Every good tale
has heralded a hero. It’s the bad guys, though, who make the hero stand out – a delightfully dastardly antagonist creates the perfect foil for the protagonist. In Rudyard Kipling’s classic, Mowgli has Shere Khan; In the Potter saga, Harry has Voldemort and in the world of fantasy gaming there are Orcs and Men.
Typically we have been told tales of noble Men, odds stacked against them, pitted against hordes of stinking green savages who are the Orc. Enter Of Orcs And Men where the coin is flipped and we have the unique perspective of life viewed through the lens of the Orc’s. They are downtrodden, enslaved, used, abused and then cast aside. The life of an Orc under the tyranny of the emperor is, well worse than you might expect. It’s up to you as the Orc warrior, Arkail, and his Goblin companion, Styx, to set things right.
Of Orcs And Men has the right sort of aspirations: Anti-hero characters; An interesting combat model (which owes a lot to BioWare); Great scenery; The right balance of comic relief and although you can guess the story line’s path, it does offer a few tangents thereby reducing it’s predictability. Arkail, could be Hulk’s younger brother for all his finesse. He survives on a smash first ask questions later diet. Styx, on the other hand, prefers to keep things at a distance. He has a ranged attack and like a pesky fly can’t be swatted away too easily. Styx also represents the lighter side of the quest – making quips and wise cracks to lift the brutal tone so well epitomised by Arkail. It takes a little time to find the right balance of each character’s strengths. There are times when Arkails confrontational approach just won’t work. It is here Styx’s stealth and cunning need to be brought into play. Everyone has felt ostracised at one point or another in life - a misfit on the fringe, finding your way through a foreign land. This is where I found it easy to relate to the unlikely pairing of mercenary goblin and orc thug. The combat system is done in hyper-slow time, giving you ample time to set up your moves but the AI is sometimes limiting.
Cyanide and Spiders, the developers, have created a RPG with a lot of potential. I enjoyed the different world view offered by the two mis-fits as they quested to best a cruel and merciless humanity bent on eternal persecution of Orcs and Goblins. Often overlooked, the soundtrack, composed by Olivier Deriviere and performed by the Boston Cello Quartet, is exquisite. I’m not the only one who thinks so, either - it’s been nominated at the Annual Game Music Awards 2012. The game, however, does come across as unfinished and slightly buggy in places. It gets tedious at times having to redo parts of the game over when you die. The gratuitous use of the f-word also really got to me. With a bit more polish Of Orcs And Men would go from good to great. Matthew's Twitter
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