Gateway Games – Video Games for Beginners: Orcs Must Die 2

Gateway Games - Video Games For Beginners
The Walking Dead Overcooked
Orcs Must Die 2 Lovers In A Dangerous Spacetime

Orcs Must Die! 2 At A Glance

Challenge Tier: 2
Recommended Player Experience: Played through, or is capable of playing through, at least one reasonably challenging title.
Starting Difficulty: Easy
Ending Difficulty: Single-Player: Hard, Multi-player: Easy
Difficulty Spikes: Fairly linear difficulty curve
Learning Curve: Requires some explanation at the start, but once the player has settled in on a play style learning is easy. Expanding to using the full breadth of the weapon/trap catalog is time-consuming and unnecessary unless the player decides to do so on their own.
Visual Aesthetic: Sleek and colorful art-style.
Storytelling: Only enough to keep the “plot” moving forward. Generally unimportant, but the character dialog is entertaining.
Controller Support: Playable on controller, and generally works very well in co-op due to the limited number of equipment slots. Can run into item cycling issues in single player. Only recommend for new players who have already completed a first/third person title using a controller.
Mouse and Keyboard Support – RECOMMENDED: Playable on mouse and keyboard, and the keys are fully re-bindable. Unless the player already enjoys first and third person games with a controller I recommend having them play on Mouse and Keyboard.

Imagine it is a rainy day. The pouring rain has made the roads an absolute mess, so you decided to cancel your plans and stay home for the evening.

Of course none of this actually bothers you. In fact, if you are like me you might even find a strange comfort in the fact that you now have a reasonable alibi to put on your pajamas and enjoy a lazy night in.

However, your more social roommate just had their whole evening evening cut short. While this normally wouldn’t be your problem, their lack of indoor hobbies starts to rear its ugly head and it appears they have decided you are going to be their source of entertainment for the evening.

You talk for some time, but eventually idle chit chat grows stale because as roommates you already have an intimate knowledge of what is going on in each other’s lives. As you internally lament the fact that your wonderful lazy night sitting at your desk playing video games has been hijacked, You consider just awkwardly walking away. However, before stepping away you come up with an idea that might salvage this evening for both of you.

Although your roommate isn’t really a gamer, he does have SOME experience playing video games. Maybe with him so desperate for entertainment a little co-op gaming session could be just what the situation requires. Furthermore, you still have $15 worth of steam credit on your account and you know exactly what game the two of you are going to play.

The hypothetical situation above is a somewhat true to life re-enactment of the situation my fiancee “Meesh” and I were in not too long ago. We had recently finished the main story mode of Overcooked, and she was raring to keep the co-op gaming train moving. However, This time I decided it was time to take the kiddie gloves off and have her play a big kid’s game!

Fortunately for me, she was more than ready for the challenge.

Preparing To Play Orcs Must Die

If you are playing Orcs Must Die 2 on console then your config requirements are pretty simple. However on PC there are a few kinks you might need to work out before kicking off your first session.

Orcs Must Die 2: Pre-flight Checklist

Graphics Settings: PC ONLY – Make sure you’ve tested how well both machines handle the game. Play through the first level and lower the graphics settings until the frame-rate is stable. Don’t worry if the settings end up fairly low, this game still looks good on weaker graphics settings.
Audio Settings: I prefer something like: Music – 100%, Sound Effects – 80%, Voice – 100%; but you can get away with setting everything to 100%. It really comes down to preference since the sound design in this game is fantastic. The most important thing is to make sure you max out the voice volume so you can hear your character’s “callouts”.
Controller Settings: Find out their “inverted look” preferences and pre-configure it before playing. Furthermore make sure to set their look sensitivity to a reasonably low level unless you know they prefer otherwise.
Mouse and Keyboard Settings: Other than look sensitivity no other changes are needed. The default keybindings are good.
Gameplay Settings: No configuration needed
Difficulty Settings: I recommend playing on the war mage setting on your first play through.
Profile Settings: Set up your friend with a character on their machine if possible. Even better set up a decent starting loadout so you can start playing right away instead of digging into the minutia of the game. Otherwise be prepared to do this quickly on first boot.
First Boot: Make sure there are no patches you need to install, especially if the game has been sitting on their machine for a while.

Because Orcs Must Die 2’s co-op needs to be played on separate devices, it may be impossible to pre-configure your partner’s settings. Just make sure you are ready to blow through the character creation and profile configuration quickly if you don’t have access to their machine.

Furthermore, if your player is comfortable with playing by themselves, then the original Orcs must die is a perfectly acceptable alternative if you are looking to save a couple of bucks. However in my experience the co-op mode of Orcs Must Die 2 is worth the price of admission.

Plus most of my article will be written from the perspective of co-op gameplay, so be a good sport and live a little!

Gameplay Overview

Orcs must die is a mixture between the third person shooter and tower defense genres.

The game consists of a series of linear levels that require you to prevent a horde of orcs(and other monsters) from reaching the “portal” at the end. You do so by taking them on in melee and ranged combat, while laying a wide variety of devious traps along their path.

Examples of these traps include, but are not limited to:

  • Acid sprayers
  • Hot coals on the ground
  • Hired fighters
  • Giant mechanical maces

Using these traps you must survive a pre-determined number of waves of enemies to complete the level. As you kill more orcs, gold is split evenly between you and your partner which allows you to lay more traps. If you succeed, the game grades your orc killing prowess. Your “grade” determines the number of skulls receive at the end of the level. You can use these skulls to purchase and upgrade your traps and weapons permanently.

Beyond the story mode you have a couple of extra game-play options such as endless mode and a various community challenges.

Challenges and Roadblocks to Expect

Fortunately the war mage difficulty of Orcs Must Die 2 is actually pretty easy. Most experienced gamers should have a relaxing, but satisfying experience playing through the game on their own.

While the game may be somewhat difficult for a first time player on their own, the game is considerably easier when played cooperatively. Since the co-op mode is just the single player campaign, it entirely possibly for one player in a co-op session to win the game on their own(however the gold splitting mechanic would make it a bit more difficult).

Fortunately this design choice can be used to your benefit! It is likely that the new gamer hasn’t played a trap/tower defense style game like OMD-2, so being able to pick up the slack while they develop their skills can be a great boon if leveraged correctly.

However, there are still a number of (literal and metaphorical)pitfalls you need to watch out for to ensure this is a positive experience.

Watch Where You Step

I feel weird dedicating an entire segment to this, but the number of cliffs in early levels of Orcs Must Die 2 can actually be a problem. New players are most-likely going to struggle with moving and turning at the same time.

This will lead to them:

  • Taking corners blind
  • Backing up without checking what is(or isn’t) behind them
  • Wandering into nooks and crannies they should avoid

All of the above scenarios will frequently lead to the player plunging to a swift demise. Although the minor rift-point loss is not a big deal from a game-play perspective, it can be a big hit to a new players morale.

While you shouldn’t dictate how they play the game, offering suggestions on where to stand can help mitigate deaths early on. If the level has multiple entrances(like most do) you can offer to watch the entrance with the most nearby pitfalls.

You should also do your best to cover your ally from afar. The less they have to move, the lower the odds of them taking an embarrassing plunge.

While this coddling may seem like something that could hinder their progress, in reality they will have more than enough opportunities to practice moving around. Much like how you don’t teach a baby how to walk by putting them on a treadmill going 10 MPH, you don’t need to force the new gamer into excessively complicated situations right away.

Personal Anecdote: Taking a Spill

Early on Meesh’s character fell to her death quite a bit. Usually this was because she would forget there was a cliff behind her while backing away from a dangerous enemy.

While my efforts to help her were usually well received, I would occasionally charge the door she was covering and kill all the enemies before they reached her. When I did this she would (rightfully) complain that it didn’t really give her a chance to play the game. This happened more frequently when I used builds centered around the bladestaff.

To solve this issue I eventually settled on using the crossbow as my primary weapon and made sure to support her from afar. This worked perfectly because she could deal the majority of the damage, while I could protect her by dishing out stuns to encroaching enemies.

Over time the player will develop the coordination needed to avoid cliffs no matter what approach you take, so you might as well take the least demoralizing one.

Ogres, Hunters, and Sappers OH MY!

Although the player will likely be able to handle the garden variety orcs without too much difficulty, there are couple of nasty enemies you’ll want to watch out for.

First on the list is definitely the kobold sappers. They are particularly dangerous because if they reach the player the damage they deal is both massive and instantaneous. Fortunately the game has an audio cue every time a sapper wave enters the map(the war mage yells “SAPPERS!”). As long as you are nearby and quick on the trigger you should be able to cover your ally. Furthermore, you should try to teach the player what the cue is so they can re-prioritize their targets.

The second baddie on the list is the Gnoll hunter. These jerks will ignore all traps, barricades, and even the rift to hunt the player down. They have decently high health and pack a nasty punch. Fortunately the default weapons for both the War Mage and Sorceress are actually pretty good at dealing with them. The War Mage’s blunderbuss can knock them over making them easy pickings. The Sorceress’ Staff of Domination’s mind control is an extremely effective way to turn this would be assailant into a powerful (but temporary) ally.

Last and actually least is ogres. They are slow and don’t deal a ton of damage, but their ability to stun can be lethal. They also tend to be more of a threat early on in the level, before the player is able to set up a full compliment of traps. One way to manage this issue is to set up your own traps in the other players kill zone early on. Once they have managed to create a nice set of their own traps, you can sell your traps and move them back to your side.

Where am I?

If you are playing with a new gamer, it is very likely that they have never seen a mini-map before. Unfortunately the minimap in Orcs Must Die 2 can be a bit confusing at times, even for veteran players. Many levels have the player protecting multiple gates from multiple directions, and the attackers will even split up and approach from different elevations.

Unfortunately, these 3D attack vectors do not translate well onto a 2D map. Fortunately, this issue can be easily mitigated by narrowing the scope of their assignment.

If possible encourage the new player to defending defend a location that only being attacked from one direction. Then once they have cleared the threat have them swing over to your side to help you out. Over time as the player has more practice flowing to your side of the map, they will strengthen their navigation skills.

Personal Anecdote: Bailing Me Out

Arguably the biggest challenge Meesh had to overcome was navigating the map. If she only had to watch a single gate then she would almost always do just fine. This usually resulted in her killing off all of the orcs emerging from her gate before I did.

Fortunately for me, this ended up being a blessing in disguise! Over time as she become more comfortable with the flow of the game she started naturally wandering over to my side of the map once her side was clear. There were even instances where I would be in a tough spot and call for help and she would come bail ME out!

I have a sneaking suspicion those were her favorite moments playing Orcs Must Die 2…

Once the new player is comfortable with this basic navigation, have them decide where both players will defend. While this may end in disaster on occasion, making them think through the level design is a crucial step in learning how to orient themselves. After a bad beat (in the most encouraging tone you can muster) go over how enemies got through, and offer suggestions on how the defensive layout can be improved.

Final Thoughts

Orcs Must Die 2 is a fantastic gateway game because it is a simple premise with a great deal of depth. A new player with limited skills can pick up the game and contribute right away. Over time as their skills develop, they can try new traps and find out what play style suits them best.

The game’s initial difficulty is also very reasonable, and once you’ve finished the game can be cranked up quite a bit. This can serve as an excellent example to a new player of how games can have strong replay value.

If you can manage the complexity in the early stages of the game, then it is very likely that the two of you will make it through the end of the game. Once that happens, the new player will be skilled enough to play a wide variety of games.

So stop reading and go kill some orcs.

<Overcooked Love In Space>

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