has, for years, exhorted the human masses to loath and fight the green-skinned people… the Emperor himself.
Nicknamed the “Butcher of Bay Harbor”, ArkaÃ¯l is one of the toughest Orcs you’ll find. His berserk outburst at the battle of Bay Arbor allowed the Orcs to win, but not without several human and orc casualties at the hands of ArkaÃ¯l who could not control himself. This later led him to become part of the Bloodjaws (the tattoo he has on his chest is the mark of this group), a group that has now been given a particular task by their leader, and one you will need to carry out to find the redemption and hope that he needs.
He is paired with Styx, a goblin like no other, especially since he’s an assassin AND he can talk and is very smart, unlike the rest of this “brothers” who are similar to rabid dogs that want to eat anything on their path. Styx can attack from far away thanks to his daggers, and he can even enter the shadows in order to walk past enemies without being noticed, or to get close enough to them to kill them with a single strike. Since he’s tiny, he can also go into smaller places that usually lead him behind enemy lines or to a much needed treasure chest or item bag that will surely contain something to improve ArkaÃ¯l’s or Styx’s stats.
So, how do you play this game? Well, as you’ve just read, you have 2 characters to control and can quickly switch between them with the press of a button. ArkaÃ¯l and Styx have several skills right from the start, and you can unlock new ones as well as improve them with the skill points you get for leveling up (1 point for every level gained). You also get a point to allocate to your stats, and you must carefully plan if you’ll use ArkaÃ¯l as an all out killing machine or a tank, as well as having Styx be a “let me take it from way back here” companion or a “down and dirty in a melee fight” ally. You can issue each character up to 4 commands at a time, and when one activates you can issue a new one (or wait for 2 to carry out, or 3, or all 4 to free slots for new commands) depending on what you need (attack, defend, heal, defeat archers that are up high and that only Styx can kill, revive your fallen partner, etc). That is basically what you need to do. Sounds simple, but just issuing commands without actually having a strategy in place will be your doom.
Arkail can go berserk from attacking too much or receiving too many hits, and while he is mad you can’t control him, he won’t defend, and will go on a killing spree doing twice the damage. Sounds like fun, but not being able to tell him to change from offense stance (more damage dealt, less defense) to defense stance (less damage dealt, double the defense) means he can be overpowered by a group of enemies, leaving poor, fragile Styx to clean up the mess. Therefore, you must know when to attack, when to defend, when to use Styx to pick out targets from a distance, and when to have him go in for the final blows that will score him the kill. After leveling up a bit, you can unlock two skills for ArkaÃ¯l’s defense stance that are a MUST if you plan to make it to the end of the game. The first skill is a Shout that draws the attention of all enemies and makes them attack ArkaÃ¯l, thus freeing Styx to attack from the back or slaughter enemies while they’re busy with ArkaÃ¯l. The other is a Defense boost. What it does is it lowers the Orc’s attack by 75% while dramatically boosting his defense and HP regeneration. Now, I’m sure you can put 2 and 2 together and see how this combo can allow you to defeat even the worst of your enemies, and you DEFINITELY should improve them both as soon as possible.
Speaking of improving skills, you can pick one of two improvements for said skill when you finally get a chance to upgrade them. For example, the Shout skill? You can either decide to increase the range of the shout, or add a chance to destabilize enemies (opening them up for attacks they can’t parry or dodge). Me? I increased the range because I wanted to draw as many enemies to ArkaÃ¯l as possible. I also unlocked a skill that allows Styx to throw him a potion that improves the Orc’s HP regeneration for a few seconds which can be the difference between living another day and being utterly defeated.
Overall the game is NOT a full on 3rd person action game and is closer to a strategy game due to the way skills and attacks are activated, and how you must constantly move back and forth between ArkaÃ¯l and Styx to make sure they’re both ok. It does take a bit to get used to it, but after one hour you will “get it” and you’ll start to have a lot of fun. I suggest you play the game on Easy or Normal because if you think you can handle Hard or Extreme… well, you’d be wrong. The game is challenging enough on Normal, and making the jump to a higher difficulty level will make you want to throw your controller in 10 seconds. If you’re a trophy hunter, you have to play the game twice to unlock one trophy (for opening 20 chests in the game, which is done over multiple runs), so you might as well start low and then aim for the stars once you know how the game works.
Of Orcs and Men is a very interesting and fun RPG/Strategy game that definitely brings something new to the table. Button-mashers should stay away from it as they WILL be punished for not understanding how to make the game tick. If you’re looking for a game with fresh gameplay, a good story and several hours of content, then you should definitely download the game from PSN. Our readers in Europe can actually chose between the digital download or a boxed retail copy, in case they want to have the box sitting on their shelf along with the rest of their collection.
[review score=”86″ pros=”Fresh gameplay
Great mix of strategy/RPG elements
Can customize your characters’ skills and stats for a different experience” cons=”Load times when changing areas in the same level”]
This review is based on a PS3 version Of Orcs and Men provided by Focus Home Interactive.