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Of Orcs and Men Review (360)

Of Orcs and Men and Ben MacKinnon

Of Orcs and Men is an RPG that throws you into the world of Arkail (a Bloodshaw Orc of the southlands) as his kin are at risk of annihilation from Mankind at the end of a long and bloody war. The Bloodshaws are the most savage, Elite fighters of the Orc kind and are preparing for a last ditch suicide mission to remove the human leader and put an end to the war. Arkail sets off to play his part, and before long you are united with the Goblin Syrkas, your other playable character, who will act as your guide as well as the brains to match Arkail’s brawn.

You will find that the pairing of the two works very well both in and out of battle. Even though Arkail is classed as the main character, you will find yourself using Styx more for walking around, not only because it’s easier to see where you’re going, but because of the Goblins skills as an assassin. At any point you can click Styx into stealth mode, rendering you practically invisible to enemies, allowing you to sneak up and assassinate any foe. This feature shapes the gameplay quite a bit, and makes the game as much about stealth and strategy as it is about standard RPG mechanics. You can use it to great advantage when you come up to a large skirmish group by picking off as many of them as you can beforehand to even up the odds.

In the other corner you have Arkail, a giant of Orc muscles with a bit of an anger management issue. Again you can use this to your advantage in battle. Arkail has a rage meter which, when full, turns Arkail berserk leaving him uncontrollable and forgoing any form of defence in favour of wild aggression. It’s up to you to either control his rage in a battle, or unleash it on your foes and hope he can withstand any damage taken.

The battle mechanic itself is very good as you have many options available to you. Hitting brings up your aggressive(Arkail)/melee(Styx) options, with options for the defensive/ranged, and when these radial menus are open the action goes into super slow motion to give you time to plan your attacks. You can switch between your characters and queue up to four commands on each, allowing you total control of the battle, or you can leave one character in a set stance while you concentrate on the other. You can also assign abilities to the trigger buttons along with default ones assigned for quick commands in battle, if you’d rather be a button masher.

The story always plays a big part in games, but especially so in an RPG, and this one doesn’t disappoint. There’s, backstabbing, nasty family reunions, psychic rape and more twists and turns than your average F1 circuit. There are plenty of side quests, none of which are necessary to complete the game (if you aren’t fussed on missing a few achievements) but add a great depth to the story. There are two big character defining moments that really opens up the rest of the game to be played in one of four ways, but again it doesn’t affect the overall story. It seems that there may have been a rush to deadline as the second half of the story is a lot shorter than the first, mostly due to the amount of side quests early on, but it will still take around 16-20 hours of gameplay to get through the lot depending on the difficulty setting you chose.

Arkail and Styx are the typical “little ‘n’ large” and remind me of Mike and Sully in Monsters Inc, if it had been an 18. They can be pretty vulgar at times, you even pick up on the Orcish derogatory words for “Human” (“Kwarsan”) and “Goblin” (“Rakash”) and the voice acting isn’t bad on a whole. The animations are very smooth (even if all the Orcs walk around with floating weapons on their backs) and the overall look of the game is nice, particularly with some of the scenery, lighting and slow motion effects. There are of course all the usual RPG gameplay elements of levelling up the characters and customising the weapons and armour, although the “level-ups” are storyline based, so you can’t focus on maxing out one character in favour of the other.

Of Orcs and Men is all in all a deep RPG that will give you many hours of gaming, and draw you deep into it’s story and characters. It has to be one of the few games to actually bring some personality to the Orc race, and even that alone makes it worth exploring.

8 bone crushing, berserk Orcs out of 10

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