|System: PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Tilted Mill||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Got Game||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: May 15, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Cole Smith
Hinterland: Orc Lords is not necessarily a must-have game, but if you're looking for something that captures the charm of a classic RPG, then this is a should-have.
Orc Lords blends RGP, RTS, and empire-building elements into one solid package. The game doesn't break new ground but it knows how to get the best yield by cultivating familiar territory. It will help to have experience with classic RPGs, because you're on your own here. There is no in-game manual or tutorial. You're thrown into the game to sink or swim. Fortunately, the game is fairly easy to learn. There are an assortment of options that will allow you to tailor the game to suit your tastes and expertise. You adjust various parameters of difficulty such as number of enemies in a particular attack, the length of game, and choice of 20 playable characters with different abilities. With a few tweaks you can make the game as easy or as challenging as you desire.
Start by choosing a character. Choices include a knight, dwarf, elf, magician, goblin, skeleton, zombie, bandit, raider, and various orcs to name a few. The king will saddle you with the task of helping him build his kingdom by improving sections of land throughout the kingdom. These plots are underdeveloped and require a population base filled with talented people capable of collecting and processing resources, paying taxes, and defending the kingdom from enemies. But before you can attract settlers, you'll have to create an infrastructure complete with homes, shops, and industrial buildings. But even before you can do that you have to work your way up to it. The king doesn't grant you unlimited funds. You'll find yourself with little more than a few resources in the form of food, currency, and weapons. Your territory is rife with resources, but it's also populated by enemies that must be destroyed. Eliminating enemies is a good source of revenue. It will earn you the cash you need to start constructing your empire.
As with all economic sims, balance is crucial. Elements affect each other in positive or adverse ways depending on circumstances. The three main elements that must be balanced for success in the game include food, gold, and safety from attackers. If you don't have enough food, your people with starve. With gold you can construct buildings and make other necessary purchases, thus attracting people. Providing protection from enemies is not only beneficial to maintaining your population, but it's also beneficial to your character. All of these resources mean precious little if your character is not respected by your followers. The level of your fame will determine the amount and quality of people that you attract to your empire. The more successful you are in battle, the more your fame will grow, and with it your empire will follow. But on the other hand, if you start showing signs of weakness, you're going to lose it all.
Death is one of the most devastating events in the game. In order to stave off the death of your character, you must maintain a balance among health, food, gold, and fame. The surest way to bite the dust is to lose in battle. You'll want to pick your fights carefully, always being mindful of your level and the abilities, or lack of abilities, of your party members. Death will virtually erase all the points you've acquired. It's almost impossible to pull yourself back up, at least I couldn't, try as I might. With your fame score low, the population dwindles until your empire can no longer sustain itself. Then it's game over.
I've gone into detail concerning the gameplay but by no means is Orc Lords micromanagement heavy. It's just a full-bodied game with a nice degree of depth that actually makes sense within the context of the game. There's still plenty of fighting, exploring, dungeon crawling, and character interaction. Throughout your travels to new areas of the kingdom, you'll encounter a variety of characters. Some of them will want to join you on your adventure and other will just converse with you. There's plenty of dialogue here, most of its quite lighthearted, even funny at times. The NPCs portray a wide variety of stereotypes from the bumbling magician to the disgruntled dwarf.
The blacksmith comes in handy for crafting weapons and armor. The farmer grows and processes food. The guard will act as a sentry for the approach of enemies. It's always best to be on good terms with these characters as they will produce better quality goods for you over time. When you're in a pinch you can force some of the population to take up arms and fight with you. Incorporating elements of strategy, you may want to use this method at times in an effort to keep more productive characters busy on the home front. For instance, farmers don't make good warriors.