Thursday, October 25, 2012

Of Orcs and Men: Review

Recently, Focus Interactive added another game onto the PSN.  It is the downloadable version of their latest RPG, "Of Orcs and Men."  It sounds really neat to play out the familiar orcs vs. humans story from the side of the orcs.  Let's jump into the Stay at Home Dad Gamer's review of:

I think the graphics are well made.  It definitely uses the more "earthy" tones of gray and brown you see in many western RPGs, but thankfully there are numerous orcs and goblins running around to add splashes of green.  The orc models look muscular and detailed.  You can clearly see their bulging muscles, veins and the like.  The settings also look appropriate.  Sewers have a damp and slimy appearance while castles look cold and dark.  I really like the look of Arkail's armor, too.  Armor all looks unique and interesting with lots of small details.  At first I wasn't sure I liked the smoky look the screen took while Styx was in stealth mode, but it quickly grew on me.  One thing I'd like to add: while these aren't the best graphics I've ever seen, I haven't encountered any texture pop-in or loss, which is a plus.

The music is what you would expect from a fantasy game.  Sometimes the battle music sounded a little weird, as though there was random woodwind instruments thrown in.  Now for the voices.  Main characters Arkail and Styx sound great.  They sound their parts and deliver the lines exceptionally well.  The other characters range from ok to not-that-great.  They don't talk near as much as the two main characters, so it doesn't bother me much.  The only thing I don't like about the audio is the sheer amount of F-bombs.  When playing around my kids, I had to turn the audio down low and skip dialogue that had "adult language" near the end (so I had time to read it).  I guess it could fit into the game's world (that our swear words exist), but I honestly didn't expect it.  I learned to work around it, but just be aware that it's there in case your time to play is when rugrats are around.

"Stick to the story, we found him like this."

It looks and sounds fine, you say, but how does it play?  I will first admit I thought this was an action-RPG, even after watching the trailers.  After playing I realized it's a lot closer to a traditional RPG.  You can drastically slow down time to select a queue of up to 4 attacks and targets.  This allows you to tailor-make attack chains and coordinate attacks between the two characters.  A simple button press switches which character you are controlling.  When you close the attack wheel, time resumes and the attacks are carried out.  It took me a while to fully get used to the combat system.  I actually like it, since it seems drastically different from most other games that I have played.  You get some variety to your skills, and can custom-make chains based off what you need at the time.  Do you need to hit lots of guys, or stun and debuff a single target?  It's your call.  Also you can just hit the X Button and it will fill in the generic "attack" option.

Admittedly, the battles can feel a bit like a crap shoot.  With Ark and Styx, I could easily take out small groups of 2 or 3, but 4 could be troublesome early on.  Once I had an AOE attack that didn't instantly fill my rage meter (or close to it), I could comfortably take out up to 6.  Just for reference, there are several fights that have you facing 8 or more enemies.  With the proper micromanagement, a bit of luck and a strategic assassination, few battles provided frustration to me.  Realistically, if you dodge/deflect a blow, who is targetted and if you hit can change the flow of  battle drastically, so that "bit of luck" seems more important here than in most games.  That's my only real complaint with the battles.  Sometime I would get destroyed in a fight with 5 guys, and next I defeat 7 without even losing 1/4 of my HP.

There are many side quests to do, but most areas are corridors, so there isn't much exploration.  You might need to do 2 play-throughs to get all the trophies, unless you start on the hardest difficulty setting (I don't like to do that) or do a little saving/reloading.  I like that armor is upgradable with "trade point", since you don't carry cash, making a good piece of armor better.  It would have been nice to see how the upgrade will improve the armor before doing it, though.

Going by the trophies, there are five chapters in the game, and the first took me about 8-9 hours.  My compulsive nature had me do all the sidequests.  Chapter 2 was about 4-5 hours, however.  The game seems to be a bit on the short side.  "Of Orcs and Men" sells for $49.99 on PSN, which is a decent price for a new release, and an RPG at that.  Total time playing through the game I estimate to be around 30-40 hours, so you can do the math and figure if that's enough time for your money.  I know I've paid more for games that don't last me as long (*cough*cough*godofwar*cough*), so I'm fine with the length of the game.

"Remember when I said I'd kill you last?  I lied."

What about the trophies?  A good chunk of them are for finishing the chapters and the many sidequests in them.  Others are for doing normal things in-game, like maxing a skill tree or equipping a full set of upgraded armor.  None seem really hard to get, or require you to go a lot out of your way.  I would like to note that the numerous side quest trophies are missable, since you move on from the areas.  Just be sure to talk to all people in the hubs if you care about "catching them all".  The only trophy I would see myself having difficulty with is the gold for beating it on the highest difficulty setting.  Knowing how to play and what skills/stats to choose would make it doable, if not time consuming.

All in all, I am having lots of fun playing Or Orcs and Men.  The battles might still sometimes feel a bit random if you win or lose, but I still like playing it.  The story is interesting to me, the characters are good, and I really like wading into a group of humans, swinging my club around, and laying them all out.  Once you get used to the intricacies of the combat system, hopefully you will enjoy it too.

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